Friday, October 30, 2009

Alaska Part 1: The Inside Passage -- Aboard the Alaska Ferry, Ketchikan, and Juneau

In 2004, I drove 10,000 miles on an 11 week odyssey to and through Alaska reported here. During the trip, I also took camcorder footage which I came across on an external drive this week. So I put together this video of the voyage through the Inside Passage aboard the Alaska Ferry, with 4 night stops in both Ketchikan and Juneau...

In the following weeks, I'll work on additional videos of the trip after Juneau, using the camcorder footage, so check back!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Morton Arboretum biking

Yesterday was yet another cloudy, humid day -- no sun, but at least a bit warmer. My oldest son, Scott, invited me to join him at Morton Arboretum for a bike ride on the roads...

In 1922, Joy Morton, the owner of Morton Salt and Argo Starch, established The Morton Arboretum on 178 acres of land adjacent to his estate in Lisle, Illinois. Today the arboretum encompasses 1700 acres and includes over 4,100 different species of trees, shrubs, and other woody plants from around the globe. In all, there are over 186,000 catalogued plants. The Arboretum has 16 miles of hiking trails and nine miles of roadways for driving and bicycling. His father, Julius Morton, was one of the founders of Arbor Day, and the family estate in Nebraska was given to the State of Nebraska as its first state park in honor of his father and Arbor Day.

The colors were marvelous, as was the lunch at the cafe...

Then we walked a bit, enjoying the children's "backyard" and "woods" exhibits, as well as the one acre maze and the "animal houses" displays.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Lunch with Mom and Scott

Scott and I visited Mom yesterday, with lunch at El Sombrero...

...and then an hour back at her apartment, conversing and watching movies of my summer trip to New England...

Very enjoyable visit, and then Scott and I left so she could go downstairs for her Whammo game.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Nippersink Forest Preserve Hike

The rain yesterday morning canceled our planned hike, but between rain storms in the afternoon, I got in an hour hike at one of Lake County's newer preserves, Nippersink, which the preserve district converted from a former campground to a lovely (but short, so do it several times) hiking loop. The last of the fall colors were still ablaze...

Monday, October 26, 2009

Happy 8th Brithday, iPod!

In October of 2001, Apple held a press conference to announce a new device called an iPod. Steve Jobs told the press, "You can fit your whole music library in your pocket. To have your whole CD library with you at all times is a quantum leap when it comes to music."

The iPod officially reached retail shelves on November 10th, and I bought my first iPod on November 30th. I had been a runner for 16 years, often accompanied first by a portable radio, and later by a Sony Walkman. When my running had to end due to arthritis in the toes, I became a hiker, with nearly daily jaunts in the forest preserves, or when time didn't allow a drive to the preserves, walking in the neighborhood. Since I'd had a Mac home computer since 1984, I easily transitioned to the iPod as a replacement for the Walkman, and it was a huge upgrade at that!

Though the original unit's 5 gigabyte capacity is tiny compared to today's 120 GB models, it held my favorite songs from my hundreds of CDs. My various iPods (and now iPhone) have provided hundreds of hours of entertainment over the years, both while walking and driving.

Ubiquitous? A worldwide phenomenon? A revolution? You decide what to call it, but consider that over 220 million iPods have been sold worldwide in its 8 years, and the iTunes Music Store has sold over 6 billion songs for those units, accounting for 70% of worldwide online digital music sales and making the service the world's largest music retailer.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Singing Hills hike

It's so much nicer to hike on a clear day than in the rain!

Yesterday it was 4 delightful miles in Singing Hills FP.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

A Soggy Moraine Hills State Park Hike

Yet another lousy day of weather yesterday. It was cold and wet yet again, and though biking was beyond the realm of possibility, we planned to hike. At 9am as we were leaving our places to meet, the rain resumed, but the radar and weather forecast indicated it would clear out by lunch, so we rescheduled to meet for lunch at noon and then hike. Lunch was great as usual and the rain had abated, so we headed over to Moraine Hills State Park for a 6 mile hike and with hopes to see some color change. Well, we did see some muted colors...

