Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Heading for the Barn

From Final_Misc
After fits and starts, Indian Summer is finally giving way to Autumn for true. Trees and shrubs along our route have burst into a brilliant red and orange flame of color before literally going bare overnight in a shower-storm of leaves. The rest of nature is faithfully following suit: reptilian creatures metabolically slowing down and slithering into hibernation holes; warm-blooded migratory birds heading for Gulf Coast marshes and Central American wildlands; and, like the “V”-flights of geese honkily winging their way towards more seasonable climes, we’re seeing flocks of human RVers abandoning their northerly summer habitats and beating a hasty retreat down to Florida, South Texas, and Arizona. The state parks have been suddenly and rapidly depopulated as if by some instinctive genetic signal that winter is imminent. Campers have packed up the strings of lights, banners, bird feeders, and grills. They've folded pullout modules back into the RV and securely stowed canopies, screened cabanas, and bikes. Where once we might have been cheek by jowl with a host of frontcountry campers, we now have our pick of overnight sites in an otherwise empty campground estate. But, sadly, we too are heeding the seasonal clock as we head down the e-Tour's final stretch and contemplate a return to our South Louisiana home.

However, before returning the Subaru and Coleman camper to Boulder, CO where we started our odyssey, there was one last stopover that we wanted to make. Accordingly, we planned our route back to our Boulder barn so that we could pass through Wichita, KS, home of the Coleman Company. Coleman is the primary sponsor of our e-Tour, and it was great to have an opportunity to make a final e-Tour presentation to folks at the corporate HQ. We reviewed the e-Tour mission and the itinerary of our four-month sojourn, and demonstrated some of the teaching-learning activities and techniques that we've used to reach our widely varied audiences. At the presentation conclusion, a gent from corporate communications approached us with an epiphany of sorts... this e-Tour sponsorship and Coleman's commitment to promoting outdoor ethics and stewardship is a significant source of pride for Coleman employees. He expressed a desire to make the story of the e-Tour and Coleman's ongoing relationship with the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics part of every Coleman employee's orientation and training. Well, we couldn't agree more... it is a great story, and e-Tour is a fitting and right-minded sponsorship for the Coleman Company.  

The conversation reminded us of a quote that we recently came across: "We know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies. And, if anyone thinks that he knows anything, he knows nothing yet as he ought to know." Reflecting on this, we can hope that the 2010 e-Tour has helped folks frame some of the questions about personal choices, find common ground for dialogue and constructive action, and have a better understanding for the necessity of a sustainable conservation ethic. We can also hope that our shared love for the outdoors is mutually beneficial, sustaining both the environment and ourselves. It's the ongoing, generous support of Coleman and other Leave No Trace sponsors and partners that enables the e-Tour to shed a little (lantern) light on how we can all, regardless of age or experience, enjoy the outdoors in a responsible, sustainable, and yes, loving way.

From Final_Misc
Hoping that this is but the prelude, and that we will meet you yet down the migratory road, perhaps in another clime and another season, always seeking to Leave No Trace as the story continues...

Thanks go especially to Coleman's Nicole Freund, who has been and continues to be a dedicated champion for the e-Tour and Leave No Trace. And, of course, incalculable thanks go to the extraordinary folks at the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics for their dedication and support.

From Final_Misc
Peggy and Barrett
2010 Leave No Trace e-Tour
Sponsored by Coleman

e-Word: end-of-the-beginning

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Leave No Trace Down the Natchez Trace

Another weekend, another encounter with a congregation of 10,000 to 12,000 boy scouts… This time we traveled down the Natchez Trace from Nashville to a location deep in the Mississippi Delta for the Chickasaw Council ScoutBase 2010. This particular Boy Scout centennial celebration brought troops from Tennessee, Arkansas, and Mississippi to a former cotton field that's been transformed into the Paul Battle Arena and Exposition Center in Tunica, MS.

From Tunica_ScoutBase2010
No matter the location, it's impressive to see these legions of scouts encamped at the jamboree events. Tent cities arise in a matter of a few hours, complete with physical infrastructure, civic services, neighborhoods, and commerce. We begin to imagine what armies of yore must have looked like when on campaign. It's also interesting to note the prevalence of Coleman tents, lanterns and kitchen gear in these scout campaigns... particularly when it comes to the kitchen gear, the scouts are well-equipped and provisioned. Napoleon knew that a battle-ready army marches on its stomach. Today's scouts are no exception, and the food prep area is more often than not the center of scout activity. For our part, we are appreciative. More than once we've been the grateful recipients of a generously shared meal (see earlier blog entitled "Bleu in the Blue Grass State"). 

We've also been wowed by the Scouts' management of logistics for the diverse exhibitry at these jamborees. In Tunica, we had a great location for our e-Tour booth at the intersection of two main pedestrian boulevards through the exhibit area. We were next to a row of livestock pens in the expansive open-air shelter, just across from the popular NASA exhibit (cool space-age ink pens and Star Trekky badges with flashing LEDs). A few steps down from us was the booth promoting "Elvis Presley's Graceland Mansion." We're talking strategic placement for sure... Shaded from sun and protected from threat of rain, we had ample room for our Subaru Tribeca billboard, exhibit table, Bigfoot feet and poster, and the hordes (and we do mean hordes) of boy scouts, cubs, parents, and Council staff who visited. The crowds impressed us as being extraordinarily friendly, and time and again folks thanked us for bringing the e-Tour to the ScoutBase event.

