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Archive for April, 2012

I am currently conducting a study of Hawk Migration data, collected from Bake Oven Knob and archived since 2002 at Hawkwatch.org. I am collecting data concerning temperature and wind speed, to see if either factors, averaged out, effect data on a yearly, monthly or daily basis. This initial study is limited, as it dates back only to 2002, but if there are interesting correlations that require further study, I will seek data from the study, dating back to the 1970’s. I am also considering expanding the study to certain species. However, the initially study will be limited to the data above described. Not included will be cloud cover or wind direction. I am expecting to see average temperatures rising, with occasional anomalies, and I expect to see total number of migrating raptors to drop. I expect to see correlations with moderate wind speed facilitating migration, but overall I expect temperature to be the dominant factor. My hypothesis is that as temperature drops, the raptor’s food sources either hibernate or migrate, causing raptors to migrate to warmer climates. If temperatures do not drop to a point requiring hibernation of small mammals, migration becomes less necessary. If global warming is evident in this study, as I expect it to be, then raptor migration will become progressively less necessary.

Here is a sample data for August 2002:

 

 

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Wilderness Ethics

It is a shame that nearly 90 years after Hetch Hetchy launched the political environmentalist ideal onto the national stage, we as a nation still have little understanding of our wildlands. When we wish to protect a land, we do so for human use. We consider these places natural resources. They are valuable to us, in that we can use them for our own enjoyment. Many are those on the left who clamor for universal access for spiritual and recreation purposes. On the right, there is much noise about job killing regulation. Land is measured in its value in capital. Long gone are the days when Republicans, like Teddy Roosevelt, supported protecting these lands from human encroachment, to ensure that wilderness would have its place in defining the American landscape. In our times, it is scarcely heard from either side, that wild plants and animals have a right to exist, as god’s creation, unto themselves. I am not arguing that I am not spiritually renewed by a closeness to nature. Yet, I would like to see that recreation and conservation be separated, and that conservation be given proper voice. It is my belief that, while responsible recreation is part of the answer, there also ought to be places reserved as wild ranges. Many animals like bears and mountain lions, prefer to stay out of sight of man. Mountain lions, especially, and wolves, require a large range to thrive. Snakes like Timber Rattlesnakes, are endangered because of disappearing range–and even where they have range, those who recreate there are liable to kill them out of fear. It is thus important that wildlands be considered for the sake of the life that they support, and not just for human recreation. While I believe our limited use of such lands is often a good experience, it should be just that: limited. The vast majority of protected lands ought to be protected from humans not for humans. As I will demonstrate, human’s cannot be trusted to value such lands for their own sake. We have for too long abused what Woody Guthrie called land “made for you and me.” It is my opinion that industry be kept out of wildlands completely and permanently, while recreation be limited.

It seems we have learned very little as a culture in the last 150 years. In that time we have released about as much carbon into the atmosphere as it took to end the ice age over thousands of years. Everyday I hear of new threats to what little we have protected, and I wonder often what happened to the cries of “never again,” said to be heard after Hetch Hetchy. Since 1923–when the Tuolumne River was dammed, flooding the Hetch Hetchy Valley, to make a reservoir of drinking water for San Francisco, but destroying pristine wilderness in Yosemite National Park–there have been new threats and new solutions, but never a consciousness that modernity has gone too far. Even though, we have never since built another dam in a National Park, we have accelerated extractive industry at an alarming rate. I fear that only catastrophe can awaken any sort of awareness in human kind.

In 1969, the Cuyahoga River caught fire, due to contaminants released by industry in Ohio. The section from Akron to Cleveland was “devoid of fish.” A Kent State study reported:


From 1,000 feet below Lower Harvard Bridge to Newburgh and South Shore Railroad Bridge, the channel becomes wider and deeper and the level is controlled by Lake Erie. Downstream of the railroad bridge to the harbor, the depth is held constant by dredging, and the width is maintained by piling along both banks. The surface is covered with the brown oily film observed upstream as far as the Southerly Plant effluent. In addition, large quantities of black heavy oil floating in slicks, sometimes several inches thick, are observed frequently. Debris and trash are commonly caught up in these slicks forming an unsightly floating mess. Anaerobic action is common as the dissolved oxygen is seldom above a fraction of a part per million. The discharge of cooling water increases the temperature by 10 °F (5.56 °C) to 15 °F (8.33 °C). The velocity is negligible, and sludge accumulates on the bottom. Animal life does not exist. Only the algae Oscillatoria grows along the piers above the water line.The color changes from gray-brown to rusty brown as the river proceeds downstream. Transparency is less than 0.5 feet in this reach. This entire reach is grossly polluted.

