Thursday, March 30, 2017

National Parks 3

   Just a few hours from Seattle, North Cascades National Park is, surprisingly, one of the least visited parks in the system. Just over 21,000 people enter its boundaries each year.  It is full of rugged mountains that make up part of the North Cascade range. If you want to see glaciers in the lower 48 states, this is your park. Over 300 glaciers can be found tucked into the mountains of North Cascade. One reason the park receives so little visitation is due to the amount of snow it receives, since the mountains are located just a few hours from the coast, the maritime climate dumps copious amounts of snow onto the slopes.  This makes road travel difficult into the park to to snow removal and road closures.
   Peak visitation times for this park are from June to September. The park is divided into 2 units, the north and south units. Erosion from glaciers has cut the mountains into steep, jagged peaks, which make it a very beautiful place to photograph. The park contains the most glaciers of any U.S. park outside of Alaska and one third of all glaciers found in the lower 48 states are within it. Most popular with backpackers and mountain climbers, the mountains in the park are still rising, and average 4,000 to 6,000 feet in altitude above the surrounding terrain. The park is home to over 75 different animals and over 200 birds pass through it or use it for a breeding range.

   On the complete opposite end of the the map (and spectrum), Dry Tortugas National Park can be found. About 70 miles west of Key West, in the Gulf of Mexico, this isolated park can only be reached by boat or plane. Most reach its boundaries by charter ferry, seaplanes, or private boats. Since less than 1% of its area is dry ground, most visitors come to this area for swimming, snorkeling, and diving. At a size of just over 100 square miles, most of the park is open water with several small islands.

   One of the major tourist attractions here is Fort Jefferson. Built and used in the 19th century, it's one of the largest remaining forts that you can visit. Here, you can find the park headquarters, campgrond, and visitor center. It's location was used due to the fact that it is found along one of the world's busiest shipping lanes. During the civil war, union ships used the fort to blockade southern ships from reaching their supply points. It was abandoned by the Army in 1874.

Hopefully, someday I'll be able to reach both of these remote parks. It will definitely take a great deal of time, effort, and money to make this happen.

Monday, March 27, 2017

National Parks pt. 2

The next two least visited national parks, Isle Royale and Kobuk Valley, don't get any easier visitation-wise.

  Isle Royale NP is a narrow, 40 mile long island in Lake Superior. The only way to reach it is by a ferry boat. You'll need to have reservations for camping here, otherwise you can't stay the night. The main draw for this park is it's fragile ecosystem, hiking, and remoteness. Amazingly, the island supports a population of wolves and moose. Scientists think they arrived by crossing over the frozen lake, since it's 20 miles from the closest mainland. Hikers and scientists have long visited the park to study the predator/prey relationship of wolves and moose, since they are isolated from outside pressure.

   Kobuk Valley NP is in, you guessed it, Alaska. Located next to it's neighbor Gates of the Arctic, this park has no roads. Flying in by charter plane is the main way hikers access it's lands. The size of Delaware, Kobuk Valley is famous for it's great sand dunes and Caribou herds. These sand dunes were deposited after the last major glaciers retreated during the last ice age. Located 25 miles above the Artic Circle, Dogsledding is also a popular way to tour the park.

National Parks pt. 1

As a big fan of the outdoors, I love visiting National Parks. I've been fortunate enough to visit 14 of these amazing places. That sounds like a lot, until you realize our country currently has 59 of them. I thought I'd spend some time talking about 10 amazing parks you and I will most likely never visit. Hopefully I'll get to all of them, but these 10 will truly be difficult to reach for one reason or another.
I'll start with the two least visited national parks in the U.S.

Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve, and Lake Clark National Park and Preserve, are located Alaska. Alaska has 8 national parks, second only to California (9).  The most visited national park in the U.S., Great Smoky Mountain N.P., had over 11 million visitors last year. In contrast both these parks had a combined visitation of approximately 24,000.

Gates of the Arctic is a vast park covering the north central part of Alaska. In addition to it's ultra-remote location there is a good reason why it's so sparsely visited. There are no roads or infrastructure inside the park. That's right, no bathrooms, showers, electricity or really even people for the most part to be found here. You either have to charter a small plane to drop you off or hike into the park.  Here you'll find vast untouched wilderness and the beautiful Brooks Mountain range, Kobuk River, and spruce forests. Major animals in this area include, bear, caribou, moose, river otters, wolves, and eagles.

Mt. Redoubt
Lake Clark National Park also has no roads or infrastructure, so reaching this park is another considerable challenge. It can only be reached by boat or small aircraft. However, this park includes features not found in any other Alaska Parks: three mountain ranges collide here,coastal rainforests and alpine tundra, as well as lakes and glaciers. The park contains 2 volcanoes, Mt. Redoubt, and Mt. Iliamna. Mt. Redoubt erupted recently (1989 and 2009). Because of so much variety in geography within the park, nearly all of Alaska's animal, from Salmon to wolverine, can be found here. 

