Saturday, March 31, 2012

On the Hiking Trails at Mt Magazine in Early Spring

What did we do at Mt Magazine? We hiked on the Bear Hollow in the morning of the second day there and then hiked more in the afternoon on north rim trail - total of 10 miles in one day. Even though the scenery was mostly wintry, we saw signs of spring here and there on the trails - blooming flowers, budding leaves and butterflies, we heard bird chirping, and we heard the running creeks .....but we would not see the mountain's natural beauty at its best, we would also miss its another attraction - the black bears

It is claimed that there are 80 species of wild flowers at Mt magazine. The wild flowers I saw were sporadically dotted along the trail. The only large blooming tree flowers are white, they formed patches of bright white color on a otherwise grey forest. As we passed by the blooming trees, white flower petals were flying in the air. Among 20 to 30 such trees we encountered on the trails, there were two exceptions: on one such tree, there was only a single flower on it;  green leafs had already replaced white flowers on another tree.

The other bright colors came from butterflies.  Mostly I saw single butterflies hurrying around, some white, some black on the bear hollow trail. After taking a picture of a creek off trail, I stumbled upon this cotton tail resting on fallen leafs. We saw several pairs of butterflies near Dill Point on the north rim trail in the afternoon. One pair is white with large green and brown strips; another pair might be monarch - with dark color mixed with yellow. A few butterflies flew very close to me, and I could see under the sunshine - some seemingly white butterflies actually had single pink strip on their wings


On the hiking trails, we could hear bird chirping most of the time, but we could barely see one. I believe that there were 4 or 5 different birds active on that late morning (~ 10am) based on the different bird sounds I heard. On the return trip on the bear hollow trail, I was ahead of the rest of the family, and finally got a chance to catch a few white breasted nuthatches playing around a tree by the trail. (I had to go to the visitor center to check a bird identification binder to find the bird's name). I even caught one on the fly!!

                                             A Nuthatch playing on a tree by Bear Hollow trail

                                                        Nuthatch Flapping its wings

The sound of running creeks is very soothing.There are 7 named creeks crossing the two trails we hiked on. Usually we could hear a running creek about a quarter mile away from it. From the clear sound of the first running creek we heard, I assumed that the creek was "large", in fact it was not. The creeks are about 3 to 4 feet wide, with various degrees of water volume. Why can the sound of a running creek be heard quarter miles away? The water flows on rock stairs as shown in the following picture.

A Tree man and etc

The loop of the north rim trail is 4.4 miles long. As we were to loop back via mooseback ridge trail to north rim trail head at visitor center where we parked our car, Nicholas complained that he was bored and tired, so he and his mom went straight to the lodge, Justin and I continued hiking on mooseback ridge trail.

 On the trail we saw this strange tree that its trunk splits at the ground level and merges into one at about 10feet high. We also saw that a trail sign was held by tree bark. So I told Nicholas that he missed seeing a tree man who ate a trail sign when we got back to the lodge.

As we were hiking on the trail, the cloud broke, sun shone through, and we saw this narrow green path right in front of us, quite similar like the green pathway in fidelity's commercial.

Bald Eagle Sighting at Cove Lake

On the way home, we stopped at cove lake, which is essentially at foot of Mt Magazine. It is a pretty large lake, and a good place to kayaking or fishing. It is a self serve recreation area, no boat rental. So we walked along the shoreline a bit, just then I heard this loud ugly crow sound, and I went to check, and I saw a big bald eagle on a tree by the beach area. The eagle was sitting on its spot, ignoring the crow. The crow flew away after a couple tries. As I was trying to get closer to the eagle, it flew away.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Mt Magazine

We went to Arkansas, the Nature state, for spring break,  third year in a row. This year we went to Mountain Magazine, the highest mountain in Arkansas.In March, under cloudy sky, we did not catch the Mountain's supposedly stunning beauty. But I did find the Mountain to be charming.
Driving from North to Mt Magazine, about 16 miles away, we saw this huge trapezoidal shaped wall like mountain , just as shown in this model in the Mt Magazine Park's exhibition hall,  towering surrounding area.

The mountain top was so flat, we did not have the feel of on top of the world when we hiked to the summit of Mt Magazine, the Signal Hill, where there was a stone map of the state of Arkansas. 

We stayed at Mt. Magazine lodge, which is located at a bluff of the mountain, with the full view of  Petite Jean Valley which is situated south to the mountain. The sky was mostly cloudy with occasional sunshine during the day when we were there, which made it possible for us to see the changing faces of Mt Magazine and Petite Jean Valley.

                                              Ray of Suns over the Petite Jean River Valley

                                                           Morning hues at Mt Magazine

                                                  Another morning scene at Mt Magazine

                                           Overlooking Petite Jean Valley

Note: Spring Break is not the best time to visit Arkansas to enjoy its natural beauty. We will visit the Nature state more in future, but in summer or fall.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Spring Flowers Around the Blocks

Spring comes to North Texas early this year.

