Showing posts from 2014

Looking Back at 2014

2014 is drawing to a close, and the dwindling days that remain are the perfect time to reflect back on the year. In terms of outdoor adventures, 2014 has been a great year for this Nature Nerd: starting with a "first day hike" at Deception Pass on January 1st and ending with a soggy-but-wonderful Black Friday hike to Coal Creek Falls. And let's not forget the spectacular Geminid meteor shower just a few weeks ago.

Here are some of the highlights from 2014: the five most-popular blog posts on A Day Without Rain this year:

1. See America: Reviving New Deal artwork to celebrate our national parks

2. Going Green: Toxins in Your Shampoo?  Clean Up Your Beauty Routine

3. Wanderings: The Snoqualmie Valley Regional Trail

4.  Going Green: A Day Without Waste on April 9th

5. Wanderings: Seeking Spring

Thank you to all who take the time to read my blog, and I hope to see you back in 2015 to share even more adventures, "going green" tips, and Nature Nerd musings! 

You can …

Wanderings: The Geminid Meteor Shower

Above thy deep and dreamless sleep, 
the silent stars go by...
For as long as I can remember, those have been my favorite lines from a Christmas song.  The image they evoke, of a peaceful world sleeping beneath the watchful gaze of stars wheeling overhead, makes me feel as though I've been wrapped up in all the comforting warmth of the Christmas season.

Those lines were running through my mind over and over last night -- or rather, very early this morning -- as I sat outside on my deck with my head tilted back toward the heavens. Despite the temperature being somewhere in the upper 30's, I didn't feel cold.  This wasn't due to the thick fleece blanket I was burrowed into, or to the several pairs of socks on my feet.  I was too focused, too intent, too hopeful to feel cold.  Tonight was the peak of the Geminid meteor shower, and I was bound and determined to catch a glimpse of the show. My breath formed small puffs of vapor as my eyes searched the heavens above, whisperi…

Wanderings: Coal Creek Falls

9.1 billion.  The number of dollars spent by Black Friday shoppers this year.  Also-- I'm pretty sure-- the number of raindrops that splattered against my jacket, ran down my face, and soaked into my jeans on a Black Friday hike with my sister and her pup, Ruby.  Rather than elbowing our way through crowds of people clamoring for the best deals on big-screen TVs and socks, we instead took on a soaking rain, light breeze, and temps in the low forties during a hike to Coal Creek Falls. 

Call us crazy (I prefer 'adventurous'), but we certainly weren't the only people hitting the trails instead of the shopping malls, despite the deplorable weather.  When we arrived at the Lakemont Blvd. entrance to the Cougar Mountain Regional Wildland Park, there were already a handful of other vehicles in the parking area. We bundled up in our jackets, pulled our hoods tight over our heads, and ducked out into the deluge.  Miss Ruby the pitbull was outfitted with her own hiking backpac…

Musings: Thankful for Wildness

Happy Thanksgiving!

It's finally here: the glorious, delicious holiday where we spend time with friends and family, feast on tasty food, and reflect on the things we're grateful for.  If only we could do this more often!

Throughout the month of November, many people take to social media to express the things they're thankful for. While scrolling through my Twitter feed, I came across a question posed by the Wilderness Society, one of my favorite organizations to follow.

"What wilderness areas are you most thankful for?"

I had to think about that one for a minute. I've hiked in national forests, state parks, and a good majority of the national parks in the western U.S. (thanks Dad!). But have I ever been in what one might call 'untouched wilderness'... areas "untrammeled by man... where man is a visitor who does not remain..." as defined by the Wilderness Act? Certainly, I'm grateful for all of the protected wilderness areas in our countr…

Musings: Living Up to the Lives of Trees

A pile of sodden paper lay on the kitchen counter in front of me, unceremoniously dumped there after my quick dash out to the mailbox in the midst of a drenching autumn rain shower. After peeling off my dripping jacket and drying my hands, I turned my attention to the overwhelming pile of mail and tried to determine which item to deal with first.  My prodding fingers caused an envelope from Orion magazine, my absolute favorite publication, to surface to the top of the pile. We have a winner.

The letter was a request for donations, as the magazine is ad-free and relies entirely on donated funds to continue in print. I usually toss such things aside, but, as with everything else Orion produces, this letter was so compellingly written that I stood there damp and shivering at my kitchen counter and read the entire captivating thing - front and back. The last sentence of the first paragraph was the most utterly profound thing I've ever read in a letter asking for my monetary contribut…

Going Green: Toxins in Your Shampoo? Clean Up Your Beauty Routine

These days, many people are increasingly concerned with living a healthy lifestyle.  We exercise daily. We purchase organic foods and free-range, grass-fed meat. We grow our own fruits and vegetables. We try to get eight hours of sleep every night. We drink wine... for the antioxidants, of course. But how many of us take a moment to evaluate our personal care products for harmful chemicals?

You can get a good night's sleep, do yoga daily and eat your homegrown organic kale for breakfast, lunch and dinner, but your health could still be at risk from carcinogenic or endocrine-disrupting chemicals lurking in your shampoo, deodorant, lotion, soap, or makeup. Any personal care product is suspect.

The Issue Wait a minute, there are dangerous chemicals in my shampoo?  Doesn't the government regulate that sort of thing?  Unfortunately not. According to information from the Environmental Working Group, the Food and Drug Administration does not require products to be tested for safety a…

The Place Where I Live

Comfort. Proximity. Inspiration. Peace. Memories. Familiarity. Family and friends. A particular place can earn the title of "home" for so many reasons. This one tiny dot on Earth's surface happens to hold just the right qualities that capture our hearts and cause us to decide, yes. This is the place.