From Tunica_ScoutBase2010
In addition to the incredibly friendly and thoughtful folks we met at Tunica and every other stop along our way, a most enduring impression stands out: the image of a small child cradled in their parent’s arms, tired and spent from a long day at the festival or jamboree, whose eyes immediately light up in a sparkle as their face is transformed by a sweet, often shy, elfin smile at the offer of a Bigfoot sticker. Now that’s the kind of pleasant and poignant sensation that we’re bound to carry with us as we travel down the road. Who knows what Leave No Trace magic our gentle Bigfoot mascot might work in the mind of a child. Safe to say, we’re confident that during our travels we’ve met innumerable outdoor ethics champions of the future.

From Tunica_ScoutBase2010
Hoping to meet them again along the way…  maybe you'll be in their good company (you could be one of those champions, too).

Peggy and Barrett
2010 Leave No Trace e-Tour

e-Word: "enlumine"

Friday, October 29, 2010

PEAKing in Nashville

From REI_Nashville

We made a stop at the REI Store in Nashville for a Wednesday evening workshop on teaching with the PEAK Pack. The turnout was pretty eclectic, and included a Boy Scout who is his troop’s new Leave No Trace leader, YMCA youth activity coordinators, an education specialist from Tennessee State Parks, a board member from the historic Traveller’s Rest Plantation, and REI employees seeking to sharpen their skills with the PEAK Pack. We find that a regimen of Step On It, How Long Does It Last, and Minimum Impact Match usually encourages active, uninhibited audience participation, and this group was definitely no exception. 

From REI_Nashville
We had great questions about approaches to teaching Leave No Trace and the choices that we face as we enjoy our outdoor experiences. These are the kind of questions that, hopefully, help us think about our personal practice of Leave No Trace ethics. The choices aren't black-and-white, and they're not always obvious or easy. Developing a sense of outdoor ethics means that we have to exercise-our-uniquely-human-capacity-for-reflective-thought. Whereas other creatures may live and die according to purely instinctive behaviors in response to environment and circumstance, we humans have the ability to make conscious choices about our actions... for better or for worse. 

From REI_Nashville
We ended the workshop with each participant using our U.S. map to locate a great park or wild place that they had visited and then to identify an equally compelling wild place that they would like to go. It’s fascinating when folks thoughtfully reflect on the memorable experiences they’ve had on our public lands, and to hear about the allure that beautiful and compelling places hold. We're hoping that those places continue to offer the same allure for our children and grandchildren. Perhaps they will, but only if we manage to make the right choices... 

Thanks go to Chuck Robinson, Outreach Specialist at the Brentwood REI Store, for coordinating our visit.

Hoping, just hoping…

Peggy and Barrett
2010 Leave No Trace e-Tour

e-Word: “exercising-our-uniquely-human-capacity-for-reflective-thought”

Monday, October 25, 2010

Bleu in the Blue Grass State

From Louisville BSA Jamboree

E.P. “Tom” Sawyer State Park on the eastside of Louisville, KY was the site of the big centennial rendezvous for the Blue Grass, Lincoln Heritage, and Shawnee Trails Boy Scout Councils. It was an absolutely beautiful and mild autumn weekend, so the turnout was huge and folks were in exceptionally good spirits. Estimated crowd size ranged upwards of 12,000 scout and parents. We set up our camper and Subaru at the entrance to the exhibition midway next to our event host, Dan Thompson of Troop 111 from Lexington, who is the Blue Grass Council's Outdoor Ethics Advocate. Dan created an amazing Leave No Trace maze for the troops to navigate, while we used the high profile Subaru and Coleman pop-up as the marquee for our joint Leave No Trace activity area.

It seemed that we were busy from the time that we arrived on Friday until our Sunday departure. Dan was a great host, and the event was well planned and executed. Friday night there was a warm-up concert on the main event stage, and even then we were button-holed by a number of folks who expected to be too busy with their own exhibits on Saturday to drop by our encampment.  On Saturday, our day began early as we were visited well before sunup by a scout who was eagerly reporting for volunteer duty at Dan’s maze. By first light, the array of activities in our neighborhood had begun in earnest, and from that point forward we had a steady stream of customers all day. The day was capped off with an evening of great bluegrass music that provided an accompaniment for the choreography of a 12 bag and basket hot-air balloon glow.

On the gastronomic front, Dan’s troop also shared their lunch with us on Saturday as well as a fantastic meal on Saturday night: chicken cordon bleu, brown rice, fresh snap beans, and baked raisin-cinnamon apples for dessert. Whoa! It was some good! We tried to recruit the troop’s incomparable gourmet chef, Don, to travel with us in our Coleman pop-up’s guest bedroom…

From Louisville BSA Jamboree

Hoping to see you next time we’re in the chicken cordon bleu grass state.

Peggy and Barrett
Leave No Trace e-Tour 2010

e-Word: “epicurean”

Pyrotechnics on the Platte

It was time for the Mid-America Boy Scout Council's ScoutQuest, and with our Leave No Trace Subaru and Coleman Pop-Up camper set up near the Order of the Arrow tent and the Quartermaster's station (and flush toilets) at Mahoney State Park near Omaha, Nebraska, we had a splendid weekend for talking Leave No Trace with scouts from Nebraska, Iowa and South Dakota.
From Nebraska BSA ScoutQuest
Mahoney State Park, one of the premiere state parks in Nebraska, overlooks the Platte River near its confluence with the Missouri River. We situated our pop-up along the main park road high on a hill that caught both pleasant breezes and scouts making their way back and forth from their troop's camp site to the midway. "Camp Oh-No!" served as a catalyst for discussing good/bad camping practices with cubs and experienced scouts alike. We continue to be impressed with the Boy Scouts' concerted efforts to teach and train scouts and leaders about minimum impact camping, and our Bigfoot Challenge is the perfect complement for this initiative by encouraging youth to teach each other about the practices of Leave No Trace.
It was a long and full day, and by the time the sun was setting we were ready to pack up our Bigfoot slippers and put "Camp Oh-No!" to bed. Outreach can be hard work indeed, but gratifying when you have the opportunity to reach audiences numbering in the thousands. As we took a walk on the outer loop around the park Saturday night, we listened to the ScoutQuest centennial celebration grand finale featuring a performance by the American English Beatles Band followed by a fireworks display that rocked the prairie's expansive night sky. It put an explosive finishing touch on our week in Nebraska.