Much as Hetch Hetchy had spurred environmentalism’s entrance to the national stage, the Cuyahoga river spurred legislation such as the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act and the SUPERFUND law. Legislation that has, till recently, out-survived much of the American industry it regulates. The SUPERFUND law, especially, gave the EPA teeth in enforcing the regulations. No longer could industry consider the fines levied a rounding error in operational costs. The SUPERFUND law mandated that a company or any existing parent companies would be held responsible for environmental restoration of the brownfield sites they created… Unfortunately NONE of these laws or regulations have proven sufficiently tough to protect human or especially environmental health.

Since the inception of the EPA 1970, under the Nixon administration, the agency has lacked the necessary power to enforce regulations. The fines for air and water pollution are insignificant to the large corporations that often violate them. While the SUPERFUND law has been effective in some cases, it is only effective after the fact, as it can only be invoked once land has been classified as a brownfield contamination site. Human restoration efforts are often slow and ineffective, and in some cases do more harm than good in trying to accelerate natural succession. For instance, the restoration of the New Jersey Zinc Company site, in Palmerton, Pennsylvania has created a prairie habitat where once was a deciduous forest. The unintended consequence is that, while trees other than pioneers such as Birch and Sassafrass will not grow, it is prime habitat for invasive scrub species such as Butterfly Bush. Furthermore, the Birch trees are known to recycle heavy metals through their leaves. This site, overseen by the PADEP and the USEPA has caused unintended consequences that are not beneficial to the natural habitat. Moreoever, the EPA and many of its state level partner organizations such as the PADEP and the the TCEQ have recieved budget cuts over the years. In 2011, California announced plans to close many of its state parks, including Big Sur, due to budget cuts. Meanwhile, industry has redoubled efforts to reduce regulation and gain access to natural resources.

In 2005, under the administration of President George W. Bush, Hydrollic Fracturing and Unconventional Shale drilling were exempted from the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act was changed to exclude anything injected into a gas well from being considered a “pollutant.” This is known as the Halliburton Exemption, as the company, which then Vice-President Dick Cheney had previously headed, and the largest oilfield operations company in the world, lobbied heavily for the exemption to expand its domestic natural gas operations. Fracking is also exempt from the SUPERFUND law, and abandoned wells have no responsibility to clean up contamination. This effectively dismantles environmental regulation of an industry which produces more greenhouse gasses than coal and requires up to 14,000,000 gallons of water per frack. Many horizontal wells extend outward much like wagon spokes for over two miles, and each spoke requires that quantity of water, which then must be disposed of over a mile underground (supposedly removing it from the water table forever). The industry has also been suspected of causing methane contamination in underground aquifers and chemical spills into rivers and streams. Nevertheless, in 2012, President Obama opened up millions of acres of National Forests to gas exploration.

Over the last 20 years, accelerating into the last ten years, we have seen the near complete destruction of the infrastructure built to protect our environment from human catastrophe. With threats such as Hydrollic Fracturing and Mountaintop Removal Coal Extraction we’ve never been in more danger of loosing our natural resources, and especially those places that are prime wildlife habitat. However, it is not just industry that threatens our wildlands. These lands are also threatened by a lack of responsible outdoorsmanship. Many of our wildlands, and especially those that exist 1 mile or less from an access road, show considerable signs of human impact. In the fall of 2011 I held a hawk watch internship on Bake Oven Knob–a scenic overlook on the Appalachian Trail. More than anything else I noticed a complete disregard of the place, by the people who used it most frequently. Young people used it as a place to party, and there was considerable trash built up from people throwing glass, metal and plastic containers off of the 100 foot overlook. There was also an abundance of cigarette butts, piled up in the rock crevices. On all the rocks people had spray painted their names, and names of deceased friends, and pictures of marijuana leaves. In my four months as a lookout, I only once saw large wildlife, in the form of a frightened doe, scampering across a gamelands trail. For the Lehigh Valley, this was somehow considered “wilderness.” A pitiable specimen to be sure, and if all of Pennsylvania held the same values, we should have none left in a short order. The landscape was scarred with trash, and unauthorized camp sites, and trails cut through the brush to the places habitable for wildlife.

