Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Another Bear Attack in Yellowstone

If you were watching the national news yesterday, you might have heard mention of another deadly bear attack in Yellowstone National Park. Two hikers found the deceased man on the Mary Mountain trail. He was alone and there was evidence that it was a bear attack, including tracks, hair and bear droppings. You can read the full news article online (click here).

Unfortunately, the is the second deadly bear attack in Yellowstone this year. I talked about the first one in a previous post (click here). Given that this man was hiking alone, we will probably never know the circumstances of what happened.

There are several things you can do to reduce the risk of encountering a bear on a hike, as well as several tips for what to do if you encounter a bear.

First, I think as a general rule, never hike alone. If you get injured, you have no one to go get help for you. Often times you can't get cell phone reception, especially when in the middle of the parks.

Second, when hiking in bear country, make a lot of noise. Seriously, the louder you are, the more likely a bear knows you are around. If you are hiking with someone, talk loudly and often. This is what my husband and I did when hiking some backcountry trails in Yellowstone. Another option is to wear bear bells. You may sound like Christmas while you walk down the trail, but it should hopefully provide proper warning to all bears.

Third, be prepared in case a bear does show up. Some tips below to help you with that.

 -Carry pepper spray. Pepper spray can be a very good deterrent if a bear decides to attack.

 -Actually keep the pepper spray somewhere where you can get to it quickly. Don't bury it in the middle of your pack. Keep hanging on the outside of your pack if possible so you can reach in a hurry if need be.

-If you see a bear, and it is not approaching you, slowly walk away.

-Try to avoid direct eye contact with the bear. You don't want to come off as a threat.

-Do not run!!! They may look slow, but bears have some speed on them.

-Do not climb a tree to escape a bear. They can climb a lot better than you, especially black bears.

-If the bear attacks, lie flat on your stomach or curl into a ball on your side. You have more vital organs that can be reached from the front than from the back.
 -Try to remain calm and make as little noise as possible.

-If you see a mother bear with cubs, get out of there. Mothers are protective and will attack to make sure her cubs aren't harmed.

Hope these are some useful tips if you find yourself heading out to bear country.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

I Like the National Park Foundation

As I'm sure many of you know, every organization under the sun as a page on Facebook now. This includes several groups associated with the National Parks, like the National Park Service, the National Park Foundation,, the Bureau of Land Management, etc., etc.  Well, since I particularly like these organizations, I "liked" their pages on Facebook. Well, this paid off for me with the National Park Foundation. Every Friday, they have a Fan Friday contest, where they randomly choose one of their twitter or Facebook followers to receive a Fan Friday prize pack. This prize back includes: a t-shirt, baseball cap, bumper sticker, tote bag, button, and an America the Beautiful Park Pass (worth $80). Well, a few Fridays back, I won!! I was super excited because I freaking love the parks and well because I never win anything. Pictures of me with my NPF gear can be found below.

I want to add here that the National Park Foundation was chartered by congress in 1967 and is the official charity for the national parks. It is a charity I donated to earlier this year. I encourage all of you to donate to this charity since they are a big part of preserving these natural places. Visit their website to make a donation today. And like the National Park Foundation on Facebook. You too could win a Fan Friday prize pack, or one of the other prizes they offer, including trips to some of the National Parks.

My button, placed proudly on my bag for work.

My t-shirt and hat

Bumper sticker

Tote bag, made from recycled plastic bottles.

The America the Beautiful Park Pass, which covers entrance
fees to the parks that charge them. We get one every year.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Happy Birthday National Park Service!!!

Today is the 95th birthday of the National Park Service!! On this day in 1916, President Woodrow Wilson signed into law the National Park Service Organic Act. You can read it online if you would like (click here). It just so happens, I wore my National Park Foundation t-shirt today, what a super coincidence. More about how I got my t-shirt and other NPF gear in another post. I'm excited to know that my birthday is only 3 days after the National Park Service's birthday. Happy Birthday National Park Service!!! I'm sure glad you exist :)

On another note, I live right outside of Washington, D.C. and experienced what is being called the "East Coast Earthquake". I was in my lab and the building definitely swayed. Scared the crap out of me. Everything is fine though where I work and live. Unfortunately, the same can't be said for the Washington Monument, which sustained damages from the earthquake. The Washington Post has an article you can check out with pictures so you can see the damage (click here). Let's hope they can get this fixed soon so the public can enjoy it again.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

There's a new national memorial in town

I live right outside of Washington D.C. and there are a ton of national park sites in the area. Many I've been  to, though not as recent as I would like. I plan to do something about that this fall. Now, I have more incentive to visit the National Mall because now there is a new memorial in town, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial. The memorial officially opened to the public yesterday, with the official dedication on Sunday, August 28 (the anniversary of King's famous "I Have a Dream" speech). It's all over the local news here and from the images I've seen on T.V., it looks pretty darn amazing. If you want to learn more about the memorial, you can visit the website (click here). I plan to visit it the next time a drag myself down to the National Mall. I'll be sure to take pictures and post about it here.

There is also a Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site in Georgia dedicated to the life of this leader of the civil rights movement. From the website: "The Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic site was established to preserve and interpret the places where Dr. King was born, worked, worshipped and is buried. Places to visit include the Visitor Center, Ebenezer Baptist Church, The King Center (Freedom Hall), Fire Station No. 6, Dr. King's Birth Home and the restored Birth Home Block."  

If you are ever in the Atlanta, Georgia area with some time to kill, I think this would be a great place to check out. I haven't been, but hope to get there one day. You can learn more about this National Historic Site by visiting it's dedicated website (click here).