From Nebraska BSA ScoutQuest

Thanks to Steve and Tommi Foy Jones for facilitating our set-up at the ScoutQuest.

Hoping to see you out enjoying the natural pyrotechnics in the night sky...

Peggy and Barrett
Leave No Trace e-Tour 2010

e-Word: "explosive"

Friday, October 22, 2010

Whooping It Up on the Platte

After the Watchable Wildlife Conference in Kearney, we visited the Iain Nicholson Audubon Center at Rowe Sanctuary in Gibbon, Nebraska. Situated along the Platte River, the sanctuary is located in the heart of the sandhill crane staging area where mind-boggling numbers of birds can be viewed during their spring migrations northward. Populations of sandhill cranes in these gatherings tally in the hundreds of thousands at their riverine roosts, and the spectacle of the birds' dawn and dusk commute to feed in nearby agricultural fields and wet meadows brings in birdwatchers from around the world. Rare and endangered whooping cranes are also found among the migrating crane populations.

Director Bill Taddicken and his wife Autumn welcomed us to the Center, instructed us on current land management strategies for the Platte River ecosystem and wildlife habitat, and vividly recounted the amazing crane rendezvous and chorus. We were also intrigued by the energy conserving features of the straw bale construction system that was used in the Iain Nicholson administrative and education building. It's a great facility for learning about and witnessing a spectacular annual migration.

We look forward to the prospect of a springtime visit to the Rowe Sanctuary, and hope you'll be at the rendezvous.

Peggy + Barrett
Leave No Trace e-Tour 2010

e-Word: "endangered"

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Home Sweet Coleman Home

Many folks whom we've encountered in our travels have asked about our life on the road, so we thought we'd provide a glimpse into the routine of our daily migration.

Hoping you can join us down the road for some Saturday night dancing.

Peggy and Barrett
2010 Leave No Trace e-Tour

e-Word: "e-Migrants"

Watchable Wildlife Watching

The annual conference of Watchable Wildlife Inc. brought together folks from all over the Mid-West as well as from more distant locales such as Alaska, Arizona, Minnesota and Canada to discuss the wide range of values associated with wildlife observation and concomitant management issues. Attending the three days of sessions and field trips were park and preserve managers, conservationists, research scientists and educators.

When we walked through the doors of the upscale Holiday Inn Conference Center in Kearney, Nebraska we felt a bit out of our element. After all, we’ve been on the road in the camping mode for more than three months, and here we were attending an international conference that was being held in one of the most renowned bird watching locations in the world. Although we felt prepared for our imminent conference session, we felt the need for additional orientation to the mindset of this parliament of wildlife watchers. So, we grabbed a banana and cup of coffee (our reliable morning comfort foods) from a well-laden table to bolster our mettle and wandered into the Watchable Wildlife exhibit area to reconnoiter. We were immediately confronted by a gargantuan model of a piping plover that hungrily and purposefully looked us squarely in the eye. We imagined the sensation that a snail or grasshopper must feel just before becoming an energy snack for a migrating bird. A bit unnerved, we hopped quickly across the hall to investigate an eerie and alluring sound… It turned out to be a recording of tens of thousands of sandhill cranes at their pre-dawn awakening along the nearby Platte River. We were mesmerized; it was an ancient, timeless chorus that we found soothing and reassuring, and at once we were back in our comfort zone and ready for bear, or rather, bird... watchers, that is.

From Watchable Wildlife

Just prior to our session, we attended a session entitled Digital Bridge to Nature. This program aims to redress the “Nature Deficit Disorder” of today’s youth by getting kids interested in nature through the use of photography. During the session we were given tips and case studies on how to use digital photography to excite a curiosity about nature. This is what Digital Bridge to Nature is all about: giving youth an opportunity to approach the natural environment in a different way, one that gives them the chance to express their own personal creativity while developing a sense of connection to nature.

Our subsequent Leave No Trace session was attended by what at the outset seemed a rather reserved bunch. They were good “watchers” who listened quietly and attentively to the first part of our presentation, but suddenly came alive when we gave them a chance to compete for their teams, “Sasquatches” and “Yetis,” in the Step on It Challenge. From that point, it just kept getting “wilder,” and the audience was positively ebullient by the time we had covered the basics of the ever popular “How to Dispose of Waste Properly.” The session concluded on a great note as we all debated how best to apply Leave No Trace specifically to Watchable Wildlife challenges.

Overall the conference served as a terrific opportunity to connect with folks who are directly involved with stewardship of our great outdoor places such as the Audubon Society’s Rowe Sanctuary and properties managed by the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. We appreciated the invitation to participate, and extend special thanks to our charming and eloquent session coordinator, Alicia Hardin of Nebraska Game and Parks.

Hoping to see you down the migratory flyway,

Peggy and Barrett
2010 e-Tour Team

e-Word: “ebullient”

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

More Gearfest SST (Sights, Sounds, and Testimonials)

Will offers a perspective from the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS), a longtime Leave No Trace partner and education provider:

 The Miami Valley Geocachers promote geocaching in the right kind of way:

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Boulder of the Midwest

Wow! Dayton’s Five Rivers MetroParks system is truly awesome. Seriously, the Dayton community has established itself as the Boulder of the Midwest. We attended the 4th annual Gearfest this past weekend, and were really blown away by the rich variety of facilities, activities, and outdoor experiences that are managed and facilitated by Metroparks. Gearfest was sponsored by Subaru, one of our Leave No Trace sponsors, and we setup our booth with our Tribeca billboard in Subaru Village next to Yakima, American Canoe Association, EarthJoy Tree Climbers and the festival’s main performance stage.