Between industry and recreation, it should be a short time before we have nothing left of wildlands. What will be lost to us if we no longer have places that are inaccessible? Surely I would hear many clamor for universal access… But truly imagine the landscape where humans have made foot fall… What is left of their former greatness? Our trails should be our furthest access… our window into what is not ours… into what we have failed to be a part of. We must always have that which we cannot access, so that it may remain, even if only to remind us that we are a part of this earth, which has graced us with its bounty. That we cannot take all and still survive. It is, after all, true what John Muir said about modern man choking himself. We have stifled every impulse regarding nature besides our fear. Man always desires to get his fears under his thumb, and it is this instinct that destroys all of his environment, as each fear conquered opens the door for a new one to imagine. But again, it is only in human terms that one can effectively imagine the environment. It is ours to fear, but in that way we possess it. There must always, and not for human’s and not what we could gain or loose by it, be places that our feet do not fall with regularity. We are amazing in our ability to traverse the whole of our earth, but we must learn that to traverse it is to trample it underfoot.

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3/25 When I left Philadelphia, the Japanese Dogwoods were in bloom. I am greatly excited to return to the Appalachian Mountains. Though we’ve been made a door-mat to industry, I am still fond of the ridge, with its Pitch and Virginia Pines, and the native White Pines. I like to walk amongst them, windswept and smelling sweet and resinous. Patches of two or three grow about forty feet high amidst the Sassafrass and Birch, and in older places Black and Chestnut Oaks. Here and there, I find a noble, lonesome Eastern Hemlock. The Hemlock is the most noble tree I have yet seen in the east, and they are great providers. Their branches produce a tasty, sappy resin that can be made into a tea. The trail rarely cuts amongst these trees, and one must bushwack off the beaten path to find these solitary conifers. They are well worth the difficulty, stomping through the thick briars, with many thorny berry producing bushes that I hope to get to know better. Lowbush Blueberries grow abundantly in this area, and like most dark berries, are good to eat.

This week, I will be planting Chestnut trees along the ridge top, barren from years of Heavy Metal Pollution. My walks in the woods have granted me the knowledge of what once was, and the hope of what could be. My hope is to live long enough to see the Blue Mountain turn green again.

3/29 The Mountain was quick to change her moods. From frosty, bitter and full of bluster, she calmed to a gentle, breezy, but pleasant afternoon. We continued on with reforestation, shovelling new top soil in, where once old growth Oaks, Chestnuts and Elms stood proud. It is sad to see the barren ridge top, covered with dead wood in all directions. We have been working hard to change that, but so far only the Pitch Pines and Cat Briars have rooted themselves in the contaminated soil. Here and there a Sweet Birch, or a Common Sassafrass has sprung up amidst the ever invasive Butterfly Bush. At about noon, our site was graced by an Adult Bald Eagle. He flew over to the North, as if surveying our progress. I hope that one day he will be proud with what he sees… He did not stay long, but soared, with the usual impressive steadiness of his species, straight into the frigid north wind. It was not long after he passed that the wind shifted into a slower gear, and we made good progress into the afternoon.I hope that soon we will be done shoveling soil, and that we can begin the more pleasant task of planting trees.

