Thrilling Ride

Here’s a link to a short video with a big surprise. Unfortunately, we don’t see what happened immediately after but it couldn’t have been pretty unless that switch has Harry Potter magic in it. Click on the image below.


Video of Bill Stone, the maverick cave explorer and diver, from TED

Bill Stone, modern adventurer, exibits a rare combination of intelligence, courage, and vision. Below is a video of his presentation at TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design).

Link: TED | TEDBlog: To the depths of the Earth … and beyond! Watch Bill Stone on

Bill Stone, the maverick cave explorer and diver — who has invented robots and rebreathing equipment to let him plumb Earth’s deepest abysses — talks about his efforts to build a robot to explore Jupiter’s moon Europa. …he’s also planning to mine ice, on Earth’s own moon, by 2015. (Recorded March 2007 in Monterey, CA. Duration: 17:55)

Read more about Bill Stone on

Sensing Danger

Fred is one of my favorite bloggers. He lives away from civilization in a beautiful valley in the mountains near Floyd, Va. There are no other houses near his home. He found himself in an tense, potentially lethal situation recently. Here’s one of his observations:

…I ought to remember I am not invincible just because I am on my own property.

I have encountered strangers with guns many times in the woods, and it can be unnerving (even if you haven’t seen Deliverance).

Here’s the link: Big Angels

Long ago, in what seems like a dream, Bob Bushnell, Neil Hauck, Jack Lester and I encountered two deer hunters on a backpacking trip in West Virginia. They were waiting in tree stands in a grove of apple trees deep in the Monongahela National Forest.

They were very angry — they said that we had ruined their hunt and we shouldn’t be there. I apologized that we had walked into their hunting area; I also said that we were in a National Forest and had a right to be there. Then they disappeared down a trail deeper into the forest. Even though it was mid-afternoon, the situation felt very ominous as the daylight was fading due to a snow storm moving in. We decided to not to spend the night in the forest.

We hiked several miles to the parking area and unloaded our backpacks. Big flakes of snow were falling as we prepared for the long drive back to Charlottesville in the dark. As we drove out of the parking area, the deer hunters emerged from the forest.

It was one of the strangest days I ever spent in the woods.

John Muir’s Farseeing Nature

Source: Investor’s Business Daily BY JOANNE VON ALROTH

John Muir didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life. Until he blinded himself.

As a youth, he loved wandering the hills and woods around his native Dunbar, Scotland. He had a passion for doing the same in the Wisconsin countryside where his family settled after emigrating to the U.S.

But exploring wasn’t a job. And despite his intelligence and an inventive streak, he didn’t have a clear career direction.

Then, while working for an Indianapolis carriage maker in 1867, Muir accidentally stabbed himself in the eye with a file. The remaining eye lost its sight too, plunging Muir into total darkness and depression.

Some months later, Muir’s uninjured eye regained its vision. Feeling as if he’d been reborn, he vowed to spend the rest of his life gazing at the natural beauty he’d been denied while recuperating from his injury.

His aim established, Muir (1838-1914) devoted the rest of his life to preserving and conserving that natural beauty on a large scale. His efforts led to the formation of the U.S. National Park System and the U.S. Forestry Service. He also founded the Sierra Club, a grass-roots organization for protecting wilderness and the environment. He headed it until his death.

Stamina Building

Muir spent his childhood preparing to be the inventor, naturalist, explorer and writer he became as an adult, he wrote in his 1913 book, "The Story of My Boyhood and Youth." While sweating in the fields for his father, Muir built the stamina he’d later rely on during his travels. He watched the natural world and mentally filed his observations: The way mice scurried as they stole the grain that fell from his reaper, the tang of the autumn air.

Innately curious, Muir loved to learn. He had little formal schooling after age 11, but that didn’t matter: He lobbied his father to let him get up at 1 a.m. — hours before the rest of his family — so he could read. He also tinkered with his inventions, such as the "early-rising machine" he built that tipped him out of bed.

"I had gained five hours, almost half a day! Five hours to myself!" Muir wrote in one of his notebooks. "I can hardly think of any other event of my life, any discovery I ever made that gave birth to joy so transportingly glorious as the possession of these five frosty hours."

Muir’s first journey after recovering from his injury was a 1,000-mile walk from Kentucky to the Gulf Coast, and he intended to keep walking down to the Amazon.

But after catching malaria while in Florida, he decided to explore by sea and eventually found his way to San Francisco. He asked directions to the most beautiful area: On the advice of a stranger, he walked through waist-high brush and wildflowers in the San Joaquin Valley to Yosemite.