There was an opening program on Friday night, and we were busy at the Leave No Trace booth from the outset. Excellent bluegrass music on Saturday kept us dancing as we chatted up the steady stream of Gearfest visitors. We had terrific interactions with the representative from National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS), one of our educational partners, Subaru reps, Miami Valley Geocachers, Yakima racks, and many others. It was great to hear the locals excitedly tell us about the outdoor activities that are readily accessible in the Dayton area, and the outstanding leadership of MetroParks in facilitating outdoor stewardship, education and programming.

One of the things that really impressed us was the number of youth-oriented activities that MetroParks promoted at Gearfest. Even more impressive was the number of youth that actually turned out to show-off their skills or try their hands at slacklining, skateboarding, snowboarding, frisbee golf, kayaking, tree climbing, and much more. It was fantastic to see so many kids totally immersed in outdoor activities. They were having off-the-chain fun and their enthusiasm was infectious. We're now thinking that maybe Boulder is the Dayton of the Rockies!

Thanks to the exemplary Five Rivers MetroParks crew for their assistance, especially Tom, Alex, Dan, and Greg. It's clear that the MetroParks folks are dialed into the Leave No Trace ethic.

Hoping to see you with happy feet at the next fest,

Peggy and Barrett
e-Tour 2010

e-word: "exemplary"

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Going to Kansas City

It was an eclectic weekend in the Kansas City area. With programming assistance from Greg Plumb, a longtime Leave No Trace Master Educator, Boy Scout volunteer, and Park University professor, we had a schedule of events and audiences as varied as any we’ve encountered on the e-Tour.

On Friday morning, we went to the campus of Park University, a serene setting on the banks of the Missouri River in Parkville, MO, just upstream from Kansas City. We met with several of the school’s student organizations for a lunchtime presentation and discussion. With active student participation and at the pace of “three-minute Shakespeare,” we covered everything from durable surfaces to respecting wildlife and from trail trash to recycling. This precipitated a discussion about the Leave No Trace approach, which focuses on gradually building consensus, understanding, and the practice of a healthy outdoor ethic, versus aggressive Monkey Wrench Gang guerrilla tactics. The students were both passionate and articulate, and they seemed to be like-minded in recognizing the need for a coherent, sustainable environmental ethic. The debate about methods of achieving such an ethic demonstrated the group’s capacity for critical analysis and reflective thought, and we encouraged each student to transform their personal convictions into tangible actions towards making a difference.

On Friday evening, we prepared for engagement of a different sort as we set up camp with a view of the full moon rising over teepees and legions of tent encampments at the Heart of America Boy Scout Council’s Centennial Campout Celebration at Camp Naish, Kansas. Greg Plumb and fellow Master Educator Kenny Long joined us at the Camporee to help respond to the Leave No Trace interests of over 11,500 attendees. It started out a fine a day in the expansive Kansas meadow, but later in the morning the skies clouded over and rain was imminent. Nonetheless, the Scouts were, of course, prepared.  Waste management and recycling efforts were well organized and paths for vehicles and pedestrians were clearly delineated to minimize the impacts of the massive gathering. Our campsite served as a demonstration area where Kenny and Greg talked with the scouts about gear selection, efficient planning and packing, traveling fast and light, and the camping practices that can best minimize impacts.  The high profile graphics on our Subaru proved an alluring marquee that piqued the interest of passersby in the Leave No Trace show. We parked it, and they did come… afternoon rains and wind did not dampen spirits or traffic, and we were busily engaged in dialogue with our visitors until the midway activities finally closed late in the day. On Saturday evening we departed, expecting that in a few days there would be very little physical trace of the leviathan scout camp in the Heart of America.

From Kansas City Misc
On Sunday, we shifted gears again, and took our traveling show down to the Kansas City’s Plaza Art Fair. This event, rated as one of the nation’s top five art fests, that has been held annually since 1932 in the historic Country Club Plaza. We were hosted by The North Face Store, and were able to set up our outreach booth on the sidewalk at the store’s entrance. It proved to be a location of strategic significance, as it located us along one of the main arteries leading pedestrians into the Art Fest. The day was pleasantly sunny and warm, soothing the already genial tempers of Kansas Citians as they strolled past our Leave No Trace display. Perhaps the mood was further enhanced by the irrepressibly sweet young girls in their plaid school smocks who established themselves nearby and were earnestly soliciting contributions for a school fundraising event. In fact, Peggy is seriously giving some thought to donning a plaid pinafore and sporting French braids herself at the e-Tour’s next urban outreach event, really...

All in all, it was a productive trip to Kansas City and great to meet and work with Greg and Kenny.  We continue to be impressed by the exceptional network of Leave No Trace Trainers and Master Educators that we meet in our travels. By the same token, we are deeply humbled by the energies and countless hours that so many folks volunteer out of a conviction that the Leave No Trace Outdoor Ethic is right-minded and essential to the health of our land and our society.

