Saturday, September 29, 2007

Thunder Swamp Trail System, Poconos, PA

Today we went to Thunder Swamp Trail System, a little used State Park in the Poconos. The trails were moderately maintained, which means sometimes we had to crawl over a fallen tree or walk through some overgrowth, but that made it even more interesting. It also made it more likely that we would come across some wildlife. We had a brief glimpse of an otter, we saw a little snake, and we heard a very large woodpecker. Because of the volume, we assumed it was a Pileated Woodpecker, but we never did see it. Hard to miss with a bright red head, but most of the foliage is still on the trees. We saw the leaves beginning to change and had a beautiful view of the colors of Early Autumn.

(Click here to hear a Pileated Woodpecker. You won't believe it!)

Painters Swamp Lake where we glimpsed the otter.

Beautiful colors of Early Fall starting to show

A little snake trying to look like a stick

Bushkill Creek

Interesting reflections on Bushkill Creek

On the bridge over Bushkill Creek

Climbing on the bridge

Later that evening, we also went to Celtic Fest in Bethlehem, an Irish music festival held every year in late September. We listened to Irish music and saw some Irish dancers. It was a beautiful clear night. Unfortunately, no pictures to share since it was a little dark (and crowded!) for picture taking.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Storm King Mountain State Park, Hudson River Valley, NY

Today we drove to the Hudson River Valley in New York and hiked in Storm King Mountain State Park. It was a beautiful first day of Autumn, the air was just a little a bit crisp and the skies were clear. The hike had a lot of changes in elevation with many spectacular overlooks and views of the Hudson River below. We saw three deer, including one six point buck, and several sharp-shinned hawks and one osprey. The forests were filled with tall oak trees which were dropping acorns from high above!

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Pennsylvania Renewable Energy and Sustainable Living Festival, Kempton, PA

This afternoon I went to the Pennsylvania Renewable Energy Festival and had a wonderful time. The food was delicious, I had a Philadelphia seitan steak sandwich for lunch and an organic salad with grilled vegetables for dinner. Dessert was a chocolate coconut pastry and some organic, fair trade coffee.

I went to a lecture on global warming, the consequences and potential solutions. We talked about what it would take to reduce our carbon emissions. We would need to use more renewable energy, improve the efficiency of products and buildings, increase gas and mileage emission standards, use alternative fuels, reduce vehicle dependent development, travel less, make wiser consumer purchases (plasma screen TVs are a BIG energy waster), and buy local food.

I also went to a lot of the exhibitor booths. I learned about what it would take to convert my house to solar. Probably not feasible for me to buy solar panels right now, but there is a company that rents solar panels for the going electric kilowatt rate, but guarantees no increase for the term of the contract (1, 5, or 25 years). Worth looking into. Also spoke to the Sierra Club, some Community Supported Agriculture groups which deliver locally grown organic vegetables weekly, and of course the Lehigh Valley Vegetarians.

Hazy sunset over Kempton

The entertainment was magnificient! I listened to Makoto Taiko, a Japanese drumming group which plays on large Taiko Japanese drums. It was high energy, very physical, dynamic group interaction. It was difficult to get a good picture because of the lighting conditions, but hopefully this picture captures a little bit of the energy from this Japanese drum master.

Girl Geeks Rule

Here's my sister Diane sitting at her new computer, which astonishingly looks a lot like my old computer. This morning we got Diane all set up and ready to explore the digital domain. Before long she will be a pro at this, designing spreadsheets and databases with ease and enjoyment like her geeky sister, or at least exploring the blogosphere.

Friday, September 21, 2007

International Day of Peace

Today is the International Day of Peace, as adopted by a resolution of the General Assembly of the United Nations.
From the original resolution:
"Recalling that the promotion of peace, both at an international and a national level, is among the main purposes of the United Nations, in conformity with its Charter,
Reaffirming that, as set forth in the preamble of the Charter of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defence of peace must be constructed, that a peace based exclusively upon the political and economic arrangements of Governments would not be a peace which could secure the unanimous, lasting and sincere support of the peoples of the world, and that the peace must therefore be founded, if it is not to fail, upon the intellectual and moral solidarity of mankind..."
More information can be found here: International Day of Peace

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Remembering Barb

Today we got together for a hike at Beltzville Park to remember our dear friend, sister, and colleague, Barb Kulik. Barb was a devoted friend and sister, an accomplished engineer, a graduate of Cornell University, and a lively, generous, optimistic spirit who loved the natural world. We will miss her deeply, but she left us with beautiful memories and the lovely inspiration of a life lived to the fullest. I will always be inspired by her independent spirit, her cheerful disposition, and her love and appreciation of nature. We thought it would be an appropriate way to remember her by enjoying a hike in a beautiful area where she used to walk and the pleasure of each other's friendship.

Starting out on the hike
Fields of Goldenrod
Girls having fun....

Will it hold, will it hold?? (it did, for the most part....)

Hiking at the beautiful area where we stopped for lunch by the stream and Mountain Laurel

A bubbling stream

Stopping for lunch

Our group

Barb's brothers, Joe and Ray

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Bear Rocks and Bake Oven Knob

Today we took the Appalachian Trail to Bear Rocks, and then to Bake Oven Knob. It was a brisk September day, very windy, but with incredibly clear skies.

