The Parsons are in Minneapolis!

And we are having a blast! We only got here yesterday and have already explored the area around our hotel (we walked all over Downtown Minneapolis), went to the Walker Art Center, and out for a nice family dinner. Today Rick started his slew of business meetings and the girls and I spent the entire day at the Mall of America, which was just thrilling—what a world in there! The girls particularly liked the Park at Mall of America, but I was a big fan of the shopping part of the Mall of America. Not it’s after midnight and I should really be getting to bed because I know the girls are going to wake up early and make me take them down to breakfast…

In store for tomorrow is the Science Museum of Minnesota or the Water Park of America. And then also in the next week we’ll visit the Como Zoo. For our last two days, we’ll be staying near Itasca State Park, which is Minnesota’s oldest state park with over 100 lakes. and hopefully the weather will be nice because the Parsons are going to try something new and exciting—we’re going to be camping out! We borrowed a whole slew of gear that we brought with us and we’ll be renting a car, parking it, and then will hike and camp for two days. The girls are really excited—in fact is was their idea (I guess it’s obvious that it wasn’t mine or Rick’s idea…).
Wish us luck!!


New Orchid Species Discovered at Yosemite

Okay, so this discovery is already a year old, but I came across this MSNBC article just now as I was planning my last trip to Yosemite National Park (I went with some buddies last week).

There is a new species of orchid that can be found only in the wet meadow of Yosemite. The flowers have long spears with yellow colored mini ball-shaped buds. It’s not the appearance which stands out and helped with its discovery, but its smell, or rather, I should say, stench. Botanist Alison Colwell likens the smell to sweaty feet—and she’s right, I recently discovered for myself.

Meanwhile, I had fun up there. I went with four other guys, one of whom just got married last night, so it was a sort of bachelor long weekend adventure. We hiked Yosemite and went rafting on the Merced River. We stayed at the Chukchansi Gold Resort & Casino where we lost a shitload of money and drank a shitload of alcohol—which is why, come to think of it, why we lost so much money.

But hey, you’re only young once.

(Thanx Alison Colwell / AP and MSNBC)

New State Park in Washington State

Great news for the West Coast! Washington State has just opened its first new state park in more than a decade. Located on the southwest shore of Camano Island is the brand new Cama Beach State Park.

Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen calls the new state park “a jewel”, according to the article in USA Today, which also explains how the park-making process was a bit delayed after archeologists uncovered human remains and Native American artifacts dating back 1,600 years. It’s the Tulalip, Swinomish, Upper Skagit and Stillaguamish tribes that occupy that area who opposed the construction and renovations of the park. An agreement was made to leave the north side of the property undeveloped to preserve the cultural history of the ancient Native American village. Reservations for the new park are already filled through the summer.

While you’re in that area, check out other national and state parks in the area:

  1. Olympic National Park
  2. Deception Pass State Park
  3. Moran State Park
  4. North Cascades National Park
  5. Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest

See ya there.
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Yosemite’s mighty treedom

People spend their entire lives studying the trees in Yosemite National Park. Some of the world’s oldest, tallest, and most beautiful trees are found in Yosemite and the nearby Sierra National Forest.

Sequoias are the famed great giants, with the oldest and most magnificent being the Grizzly Giant, standing strong for 2,700 years. Really is something. It’s 30 feet thick and 20 stories tall. It’s in the Wawona region of Yosemite in the Mariposa Grove.

Check out prettysleepy’s blogpost for a good list of famous trees in Yosemite worth visiting. Good pictures, great explanations.

It would be silly not to mention the Avenue of the Giants here. The Avenue is a 31 mile scenic portion of highway located in Humboldt Redwoods State Park. Obviously you should get out of your car and hike through Founder’s Grove, Gould Grove, or the Burlington Beach trail. Redwoods are one of California’s claims to fame, so you should get well acquainted on this little excursion.

Other great spots for fulfilling treehugging fantasies include Praire Creek Redwoods State Park, Big Basin Redwoods State Park, and Redwood National and State Parks.

Stay tuned for more California nature buzz….