4/2 This past week has been one of great excitements and disappointments. Being up on the ridgetop, time moves slowly. Each day becomes an eternity. One is surrounded with much beauty, even in a place so seemingly barren. On Wednesday, work was cut short by blazing bolts of lightning. As is so often the case, the storm seemed to materialize from nothing, but by noon towering, monolithic plumes had folded across the blue sky, looming, huge, ominous, dark blue and purple. Finger-like tufts reaching down to the ground, while the tops reached upward like Denali, towering in the sky. The lightning was like that I’ve never seen or heard. You could see it smashing into the hills. We left and went home in our typical convoy style.

Next day, toward the afternoon, dark pilars of smoke rose up from the forest and flames consumed ten acres from the low trees. It seems that the lightning hit a tree the night before, smoldering in the pith, and as the morning winds rose up, meeting and pushing the coal, causing it to glow and spark, a brush fire was thus born. We watched in awe as the flames were put out from helicopter. The day after, Friday, was calm and warm, attesting again to the mountain’s changeable moods. We seeded, and I was tasked with Virginia Pine and berries. While turning the leaves about underfoot, to gain better access to the soil, I turned up a Timberland Rattlesnake. Lucky for me, he was as surprised as I was.

Again we were planting. Got much done in the beautiful spring weather. Our hard work has been paying off, and it is my hope that the chestnuts planted today will live full lives, free of the blight to which they are prone. I took note of many trees. One had fallen completely on its side, at a right angle, and yet it has continued to grow upward. Another, a Birch, looked like a bush, so many sides of it had burned away and regrown, after fire. Three species of shrubs; Low Bush Blueberries, Green Briar, Cat Briar. Two trees; Red Maple, Mountain Ash

4/4 Spent the day planting Chestnuts. Despite the wind, it  was one of the most wholly pleasant moods I have yet seen on the mountain. Clouds were few and the temperature peaked near 61 degrees Fahrenheit. I was pleased to see the Low Bush Blueberries, Red Maple and Sassafrass in bloom–and even more pleased to see the return of the American Kestrels. Every break I could take, I watched them hover and dive in the heavy winds. One of the contractors said they looked like kites on a string (though I reserve such terminology for the Red-tailed hawk, who actually partakes in such behavior). Around quitting time I took out binoculars and went searching for the blue and red little falcons, but could only find a Song Sparrow and a Leasts Flycatcher… Amazing how they flourish when you cannot afford to look and then they disappear when you search them out. I walked, anyways, thinking of how the Kittatiny Ridge, the “endless mountains,” are still considerably wild–considering that it has been a human thoroughfare for nearly 1,000 years. I wish I could have seen these same mountains before they have been abused by Europeans.

4/5 When I got to the mountain this morning I was greeted by a Wild Turkey. Surprised to see me, he ran into the woods. I felt bad to have started so defenseless of a creature. Imgaine a bird that can niether fly, swing, nor run. Another day of north winds. Blustery all day. The Kestrels, hang still motionless in the air, except their wing beats, pushing back in the wind, diving about the tall grasses. The afternoon warmed enough to fan my curiosity about a glorious white-blooming tree–so after work I rambled to my friend–though he is still unknown to me in species. He, and others of his type, have joined the Red Maples and Sweet Birch in their spring bloom. I found, also, the Northern Red Oak, Staghorn Sumac, and Common Sassafrass. All are budding, but not all are in bloom. I was pleased to meet other hikers on the trail, and directed them to camp in a shady, cool patch of pitch pines, at the top of the hill. Being still, I happened upon a little brown bird. She stopped on a tree branch in front of me. She was brown all over and whitish on the belly. She had a distinct white eye-ring and a slight show of orange in the tail. I think she is a Black-throated Blue Warbler. It is either that or some sort of Flycatcher. I tried to approach for a better look, but I startled her, and she flew off to another tree, just far enough away that I could not observe her. It has always amazed me that the best of human stealth is easily detected by wild creatures.