Unlike wide spread of colors from foliage, the color of the blooming spring is dotted from place to place,   flowers on big trees and small, and on bushes and plants. The prevailing colors around our neighborhood are white flowers on pear trees, purple red flowers on peach trees, and yellow flowers on fences. But the cloudy grey sky prevented me from capturing the vivid colors of spring around the blocks on camera.

Finally the cloud broke apart last Sunday afternoon. After our late Sunday lunch, Lily and I went out for a walk around the neighborhood  to enjoy the beautiful spring and to exercise. Walking around our community for about two miles, I would say the scenes were mostly ordinary, brownish hibernated grass in the yards, leafless trees along the streets. When we turned a corner, the bright purple red peach flowers caught our attentions; then we noticed blue flowers on a few trees across the street .....the string of widely spaced bright spring flowers along the otherwise ordinary looking streets made our walk-around pleasant.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Sowing a seed

By Lily

Spring came early this year. My friends had already started their vegetable gardens. I got caught in the frenzy, ordered several packs of seeds with the group at the beginning of the year, and my friend Jana showed me how to start the seeding using a peat pellet. I soaked the peat pellets in water and watched them growing tall within minutes! Then I carefully buried a few seeds in each pellet, some “red meat” (a type of turnip), some pepper, and some flowering kale. I covered them with plastic container and put these little “green houses” by my window sill.

“Wait a couple of weeks, they’ll come out,” promised Jana. A couple of weeks went by, and nothing happened to the seeds I sown, but Jana’s seeds were sprouting already. Maybe my window side was too cold. I moved my green houses to the window that has plenty of sunshine during the day. Another week passed, still nothing came out. Not being able to see what’s going on “underground” made me anxious. I couldn’t help but digging out the seeds to check. Some of the seeds were swelling, starting to burst out of the skin. Feeling reassured, I put the seeds back and continued waiting. Finally my “red meat” broke ground! Once the sprout came out it seemed to grow taller every day. A few days later the pepper shot out a thin curly stem.  But the flowering kale remained dormant. This seed required pre-chill before sowing. Instead of putting the seeds in the fridge I left them in the freezer for a couple of days. Could it be too cold for the seeds? All sorts of self doubts started to cloud my mind. But I curbed the urge to dig out the seeds again.

Patience, I told myself. Staring at the green houses on my window sill, I can’t help feeling a familiar emotion wash over me. The waiting, the longing, the anxiety of not knowing the progress, the self doubt, don’t we experience all of these when raising our children? As parents, we all hope our children grow up to be kind, caring, honest, respectful, and responsible citizens. We sow the seeds of love, respect, and responsibility through our words and actions. We hope those seeds will take roots in their heart and will eventually grow and flourish. It takes a long time to see the results, during which we will have plenty of self doubts but we try to detect the promising signs and we patiently trudge on.

Give it more time, my flowering kale will break the ground soon.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

AJAS2012 - Touring Chemistry Labs at UBC, Vancouver

by Justin 

As winners of 2011 Texas Junior Academy of Science Competitions, I and five other fellow students from my school district went to Vancouver to present our research projects at the American Junior Academy of Science (AJAS) symposium, held from February 15th to the 19th.

The AJAS symposium runs in tandem with the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) conference, which real scientists attend. Thus many events were coordinated between the two groups in order for us, as student delegates, to mingle with the scientists and experience the real world of science. 

Following the usual first day pleasantries of registration, we awoke the second day to a cloudy and slightly drizzling day. Not exactly the weather you expect out of Vancouver, but then again it was the middle of winter. We boarded the buses from our hotel to the University of British Colombia, one of the largest and most prestigious schools in Canada. Following breakfast, we divided into tour groups, with my group going to the UBC Chemistry Department.

The tour began with presentations by several graduate students working in various labs in the department.  Despite typically being drowsy in the mornings, I found myself intently listening to what they had to say, marveling at the different applications of chemistry. The broad applications of chemistry astounded me, from working with organic solar cells to managing the shelf life of blood donations. I always knew that chemistry could be applied into a very wide range of fields, but I never imagined it to this extent!

Following the graduate student presentations, we toured some of the labs in the chemistry department. The types of labs in the departments ranged in a great number of specific fields, from observing and synthesizing crystal lattice structures to biochemistry and NMR spectroscopy. The most interesting part of the tour was visiting the resident glass blower of the department. He showed us the various tools he used to repair broken lab equipment and to make brand new equipment, and let us blow glass bubbles! He melted the tip of a glass tube, and one by one we blew through the tube to form a bubble at the molten end of the tube, expanding and expanding until it popped!

After the tours, we were given the treat of liquid nitrogen ice cream! The “cream” was mixed together, and then liquid nitrogen was poured into the mix! The liquid nitrogen was so cold that it instantly froze the "cream" into ice cream. We were also given color changing pencils that change color with the addition or loss of heat.

A day of touring the labs of UBC was really fun, and broaden perspective of the sciences. The real reason we're here starts tomorrow with the symposium.