Hoping to meet you down the road, whether in a classroom, at a Jamboree, or a cultural festival,

Peggy and Barrett
e-Tour 2010

e-Word: “eclectic”

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Wandering and Wondering Down the Wisconsin River

We offer a momentary break from blogs about our e-Tour events as we reflect on other encounters we’ve had while traveling from The North Face Endurance Challenge near Madison to the Boy Scout Camporee in Kansas City. At our stops along the way, whether at a park, environmental center, or historic site, we've enjoyed talking with staff and visitors about Leave No Trace. As expected, the topic has particularly good resonance with the folks who are responsible for advancing the philosophical mission and overcoming the daily management challenges of these remarkable places… So hop, skip and jump across the Wisconsin landscape with us as we take a few minutes for some personal reflection on the broad implications of Leave No Trace:

From Wisconsin_Sojourn
Finding ourselves in central Wisconsin, we were compelled to make a pilgrimage to a famous hovel… “The Shack,” as it was affectionately known to Aldo Leopold and his family, was the humble building on a worn out "sand farm" that, through determined and persistent labors, was transformed into a cherished family retreat and a model for restoration ecology. The Shack is located along the Wisconsin River near Baraboo not too far from Madison and is a short bicycle ride down the road from the Leopold Center. The Center serves as a hub for education, outreach, and land stewardship programs. The Center building itself was the first to be awarded the highly prestigious “carbon-neutral” status by the LEED certification program.

An informational video we show at many of our Leave No Trace presentations ends with a quote from Aldo Leopold, author of A Sand County Almanac (published in 1949 and considered a classic in the fields of wildlife conservation and ecology). Leopold, a onetime forester with the U.S. National Forest Service and a professor at the University of Wisconsin School of Natural Resources, promoted a “land ethic” that encouraged a fundamental and essential appreciation for the land in an effort to understand the dynamic relationship between Man and Nature. In A Sand County Almanac, Leopold wrote, “We see repeated the same basic paradoxes: man the conqueror versus man the biotic citizen; science the sharpener of his sword versus science the search-light on his universe; land the slave and servant versus land the collective organism.”

Consider the meaning of a "land ethic" at these other historic waypoints along the Wisconsin River: 

Devil’s Lake... a beautiful and topographically anomalous landform near Baraboo, WI. Devil's Lake was once a deep gorge that was carved by the Wisconsin River. With the advance and retreat of a glacial lobe around the Baraboo Hills during the last Ice Age, the flow of the river was blocked and Devil’s Lake was formed. Eventually the Wisconsin River found a new course into the Mississippi River Valley. We spent a late afternoon circumnavigating the lake over bluffs, boulders, and old moraines in the area now preserved as a state park.
From Taliesin
Taliesin... where acclaimed architect Frank Lloyd Wright developed and tested an “organic architecture” that seemed to grow naturally from the land. The Taliesin architecture blends elegantly into the hillsides overlooking the broad green Wisconsin River Valley, and reflects Wright's dramatic departure from the formal, Classical architecture of the time. His celebration of the natural forms and patterns that he had observed while growing up in rural Wisconsin placed him in the vanguard of an architectural design movement that sought to achieve balance and harmony with nature.

From Taliesin
Effigy Mounds National Historic Monument... where Native Americans expended untold energy to construct monumental earthworks depicting bears and eagles on the high bluffs overlooking the Mississippi and Wisconsin River confluence. While hiking past the still prominent effigy mounds today, one can only speculate about the human compulsions that created these works. Certainly they must be evidence of long ago cultural practices and preferences that defined a land ethic, but were they expressions of a connection to the earth as “biotic man” or conqueror, and did their relationship to nature characterize the “land as the collective organism” or as "servant to man..."?

From Wyalusing
No one has found the Effigy Mounds "Rosetta Stone," the key that unlocks the meaning of these gigantic cryptograms. Even the extent to which mounds were distributed dot-like across the landscape is still unknown. However, emerging remote-sensing and GIS technologies are helping us to rapidly and efficiently locate and map lost mound sites, and we encountered an NPS survey crew that was using these advanced technologies to do just that at the national monument. Many more sites than previously imagined are now being identified, and their reach is expanding. Did the mounds define a continent-wide network of connectivity with distant places and peoples? There aren't yet any easy answers, and the search for understanding goes on. Maybe someday, we'll finally be able to connect the dots...

Fascinating and sometimes enigmatic stories to consider in these remarkably diverse cultural and natural places…

Peggy and Barrett
e-Tour 2010

e-Word: “enigma”

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Endurance Challenge on the Ice Age Trail

The North Face Endurance Challenge at Kettle Moraine State Forest in Wisconsin was, indeed, a challenge for all… starting at approximately 4:00am on Saturday morning, a lively public address system and a steady diet of pump-up music stoked over 2,000 race competitors, onlookers, and anyone else who happened to be staying at the Ottawa Lake campground. The first pod of runners consisting of the hardy 50 milers was sent off in the darkness to run the maze of forest trails at 5:00am in a cold, relentless downpour.

The weather improved somewhat as the morning progressed, and but for a few showers and an episode of pellet-sized hail, it was a great day for trail running on the Ice Age Trail. Group after group of determined runners, including 50K, marathoners, marathon relay, and a massive 10K, gamely took their turn at the starting line to the stimulating exhortations of support crews, friends, and family. A brief sermon on trail-running ethics and an earnest appeal to the runners to “Leave No Trace” preceded each race. Then, with a few encouraging words from "ultramarathonman" Dean Karnazes serving as the final benediction, the racers set forth from their starting-line congregation to run the muddy but durable trail, each seeking the pace and personal motivation that would sustain them through the course. 