I recently wrote a short piece to share on the "Place Where You Live" page of Orion Magazine's website. However, the more I think about it, the piece I wrote would more accurately be called "The Place Where I Lived/ The Place Where I Will Hopefully Live Again Soon".

I wrote about the Snoqualmie Valley, the place I lived most of my life, and the place where I still do a good deal of my living, although it is currently not the place I lay my head to sleep every night.

Click here to read my piece about "The Place Where You Live" on the Orion Magazine website.

Although I'd rather be living somewhere in the Sno Valley area, I'm trying to …

In the News: Climate Change, Despair... and Hope

Climate change is always a hot topic in the environmental/green/nature nerd community, but lately, the most pressing issue of our time has been capturing headlines right and left. Although often cast as an environmental issue, climate change has far-reaching impacts which in fact make this a humanitarian, economic, social justice, and environmental -- not issue -- but CRISIS.

Why a crisis?  We know all too well that pumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere (via fossil fuel burning and deforestation, mainly) traps heat in earth's atmosphere, which causes warming. Our global temperatures are warming, our oceans are warming, the Arctic is thawing (and releasing copious amounts of methane, a greenhouse gas twenty times more potent than carbon dioxide), our oceans are acidifying, and the Arctic sea ice and Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets are melting. We know all these things.  However, there is an emerging realization that all of these things are happening faster and sooner than …

Wanderings: Moss Lake Natural Area

It's a warm and languid late-summer afternoon. The humid air smells damp with mud and and fresh with the exhalations of innumerable trees. Dry, newly-fallen leaves crunch on the gravel path underfoot. No sound disturbs the stillness, save for the whisper of a breeze in the rustling alder and cottonwood leaves above.  Not a bad day to explore the Moss Lake Natural Area near Carnation, Washington.

The Moss Lake Natural Area is a 372-acre complex of wetlands and forest, and is managed by King County.  Despite its generous size, I had never heard of this Natural Area until my husband stumbled across it while searching for hikes online.  He suggested that we check it out, and of course I agreed.

Moss Lake
We set out from the parking lot and headed toward the only trailhead we could find.  It wasn't marked, but we assumed this was the way to go.  A short distance along, a small sign marked the offshoot trail to Moss Lake.  This was a very short trail.  After about 50 feet of squeez…

Environmental Issues: Wildfires in Washington State

The overcast gray skies outside my windows this morning are a familiar sight in Western Washington, but they have been scarce so far this summer as blazing sunshine and record heat have predominated.  Neither the residents nor the landscape of our Evergreen State are accustomed to long stretches of hot, dry weather.  And for evidence of the latter, one needs look no further than the eastern half of our state, which is currently on fire:

According to the spokeswoman for the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center quoted in this Reuters article, we are on track to break a record this year for the number of acres burned by wildfire.  Already, hundreds of thousands of acres have burned so far, with 250,000 of those acres belonging to the Carlton Complex fire, now standing as the largest fire in state history.  Hundreds of homes have been burned.  Tens of thousands of people have been affected. And the official wildfire season won't end until October.  We still have a long way to go.

Nature Nerd Wednesdays

Welcome to Nature Nerd Wednesdays, your mid-week nature break to reconnect with the calming, refreshing, and inspiring effects of nature. Take a deep breath and enjoy...

The writer John Burroughs once said that he visited nature to be soothed and healed and to have his senses put in order.  In light of recent sad events in the news, today I found myself reflecting on the very aspects of nature which provide such healing and hope for downcast souls.
“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature -- the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.”
― Rachel Carson, Silent Spring ...and to that I say: Amen.  Nature has repeating rhythms and a capacity for renewal that are astonishing and comforting, and have the ability to put our own worries and struggles into perspective.  The natural world around us is a gre…

Environmental Issues: Are Protected Wilderness Areas Still "Wilderness" in an Era of Climate Change?

"In order to assure that an increasing population, accompanied by expanding settlement and growing mechanization, does not occupy and modify all areas within the United States... leaving no lands designated for preservation and protection in their natural condition, it is hereby declared to be the policy of the Congress to secure for the American people of present and future generations the benefits of an enduring resource of wilderness." These are the opening lines of the Wilderness Act of 1964, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.  This crucial act has protected 110 million acres of designated wilderness in the United States.

Although there are 618 million acres of federal wildlands, only a portion of those are protected as wilderness; areas described in the Wilderness Act as being places "where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain... an area of undeveloped land retaining its primev…

In the News: Maps Show a Sweltering Future for U.S.

Nearly five years ago, I was laying on my couch recovering from major knee surgery and feeling utterly miserable. My misery wasn't due to the pain of recovering from surgery (thank goodness for prescription pain meds!) but rather because of the sweltering, unbearable, oppressive, and completely-inexplicable-to-a-western-Washingtonian heat that was smothering the region.  I'm sure that all of us remember the heat wave in late July 2009, where for a week straight the temperatures were over 100 degrees by noon, and didn't drop a degree below eighty overnight.

There I was, in my tiny dark cottage with blanket-covered windows to keep out the sunlight, leaving a sweat-stained outline of my body on the couch, misting my arms and legs with a spray bottle and desperately wishing for air conditioning, because the three fans pointed at me were doing little more than pushing around ninety-degree air.  Might as well have been using a hairdryer to try to cool off.  Like I said: miserab…