...but 2 miles into the hike, it began misting and then raining, so we aborted the hike, contented outselves with 3 miles, and headed home with plans to try again Monday, Mother Nature permitting.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Rest in Peace, KC Bird

Orange cheeked, top-knotted
loving companion and friend
for eight too-brief years.
How you entertained with
newspaper munching and noggin bumping,
sing-song serenades and door-top warbles,
perch-prancing and cage-lapping,
soaring flights and clipped-wing gliding
(followed by floor-waddle return),
your regular souvenirs of
dandruff droppings and shoulder deposits
and nightly fussy 7 pm ruckus
demanding “Bedtime is here!”
Your absence stabs our hearts
as fond memories lighten them,
the finest of all feathered friends,
here but briefly, but forevermore
in our hearts.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Volunteer Trail Project in Acadia National Park

This trail project was under the auspices of the Appalachian Mountain Club in conjunction with the Acadia National Park trail personnel. We stayed at AMC's Echo Lake Camp nestled on a lovely forested hillside at the south end of Echo Lake bordering Acadia National Park. The camp was in its final week of its 9 week season of hosting campers, so we ate breakfast and supper in the dining hall with the other campers, enjoying delicious meals by the chefs and service by the servers -- a rare treat compared to my other 20+ volunteer trail projects where we had to cook our own meals and clean up after each meal -- all before or after an arduous day of trail work. And it was the best food I've ever enjoyed on a project! Thanks, AMC staff!

With 125 miles of trails in the national park -- most with elevation changes, years of stormy weather, and much use by hikers -- the trails require much maintenance, and like other parks, volunteers supply a good measure of the hours devoted to reconstruction and maintenance.

Here's a video account of the project...

My entire written report is posted here.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Biking Cook County's Des Plaines River Trail

After days of being thwarted in my attempt to hike or bike beneath fall colors, I finally succeeded. I had to drive over to Wheeling and bike south on the Des Plaines Trail starting at Dam Number 1 Woods, but the predominantly maple forest that stretches along the river for miles was ablaze in yellow and gold...

Even the underbrush contributed to the spectacle...

Mission accomplished!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Biking and Fall Colors

This been the coldest Chicagoland October in 133 years! At least today and tomorrow had been forecast to be sunny and reach the average temp (61 degrees). They were half right about today -- we hit 60 but with complete cloud cover and not a peek of sunshine all day. It's been 2 weeks since its been acceptable biking weather and I got out today 17 miles, hoping to see some trees in full color, but the only ones I found were in the old Four Winds Golf Club on the Fort Hill Trail...

The only real color around here is trees put in as part of landscaping efforts as these around my townhouse...

...and in the back yard...

Tomorrow is still supposed to be nice, but we'll see, and the rest of the week has temps falling 10 to 15 degrees below normal again. It's a good thing I understand that what has become known as "global warming" should in actuality be called "climate change" and that it refers to long range weather patterns, not seasonal blips in the weather. Our recent 3 week cold snap (and for that matter our below normal temps most of last spring and summer) are the result of jet stream and El Nino factors and don't discount the climate change theories. It is what it is, so we deal with it (and occasionally complain!)

Monday, October 19, 2009

Volo Bog Hike

I met Patti and Dave and we hiked 5+ miles in Volo Bog State Natural Area. After 5 days in the house fighting a hacking cough and head cold, it was good to get outside and beat the incarceration of cabin fever...

The colors are changing, though this area is not prolific with trees that show much Fall color...

Good thing we went today because they've re-hung the "Hunting" signs, so the area will be closed to hiking on and off for a while. Hope the deer find good hiding places!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Cats and the Crittters

Here's a brief video I made 5 years ago when our cats were intrigued by chipmunks that climbed a metal pole to steal food from the bird feeders. The feeders were only a few feet from the window and the couch provided a perfect viewing platform for the cats, M&M and ET.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Worthy Quotes #26

The measure of a life, after all, is not its duration, but its donation.
-- Corrie ten Boom

The greatest happiness of life is the conviction that we are loved - loved for ourselves, or rather, loved in spite of ourselves.
 -- Victor Hugo

A man never stands so tall as when he kneels to help a child.
--Knights of Pythagoras

Ninety-nine percent of the failures come from people who have the habit of making excuses.
--George Washington Carver

What we think is less than what we know;
What we know is less than what we love;
What we love is so much less than what there is.
And to that precise extent we are so much less than what we are.
–-R.D. Laing

Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom
-- Thomas Jefferson

Lying covers a multitude of sins - temporarily.
-- Dwight L. Moody

Blessed are those who expect little, for they will never be disappointed.
--Carl Sandburg

No man ever got lost on a straight road.
--Abe Lincoln

Life is like an onion: you peel it off one layer at a time, and sometimes you weep.
--Carl Sandburg

I have a simple philosophy. Fill what's empty. Empty what's full. And scratch where it itches.
--Alice Roosevelt Longworth

Everything that can be invented has been invented.
--Charles H. Duell (U.S. Commissioner of Patents, 1899)

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Video of Sailing Maine's Coast on the Angelique

The Angelique, built in 1980, was modeled after a windjammer of the 19th Century, but was built specifically for passenger comfort. Amenities have been added to make life aboard more comfortable and enjoyable, including 3 heads (bathrooms) and 2 hot, fresh-water showers below deck. Here's a video I made of our week aboard...