Its magnificent vistas captured his heart immediately. "It seemed to me the Sierra should be called not the Nevada, or Snowy Range, but the Range of Light . . . the most divinely beautiful of all the mountain chains I have ever seen," he wrote.

Muir took jobs in Yosemite as a sheepherder and a sawmill hand to learn as much as he could about the area, biographer Don Weiss noted in a 1997 Ecology Hall of Fame article. Muir spent his days working and studying; at night, he carefully wrote down his observations and thoughts in a series of notebooks.

The Industrial Revolution was chugging ahead full steam: Muir feared that the hunger for more resources would strip the natural world of its wonders like Yosemite. It wasn’t just conservation: Muir believed that humans needed to connect with nature for mental, physical and spiritual health, noted biographer Harold W. Wood, Jr.

"Keep close to nature’s heart . . . and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods," Muir wrote. "Wash your spirit clean . . . Come to the woods, for here is rest."

He scaled numerous peaks, riding an avalanche down a mountain and hunting out the source of waterfalls.

When Muir wanted to draw more attention to the devastation wrought on the Sierra by sheep and cattle, he wrote a series of articles for the then-influential Century magazine called "Studies of the Sierra." He also wrote to public officials, urging them to help.

But the best way to sway others was Muir’s full-immersion treatment. Mother Nature would do most of the talking.

"He told me that when (Ralph Waldo) Emerson came to California, (Muir) tried to get him to come out and camp with him, for that was the only way in which to see at their best the majesty and charm of the Sierras," President Theodore Roosevelt recalled in "Theodore Roosevelt: An Autobiography."

The Great Communicator

Muir didn’t just encourage philosophers and world leaders to come camping. He held camping trips for Sierra Club members to show them what they were working to save.

Once he had someone by the campfire, Muir started talking. He underscored the importance of conservation, relying on solid scientific facts he’d researched but avoiding strident or harsh tones.

"Muir bore himself with dignity in every company. He readily adjusted himself to any environment," Century magazine publisher Robert Underwood Johnson wrote in a 1916 Sierra Club Bulletin.

The approach worked like a charm. After a three-day camping trip, Roosevelt and Muir devised a conservation plan. During his term, Roosevelt established 148 million acres of national forest, five national parks and 23 national monuments, including Yosemite, Sequoia, Grand Canyon and the Petrified Forest.

"John Muir talked even better than he wrote. His greatest influence was always upon those who were brought into personal contact with him," the 26th president wrote in Outlook magazine in 1915.

While thousands lauded his efforts, Muir preferred to downplay his influence. "Muir saw himself as an ordinary citizen of the universe, and in fact wrote his address as ‘John Muir, Earth-Planet, Universe,’ " Wood wrote.

Muir felt the credit belonged elsewhere, said Wood. "To some, beauty seems but an accident of creation: to Muir it was the very smile of God."

Ten Years Ago — Hiking to the Top of Half Dome in Yosemite


On September 21,1995, Ann and I hiked to the top of Half Dome. The hike is not easy: 17 miles round trip with an elevation increase of 4,800 feet from Yosemite’s Valley Floor.

We started early and arrived at the last ascent around noon. The last 500 yards to get to the top of Half Dome consist of a pair of cables about 4 feet apart on a steep, slick rock face. The cables are mounted on parallel pairs of steel poles that are embedded in the rock, about 10 feet apart. Wooden boards on the upper side of the steel poles provide traction on the slope.

As we approached the cable route, Ann started getting cold feet about climbing the slope. I really needed to convince her to go all the way because I planned to propose to her when we got to the top. I pointed out that a couple who looked to be about 70 years old had started up. She reluctantly agreed to continue. We each grabbed a pair of gloves from the pile and started climbing.

When we got to the top we walked over to the view from the steep side. Here’s what we saw.

After we had lunch, I popped the question. Fortunately, she said yes — she was quite surprised.

The hike down was tough. The rocks are slick from the dust and grit — your feet can slip easily, especially when the legs are sluggish.

It was a great way to start autumn, one of those days I’ll never forget. Thanks to Chet and KO for recommending the climb.

Here’s a link with some more pictures of the hike to the top.

Note: None of these pictures are mine. Thanks to the people who posted these pictures on the web.

Great Photos by Brad Washburn

If you like Ansel Adams’ photos, check this out.

View Brad Washburn’s gallery

Source: Brad Washburn Photos | Outside Online.

From the September issue of Outside magazine, an article about the life and photography of climber, explorer, and mapmaker Brad Washburn, courtesy of the Panopticon gallery in Boston, Massachusetts. To get your copies of Washburn’s work, check out Panopticon’s Web site at