Lake Clark NP

Missouri Wall Art

the back
In addition to the pallet flag I created, I decided to do another project with the leftover picket pieces I had. Since they were already sanded, I decided to do an outline of the state of Missouri with the pickets. I used this website to help build my example.  The process was pretty simple, given I had access to a few extra tools.

paper outline
First, I went online and found a pdf copy of our state's outline (for example). There are tons of these available via a quick Google search.  Next, I saved a pdf copy of the outline and tried printing in on card stock paper. The problem I kept running into was trying to enlarge the image enough so that I could make a bigger project than what would fit on an 8.5x11" sheet of paper. I found the solution by using Microsoft Paint to enlarge the image and then print it. Honestly this was the most time consuming part. Getting the right size was crucial.

   I printed the enlarged image on card stock, cut it out, and then taped it together to make a stencil. Using the stencil, I traced it onto the pickets. Next, I used my cheapo handheld jigsaw to slowly cut each picket into the shape of the state outline. After cutting all the pieces, I tacked some 1.5 inch furring strips from Lowe's (seriously, they're only $1.50 for an 8 foot section) on the back to hold them in place and made sure to add wood glue before finishing nailing them so they would hold firmly. After the glue dried, I stained it with some wood stain and let it dry. I think it turned out great!
after staining

Getting Creative

I decided to help out our pod for the upcoming school fundraiser by getting creative. After attending my son's fundraiser at Webster, I noticed that the items with the most bids seemed to be homemade. I decided to put my woodworking skills to use in the garage. Lately, I've noticed it's been very popular to repurpose old pallet wood. I had access to some old fence pickets, so I decided to make some wall art.
   Yes, I did spend a fair amount of time looking at ideas on Pinterest. I'll admit, It's not the first time I've ever surfed that site. There are some great lesson plans and interventions that teachers post there as well. I decided to create my first project by doing an american flag with the pickets. Here are some of the pictures that helped me along the way.

First, I separated the pickets from the wood railing. I chopped off the pointed ends with my miter saw, and then sanded them nearly bare with a belt sander. Make sure you use a low grit (50) to really get down past the soft wood. I did this to make the contrast between the painted and unpainted wood in the example photos.

 After sanding, I took my finish nailer and tacked some 1x3 boards to the back to hold the pickets in place. I then measured and taped off sections of the boards to make the 13 stripes. I then painted the untaped sections with red paint samples I got from Lowe's, and then measured and taped off the section that I would paint blue. After painting my stripes, I removed the taped sections to expose the bare wood I'd use in place of white stripes. I then painted the blue section. I didn't really have a measurement in mind for the blue section, so I just eyeballed what I thought looked similar to the American flag. Afterwards, I used some foam sanding pads to score the paint to give it that distressed look.

Finally, instead of making a stencil for the stars, I bought some rusted tin stars online and tacked them into place. I think it turned out pretty well. I'm anxious to see how many people bid on it at the auction.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Random News

 Here's a good story. Middle School teacher David Yancey has been trying to connect his students to learning in his Social Studies class in new ways. He noted that students he taught often found the lessons and material boring, so he decided to use music and rapping to engage them.  To quote an article from "Students have always hated social studies since the dawn of time," Yancey told NBC News in an email. "I realized that students almost choose to be disconnected from the material. In an attempt to bridge the gap, I chose to ask my mentoring group 'What songs are in right now?'"

 According to the article, once the students got over the inital laughter, they really started to connect with the material. Yancey posts the lyrics on his overhead for students to follow along with him during his raps. He takes the most currently popular songs and changes the lyrics to fit the lesson he's teaching. For me the coolest thing about this story is that it coincidentally takes place in one of my former school districts, Rockdale County Public Schools in Conyers, GA. I taught in that district for 4 years before we moved away. It is a challenging area to teach in, so bravo to this teacher for finding a better way!

Read about it here.


Miri turned 3 this week. She's adorable. I'm lucky to be her uncle. Everyone should have a Miri around.

    We traveled to Kansas City on Saturday for niece day. First we stopped in DeSoto to see Emma, our 2 week-old niece. Alex was smitten. He loves holding babies. By far, he spent the most time holding her out of the four of us. It's funny now that I don't have any babies in the house, I don't know how to tell how old a baby is, aside from the newborns.  I asked one mom if her son was 8 months old, and he was actually twice that age.

   Later, we headed over to my brother's house for Miri's birthday party. She loved the balance bike we gave her. Having no daughters, It's kind of nice having 10 nieces. They are like the daughters that I'll never have, now that we no longer plan on having any more kids. I got to spend some good time hanging out with my brother and several of his friends that I haven't seen in years. We ate Joe's KC for lunch with Emma's parents and my brother cooked ribs in the smoker for dinner. Barbecue is right up there with coffee for me. I could never be a vegetarian.