More info and photos are available on my blog post here.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Video of Paddling the Poconos Elderhostel in Delaware Water Gap

This Elderhostel (now called Exploritas) program is an active outdoor paddling program hosted by the Shawnee Institute and held at The Shawnee Inn on the banks of the Delaware River located in the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area in Pennsylvania's lovely Pocono Mountains. The Inn is located a few miles north of I-80 in Shawnee-on-Delaware, Pennsylvania. For 40 miles, the Delaware River flows between lushly forested low mountains until the river makes a tight "S" curve. Over the eons, it forced itself through the ridge at Kittatinny Mountain forming the eponymous Delaware Water Gap. The Delaware River is being preserved as a wild and scenic river, uninterrupted by dams, and the river serves as the boundary between New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

Here's the entire post I made for this Elderhostel program.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Sungha Jung, Prodigy Child Guitarist from South Korea

Sungha Jung was born South Korea on September 2, 1996, and his dream is to become a professional acoustic fingerstyle guitarist. I think he's well on his way! See if you agree...

Sungha watched his dad play the guitar for years before he "finally jumped on it myself three years ago." Imagine what a few more years will bring to him! Here he plays one of my favorite songs, "You Raise Me Up"...

He says, "I used to not have tabs for the music that I played in my videos. I just listen and pick them up directly from the sound source in videos available on the internet. However, recently, I have started playing with original tabs whenever they are available to me by courtesy of the authors. My old guitar is custom made by Selma to fit my body size, and on it, Thomas Leeb wrote "Keep on grooving to my friend.' "

He adds, "As of Jan. 1st, 2009, Lakewood acts as sponsor for my guitar officially. I'm very grateful to those prominent guitarists who have had a great influence on my guitar playing. I'll continue to study them and learn more about interpretation of music and various playing techniques. My daily practice routine lasts for one to two hours when school is open, but I play up to three hours a day during the school breaks."

"It usually takes me two to three days to practice and videotape a new piece but sometimes up to a week for more difficult ones."

Here he plays the classical piece, "Canon in D"..

Sungha is also taking drum lessons and has even composed two pieces, "Missing You" and "Voyages with Ulli." His official website is here.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Hiking Lakewood Forest Preserve

Too cold to bike today, so the Patti, Dave, and I hiked 6 miles at Lakewood Forest Preserve. We saw several dozen deer, including a couple bucks, several hawks, and also enjoyed watching these 6 swans...

We also encountered the largest mushroom I've ever seen. I placed a 12 ounce water bottle alongside it for comparison...

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Writers Group

A number of our Elderhostel alumni group members gather together regularly to create memoirs (also known as lifestories) under the tutelage of Don Nylin of our group, who has taken several Elderhostel courses on this subject. We have been meeting for nearly five years now, and some of us have a couple dozen of these memoirs finished. In essence, we are each writing our autobiographies, one chapter/ incident at a time, attempting to leave to our descendants our own words in order to allow them to know who we were and how we got to be these people we are.

Today we met at my place, and, since we hadn't met in quite some time due to scheduling problems, we spent some time getting caught up with each others latest doings, and then after a nice lunch, Phyllis, Pete, Don (clockwise around the table)...

...and I shared our latest stories for several hours.

Getting together with good friends and sharing our written words is a wonderful way to spend an afternoon. And new members are always welcomed!

Friday, October 9, 2009

The Cactus Cuties from Lubbock, Texas

Listen to these young ladies sing our national anthem! I'm amazed at their talent and professionalism at such a young age. This video is from their performance at a Texas Tech basketball game...

The Cactus Cuties are Baylee Barrett, Blaire Elbert, Andi Kitten, and Madeline Powell, and these youngsters are directed Cami Caldwell. The Cuties originated from a mentorship program of Don and Terri Caldwell’s historic Cactus Theater in Lubbock, Texas.

In this next video, they sing "Godspeed, Sweet Dreams" and you get to hear them each soloing...

