Thursday, May 22, 2008

Incline Lake Near Mount Rose Highway Summit Goes Public

Incline Lake, a scenic alpine lake near the Mount Rose Highway Summit between Reno and Incline Village at Lake Tahoe, is becoming public land. The lake and surrounding forest areas are expected to be accessible to the public by June 2009, offering space for recreational activities such as hiking, cross-country skiing and wildlife viewing. The area is located on a deer migration route. It includes riparian vegetation and lodgepole pines. Lake Tahoe water quality will directly benefit from the preservation of the Incline Lake environment. And Tahoe Rim Trail hikers will get another off-rim destination.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Dry Pond Is Still Wet

Dry Pond southwest of Reno was still found to be wet this year in the middle of May. Lots of water is gushing down Whites Creek. Taking Dry Pond Trail while coming from the Whites Creek Trailhead (about a mile off Timberline Drive north of Mount Rose Highway), one needs to cross Whites Creek. Some rocks are in place to hop, rock by rock, over the speedy water. Hikers and bikers alike are doing it. Various spring flowers can be seen on both sides of the trail leading up to the pond. Currently, Dry Pond looks like a shallow little lake. When I was up there, I saw a couple of ducks swimming between the horsetails. If the weather stays as dry and hot as over the last week-end, Dry Pond will be dry again in a few weeks. Whether wet or dry, this location is always a beautiful place with—from between the pines— secret views of Mount Rose, Slide Mountain and parts of Washoe Lake.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Conservation of High Mountain Ecosystems: The Snow Leopard as a Role Model

Like with any ecosystem, the best conservation effort is no effort at all—at least no human effort as long as a system is healthy and has not significantly been changed by human interference. Key to the “healthy maintenance” of ecosystems are keystone species. The snow leopard (Uncia uncia) is an excellent example of a high mountain keystone species [1]:

As the top carnivore of the alpine and subalpine zones [of Central Asia], the snow leopard strongly influences the numbers and whereabouts of hoofed herds [for example of animals such as sheep, ibex, argali, tahr, goral, serrow, Tibetan antelope or wild yak] over time. That in turn affects plant communities and thus shapes the niches of many a smaller organism down the food chain. The leopard's presence—or absence—affects competing hunters and scavengers too, namely wolves, wild dogs, jackals, foxes, bears, and lynx. This cascade of consequences makes Uncia uncia a governing force in the ecosystem, what scientists term a keystone species.

Which species is functioning as a keystone species, for example, in the European Alps or the Sierra Nevada in the western part of the United States? Is homo sapiens a keystone species?

[1] “Out of the Shadows. The elusive Central Asian snow leopard steps into a risk-filled future.” by Douglas H. Chadwick and Steve Winter in National Geographic, Vol. 213, No.6, pages 106-129, June 2008.

Snow leopard dictionary
Ladakhi: shan
Mongolian: irbis
Urdu: barfani chita
German: Schneeleopard (only found in zoos in German-speaking areas)

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Trail Search: From the Alps to the Stonehenge Area

Which path did the neolithitic “Amesbury Archer”, who was unearthed in 2002 near Stonehenge in England, follow when he migrated from the foothills of the Alps to the area now called the Salisbury Plain? The archer's origin has been deduced from isotopic analysis of his tooth enamel. What made him move that far away from the Alps and how did he acquire wealth and status, as indicated by the rich goods found at his burial site near the River Avon two and a half miles southeast of Stonehenge? While the trail, the archer took, remains a mystery, a falcon's-eye view nicely illustrates his new homeland [1] showing recent understanding of a neolithic area and the relation between sites including Stonehenge, Woodhenge, Durrington Walls and Cursus, one of the cryptic trenches numerous in Britain.

[1] Illustration by Kazuhiko Sano on pages 40 and 41 in the article with the title “If the Stones Could Speak” by Caroline Alexander and Ken Geiger in National Geographic, Vol. 213, No.6, June 2008.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Keep Every Place Beautiful!

We all have seen the sticker “Keep Lake Tahoe Beautiful.” Other places should be kept beautiful as well. On May 10, volunteers took part in the Great Truckee Meadows Community Cleanup event sponsored by Keep Truckee Meadows Beautiful. During this effort, trash was removed from public lands. Also cars and tires. One always wonders how cars get to places like the one in the picture showing a car wreck next to to the Arrowcreek Trail in southern Reno. Let's thank all the volunteers for their tremendous engagement.

Maggie O'Neill: Massive cleanup effort removes tons of trash from open spaces. Reno-Gazette-Journal, May 17, 2008, page E1.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Weser River Walk in Bremen-Vegesack

Vegesack, a district of the city of Bremen in northwest Germany, is located north of where the river Lesum flows into the Weser. The Weser River Walk is easily accessed by walking or biking less than a mile westwards from the train station Bremen-Vegesack.
A good starting point for the river walk is the “Gray Donkey” (Grauer Esel, a donkey sculpture in front of the cafe-garden pub of the same name). Going north, you'll reach the sculpture of the lower jaw of a blue whale (upper picture). This bronze sculpture replaces the originally exhibited jaw—a gift made to Vegesack in 1961 by the Norwegian shipping trader Anders Jahre—of a 26-meter-long whale.
Continuing along the river, you'll pass an information board at the signal station telling you about the history of commercial activities in the area including ship building, whaling, and aircraft services. Some data on the local size of the Weser are also provided. Watching the river for some time, you may notice the tide-related changes that occur along this stretch of the Weser. Further north, you reach a propeller that makes a nice bench (lower picture above). If you don't like to sit on a propeller, don't worry, there are many benches and also park greens on the way.