In fact, Leave No Trace partner The North Face (TNF) places sustainability and conservation at the core of their commitment to advance the well-being of the planet. For example, as part of the ongoing effort to reduce the carbon footprint of the Endurance Challenge Series, The North Face has eliminated single serve plastic bottles of water and is limiting the distribution of disposable cups in 2010. As a consequence, at the Madison Endurance Challenge we discovered that our friends from Gore-Tex were providing participants with a durable, reusable, stainless steel water bottle. What difference does it make? Well, according to TNF:
  • 1.5 million tons of waste per year is attributed to bottled water

  • Bottled water production requires 47 million gallons of oil per year

  • 80% of plastic bottles are simply thrown away

  • That which does not go to landfills can end up in the ocean and other bodies of water, which in turn negatively affect delicate ecosystems and the marine life and birds that inhabit them
Reflective thinking, simple choices, personal convictions, accepting responsibility, deliberate actions… it’s easy to begin making a difference for the better, whether an individual or a corporation. After all, whatever our pace and personal motivations, we are all irrevocably entered in this planetary endurance challenge. It’s up to us to decide how we choose to run the course…

From TNF Endurance Challenge
Hats off to The North Face for hosting the Endurance Challenge series and for the timely promotion of fundamental Leave No Trace ethics.

Hoping we run together down the Leave No Trace trail,

Peggy and Barrett
e-Tour 2010

e-Word: “endurance”

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

e-Tour: Smarter Than a 5th Grader…?

Sometimes being correct and precise is important, and it seemed especially so in our Wisconsin sojourn. For instance, in our recent programs in schools near New Berlin, Wisconsin (near Milwaukee), we were instructed on several occasions that the correct pronunciation of the town name stresses the “Ber” and not the “lin” in New Berlin.  As a result, we were really on our toes and determined to be as correct as possible with the six 5th grade classes we saw in the area last week. We had a good game plan, and felt well-practiced and prepared as we took on the challenge to be “smarter than a 5th grader” during our Leave No Trace presentations in their classrooms. It was a close contest, and regardless of the final outcome of this particular match with this particular cadre of 11-year old 5th graders, who clearly had a home field advantage (and we’re demanding a recount), we still feel confident in contending that we are definitely smarter than our sweet 11-year old Black Labrador Retriever... mostly.

From New_Berlin
Honestly, we were blown away by the enthusiasm and critical thinking skills that the kids demonstrated.  The classes were brimming with energy and intelligence, and the students caught on quickly to the principles of Leave No Trace and how they related to their daily activities. We talked a lot about “Trash Your Trash,” and found that the students are studying topics involving decomposition, composting and recycling. They seemed to have a good grasp of the basic tenets of “Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle,” and understood that even though a plastic bottle would take 200-400 years to break down if left along the side of a trail, the appropriate (and correct) place for the bottle is in the recycle bin where it might be turned into a useful product like our plastic Leave No Trace hangtags. Even better, many of the kids demonstrated a great strategy for reducing unnecessary resource consumption by keeping reusable water bottles at their desks instead of the single-use, disposable plastic bottles. The kids were astounded to hear that Americans discard about 2.5 million plastic water bottles every hour.... Larry Lueck, Associate Principal of Poplar Creek Elementary School in New Berlin, told us that his school aspires to become known for its environmental focus, both in terms of academics and in terms of school practices like recycling. Our impression is that they are well on their way to achieving these goals.

At near-by Merton Intermediate, we were particularly impressed with the efforts of 5th grade teacher, Jolie Kreuser, who takes her classes on a “survival” camping trip every spring.  Naturally, as part of the fall semester curriculum that prepares students for this experiential learning adventure, she emphasizes the principles of Leave No Trace, especially “Plan Ahead and Prepare.” She also has each student develop a detailed plan for a backcountry trip to a National Park of their choosing, including a complete agenda and packing list. She then challenges them to actually make that trip some day. It’s a great way to plant a seed in each of her 5th grade student’s heads to get outside and enjoy our beautiful and incredibly diverse public lands and the recreational opportunities they offer. And of course, by integrating the seven principles of Leave No Trace into the learning experience, they will be prepared and ready to enjoy the outdoors in the “right kind of way.”

From New_Berlin
Great teachers, enthusiastic kids, and evidence of a whole lot of Leave No Trace learning going on… these are signs of healthy and hopeful prospects for our public lands. 

Hope to see you in an outdoor and experiential classroom down the road,

Peggy and Barrett
2010 e-Tour

e-Word: "experiential education"

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Leave No Trace - Education and Advocacy...

Mark Gleason, PhD, Chief Marine Scientist and Director of Education at the Great Lakes Naval Memorial and Museum in Muskegon, is a longtime supporter of outdoor ethics education and advocacy, and serves as the Leave No Trace State Advocate in Michigan.

State Advocates are Leave No Trace Master Educators who have volunteered to be points of contact for information about our Outdoor Ethics resources and programs in your locale. The "LNT.org" website also has a directory of additional Master Educators who are available for Leave No Trace presentations and workshops. These folks are the heart and soul of our educational outreach efforts, and collectively, they represent a powerful international network for disseminating information about Leave No Trace programs and practices. Importantly, they also serve a critical role as they actively demonstrate and model effective outdoor ethics techniques.

Incidentally, there are more than 3500 Leave No Trace Master Educators worldwide representing dozens of countries and nearly all of the United States. This valuable training is recognized throughout the world by the outdoor industry, land management agencies and the outdoor recreation community. Successful graduates of the Master Educator course have the ability to train others in Leave No Trace skills as well as facilitate Leave No Trace Trainer courses and Awareness Workshops.

Hope to see you in one of our workshops down the road,

Peggy and Barrett
e-Tour 2010

e-Word: "education"

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Pearls for Girls: Camp Alice Chester

Dateline: East Troy, Wisconsin
Girl Scouts of Wisconsin - Southeast Council Kick-Off Workshop

What a fascinating person Alice Chester must have been… tennis champion, ambulance and truck driver in France during WWI, suffragette and League of Women Voters organizer, founder and first commissioner of the Wisconsin Girl Scout movement, and more. The woman was so dedicated to the health and well-rounded development of young girls that she sold her personal keepsakes in order to buy land for a camp where they could experience the traditional outdoor activities that she felt so fortunate to enjoy in her own youth. That’s what we were told Alice Chester did in 1924… she sold her pearls so that the Milwaukee Area Girl Scouts could establish a summer camp expressly for girls. In gratitude, they named the camp in her honor.