Their website is here and more videos can be found here. Bios for these three talented young ladies are here.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Biking the Des Plaines River Trail

Yesterday I biked 22 miles on the DRT, curious to see if there had been much color change. Very little was in evidence, except for the landscaping trees planted at Independence Grove's Visitor Center...

Before the ride, I turned in my form for the Burnham Centennial 100-Mile Challenge and got my REI discount certificate. Yesterday's ride put me over 2100 miles for 2009, a good percentage of which have been on numerous Lake County Trails, though only 100 miles were needed for the Challenge.

I did notice that the announced construction of washrooms along the DRT just north of the Route 120 underpass is underway...

...which will be a nice addition since there is a lengthy distance north of Independence Grove without facilities (other than the innumerable trees.)

As I biked through Wadsworth Savanna near the railroad tracks, all alone in my thoughts and absorbed amidst Nature, an Amtrac train approached from behind me unheard since I was biking into a stiff wind, and just before passing me, it blasted its horn for an upcoming grade crossing. startling me so badly I nearly biked off the trail! Guess the solitude of the woods can be a dangerous thing!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Church Signs #13

In my driving trips across all 50 states, I often spot clever, amusing, and thought-provoking signs in front of churches of all denominations, and long ago I began jotting them down. I'll gradually post them here for your entertainment and edification.

  1. Jesus’ Valentine message: Yours forever.
  2. Strong and bitter words indicate a weak cause.
  3. Affected by life? Take 2 tablets given to Moses.
  4. If you need help, ask God. If not, thank God.
  5. You can’t fall when you kneel.
  6. Cast nets, not stones.
  7. How will you spend eternity – in smoking or non-smoking?
  8. Where God guides, God provides.
  9. Don’t dig up in doubt what you plant in faith.
  10. Don’t give God what is left – give what is right.
  11. Unlike socks, may your faith and actions match.
  12. Under same management for over 2000 years.
  13. Redemption: God’s recycling plan.
  14. Need a sign from God? How about this one?
  15. All TV is educational. What are your kids learning?

Monday, October 5, 2009

Video Tour of Biking the Millennium Trail

Lakewood is Lake County's largest forest preserve at 2700+ acres and offers access to the Millennium Trail which loops through western Lake County. Trailhead access is available at the Lakewood Forest Preserve's "Winter Sports Area" parking off Fairfield Road just south of Route 176 in Wauconda. An additional trailhead (including horse trailer parking) is located at Singing Hills Forest Preserve, off Fish Lake Road, just north of Gilmer Road near Volo. Click the map below to enlarge it:

As the map above depicts, the Millennium Trail now runs 21 miles and will eventually cover 35 miles as it loops through and connects central, western and northern Lake County communities and Forest Preserves. The first 3.2 mile segment opened in fall 2002 to the delight of hikers, bicyclists, equestrians, and cross-country skiers, and it now runs through Lakewood and Singing Hills Preserves and up to and through Marl Flat Preserve, and then another 2 miles from Litchfield Road to Fairfield Road. Three additional paved miles alongside Hawley Road connect Mundelein High School to Lakewood.

In addition, a two-mile stretch of gravel trail called Fort Hill Trail travels from Lakewood Preserve, through the former Four Winds Golf Course, a lovely section to bike, and then on to and under Gilmer Road and into Ray Lake Preserve. This trail is also included in the video. The Fort Hill Trail parking area is located on the south side of Gilmer Road, north of Route 176.

Here's a video of the scenery and wildlife you'll experience if you bike the trail in its entirety...

From roughly 1835 to 1865, this site's forested areas were divided into 5- and 10-acre parcels used by local farmers as a source of firewood and lumber. After the Civil War, small farms dominated the property.

In 1937, Malcolm Boyle, a general contractor from Chicago, made his first of many purchases here and created Lakewood Farms, a country estate. Over the next 20 years, his farm became one of Lake County's largest, with livestock, orchards, gardens and crops. Boyle landscaped the ponds, dug Banana Lake, and built 16 major buildings.

In 1961, Howard Quinn purchased the 1,250-acre farm and converted it into a large dairy ranch, which operated until 1965. In 1968, the Lake County Forest Preserve District acquired Lakewood and has continued in stages for more than 30 years.

Lakewood is home to 17 endangered species, many of which reside in a remote 70-acre bog on the preserve's western side. Wauconda Bog, ringed by poison sumac and a natural moat, is so ecologically valuable it is designated as a National Natural Landmark and an Illinois Nature Preserve. Another area of note is Broberg Marsh, one of the best breeding spots in the county for birds.

