iNaturalist

This isn’t the first time we’ve discussed making observations and participating in citizen scientist projects. Check out our first phenology post! And if you know a little bug lover, then this post is for you. And definitely this one.

Are you using iNaturalist yet? We’ve mentioned the app a few times in other posts, but thought that a formal introduction was in order.

iNaturalist provides both app and website forums for sharing your wildlife observations. These observations can be seen by other wildlife enthusiasts, naturalists, and scientists. Basically, it’s creating an amazing forum for collecting data about wildlife across the world, and the best part is that you don’t have to be an expert to contribute data. This is citizen science at its finest!

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Having many observations across a wide geographic area and over a number of years help scientists track data about the location, movement, and timing of biological activity. For example: is the range of a species changing? are they migrating earlier or later in the season? is the timing of plant budding out/flowering/fruiting changing? Simple observations across a large group of people help to collect the data that will answer these questions.

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Backpacking on the Ozette Loop

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Hey there! In July, I hiked the Ozette Loop in Olympic National Park in Washington. Although I completed the loop as an overnight backpacking trip, the Ozette Loop would also make a nice day hike.  The nine-ish mile loop starts in a coastal forest environment, forks right and winds its way across boardwalks until it dips slightly to the coast. Walking along the beach is the more challenging section, but only because you’re trudging through sand. Eventually, you reach Sand Point, a gorgeous outcropping with a large rock that you can climb atop of. It’s the perfect spot to watch the sunset and the ease of the return trip makes it possible to hike back during twilight and even as darkness falls if you’re not keen on camping. Over the course of the loop, the elevation change is less than 500 feet and beside the beach, most of the trail is on a wooden boardwalk. It’s nearly impossible to get lost and while you should always take a map, you shouldn’t need to consult it even once.

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I found the Ozette Loop to be equal parts easy and exciting. As I mentioned, there’s not much elevation change and much of the trail takes place on a wooden boardwalk through coastal forests. While hiking on a boardwalk can be a bit boring, it gives your brain a chance to focus on your surroundings instead of your next steps. Walking amongst giant hemlock and cedar trees and seeing beautiful ferns and moss dripping with moisture had me thinking about ancient reptiles, sea creatures, and dinosaurs (turns out the first dino bone discovered in Washington happened just a couple years ago).

After about three miles, you’ll shuffle down a short and steep section (there’s a rope to aid in your decent) that spits you out on the sand. At this point, my hiking partner and I took off our shoes and shirts, found an enormous downed tree and had a quick snack and snooze. Then it was time to march on along the beach. Looking out towards the sea stacks we thought about the expanse of the Pacific. Was the trash on the beach from Japan? Some of it seemed so.

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I opted to hike the two beautiful miles along the beach in Chacos. I tried bare feet for a few moments, but the sand was a bit too coarse for comfort. There was also a fair amount of sharp debris, kelp piles, driftwood and rocks covered in barnacles underfoot. Depending on the changing tide, there will be a few impassable headlands. You’ll have to scramble up over a big boulder or two (apparently there are ropes to assist, but we didn’t see or use them) or hike into the woods to navigate around them. These areas are evident and I found them to be easy enough to manage with an overnight pack. I thought that navigating around the series of downed trees was more exhausting, mostly because I’m short and those tree trunks are huuuge.

As you make your way around the headlands, be on the lookout for the Wedding Rocks petroglyphs. I’m sure I would have missed them if my friend hadn’t pointed them out to me. They are so amazing we thought that they might be fake, but a quick google search proved us wrong. I had seen petroglyphs in Mesa Verde, Colorado, but these were radically different not only in style (obviously) but also in size and definition. Thinking back, I wish I would have prepared myself for that moment because I would have stayed and enjoyed them longer instead of thinking I was being duped. I had expected to see small paintings, not large rock carvings. The petroglyphs were carved by the ancestors of the Makah tribe using tools made of rock and bone.

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Soon enough you’ll reach Sand Point and a whole host of campsites. We wandered around for a good bit trying to find a site that was semi-secluded, which proved to be tough since we rolled in late on a Friday evening. Although we could see other tents from our site, once the sun went down I truly forgot that anyone else was around. There was also the option to camp on the beach, but we liked the sheltered feel of the forest. If you do camp on the beach, know where the high tide line falls or you’ll wake up soaking wet. The next morning, bask in the sun and eat your breakfast on the beach before hiking the 4ish miles back to the trailhead.

