Every place has a story. That story is shaped by the Physical Geography of that location, as well as the people that interact with that environment. Since you live your life in the context of a geographical place, You are part of that story. Our goal is to not only take you on a journey to visit new places, but to give you insight on how to view your own locations and examine your place in it. We invite you to come along and explore the lesser known places in our world. We have posts ranging from urban hiking, to expeditions to remote places, or memories of unforgettable people that we have met. We hope you will find some posts that will inspire you to explore your world in a new way! Older posts from 2019 are about the time we lived in Barcelona, Spain and traveled to other nearby regions in Europe and North Africa. Newer posts are either current wanderings or stories of other memorable places, from Alaska to South America and beyond. All posts are categorized, so you can easily find other posts of a similar topic. Topics include Alaska, International, Urban Hiking, Oregon, Place names, and Memoir. Enjoy!
Most of the pictures are mine, and any republishing of them is forbidden without prior written consent. Any photos or maps that aren’t mine have citations noting the ownership of the picture or graph.
At some point in our lives we will all be faced with becoming John Wesley Powell in one way or another. I’ve always admired the famous explorer John Wesley Powell (1834-1902). He was one of the first explorers to run the mighty Colorado River through the Grand Canyon in 1869. He was an explorer, geologist,Continue reading “Becoming John Wesley Powell”
An account of a memorable and fun 21 day camping trip in Namibia and Botswana with members from several countries who came together well as a group.
a tour of a sculptured forest in Argentina and how that project can serve as a model to bring communities together after the devastating effects of wildfire.
a brief overview of the Geography of Ukraine, with maps and graphs to help understand the culture and history of the region and how Geography helps shape cultural identity.
chronicle of a trip up the lonely Dempster Highway to its end in Inuvik, NWT and a bush plane trip to remote Herschel Island in the Arctic Ocean off the northern coast of Yukon.
An account of a Winter hike through part of the Pacific Crest Trail in the California desert.
These three things seem unrelated at first glance. Upon further inspection, you may see that they are actually tightly woven together. The mighty American Chestnut tree was once the dominant canopy species in the forests of Eastern North America. That is, until a blight from China in 1904 entered our country in the port ofContinue reading “A Pandemic, A Geographer, and a Chestnut Tree”
highlights the essence of what constitutes the land we call Mongolia and what that land has to offer to both the residents and visitors. Human and Natural history are outlined in this post
Tips for reading landscapes and cultures, understanding language, and connecting to places that you visit or want to travel to.
A call for all people to look at their world more closely, to foster better understanding and fill the void left by the decline in geographic education. Second part of a three part series of posts.
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La Merce festival (ending 9/24)
Tuesday was the culmination of La Merce. For the past several days there have been fireworks displays, music in the streets, live dancing and street food everywhere. The school was closed today, so we headed to plaza st. Jaume for the procession of Giants, 15 foot ceramic figures that people wear and walk around the square. The crowds were maddingly thick, and we left before the parade was finished. We missed the human towers, where the crowd pushes inward and the acrobats who form the tower climb over each other to form a human tower five people high. Not only did we feel claustrophobic, but I witnessed a man passing off a cell phone to the guy next to me, as they were part of a pickpocket ring. Pickpocketing is rampant here. I put my water bottle in my left pocket to cover my wallet and stared at the guy with a New Jersey look that said, “if you want a piece of this, then just f…ing try something”. When he lit a cigarette, we decided to find some peace and quiet.
People were everywhere, but we found a little space walking north past the train station and along the beach. There are a lot of nice restaurants lining the marina. Rollerbladers whizzed by us on the paved walkway. A few locals perched by their surf casting rods hoping for a free dinner from the Mediterranean.
About 50 meters from our apartment, we stopped in a restaurant called Mr. Robinson (don’t know what happened to Mrs. Robinson!). Good food, finally a good salad! (This is a meat and bread society), and an IPA to wash it down with to boot. We’ll be back…..
The rest of the day we walked through parque de La Ciutadella, a long green space that goes East-West from the Arc de Triomphe (a copy of the more famous one in Paris), to the city Zoo. We average walking about five miles a day on a slow day, and closer to ten on a long day. It is nice to come home and then sit on the rooftop five floors up and see and hear life happening below, while being bathed by a Mediterranean breeze. Tough stuff, but heck…..somebody’s got to do it. Back to teaching classes the rest of the week.
Viernes, el 27 de Septiembre
Went to the school this morning to have coffee with the director of SAE Barcelona, Rich from Chicago, IL. Rich started the program 17 years ago after studying abroad in St. Petersburg, Russia and again in Barcelona. Rich showed me around the area of the school and related how the area used to be full of Chinese wholesalers who recently relocated to another part of town, which is allowing the area to gentrify. Over coffee, We shared some of the same ideas of what constitutes a liberal arts education.
I also spent some time with one of our student mentors, Rodrigo, who is a gem of a person. We planned out a route for Beth and I to take for a hike to the top of Tibidabo.