Mary Jo and Peggy inspecting the e-Tourmobile
From Camp Alice WisconsinGS
The legacy of such dedicated Girl Scout leadership continues, and it was abundantly evident when we visited Camp Alice Chester on Saturday to present a Leave No Trace program to more than 60 highly motivated Girl Scout troop leaders and staff. It was a feisty bunch for sure… 

We emphasized the not-so-black-and-white dimensions of Leave No Trace, and had lots of questions that helped us all explore the gray areas of Outdoor Ethics. Our presentation was actively interactive, and workshop participants debated how choices are conditioned by context, and how the circumstances of climate, topography, vegetation, wet/dry, time of year, group size, and such can help determine the appropriateness of decisions about outdoor behaviors and consequential impacts. It was spirited, and at times, it was hard for us to get a word in edgewise.

From Camp Alice WisconsinGS
We first got the crowd fired up with a round of “Step On It,” followed by a little trash talk, during which we exhaustively discussed the finer points regarding disposal of human waste, and then followed-up with a spirited “How Long Does It Last” exercise. After learning how to show a little respect for wildlife by employing the “Rule of Thumb,” Peggy led the group through the “Camp Oh-No!” final exam.

Final Exam
From Camp Alice WisconsinGS
The Girl Scout leader group was absolutely game and the interactions were challenging, constructive and lots of fun. It was a group that demonstrated a well-developed capacity for reflective thinking… and good humor… and a sincere interest in modeling and teaching how to experience and enjoy the outdoors in the “right kind of way…” We were left with the distinct impression that the Wisconsin Girl Scouts are in good hands, and Leave No Trace is sure to become an integral component in their instructional agenda. We have a feeling that Alice would be pleased and proud about how things have worked out for her girls.

As we departed, we gave copies of the “Leave No Trace” DVDs (US National Park Service) to the Council staff. In turn, they presented us with a Girl Scout tote bag filled with a representative assortment of nuts from their fundraising sale... nice road-fare. Thanks go to Mary Jo Zachow for demonstrating her favorite Leave No Trace teaching activity during the workshop, arranging our participation in the event, and for welcoming us so warmly. All in all, it was a terrific Saturday night soiree at Camp Alice.

From Camp Alice WisconsinGS
Hope to see you down the road,

Peggy and Barrett
e-Tour 2010

e-Word: "everybody"

From Camp Alice WisconsinGS

Monday, September 13, 2010

Ascending Chicago's Highest PEAK

From REI_Chicago
We held a training workshop for the PEAK Program at the Lincoln Park REI store in Chicago on Thursday. The audience consisted of folks from community-based youth programs such as Big City Mountaineering, Lake View Nature Center, Chicago Park District, Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo, and Mindful Metropolis Magazine, as well as the Outreach Coordinators and others involved in PEAK activities for the Chicago area’s four REI stores. Peggy’s sister and two of her cousins, whose curiosity about what we’ve been doing on this e-Tour for the past ten weeks compelled them to attend the session for a firsthand encounter with our teaching of Leave No Trace principles, rounded out the audience. We engaged this group in PEAK Pack activities such as Minimum Impact Match, a great icebreaker and an up-close-and-personal way to get everyone thinking about creatively teaching the seven principles of outdoor ethics.

The REI venue was an excellent urban setting for the workshop, and it’s clear that REI is fully vested not only in encouraging the practice of Leave No Trace Principles, but also in providing teaching resources and support that will help others, especially youth audiences, understand the importance of the principles as a framework for fun, responsible outdoor recreational activity. Just getting kids interested in outdoor recreation is, of course, the first essential step and a complementary objective of REI and Leave No Trace. We share the concern of Richard Louv, author of “Last Child in the Woods,” that the disconnect between kids and the outdoors, whether backyard or backcountry, is a fundamental challenge to the healthy development of human character and values. Critically, this disconnect also threatens the continuum of advocacy and stewardship for the wild lands, creatures, and historic places of the public realm. If our society, or at least the part of our society that professes to love the outdoors and what it means and serves, doesn’t make a deliberate effort to connect today’s youth with this natural and cultural legacy, we fail to meet our own stewardship responsibilities.

We’ve witnessed the degree of the problem first-hand in our travels. Even in campgrounds, we’ve seen how easy access to electronic games, the Internet, and high definition television or video so effectively infatuates and distracts the human mind (whether child or adult), and precludes other, more physical, traditional outdoor recreational activities that have timelessly helped kids connect with, understand, and appreciate the natural and cultural roots of their environment. Sometimes we need to intentionally model the behaviors that can show others how to enjoy the outdoors in the right kind of way. Moreover, we need to find compelling ways of appealing to young minds, piquing their naturally curious inclinations, reacquainting young spirits with the gratification found in simple, traditional pastimes, and whetting young appetites with the enticement of authentic experiences in the outdoors.

From REI_Chicago
The folks who participated in our program clearly recognize the danger of “the disconnect,” and REI's partnership with Leave No Trace and sponsorship of the PEAK Training Program is only one of the ways that REI is responding to the challenge. Maybe you would be willing and able to join the effort, too. Check out the efforts of REI and other sponsors for community action opportunities that actively promote sustainable outdoor ethics, and see if there is a local program or initiative that appeals to your interest. And when you do get involved, maybe you can entice a kid to go along with you.