Know before you go :

  • As always, Leave No Trace.
  • No pets, use of weapons, or wheeled devices on the trail.
  • Reservations and permits are required for overnight camping between May 1 and September 30 & must be made no more than 48 hours in advance. (The website said 72, but we were told 48 at the station. It may depend on the month)
  • Campfires are prohibited between the headland north of Yellow Banks and the headland at Wedding Rocks including Sand Point.
  • Only use driftwood for fires. Don’t gather firewood from the forested areas. Use existing fire rings or build fires on the beach to prevent damage to tree roots.
  • All food, garbage, and scented items must be stored in a park-approved bear canister. Bear canisters are available to rent when you pick up your permit.
  • Max group size of 12 people.

Water & waste :

  • There is a creek at Sand Point and Cape Alava, but beware that Cryptosporidium and Giardia are present in coastal streams and rivers. Bring a purification system or boil your water. Iodine is ineffective against cryptosporidium. I didn’t know that until this trip. I’ve been using iodine all my life. I ended up purchasing these chlorine dioxide tablets, which treat both Giardia and Cryptosporidium.
  • Pit toilets are available at Sand Point and Cape Alava. Elsewhere you must bury your waste and paper six or more inches deep and seventy steps from water sources and your campsite. LADIES! Always take your used toilet paper with you after you pee. It’s offensive to see it on the ground. I carry a plastic ziplock that I put all used toilet paper in. It’s that easy.

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What to pack for a day trip :

If I’m day hiking, sometimes I like to be extravagant. Wine with dinner while watching a sunset, anyone?

  • Apply sunscreen + bug spray before you leave
  • Water
  • Purifying tablets
  • Map
  • Compass
  • Knife
  • Snacks
  • Lunch or Dinner
  • Wine?
  • Sunglasses
  • Pullover
  • Rain jacket
  • Chacos
  • Camera
  • Hammock + straps
  • Headlamp

What to pack for an overnight trip :

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The food we packed :

We started later in the day after we ate lunch so we packed snacks, dinner, and breakfast for our overnighter. And wine. And weed. Relax, it’s legal in Washington.

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The Farm

The images in this post were taken by Katie and the words written by Sarah.

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About five years ago, I babysat for a family of five in central Pennsylvania. They were residents of NYC, but every year during July and August they would drive to PA to visit the grandparents’ farm. I spent the long summer days helping the kids pick tomatoes, harvest peas, and feed the animals.  When it rained we pulled out piles of craft supplies and got to work. When we were restless we climbed ropes and trees and explored the fields seeking out wild flowers. Without fail, at the end of each evening, the kids needed a bath and good night’s sleep.

It wasn’t until I saw these simple summer farm scenes laid out before me that I realized I had it pretty good growing up. A whole host of opportunities granted simply because of geography. Summer days exploring the garden and forests in bare feet. Nurturing not only chickens but a hearty compost pile. Chasing dogs, neighbors, and fireflies before gathering around a campfire only to look up and gaze at the Milky Way. Now as adults, blazing and hiking trails, foraging for mushrooms and taking home poison ivy too. Gathering in the green fields to celebrate the land with the little ones who will visit year after year, taking home memories and lessons from a summer on the farm.

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Camping in Wharton State Forest, New Jersey

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Happy August! July has come and gone. I feel like I’ve had enough adventures this past month that I’ll be busy talking about them all August. I’ll start today with my birthday camping trip in Wharton State Forest, New Jersey. Originally I had planned on conquering this epic hike, The Great Range Trail, but I got some pretty gnarly blisters during a recent backpacking trip in Washington, so hiking was out. Then I wanted to go to Cherry Springs State Park, but the weather looked iffy and it was a bit far north. I called Saleem, my travel partner, and we together we decided on Wharton. This is the first time I’ve camped in Wharton State Forest and if given the opportunity, I would certainly do it again.

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Welcome July

Near the beginning of each month we like to pause and take a look at what’s going on in the world around us, with a particular focus on animal activity, farmers’ fields, and environmental holidays. *You can find our archive of previous welcomes here (a few months are missing from the archive, we’re bowing our heads in shame).*

Sarah wasn’t lying when she mentioned that July’s her favorite month. And mine too, for all of the same reasons!

In my mind, July is everything summer. It’s cannon balls in swimming pools, muggy nights filled with the sounds of cicadas and the glow of lightning bugs. It’s tomato and mayo sandwiches for lunch, followed by California burgers and corn on the cob (fresh from the garden!) for dinner.

Those are the memories seared into my brain, and I’m hoping to create some of the same for the boys. And on that front I think we’re off to a great start. Right now the boys are coated in sand, sunscreen, and lake water. If that’s not July, then I don’t know what is.