4/6 One of the contractors was caught putting three Chestnut seeds in one hole, and at fifty dollars a piece, his foreman was not happy. I will be surprised, unpleasantly, to see him again on Monday. My supervisor nearly sat on a snake and the scream she emitted was something to behold. She must have scared the poor thing in her turn, equally. She approached me, still in a terror, but also embarrassed, to see if I would retrieve the belongings she had dropped. I fetched them, but say no snake. We transferred ourselves from on resource island to the next, and on a dead tree there was a dark limb the same color, sprouting out from the top. Around it, the usual Kestrels hovered, and dove upon field mice and voles. As we happened closer, the limb no longer seemed a part of the tree. Whatever it was, it was significant in size, and I believed it to be the usual Turkey Buzzard, which anyone in the Appalachian region is accustomed to seeing. No sooner had I made up my mind, then it spread out its awesome six foot wing span, exposing a golden head and tail. From its perch, it took off with ease, into a blustery headwind, whose force I could barely counter. It circled higher and higher, until I lost him in the blue sky. Such a marvelous and majestic bird. I shall never tire of seeing the Golden Eagle.

4/9 Saturday started at the Lehigh Gap, pulling Butterfly Bush, a glorious, but invasive brush species. I saw both Jim and Rick–the later I have known from the hawk lookout. I also saw Kathy and Dan. I told them about the Kestrels on the hill. Kathy was very excited to go and see them sometime. Jim and I went up an embankment, where the Butterfly Bush had grown in quite voraciously into a steep, precarious rock face. It took everything we had to saw at the think, tree-like trunks, while keeping a foothold on the ledge. We put up a valiant effort against those hardy plants. We may have won the  battle, but the war is far from over.

While the selection may not be occurring naturally, so to speak, I believe that invasive species show much about evolution that holds true. Species that are not overly specialized have greater odds at survival, and these Butterfly Bush have prove adaptable to many climes.

Afterwards, I went to Bake Oven Knob to assist in cleaning trash from the scenic overlook. It proved challenging. May years worth of plastics have accumulated below the 100 foot lookout, on precarious cliffs. Being an unskilled technical climber, I was careful in plotting my course, and I made my moves wisely. There were only three of us brave enough to clamber down the rocks, and when we filled our bags, they had to be hoisted up by ropes. Even with such an effort, much remains to be done. I can only hope to find half as dedicated a team for the next excursion.

Finishing, we hoisted the last bag up and over, and I was left to clamber up a vertical rock wall, beneath me a treacherous cliff covered in broken beer bottles and other glass and sharp metal. I managed to pull myself over, feeling exuberant at the tasks thus accomplished, before reveling in the view–the Lehigh Valley laid out below.

Sunday I found myself again hiking the Lehigh Gap, identifying many Sassafrass, Sweet Birch, Black and Pin Oaks, and Cinnamon Ferns. I picked the fiddleheads while I walked, finding them spicy to eat, but very good. I left, seeing a mourning dove, wishing me a fond but lonesome farewell.

Today I saw a juvenile Broad-winged Hawk on the ridge. One of my courser and less intellectually endowed co-workers, Trevor, offered to shoot it–pulling his gun out in jest–so that I might take a better look. I did not find the gesture as funny as he’d hoped, and told him I preferred both the bird in the sky and the gun in his holster.

4/12 I was pleasantly surprised by an old friend this morning. An adult Sharp-shinned hawk deftly swooping in about the Sassafrass branches, managing the canopy vegetation better than the greatest amongst man’s fighter pilots. I saw him just long enough to see the bright orange breast and the streaked black and white tail. My boss exclaimed, “ooh another Kestrel!”

“No,” I said, “a sharpie.”

I hope he caught what he was looking for, even if he is early to arrive.

All the various trees are in bloom now. With all the canopy flowering, it is like walking through a world intent upon beauty. It is strange magic compared with our dull civilized lives. The bleeding heart have risen up underfoot, and the purple milkweed and white clover frame them.

It is amazing with such life, we were still bombarded by a mid-day snow-squall. A strange occurrence in April, especially considering the mild winter. The dark clouds reaching low–ripping into the ridge at 40 mph–dramatically contrasted by patches of bright, sunny blue. Again a testimony to our mountain’s changeable moods.

