Earth Day 2013!!!

April 22, 2013

Today over 1 billion people around the world are celebrating Earth Day.

http://www.earthday.org/

hands-globe2_2pb6


Photo of the day!

September 28, 2012

WOW this would be amazing!

Photo accessed via Beautiful Planet Earth’s facebook page on 9/28/2012.


Pictures from Yosemite

August 23, 2012


Planning & Itinerary for Half Dome

August 19, 2012

About two months before the trip my friend told me he had a few extra permits for the hike, and he put the offer out to other friends as well so he could try to get a small group together.  Two of my friends had four passes so they were trying to find another couple to go.  Luckily for me, there was no other couple that was able to go so I joined them and the three of us spent the weekend together doing this amazing hike.  One of the permits went unused unfortunately, but it was definitely better that we had too many than too few.

Hiking and Camping Permits

There are two types of permits that are needed to hike Half Dome hike and to camp overnight at the campgrounds.  “Day-hike permits” are required to hike Sub Dome and to get to the top of Half Dome.  The permit is required to do the cable hiking, which leads to the very top of Half Dome, and to hike Sub Dome (which in my opinion is more demanding than the cables).  The reason Yosemite requires permits is to control traffic in certain areas.  The approximately 600 foot cable portion is very steep and dangerous so not many people can use it at one time, so this area is crowd controlled.  Everyone can hike about 90% of the trail without a permit but by requiring the permits for this portion they’re able to control traffic to 400 people per day.

The second type of permit is the “Wilderness permit” and it is required to camp anywhere in the park.  In order to camp at Little “Yosemite Valley campground”, which is along the main hiking trail, a reservation is required which is tough to get because there is very limited space for campsites.  With a general wilderness permit, camping is allowed almost anywhere in the park except within certain areas.  In the case of hiking Half Dome, in order to camp freely it has to be done a minimum of more than 2 miles from the campgrounds.  Because we failed to make a reservation at the Little Yosemite Valley campgrounds, which we thought the permits we had covered us for, we had to go out of the area and camp on our own which in my opinion was one of the best things about the whole hike (entire blog post to come about the camping).

My friends had four day-hike permits, but not a wilderness permit.  Their intention was to make reservations at the Little Yosemite Valley campsite but the night before we started the hike, while finishing our packing, we realized we only had day-hike permits but that we’d likely need a wilderness permit to camp overnight.  The next morning, when we set out to do our hike, we went to the park office and they gave us the information on where we could camp.  So long as we were more than 2 miles away from Little Yosemite Valley campsite, we were ok.  On the map, the ranger marked a small creek and told us to make sure to reach the creep.  At that point would know for sure we were in the area where we were supposed to camp.

This sign is just past Little Yosemite Valley campgrounds as a final check to make sure you have the required permits if you’re planning to hike to the top.

Itinerary:

Tuesday— Full day of school in Tampa, including an exam.  Then a late night flight from Tampa to San Francisco, arriving into SF at 11:50pm.  My friends rented a ZipCar and picked me up from the airport.

Wednesday— Spent the morning/afternoon in SF on my own, then when my friends got off work we headed to the mountains.  We left SF about 6pm and arrived at our hotel near Yosemite around 11pm.

Thursday— Woke up early, went for a swim in the hot tub, checked out of hotel around 11am.  It took a few hours to get situated, park our car, and start hiking.  We began hiking at around 3pm which gave us about 4-5 hours of hiking before the sun went down.  We camped overnight on the side of the mountain by our selves at a spot we found about 10 minutes before the sun set.

Friday— HALF DOME!  We woke up at our camp site around 7am and set out on our full day of hiking.  We had to make it to the top of half dome and all the way back to the bottom by time the sun went down so we had about 12 hours to do it all.  After the hike, we checked into our hotel inside the park.  We were exhausted so we had a quick pizza dinner at the nearby restaurant and called it an early night.

Saturday— Woke up, checked out of hotel room and had lunch in the park.  We had lunch at the Ahwahnee Hotel which is the nicest hotel in the park.  We couldn’t afford to pay the $500+ per night it costs to stay there but having lunch there was a good way to go see what we missed.  After lunch we drove to another vantage point that overlooks the valley that we hiked in, and then we had to hit the road back to San Francisco because the car rental was due by 6pm.