I returned home to get Beth and change into my walking shoes. We walked about a mile to Placa Catalunya to catch the FGC train (Ferrocarril del Generalitat de Catalunya), towards Tibidabo mountain. On the way to the Placa, we ran into a large student demonstration about the lack of action of the government addressing climate change issues. There were over 1,000 students marching, with banners in Catalan, Castilian, and English. One banner read, “F. K your partner and not the planet”.
Arriving at Placa Catalunya, we took the FGC train. It is a different system than the city metro, but our train passes are valid on it. After several stops, we got out and rode the funicular as high as it would go, and then proceeded to hike up to the top of the hill. Several bikers were pedaling uphill as if training for La Vuelta, the Spanish version of the Tour de France. Others were speeding fast downhill in the opposite direction, having completed the climb. The hike on the side of the road was at times as steep as the climb up Kilimanjaro last year, but with much more oxygen, due to our lower elevation than the high point of Africa.
We Passed by the tv and radio tower near the top of the hill, as the clouds shrouded the top of the tower. A south wind blew at our backs, but threatened us with a chance of showers all day. Finally, we reached the top of the hill, where a beautiful, tall basilica topped with the outstretched arms of Christ the King dominated the landscape. At the base of the Basilica was a restaurant and a small amusement park with a Ferris Wheel and an overlook of the city. Through intermittent clouds and sun, we could see the whole valley and the city, and the Mediterranean Sea.
We decided to hike all the way home (more than 10 miles). Making our way back through the bosque on senderos, we finally got to the outskirts of the city. Navigation in the city is fairly straightforward. Walk downhill and you are heading toward the sea. We walked through the Gràcia neighborhood, which used to be a separate city from Barcelona, but was swallowed up by the city during the Eixample expansion in the late 1800’s. It has a totally different vibe than other parts of the city, as it used to be a poorer area where migrants lived, but is starting to gentrify.
After 10 miles of walking mostly on pavement, and with two more to go, we took the metro back home and stopped at our neighborhood eatery Mr. Robinson for an IPA before heading home. I then went up to the rooftop to enjoy a night time view of our beautiful city. I think we will try bus routes tomorrow to acquaint ourselves with new neighborhoods and give our feet a bit of a break.
October 6, 2019
About a week has passed since the last posting. School is in full swing, and we have been busy with exploring and with day to day city life. Last weekend we took the metro to Badalona at the end of the line and walked our way back home past several beaches and through a sector of old decrepit abandoned industrial buildings, until we came up to the Olympic village of Poblenou. This area was also run down, before the old buildings were razed prior to the 1992 Olympic Summer games. Today, Port Olympic has several restaurants and some shops.
Beth had some friends coming to town last week, and their hotel was just three blocks from the school. I met Nikki and Gary at the hotel Constanza (Named after George from Seinfeld?) right after work and we rode the metro down to Barceloneta station and walked back to our apt. That evening, we strolled down to Port Olympic and had dinner at an Italian restaurant on the wharf, as the sun set over the Mediterranean. From our table, we watched teams play beach volleyball using only their feet and heads….a combination of soccer and volleyball.
Lots of people from various countries have moved to Barcelona. Beth found a yoga studio where the classes are in English. She goes a couple of times per week while I am teaching. One instructor at Yoga is from Lithuania, another is Swedish. One of the housekeepers in our building is Irish. When I came home from work one day, our door was open, and Beth was talking to her. Her name was Clare, and she had locked her keys inside one of the apartments and needed to use Beth’s phone to call the office. Most of the street vendors at Port Vell at nightime are from Africa. There are Asian shopkeepers, and restaurant owners from all over the world. We hear multiple languages on the street on a daily basis.
last Thursday, the students had a cooking class as part of their Spanish culture class. We signed up to participate. We all met at the steps of the Cathedral at 6:45PM, then walked a short distance to where they held the class. We all cut vegetables, grated tomatoes and minced garlic, or whisked eggs and milk. Mario, our chef, orchestrated the whole dinner, which consisted of a gaspacho, patatas bravas, Paella estilo Valenciano, and a dessert of Crema Catalunya, which resembled a flan pudding. We used chicken as the meat base for the Paella, although the Valencian style usually uses rabbit. I brought a to-go container to the class in case we had too much, but it was so good that we ate it all. We didn’t eat until almost 9:15, which is still early for most Spaniards.
We decided to waddle home to walk off some of the calories, and we were glad that we did. The city does not come to life until late at night, and the plazas, bars and restaurants were brimming with life. We plan to try to take siestas and start to stay out late more often, at least on non-school nights.
Yesterday, I finally succumbed to the cold that all of the students have been spreading around, and I slept all day.
Next week another one of Beth’s friends will visit. Another week after that, my sister will come stay with us. Time is flying by, and we have several weekends to plan ahead, like going to Andorra in October and Prague in November.
Tomorrow is a school day, so I will sign off for now. Keep an eye out for news about some trials going on in Spain regarding Catalan separatist movement. You won’t find in in the US news, but try the Guardian or BBC news.