4/15 Today was spent hiking the Delaware Water Gap, where the Delaware River, over millions of years, cut through the quartzite conglomerate and shale, forming Mt. Tamanay on the New Jersey side, and Mt. Minsi on the Pennsylvania side. It was a quiet, muggy, overcast spring day–the sort common after a good April rain. Everything was still wet, and the leaves had sprung from the red and striped maples, as well as Pin Oaks, Black Oaks and Serviceberry. On the North side, Hemlock dominated the forest, but as I climbed higher various Oaks, Birches, and Maples took over. Below the canopy, Rhododendron and Mountain Laurel were predominant, and there were occasionally briars and blueberry bushes growing close to the trail. On the ground I saw many Bluets, Buttercups, Common Dandylions, Cinnamon Ferns and Bleeding Heart. Though none were in bloom, I saw a Chestnut Oak, and a White Oak downed across the trail, likely from last October’s snow storm.

Mt. Minsi, which I climbed and summited about noon, was covered in scattering streams and brooks, and occasionally dramatic waterfalls. The view from the top, 1,600 feet up, was stunning. I could clearly see Mt. Tamanay’s shale formations, jutting out, evincing her great many years. I could see, near the top, a place where lighting had recently struck, leaving a burn mark in the brush, and a hole in the earth several inches deep. Over the river a Turkey Vulture circled, slowly, patiently, as dark purply-grey cumulo-nimbus clouds moved in. I could not contain my excitement, even in the face of better judgement, as I neared the top. I summitted, but I could not stay long, as the rain drops began falling. So I began my descent, only to find the storm had passed quickly and without much ado.

On the way down, I heard a creek, and, determined to find it, I followed a switchback to the source of the sound: a bubbling creek that widened and fell nearly 50 feet. I lingered a small while, before realizing I was somewhat lost. I made my way north on a trail that increasingly narrowed, until it at last came to a lake that I recognized. I soon found my way out of the woods, and I was sorry to leave them, but filled with renewed determination.

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Earth Day Events

This Saturday, April 21st, marks Earth Day. It is the only national holiday where we are asked to appreciate that which sustains us, gives us life and allows us to thrive. For some, it is a calling to appreciate. For others it is a calling to serve. No matter what the case may be, there are a number of great events around the Lehigh Valley to get involved with.

 

For those with a desire to give back, there is another installation of the Bake Oven Knob Clean-up. The previous event on April 7th was a great start. We made a dent, but there is a lot more to do! This clean-up will be to commemorate Earth Day, though in the months to follow, the first Saturday of the month will be the designated clean-up day. In any case, this will be a great event to get involved with. Just bring a trash bag, and help to haul out some of the human impact. It is also great if we can engage in a dialog that brings our community together. If you see somebody litter, ask them if they don’t mind picking it up. We must remember, we go out into nature as visitors. We are guests in nature’s living room. We must learn to be respectful guests. Afterall, these places are special because they are wild. It is important to leave as little impact on them as possible. Also, please remember, we’ve had very dry weather, and there is a burn ban in effect. So please do not start fires, and if you see any fires either ask for them to be put out or report them to the game commission.

 

For those with a desire to appreciate nature on Earth Day, the Lehigh Gap Nature Center (LGNC.org) is hosting an all day event, comprised of bird watching, gardening, and the screening of the film “Green Fire.” This will be the only local screening of the film about conservationist Aldo Leopold’s life and how his “land ethic” applies to today. The video will be followed by a discussion led by Linda Frederick and Dan Kunkle.

 

Other events around the Lehigh Valley include:

Allentown Hiking Club: Switchback Hike (http://www.allentownhikingclub.org/db_list1.php?featuretype=event)

Lehigh Valley Zoo: Party For The Planet (http://www.lvzoo.org/zoo_news.cfm#News04042012164359)

Fox Environmental Center: Lorax Earth Day (http://www.illicksmill.org/)

Hawk Mountain Sanctuary: Earth Day Celebration (http://www.hawkmountain.org/events/earth-day-celebration/page.aspx?id=2968)

Carbon County Environmental Education Center: Earth Day Celebration (http://www.facebook.com/events/399448910065374/)

 

Whatever you do, get out there and enjoy yourself.