Hoping to work alongside you on such challenges when we meet down the road,

Peggy and Barrett
e-Tour 2010

e-Word: “enticing”

ps: Many thanks to Claire Hurwitz, Outreach Specialist for the Greater Chicago Area REI stores, for arranging the PEAK workshop and recruiting such great participants...

Sunday, September 12, 2010

e-Touring the Dunescape

From Hoffmaster State Park
Last Sunday, sandwiched into our programs and outreach at GLNMM, we bicycled southward 12 miles to Hoffmaster State Park where we met with park staff, distributed Leave No Trace hangtags and brochures, and interacted with park visitors. It was a beautiful day for a ride, and we were in good spirits when we arrived at Hoffmaster. We were very impressed with the Hoffman Visitor Center. The interpretive exhibits and educational programs effectively present the story of the various components of the coastal ecosystem and its geomorphology. Exhibits also tell the stories of the determined individuals who advocated for creation of such public parks and natural areas, whose efforts ensured that these extraordinary places would be preserved for all of us to experience.

We hiked the park’s boardwalk and climbed the 170 wooden steps that reach the uppermost heights of Hoffmaster’s impressive dunescape. The boardwalk protects the fragile dune ecosystem from the erosive wear and tear of visitor foot traffic. As recompense for our exertions, we were rewarded with spectacular views of blue, windswept Lake Michigan stretching out before us to the west. Clusters of Monarch butterflies caught the shore breezes on their migration south. We spent a full afternoon exploring the park and talking with other visitors, and the sun was settling down into the great watery expanse of Lake Michigan as we pedaled back to our base camp at the USS Silversides in Muskegon.

From Hoffmaster State Park
Hope to see you down the road,

Peggy and Barrett
e-Tour 2010

e-Word: “expansive”

Saturday, September 11, 2010

e-Touring Beneath the Waves (Part 2)

From GLNMM_Muskegon 2
As it turned out, neither of us saw the ghost, but it was what we heard that was memorable. We slept peacefully beneath Lake Michigan in the womb of the sub, lullabied by the rhythmic lapping of waters against the still solid hull of 70-year old Silversides. We realized that sound, not sight, was truly the sensory currency of the submariners, for while sight was certainly critical to navigation and attack, it was sound that was the primary sensory stimulation for the crew in the close, dimly lit confines of the sub. There were the sounds of sonar, torpedoes, propellers of enemy destroyers, depth charges … all measured by duration, proximity, and magnitude…  sounds and silences by which these men lived and died. Running silent and deep gave the sub a stealthy advantage and made the sub less likely to be detected by the enemy, while sound betrayed their position and increased the already high risks of successful enemy counter-measures.  A careless, indiscrete sound could literally sink the sub. The experience gave us pause, as we reflected on the indiscrete behaviors that unwittingly impose on the sensory sensibilities of others… something to think about in anticipation of the next time we bike a path, hike a trail, paddle a slough, or consider the “be considerate of others” principle of Leave No Trace.

Our accommodations on Sunday night were aboard a 1927 US Coast Guard Cutter, USCGC McLane, that was commissioned by President Calvin Coolidge with the intention of interdicting the rum and whiskey-running bootleggers of the Prohibition Period. Evidently, the McLane was somewhat less successful in its mission than Silversides, undoubtedly due to the fact that the relatively slow cutter could not match the pace of the souped-up speedboats employed by the bootleggers. That night, our dreams of  “The Untouchables” were accompanied by the siren-like whale songs of ships fenders rubbing against the McLane’s steel hull as the vessel gently rocked at her berth.

From GLNMM_Muskegon 2
Both sub and cutter are open daily for tours, and groups may also make arrangements for overnight visits similar to our own. In fact, on Saturday we presented a program to a troop of Boy Scouts who had traveled up from the Dayton, Ohio vicinity just to visit the GLNMM and spend a memorable night on the WWII sub. Both Mark Gleason and Gary Reynolds envision an experiential learning initiative that will accommodate thousands of scouts at the GLNMM for similar kinds of programs, and it presents a great opportunity to introduce a cohort of young folks to Leave No Trace.  As Scouting Liaison for the Museum, Gary was especially intent on giving the scouts an upfront introduction to the principles of “Outdoor Ethics for Heritage Sites” before the boys set foot on the beautifully and carefully maintained Silversides, whose rare and significant heritage values are acknowledged by her designation as a National Historic Landmark.

Labor Day Monday at GLNMM was once again stormy and wet, and a steady stream of visitors seeking indoor diversions visited our Outdoor Ethics resource table, talked with us about their favorite camping experiences, and watched the NPS Leave No Trace DVD.  We all watched the treetops dance wildly in the powerful squalls that swept in from Lake Michigan, and were glad for our safe harbor.

All in all, the Labor Day weekend experience reminded us of the extraordinary variety of audiences, settings, and outreach opportunities that we have encountered in our e-Tour odyssey. The raison d’être of this epic journey is growing on us… or maybe within us… as each day we feel a deepening sense of appreciation for the hospitality, goodwill, and genuine interest that has greeted us at every event, campground, and port-of-call along the way. We respect and admire the many folks, who like the GLNMM staff (Mark, Gary, Bob, Jack and others), are committed to creating experiential learning opportunities that connect youth with the outdoors and the legacy of our natural and cultural heritage in substantive, engaging, and fun ways. With such a dedicated staff and historic, hands-on resources like the Silversides and McLane, the GLNMM serves the role of a lighthouse beacon, illuminating a meaningful passage towards understanding outdoor ethics and appreciating the critical importance of collective stewardship.

From GLNMM_Muskegon 2
Hope to find safe anchorage alongside your vessel in our next port,

Peggy and Barrett
e-Tour 2010

e-Word: “experiential-learning”