This landscape is a mixture of oak woods, wetlands and fields. You'll also find farmlands and groves of evergreens. A lot of wildlife lives here and if you're lucky, you may even spot one of the bats from the colony living near Shelter E. These shy mammals sleep while picnickers have their fun, and then awake at dusk to eat thousands of mosquitoes and other bugs.

Lake County Forest Preserve's page on this trail is here.

More info here.

Random Facts #23

Things that happen every 60 seconds on Earth

  • 2,000 thunderstorms occur.
  • 45 million gallons of water go over Niagara Falls.
  • 2,271 working satellites orbit Earth.
  • A hair grows 0.00027 inch.
  • 954 camera phones are sold.
  • 15,000 gallons of air are inhaled by a blue whale.
  • 21,000 pizzas are baked.
  • 180 Barbies are sold.
  • 115 soccer balls are made -- and 61 of them are in Pakistan.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Deer Grove Woods hike

Lousy day to bike, but a fine day to hike, so the 6 of us hiked 6 miles in Deer Grove Forest Preserve and then went to lunch...

Friday, October 2, 2009

Save your Fork!

The 90 year old woman’s health was failing her, but she was still in command of her faculties when her doctor said, “I’m sorry, but I don’t think you’ll live much longer.”

She responded with a knowing smile, a simple nod, and a pleasant, “I understand.”

After the doctor had gone, she summoned her family and announced, “I think it’s time to discuss my funeral arrangements.”

They talked about what songs would be included in the service, who would speak, where she would be buried, and what kind of casket should be used. Then she remarked, "There is one additional request that's very important to me.”

They stood quietly as she took a deep breath and their faces showed puzzlement as she continued, “I want to be buried with a fork in my right hand."

Understandably confused by her last request, her oldest son queried, "Mom, what did you say?"

She repeated softly, “I want you to tell the undertaker that I want to be buried with a fork in my hand.”

Their perplexed expressions turned to smiles as she added, "At suppers when I was a young girl, all of us kids would help mom by clearing away the dishes and silverware, and mom would always smile and say, 'Remember to save your fork!'”

“All us kids knew what that meant! It meant that mom had fixed us a pie or a cake or homemade ice cream for dessert. When she said 'Everyone save your fork!' that meant the best was yet to come. So I want to be buried with a fork in my right hand, because I know that since my time on earth is nearly up, the best is yet to come!"

So, everyone -- Save your fork! No matter what this life has given you, the best IS yet to come!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Trivia #5

1. What U.S. city was known as Lancaster before it became a state capital in 1867?

Lincoln, Nebraska. Its name was changed to honor President Abraham Lincoln on the day Nebraska attained statehood and moved its seat of government from its territorial capital, Omaha.

2. What is the only celestial body in the universe—besides the sun and moon—that is bright enough to cast shadows on the earth?


3. What did legendary aviatrix Amelia Earhart carry with her to keep awake on lengthy flights?

Smelling salts. Earhart, who made a solo transatlantic crossing on the fifth anniversary of Charles Lindbergh’s historic flight, didn’t drink coffee or tea.

4. Which U.S. president had dogs named Tipsy, Tipler, and Drunkard, as well as Sweetlips and Truelove?

George Washington. The dogs were founders of the American foxhound breed, created by Washington when he bred descendants of English hounds with a French foxhound given to him by the Marquis de Lafayette.

5. What ski area is the highest in the United States?

The Arapahoe Basin in Dillon, Colorado, with a summit elevation of 13,050 feet.

6. Who provided the voice of Dory, the kindhearted tang fish with short-term memory loss, in the 2003 animated film Finding Nemo?

Comedian Ellen DeGeneres.

7. What does the mayor of Munich, Germany, traditionally dip into the city’s Fish Fountain (Fischbrunnen) every Ash Wednesday?

A purse. According to local legend, plunging a wallet or purse into the fountain will enrich the city’s coffers in the coming year. Locals follow suit, hoping that their purses will also be replenished.

8. What U.S. city was the first to have a subway?

Boston. Its subway opened on September 1, 1897. London was the first city in the world to have a subway. It opened in 1863.

9. Which state never ratified the 18th Amendment to the Constitution, which established Prohibition?

Rhode Island.

10. How many matches in a row does a player have to win at a Grand Slam tennis event to take home the top trophy?

Seven. The Grand Slam events in tennis are the Australian Open, the French Open, Wimbledon, and the U.S. Open.

(from Page-A-Day Calendars)