The view from Bear Rocks. We had to climb a bit to get here. It was very windy. We saw several hawks and osprey.

Two views from Bake Oven Knob. This is a popular spot for birdwatchers. We saw some gliders from here, one came close to the treetops!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

An End To Hate

Tonight I went to a lecture by author Jack Levin at Moravian College entitled "Why We Hate". He examined hate crimes and their potential causes and origins. Often the perpetrators are feeling defensive because they feel some sort of threat to their economic well being or cultural values, or they are looking for some sort of thrill, or they have a need to feel powerful or in charge. Although the incidence of hate crimes is increasing, membership in organized hate groups is declining. In the 1920s over 4 million Americans belonged to an organized hate group, now it is 50,000. Only 5% of hate crimes are perpetrated by an organized hate group, 95% are by individuals acting alone or with a few others.

He stated that one of the greatest factors that allows discrimination and prejudice to occur is the silence of spectators. He sites Germany during World War II and also more recently the segregation laws in the American South as examples. He believes ordinary people can make a significant difference by having the courage to speak up or intervene. To end hate crimes, it is essential to foster interdependence among groups of people, working together for common goals. As we co-operate and truly know each other, prejudices will begin to fall away.

So, the end to hate can be brought about by speaking up for victims of discrimination and refusing to tolerate any form of prejudice. Also, looking for opportunities to enhance communication, co-operation, and interdependence among diverse groups of people can begin to eliminate disunity. Once again, these are actions that ordinary people can take in the course of everyday life.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Gardening Day and End of Summer Picnic

Today I spent a bit of time doing some late summer gardening. I bought some chrysanthemums (three pinky purple and two creamy white). I'm slowly learning the "new homeowner gardening tricks". This year I grew some vegetables (peppers, tomatoes and eggplant) and some herbs (basil, lavender, oregano). I also put in some petunias in the front yard. Now that it's almost Fall, chrysanthemums seem to be a popular flower, so I thought I'd fill in some color in the front yard with flowers. Here is a photo of the flowers I bought before I planted them. It's my attempt to be "artsy", it's a black and white shot with the flowers tinted.

I also went to a friend's house for a Baha'i Feast and end of summer picnic. There were about twenty five people there. We had grilled burgers (veggie burgers too!), potato salad, salad, homemade peach pie, and baklava. We saw some old friends and new friends and had a wonderful time enjoying each other's company and the still warm weather.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Hawk Mountain, Kempton, PA

This afternoon I went to Hawk Mountain in Kempton. Although we are nearing the peak of migration for Broad-winged Hawks, Ospreys, and Bald Eagles, it was a rather slow birding day. However, I had some beautiful views of two Ospreys; I could see the "mask" around the eyes. We were also treated to a close-up view of a migrating Bald Eagle; I could clearly see the white head and white tail feathers, making the trip well worth it!

A hazy late afternoon view from the mountain

Beautiful Pennsylvania barn near Kempton

The Fall Warblers are back!

This morning I went bird watching with the Lehigh Valley Audubon Society in the Whitehall Parkway. Highlights included a Yellow Billed Cuckoo eating a caterpillar, Rose Breasted Grosbeaks eating poison ivy berries, a Little Green Heron fishing in the quarry, a group of Kingbirds high up in the trees, a large Great Blue Heron, a Scarlet Tanager, Goldfinches, a Hairy Woodpecker, and a Downy Woodpecker.

View of the quarry showing the colors of late Summer.

A field of Black-Eyed Susans

Another wildflower

Goldenrod signals the end of Summer

Friday, September 07, 2007


Tonight I watched Anisa George's performance of her one woman play "Foreigner" at Touchstone Theatre in Bethlehem. It included some experiences of her trip to Iran and her struggles with faith and identity. It was an incredible performance. Many people in the audience were able to relate to some aspect of her experience, such as feeling different or struggling with questions and uncertainty.

Some things it caused me to think about: how can people from profoundly different backgrounds and perspectives truly understand each other? How can we get along on a planet when we have different visions of what the world should be like? How can we claim our own unique identity and still relate deeply to those around us? What is the place of doubts, questions, and uncertainty in spiritual life? (interesting question to ponder in light of the new book revealing Mother Teresa's profound struggle with despair).

If you havent' seen it, you still have a chance to catch it Saturday at 8PM:

Thank you Anisa, for opening up such dialogue and sharing your personal journey with us.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Biking at Minnewaska State Park Preserve

Today we drove about two and a half hours north to Minnewaska State Park Preserve in New York State, on the Shawangunk Mountain Ridge, adjoining the Catskill Mountains. We biked for about fifteen miles, and had beautiful views of two lakes and many scenic overlooks.

View of Lake Awosting

Scenic overlook with a view of Lake Awosting and the Catskill Mountains

Looking across Lake Awosting

Wildflowers in bloom

Another overlook of the lake

There were many vistas with steep rock formations.

We stopped at Castle Point overlook for lunch. Here you can see the rock formation known as Gertrude's Nose in the distance.

Another view of Gertrude's Nose and surrounding forests and farmland.

Mountain biking with Catskills in the distance

Overlooking Lake Minnewaska

Another view of Lake Minnewaska, this time showing some more of the rocky overlooks.

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