 

Lehigh Gap, East Side...

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Tomorrow is a big day for Lehigh Valley environmentalists. There is a lot to get involved with. First there is the Lehigh Gap Nature Center spring clean-up. This will include work in the native plant gardens, trail work and tidying up the Osprey House. The clean-up is all volunteer, and every extra hand will be appreciated. It is a great place to get involved with, because beyond volunteer opportunities, the Osprey House hosts a range of events and guest lectures on topics ranging from Entomology and Ornithology, to environmental restoration.

For More Information Visit: http://lgnc.org

Also, tomorrow is the first installment of a monthly effort to clean up to much beloved, but also much blighted Bake Oven Knob. Bake Oven Knob is the highest point in Lehigh County, at approximated 1,700 feet above the sea. It is a mass of Tuscarora Conglomerate rocks, dated to about 400 million years and cropping up 100 feet above the ridge line. The lookout, once used to hunt birds of prey, long considered pests by local poultry farmers, is now the sight of a fall hawk watch. It is a great place for watching the fall migration, or to watch the trees as they change colors.

Unfortunately, Bake Oven Knob has long been used by people as a drinking hang-out, which is unfortunate mostly for the impact it has suffered. All throughout the area, one can find littered beer cans and bottles, cigarette butts and various other pieces of trash. This has concerned many local residents for some time, and now a few have banded together to do something about it, and to lead by exampled. So, during the warmer months, the Bake Oven Knob clean-up will commence on the first Saturday of every month. All participants are encouraged to bring a trash bag, and to carry whatever trash they can out with them.

The rest of the year, go and enjoy these special places, and make everyone’s job easier. Follow the Leave No Trace ethics, promoted by the National Park Service, to keep our wildlands wild.

Facebook Event Page: http://www.facebook.com/events/414304748595508/

Image

BAKE OVEN KNOB

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A New Purpose…

The first time I walked about in the wooded areas of Southeast Pennsylvania, I felt that much of what was around me was natural. Natural in the sense that, nature, on her own, put it there. That, these little forests were, of course, old growth. I have since learned the industrial history of our state. While our state is, to this day, mostly covered in forests, it was not always so. Most of Pennsylvania has experienced logging and decimation of wooded areas by extractive industries. There is little of the old growth, pre-columbian forest left.

 

Still, that being said, I am no less captivated by our wild places. During my first section hike, some years ago, along the Appalachian Trail, I realized that, with all its short comings, Pennsylvania is still significantly wild. There is much that is well worth observing and admiring. Walking from the Wind Gap to the Pinnacle, on a Southbound hike, I passed mature forests of White Pines, Northern Red Oaks, Sweet Birch, Common Sassafrass and Staghorn Sumac. A pleathora of passerine birds. A wild Turkey. Small mammals, deer and even a bear. However, passing to the ridgetop, near Lehigh Gap, I discovered a different world. Barren. Deserted. Choked by smog from a Zinc smelter. No trees would grow where the heavy metals had contaminated the soil. The destruction was alarming.

 

Many years passed, and I had given it little thought, until I was camping at the Lehigh Gap, with a few friends from the city. They were drinking heavily, leaving trash on the ground, playing loud music… All of the things that anyone with any class would know not to do in the woods. It led me to believe that, there are not many who truly care… Who truly see the valley in these places, beyond their worth in terms of human use. I kept thinking of Dr. Seuss’ Lorax, and the word Unless.

 

Keeping these places beautiful and full of diverse life is, unfortunately, no longer a natural process. A year into this revelation, and I have been blessed with the opportunity to do the human work of maintaining the Kittatiny Ridge. I have worked on trail restoration and maintenance, raptor observation, and now I work restoring the damage from the Zinc smelter. I am blessed, every day, to be able to ramble on the ridgetop, seeking high places and reveling in the various moods of the mountain.

 

I am a conservationist. I do the grunt work, to keep our world green, but there is nothing more purposeful. This blog is to recount my rambles, my studies and my casual observations. I hope that some of my thoughts will lead somebody, somewhere, to care also…

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