Sunday— Spent the morning/afternoon in the city and at Dolores Park.  Evening/overnight flight back to Tampa leaving SF at about 8:30pm.  Due to missing my connecting flight in Phoenix, I arrived back in Tampa around noontime on Monday afternoon.

Links:

Half Dome Permits for Day Hiking

http://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/hdpermits.htm

Wilderness Permit Information

http://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/wildpermits.htm

Camping Information at Little Yosemite Valley

http://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/lyv.htm

Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite Park

http://www.yosemitepark.com/the-ahwahnee.aspx


Hiking Half Dome in June 2012

August 18, 2012

In June I had the opportunity to travel to San Francisco for the weekend and do a short side trip to Yosemite to hike Half Dome.  Prior to the trip I had very little knowledge what Half Dome was and I had no idea what the cables were leading up to the top of Half Dome.  This hike was one of the craziest things I’ve done so far in my life and it was one of the funnest weekend trips I’ve done in a while.

Over the next week I’m going to write different posts about the trip so for this post I’m going to write an introduction about what Half Dome is and where it is.

The day after finishing the hike we drove 25 miles to another vantage point to get this view pictured above.  Half Dome is the rock on the left of the image and the waterfall on the right is the area where we hiked.  The valley below is the floor of Yosemite where most tourists visit.  The surrounding area for miles and miles each way is Yosemite National Park.

Yosemite National Park is located in Northern California about 3 hours East of San Francisco.  Half Dome is located in the main tourist area and is one of the main attractions that many tourists go to see.

Backside of Half Dome

The cables.  The last 1,000 feet to get to the top of Half Dome consist of climbing up this steep piece of granite holding on to the cables and slowly moving from plank to plank.

The top of Half Dome. Worth every ounce of effort to get here.


Budget Travel: Beautiful Sacred Places

June 16, 2012

This piece by Budget Travel highlights 10 natural sites around the World and gives some insight into the history of each place.  There are different components to the overall piece including a slideshow of one or two pictures of each site and an in-depth article describing each site and giving information on the best way to get there.  Be sure to check out the two links below to get the full scope.

When we modern folks visit a beautiful natural site, the experience may evoke a sense of peace, a feeling of awe…or just the need to snap a million photos. For our ancient forbearers, though, these places were so much more. Throughout history, civilizations all over the globe have attached spiritual or religious importance to natural spots that played key roles in their respective cultures. From the mythological homes of powerhouse gods like Zeus and Shiva to the serene spot where the mortal Buddha achieved enlightenment, these are the places of legends. Some are still used for age-old rituals, others have been lost to time, but all crackle with a special energy and, if you’re lucky, just a little bit of leftover magic…

 

Article: http://www.budgettravel.com/feature/sacred-places-vacation-ideas,8497/

Slideshow: http://www.budgettravel.com/slideshow/photos-worlds-most-sacred-places,8479/

 


Stray dogs in Greece

May 31, 2010

I was quite surprised in Greece at the welfare of the what-appeared-to-be stray dogs.  I say it that way because I assume they are stray dogs because of the way they lounge around out in public, however, they didn’t seem like stray dogs because never once did I see a dog beg for food and they seemed to be well kept.  In fact, at one point in the trip someone in our group offered a dog a piece of food because it was at our feet wanting attention and when she gave the dog the food he sniffed it, was displeased, and went on his way.  He almost seemed offended and pissed that she offered him the food and scurried away with what appeared to be an attitude.  I can’t remember exactly what she offered the dog but I would’ve guessed that any dog here in the States would have gladly chomped it down.

Stray dogs have always been a part of the
landscape in Greece, and specifically in
Athens.  Tom Mazarakis explains on his
website..

I have been living in Greece for the last 33
years and am well acquainted with the
recently history of the dog situation in Athens
and the rest of Greece.

As in most civilized countries, in Greece too, every municipality had a “dog pound” and a “dog catcher”.  And, as in most cities throughout the world, many domesticated dogs in Greece would one way or another gain their “freedom” from their owners.  Either they would run away on their own, or they would be “let go” by irresponsible owners.  Whatever the case may have been, these stray dogs often would breed and have puppies and multiply accordingly.  The dog catchers in Greece used to step in and round up as many strays as they could.  The strays were held in the local municipal dog pounds for a period of  no more than 90 days, and if no one claimed the dogs, they were typically then put to sleep.

