Category: Environment


As many on the blog know, one of my favorite hikes is the Old Rag trail the Shenandoah National Park.  Depending on your trail, it is roughly 11 miles to the parking area and is one of the most challenging hikes in the area.  Due to my travel schedule, I had hoped to see the fall foliage on Friday but the trees are not ready to their annual show.  Nevertheless, it was spectacular.  I followed my usual practice of starting at dawn as the sun was rising. (That means leaving Northern Virginia at 5 am to make it near the trailhead in Sperryville, Virginia). Continue reading “THE WONDERS OF THE OLD RAG”

“Baboons Are Free!”: Idaho Fish And Game Commissioner Causes Outrage After Posing With Dead Family Of Baboons

idaho-fish-game-commissionerI have previously expressed my disgust over trophy hunting game like lions and elephants — people who post accounts of the thrill of killing a giraffe or rhino with a high-powered rifle.  I simply do not understand the joy or power felt in these thrill kills.   Nothing however quite prepared most of us for Idaho Fish and Game Commissioner Blake Fischer. Fischer shared photos of his hunting trip in Africa where he posed with a photo of a entire “family of baboons,” including a baby, that Fischer massacred with a recurve bow.  He gleefully reported that, while you are charged for killing large animals, “Baboons are free.”

Continue reading ““Baboons Are Free!”: Idaho Fish And Game Commissioner Causes Outrage After Posing With Dead Family Of Baboons”

Former NHL Player Tim Brent Under Fire In Latest Big Game Trophy Controversy

We have previously followed the controversy over the shooting of “Cecil the Lion” by an American dentist Walter Palmer from Minnesota as well as  subsequent controversies of a Idaho hunter taunting animal advocates and killing giant elephants or giraffes for trophies.  As many of you know, I am no fan of such trophy hunts.  I often hike in remote spots to see bears and other animals in their natural habitat. I cannot understand the joy of killing one of these animals or the challenge of shooting them with a high-powered rifle.  I seek out these animals and take pictures with the same ease it would be to kill them.  Yet, many feel a tremendous release in killing these animals and posing with their dead bodies.  The latest is Tim Brent, 34, who played hockey for the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Carolina Hurricanes before retiring in 2016.  He is receiving a body slam from readers who do not understand his expressions of joy in posing with a dead grizzly bear.  His description of the kill made things only worse. Continue reading “Former NHL Player Tim Brent Under Fire In Latest Big Game Trophy Controversy”

Ode To Stumps

By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor

Nature can be mesmerizing when we afford ourselves the opportunity to believe such. Often we keep ourselves at a distance to the outdoors and view each element only as an abstraction: too ordinary and mundane and something simply to drive past.

In such as this example of nature before us, from afar we only see stumps in a drying reservoir. Yet for a small investment in our time and close attention, a century of nature’s craft shows some true woodworking.

Continue reading “Ode To Stumps”

Study: Pollution Makes You Dumber

EPA Photo

There is an interesting study on pollution out of China.  Normally, any study out of China would be a tad suspect, but this one only magnifies the costs of pollution choking Chinese and other citizens. Researchers found that pollution has a pronounced impact on reducing cognitive abilities. In other words, if lax pollution standards is dumb, pollution itself will actually make you dumber — making it more likely that you will allow more pollution in an environmental and intellectual downward spiral.  With 90 percent of humanity breathing bad air, that is a truly frightening thought. Continue reading “Study: Pollution Makes You Dumber”

NPS Prepares Charges Against Man Who Took Selfies With Feeding Bears In Closed Park Area

screen-shot-2018-08-14-at-123215-pm.pngWe often discuss the people who refuse to adhere to park signs or barriers at the risk to themselves and wildlife. The latest march of the morons was captured on a series of selfies by a man who waded into a river full of bears in a closed section of the Katmai National Park with two other people.  The National Park Service is now preparing charges against this group after various people contacted them with the evidence from a webcam.

Continue reading “NPS Prepares Charges Against Man Who Took Selfies With Feeding Bears In Closed Park Area”

Day 10: The Wonder That Is The Nā Pali Coast

IMG_8722Our tenth day in Hawaii was the most memorable with a trip up the awe-inducing Nā Pali coast of Kauai.  Parts of Nā Pali are only accessible by boat though some trails and roads reach this unique area.  You may be familiar with the coast without knowing it since the almost prehistoric look of its cliffs and valleys have been featured in films like King Kong.  It is far more inspiring in person and we signed on with the leading boat tour  outfit for the coast, Captain Andy’s Sailing Adventures.  We took one of the company’s custom 65′ Star Class luxury catamarans for the tour of a lifetime.  Nā Pali is one of the true wonders of the Pacific with plentiful sea creatures and wondrous cliffs. Continue reading “Day 10: The Wonder That Is The Nā Pali Coast”

Day 8: The Wonder Of Waimea

It is called the Grand Canyon of the Pacific. Waimea Canyon on Kauaʻi was one of the highlights of this trip.  It is a 3,000 foot park is one of the most spectacular natural settings on Earth.  We planned an entire day with a guide from Kauai Hiking Adventures. We were incredibly fortunate to have Jeffrey Courson, a Californian who came to Kanai decades ago and has an encyclopedic knowledge of the island’s planting, animals, history, and topography.  Above is my son Jack at the very end of a cliff overlooking the canyon. Continue reading “Day 8: The Wonder Of Waimea”