Related Travel Guide Topics:

Interesting Educators’ Programs

I just came across a fascinating blog filled with information for teachers, and since I now am a teacher (homeschool), I found it extremely enlightening. The only thing is that I read it a little too late…

The National Endowment for the Humanities has summer workshops for teachers (including homeschool teachers) on Landmarks of American History and Culture, but the deadline for signing up was March 17! I’m bookmarking the site for next year.

Each week-long workshop explores a landmark of American history that teachers are then meant to “bring back” to their classrooms for further exploration. Ah—I’m really frustrated that I missed it! There’s a course on The Blue Ridge Parkway that I would love to take, and one on Mount Vernon, that I could probably give! There are also some more literary/historical workshops, like the one on Zora Neale Hurston and Eatonville and one on Eudora Welty. The one on Ellis Island looks particularly interesting.

The author of that teacher blog says that he went to Lowell two summers ago and since that one is offered again this year, I imagine there’s a chance that these workshops will also be repeated either next summer or the one following.

Something else mentioned of interest in the teacher blog is the National Park Service’s Teacher Ranger program. It looks as though it’s just for public school teachers, particularly those teaching in under-served districts. The program trains teachers as rangers during as 8-10 week program and provides teachers with the tools and knowledge they need to “bring national parks into the classroom throughout the school year.” Involved in the program are Acadia National Park in Maine, Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site in Colorado, Capulin Volcano National Monument in New Mexico, Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming, and Chaco Culture National Historical Park in New Mexico.

I know that program’s not for me, but just thought I’d mention it while I’m on my National Park kick, and maybe you know someone who may appreciate it!

Meanwhile, thank you Jonathan (jd2718) for your post!

Top Ten National Parks for Kids

The girls and I came across a page for kids on the National Park Service website. They spent hours exploring the Web Rangers activities, so we got to talking about national parks in general and different geographic and geologic features. We came across this list of kid-friendly national parks and we used it as a jumping off point to discuss U.S. national parks and earth science, geology and geography, and it ended up being quite a nice unit. The great thing about using these national parks as learning models is that each one really highlights a unique feature, whether it be glaciers, volcanoes, canyons, caverns, mountains, plateaus, or mesas. We looked at breathtaking pictures of these famous spots and gave examples of mountains or canyons, etc., that we’d all been to (for example, we’ve been to Yosemite National Park and Grand Canyon National Park).

Anyways, here’s the list of the Top 10 National Parks:

  1. Glacier National Park, Montana
  2. Carlsbad Caverns National Park, New Mexico
  3. Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
  4. Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Park, California
  5. Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii
  6. Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
  7. Everglades National Park, Florida
  8. Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
  9. Olympic National Park, Washington
  10. Mesa Verde, Colorado

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It’s the most wonderful time of the year… Earth Day!

I usually start getting my students excited about Earth Day a good month in advance, but since this time that coincided with my honeymoon, I started the Earth Day buzz about 2 months ago, introducing a 2 month unit on the nature of New York City. This is my absolute favorite time to be a teacher. I have the children collect leaves and dirt and branches and flowers and we decorate the room with signs of springtime. We do school-wide recycling projects that the kids get really enthusiastic about. We go for nature walks in Central Park and field trips to botanical gardens. We’re going to The New York Botanical Gardens next week and I guarantee that the kids will be able to give a tour themselves by the end of the afternoon.

We have another half day field trip planned to Riverbank State Park. With a great view of the Hudson and the Palisades, and with plenty of room to picnic, it provides the perfect atmosphere for discussing the high and low places of the earth, the water and sky, and the grass and the buildings that make up our home planet. I just need to get over to the Kings Plaza Mall to pick up a big sheet for our picnic—obviously we wouldn’t use something disposable… (I think I left my picnic blanket in Hawaii.)

The school’s got something planned for the actual day of Earth Day (April 22). On the Sunday before (20th), I will DEFINITELY be at the Green Apple Festival in Central Park.

Do your part for the environment and sign this petition to help stop global warming.

Happy Earth Day!

P.S. Banana Republic gives 1% of sales during Earth Week to The Trust for the Public Land.