This system kept the stray dog population down to a manageable level up until about 10 years ago.  At about that time, a local animal rights activist group found out about a particular dog pound that kept their dogs in miserable and inhumane conditions.  They visited the pound and filmed the scene.  Then they took their evidence and presented it to the local District Attorney who in turn issued a warrant for the responsible mayor’s arrest.  That mayor was charged with the crime of “maltreatment of animals” which is a very serious offense in Greek law.  He was convicted and sentenced to several months in prison along with a stiff monetary fine.  As a result, almost every municipality in Greece dissolved their dog pounds and fired their dog catchers.

As you can understand, this paved the way for the stray dogs to multiply without restriction, and today they have become a serious problem.  Many people, and especially children, have been attacked and mauled by gangs of wild dogs.  But, no one takes responsibility.  The local Humane Society has been making every effort it can to feed and take care of as many stray dogs as they can handle, but their numbers keep growing.  They try to neuter as many of the dogs as they can, but they just can’t seem to put even a small dent into the problem.”

www.greecetravel.com/mazarakis

With the Olympics being held in Athens in August 2004, the government felt they needed to do something so that they could have a clean image.  The dogs are not a problem because they will chase or bite you (they don’t), but rather it is simply an image problem.  In August 2003, over 3,000 stray dogs were killed in the streets and there’s speculation that the government was behind this.  Poisoning of stray dogs has happened before, but never this many in such a small amount of time.  Because the media picked up on this happening, in October of 2003, Athens announced that they would collect, sterilize, and then release more than 10,000 dogs before the Games.

GREECE: October 6, 2003 ATHENS – Athens, host of the 2004 Olympics, launched a plan last week to sterilize more than 10,000 stray dogs ahead of the Games in measures condemned by animal rights groups as ill thought-out and insufficient. The city said the 1.8 million euro project, to be officially unveiled on the weekend, will halt the growth of a huge population of stray dogs roaming the streets of the capital before the start of the Olympics. “The sight of thousands of stray animals living without care in the city streets constitutes an insult to us as civilized people,” Athens Mayor Dora Bakoyanni, who plans to give 20 strays up for adoption on the weekend, said in a statement. The project, co-funded by the city and the government, aims to collect, sterilize and tag the dogs, before releasing them again. Two mobile vet units will monitor their health. But animal rights groups say the plan does not cover the needs of strays. “This cannot be just a one-day event with some promises and cute puppies as gifts,” Marianna Polichroniadou, head of a newly-founded animal rights group said this week. “It has to be followed up with actions that safeguard the dog’s survival long-term and this plan doesn’t cut it.”
REUTERS NEWS SERVICE

Another reason I wasn’t quite sure if the dogs were strays was because they all had collars on.  I figured someone must have been caring for the dogs, but there was a dog or two here and there and they were all well fed and had on collars so why would so many people allow their dogs to roam freely?  It turns out that as part of the measure to catch, fix, and release the dogs, the authorities put blue and red (blue for male, red for female) collars on the dogs so that they could distinguish between which ones had gone through the process and which ones hadn’t.

Aside from the dogs not being pests whatsoever, most of them seemed very clever as well.  I think that by being fixed, they were less hormone driven and most of them seemed friendly and playful.  From one website where I found some information the writer’s mom had this to say, and I can validate it by having witnessed this myself on several occasions:

The downtown dogs are pretty well behaved. Many are streetwise, literally. My mother was curious as to how they could cross some of the big Athens avenues so she watched them. She discovered that the dogs would go to the pedestrian crossings and stand there. No they did not know that the little green man meant it was OK for them to cross. They would wait until some humans came and then cross with them.

http://www.athensguide.com/straydogs/

Links:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/idealistdreamer/sets/72157600946320721/

http://www.athensguide.com/straydogs/

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/my-puppy-my-self/201005/political-animals-why-some-stray-dogs-have-joined-the-greek-riots

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/nationworld/2002024831_dogs03.html