Day 5: Behold The Green Turtles of Oahu

IMG_8275Day five on Oahu could be simply called turtles, turtles, and more turtles. One of the reasons that I was interested in staying on the North Shore rather than Waikiki was the abundance of green see turtles.  Today we enjoyed watching these magnificent animals at various beaches, including their daily visit at a beach for sun and a feast of sea grass.  It was a great way to spend the last full day on Oahu. Continue reading “Day 5: Behold The Green Turtles of Oahu”

Rescue Me: How A Challenging Hike Turned Into An Embarrassing California Adventure

IMG_8093 (1)Below is a slightly longer version of my Hill column on my recent hike in the Cleveland National Forest outside of Santa Ana, California.  It was the beginning of the heat emergency that is still gripping the area with massive fires and dangerous conditions.  I have stayed in contact with my new friends at the Orange County Fire and Rescue and they were kind enough to send some pictures of the rescue.  I am told that their biggest problem is that people often do not want to be rescued because they are afraid to be hit with a bill for the rescue. They do not charge. They just want people out of harm’s way and safe.
I have previously criticized the charging for rescues in parks because it is  discourages people from calling for help. I also view this is one of those essential jobs for the government that is supported by the public through their taxes. Of course, I never thought I would end up being the guy dangling from a helicopter.  As I have previously written, these incredible heroes deserve our support and greater funding in doing their critical work as first responders.  These men and women are truly inspirations in how they put themselves in harm’s way for others. Where the natural instinct is to run from danger, these people run toward it to help others.  They show an unflinching and unyielding courage day in and day out.
In the meantime, I am currently on vacation with my family and we have repeatedly thought of the Orange County Fire and Rescue on this trip.  As I spend time with my family, I remember that image of Jim Slikker descending into that ravine.  I will never forget it or the debt that I owe him and the Orange County Sheriff’s Fire and Rescue team.
Here is the column:

Continue reading “Rescue Me: How A Challenging Hike Turned Into An Embarrassing California Adventure”

Day 4: From Diamond Head To Pearl Harbor

IMG_8212Day Four of our trip to Hawaii started early with a trip to the Diamond Head crater.  This was my second hike up the crater, but the first such venture for the family.  We then had a great lunch at Duke’s restaurant in Waikiki and journeyed on to Pearl Harbor. We finished the day with an evening dip back on the North Shore.  It felt wonderfully decadent.   Continue reading “Day 4: From Diamond Head To Pearl Harbor”

Day 3: The Waterfalls, Water Lilies, and Waterdrops Of Oahu

IMG_8161Our third day in Oahu was spectacular.  We started by driving to the magnificent the Waimea Valley and the Waimea Arboretum and Botanical Garden.  We then walked to the nearby Waimea Beach where kids jump off a high rock into the surf.  It was a great day of hiking and just lying on the beach.

Continue reading “Day 3: The Waterfalls, Water Lilies, and Waterdrops Of Oahu”

Swimming Rattlesnake Terrifies Family In Boat In North Carolina

Screen Shot 2018-07-25 at 9.30.04 PM.pngI have done a fair amount of hiking in rattlesnake areas including my recent hike in the Cleveland National Forest.  However, the video of a rattler swimming toward a family in a boat is still unnerving and surprising.  Wayne Robbins films the aquatic snake in Fontana Lake, North Carolina. Continue reading “Swimming Rattlesnake Terrifies Family In Boat In North Carolina”

My Wonderful, Inspiring, and Embarrassing Hike In the Cleveland National Forest

IMG_8073As is often my practice, I used an out-of-town speech this week to experience another of our wonderful national parks.  With my keynote to the Ninth Circuit scheduled for Monday, I used Sunday to explore the rough remote areas of the Cleveland National Park. I decided to get up early an hike the San Juan and Chiquito Falls trails.  It would turn out memorable beyond all of my expectations.  With a heat wave hitting the area, the hike in the desert environment was well over 100 degrees with no shade. Despite bringing over a gallon of water in my camel back, I ran out of water on the return of the long hike and ended up with heat stroke . . . and had to be airlifted out after taking a tumble into a ravine. More of that rescue later.  All I can say is that I can never repay the Orange County rescue team of the Sheriff’s office and fire department.  While I wish I was not the subject of their work, meeting these incredibly heroic first responders was an inspiring experience. I will be writing about that experience separately.  While I am now recovering from heat stroke in my hotel, I wanted to share some of the pictures before my embarrassing failure just short of the trail head. Continue reading “My Wonderful, Inspiring, and Embarrassing Hike In the Cleveland National Forest”

Report: Solar Energy Now Costs Half That Of Coal In North America

290px-The_Sun_by_the_Atmospheric_Imaging_Assembly_of_NASA's_Solar_Dynamics_Observatory_-_20100819I have previously questioned the environmental and economic sense of President Donald Trump pushing the United States into greater coal consumption with the rest of the world developing alternative energy sources.  We seem to be pushing a buggy-whip economy as the world and markets pass us by.  My greatest concern is the hostility shown by the Trump Administration to new energy sources.  A touchstone of the industry is Levelized Cost of Energy Analysis (LCOE) which was used by investment bank Lazard to evaluate the current costs and prospects of different energy investments.  It found (as we have previously discussed) that alternative energy costs are plunging and solar energy is now half the cost of coal. Continue reading “Report: Solar Energy Now Costs Half That Of Coal In North America”

Res ipsa loquitur – The thing itself speaks