Barefoothiking has never caused the kind of controversy and acrimony that barefoot running has. Perhaps it’s because hiking doesn’t come so overloaded with notions about proper form and “performance.” People generally go hiking for recreation and sightseeing — any exercise or positive health effects hikers get are side benefits. Most runners participate in races of some kind, but hiking is less competitive — unless you get two diehard “peak baggers” on the same trail. (Count me out, man, I’d rather stop and smell the flowers.)
So barefoot hiking should be a lot like barefoot trail running — not so much about performance as about the experience. I thought I’d give it a try when my friend Ron Krull invited me to climb Mt. St. Helens late in the summer. The photos are by him unless otherwise noted. And a special note: FWIW here barefoot means actually barefoot. There is nothing wrong with minimal shoes — or any shoes you want — but, dude, it’s not the same thing.
I’ve done Mt. St. Helens before, so I knew what I was getting into. …more
You rarely see top-bottom split screens used in movies, but this scene makes me wonder why not. Bela Legosi lords over a stock shot of city streets, in the classic transvestite liberationfilm, Glen or Glenda. The world-weariness could apply to Solomon himself — if he had a morphine problem, anyway.
I often wonder: Why do humans invent things? Why do we have culture?
Let’s face it, all we really need to do is eat and copulate. Why do we bother with so much more than that? To an outside observer, say an alien zoologist, what could possibly explain all the details in the following picture?
Who are these humans, he/she/it ponders? What are their machines? What, particularly, is the significance of the fuzzy ball on the cap of the human at the right? Is he, perhaps, a priest? …more
Benthic macroinvertebrates. They’re not actually that big. Not big enough to star in a horror movie (Attack of the Bottom-Dwelling Gargantuan Spineless Things?). But they’re visible to the naked eye, which is convenient for us. These aquatic creatures can tell us a lot about water quality. Some, when faced with pollution, gurgle, “Bring it on!” while others expire at the slightest dip in dissolved oxygen.
Recently I got to go out and scrounge up some of these critters. I and some other stream enthusiasts set up a complex mouse-trap-like mechanism, involving tubes, baubles, pulleys, bait, and suction, in the stream, then retreated while our prey ensnared themselves.
Really, we just plopped a net in the current and violently raked and scrubbed the creekbed to free the clinging critters into our net. The we emptied the net into a bucket and proceeded to sort the bugs in ice cube trays, examine them with nifty Transformer-like field microscopes, and identify them.
In a good stream, you’ll find biological diversity. The Big Three to look for are stonefly, mayfly, and caddisfly nymphs. If you have a variety of these guys, your stream has not yet died. Another important thing: these insects are a main food source for little salmon.
In environmental circles, people tend to get a bad rap. And by “people,” I don’t just mean Republicans. I mean everybody. Homo sapiens. Us!
Lovable, damnable, hapless us. That train wreck of a species that shows up at your door and you don’t know what to do with. They look so sorry standing there in the rain, but you know if you let them inside before long your TV will be gone and your drawers rifled.
Won’t somebody come to our defense? Sing our song? Love the sinner, hate the sin?
Today I’m gonna try, with some help from the vast pool of artists at Flickr. …more
On May 18, 1980, Mount St. Helens lost 1,314 feet of elevation. In the largest landslide in recorded history, the top and north side of the mountain rolled down into the surrounding landscape. A huge bulge of magma burst sideways through the dome and released a hot, ash- and rock-filled wind that tore through the forest at 350 miles per hour.
The blast scorched and ripped up surrounding trees, but no fires started because there was no oxygen. The landslide dammed streams and rivers, creating many new lakes, and left behind whole chunks of the mountain on the landscape. The extreme heat from the eruption melted snow and ice, creating enormous mud flows that took out buildings and bridges. Hundreds of millions of tons of ash were released that day; a vertical column of ash reached fifteen miles up into the atmosphere. 250 square miles of surrounding land were damaged.
A fly happens into a fly trap’s sticky leaves, and within seconds the Leaves of Death close over the fly. Who knew a plant could hustle so fast? This rapid plant movement is called haptonasty (from the Greek for nasty happenstance).
I’ve mentioned in another post that in our animal imaginations, plants don’t get credit for being fully alive. Why? Partly, because we think of them as unmoving. However, many plants exhibit rapid movements, like the leaf-closing mentioned above, or the instant collapse of leaflets in the shy Mimosa, or the closing of flowers at night. These “nastic” movements are caused by rapid chemical or pressure changes in the cells.
Nastic movements remind us of the twitchings of our own nervous systems. Add carnivorism to that, and a plant like the Venus fly trap gets elevated to near-animal status. But to really appreciate plant movement, we have to think a little differently. Most plant movements are tropisms, or growth movements. It is an elegant concept: instead of running, creeping, crawling or skedaddling, plants grow toward or away from a stimulus.
No matter how conscientious you are, no matter how hard you try to prevent it, it occasionally happens: you eat a moth.
It happened to me one summer evening on what, within the protected confines of a planet-destroying automobile, might have been one of the loveliest stretches of time and place in the history of the universe.