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Monticello-Home of my favorite president, Thomas Jefferson

This past weekend, the hubby and I went to Monticello, Thomas Jefferson's home. So, I know what you are thinking, Monticello is not a national park. However, Monticello is a World Heritage Site, which means it meets certain criteria set by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization. You can read more about those criteria at their website (click here). Plus, Thomas Jefferson is my favorite president and I've wanted to visit this place for a long time, so you are gonna hear about it. 

Hubby and I got a later start that day than we wanted, so we didn't get to Monticello until about 1 pm. The first thing we did was went to buy tickets to tour the house. Tickets for adults are $22 dollars a piece, but it was money we were happy to spend. When you but a ticket, you are given a tour time for the house. Ours wasn't until 2:50 pm, so we had some time to kill. We decided we would check out the area around the house first. Had to grab pics of Thomas Jefferson's statue first.

Hubby with good old Thomas Jefferson.

There are two options of getting to the home, a free shuttle bus offered every 5 minutes, or a nice little trail that you can walk. The trail is not a bad walk, only .60 miles. Plus, it takes you past Jefferson's grave.

Jefferson and his descendants are buried in a family plot on the Monticello property. Descendants are still being buried there to this day.

It started raining as soon as we got to the burial ground, which actually made it quite pretty to see.

Some of the older graves in the burial ground.

Thomas Jefferson's headstone. He only wanted to be remembered for three things: authoring the Declaration of Independence, authoring the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom, and founding the University of Virginia.

After seeing the burial ground, we started making our way towards the house. One thing that is really wonderful is that they actively maintain gardens, much like Thomas Jefferson did when he lived on the property.

Fig trees. Reminds me of grandparents, who had a fig tree in their yard.

They also maintain a vineyard. The rain had stopped and the mist was rolling in. It was such a lovely site to see.


Cow's Horn Okra (Hibiscus esculentus)

After wandering the gardens for a bit, we decided to look at the outside area of the house. This is the side of the house where you enter for the tour.

There are all sorts of flowers surrounding the house. More of that later.

Blackberry Lily (Belamcanda chinensis)

What is really interesting is that all of the space under the house was fully utilized for things such as the kitchen, stables, and wine cellars. Some pictures of that are below.

Ye olde toilet.
They maintained an ice house and would pack it full of ice and snow once wintered rolled around. They could keep ice for up to 10 months.

Looking down into the ice house.

Outside of ice  house.


After walking around under one side of the house, we decided to check out the gardens. They gift shop actually sells the seeds for most of the plants that you see. I'll try to identify what plants I can for you in the captions below.

Can't remember what these are, sorry.

Joseph's Coat (Amaranthus tricolor)

Spider Flower (Cleome hasslerana)

Love-lies-bleeding (Amaranthus caudatus)

Don't know these, sorry again.

Pink Spiked Celosia (Celosia cristata)

Cockscomb (Celosia cristata)

Huge tree, which what seems like the perfect sitting spot.

The molted exoskeleton of a cicada.

Cyprus Vine (Ipomoea quamoclit)

Possibly some sort of crab apple tree

Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis)

Now you can see the view of the house that it is known for.

More from the flower gardens.

I think this is Double Columbine (Aquilegia vulgaris plena)

Bloodflower (Asclepias curassavica)

French Mallow (Malva sylvestris)

More Spider Flowers

Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea)

Can't figure out what these are either.

Don't know these either.

Let's just say, there are no fish in here presently.

After we finished investigating the gardens, we walked underneath the other side of the house.

Do you see the lone spider?

The kitchen

Wine cellar

One of the original doors from the home. It was
encased in glas so it remained protected.

After checking all of this out, we went on the tour of the house. Unfortunately, no pictures were allowed :(   We saw some pretty cool stuff though. They had a pair of elk antlers that were sent to Jefferson from the original Lewis and Clark expedition. They had bones from a mastodon that were in Jefferson's possession. We loved the library, which still had two shelves of Jefferson's original books. He actually sold several of his books to the Library of Congress after Washington D.C. was burned, and those are still on display there today. They had several pieces of art owned by Jefferson as well. It was quite stunning inside. Unfortunately, with the normal tour, you only get to see the first floor. There is a behind the scenes tour available, for $37 a person, but those only run at certain times a day. That tour will take you to the other floors and to the dome room. The tour lasted about 40 minutes.

Trunk of a very large tree.

Views of the countryside around the home.

Grave of one of the previous owner's daughters, I think.
Don't quote me on that.

Chimney from the old joinery.

They had lots of these little guys floating around.

Thomas Jefferson seal on the fence surrounding the burial ground.

Afterwards, hubby and I checked out the museum, which is well put together. They also have a short film on Jefferson you can watch. There is also a great hand's on kid area if you have little ones you are bringing with you. There is also an African American burial ground for the slaves that worked at Monticello. I was a little disappointed by the fact that a parking lot was built around it. I thought that was a tad disrespectful.

As you may know, there is some controversy surrounding Jefferson and his relationship with a slave named Sally Hemings. This is mentioned during the tour as an alleged relationship, though some DNA testing has shown otherwise. NPR actually did a recent piece on it, which you can read about (click here).

Hubby and I spend the night in Charlottesville. It had a great downtown area with shops and restaurants lining it. Not a bad place for a little one night get away.

Since we were in the area, I insisted that we drive through the Green Springs National Historic Landmark District, well part of it anyway. We followed the directions from the park service website, but actually didn't see many homes. I think one has to drive off onto some of the side roads, that unfortunately, that wasn't going to happen this time. Next time we go to Monticello, I'll plan a little better in hopes of seeing more of the homes associated with this site.

As you head down I-64, you take exit 136, to US 15 north towards Gordonsville.

I pretty confident this wasn't part of Green Springs, but I like the barn.

Overall, we had a great trip and just loved Monticello. It will definitely be a new destination spot to bring friends and family who visit us in D.C.