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Sarah’s Favorite Wilderness Reads

It seems like Kate and her crew have been camping all year long. While I’m sure there’s not much time in her van to open up a good book, that’s all I do when I camp with Ca$h. Here are a few of my favorite woodsy wilderness reads for all your camping outtings this summer. I linked to the paperback versions, so pull out your headlamp and start flippin’ pages.

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Mycophilia: Revalations from the Weird World of Mushrooms – This is the type of book where you read a few pages and then run into the next room to tell someone else all the cool things you just learned. Mycophilia is a beautifull written first person narrative of the fungi world. Author Eugenia Bone meets masters of the mushroom sphere as she discovers and researches all type of uses from scientific to culinary. If you have any interest in mushrooms, I highly recommend this informative read.

John Muir – any of his essays or journals – I actually recommend Muir’s writings as a way to fall asleep and here I’m recommending it as inspiration for your own nature journals and writings. Reading about Muir’s adventures will have you sitting in your cozy camp chair in admiration as he details his romps in the wilderness with nothing more than a heel of bread and an army blanket.

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail – Made famous because of the movie, Wild, is a first person account of hiking the Pacific Crest Trail completely unprepared. These types of accounts encourage me to just do it. Stop the research and prep, go for it and see what happens. I enjoyed both the movie and the book – in that order too.

A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail – Bill Bryson’s account of the Appaliachian trail blends his witty walk in the woods with the history of the wilderness and suggestions for how we can conserve our wild lands. As someone who is itching to walk the AT, I love reading about others’ experiences with the trail.

Into the Wild – You probably know the story, but have you read the book? Into the Wild is one of those stories that has always stayed with me because I see so many similarities between myself and the main character, Chris McCandless. I also noticed the public’s split opinion, some feeling bad for Chris, while other’s did not and were almost angry with him because he was in the wilderness messing around. I find it interesting that any of us, even the most prepared, think that we’re capable of mastering mother nature. He did the best he could. RIP Chris.

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values – This book. I need to come clean here.. by the time I finished this book, I absolutely hated it. I was treking at high altitude and ripping out pages and burning them when I was finished. I was so over it. Cut to today and I’ve realized many, many times that Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance has had an enormous impact on how I view quality (a term that pops up at least 3,000 times in this book) and work. Believe it or not, I just ordered it again so I can read it with appreciation this time.

That’s that! My very favorite books to read outdoors. A perfect mix of inspiration and admiration lie within these pages. Don’t have any camping plans coming up? No problem, I’m in the habbit of turning off all my lights, opening the windows (to let the sounds of insects in) and reading by headlamp. At my little hut here in Chapel Hill, I feel like I’m in a tent in the middle of the woods 🙂

 

 

 

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Two Bits

We want to break down these internet barriers and invite you into our lives and we’re hoping you’ll do the same.  You are welcome to share a bit of your week or day in the comments, or if they’re better represented by a photo, tag us on instagram @liveseasoned.

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Sarah Here :

Happy Friyay! I’ve been having a week. It started off inspiring and productive as I worked through the whole weekend. I researched and formulated some plans for my Tulum retreat, I meditated more than usual and I bought myself a new camera, which means I have to update this post. Then Monday came around and I heard news that Otto Warmbier had died. This event led me on a dark spiral that continued through the week and culminated in me watching dozens of videos of black men being shot and killed by police. I don’t necessarily think my behavior is healthy, but I do think exposure to evil is a helpful way for me personally to cultivate even more empathy, compassion and love.

I’m hoping that I’ll find a way to make a meaningful difference, but for now I’ll just talk about my experience and feelings about Otto’s death. I wrote this immediately after I heard the news, before I had my morning coffee, while completely wrapped up in emotion, and now I’m hearing my college professor telling me to ‘take a seat,’ after having just explained so much about my writing before presenting it. Sorry Professor Trayes!

Walking up the stairs to my tiny bungalow yesterday, I thought back to a week previous when I had caught my roommate’s cat stealing a baby bird from a nest. I was mortified, I happened to look out the window at the moment when her mouth closed around the small bird. So upset with the cat, I stomped outside with rubber gloves on, picked up the tiny, mostly unharmed, chirping bird and returned it to its nest. I felt immense sadness for this single baby bird. ‘How could the cat do that,’ I thought, even though I’ve seen dead bird carcasses lying around for the past year and I’m well aware of instinctual nature.

Cut to ten minutes later, I wander into my room for something and again, looking out the same window, I see the cat steal the same baby bird. This time death was imminent. My heart felt tiny and hard. WTF. What the fuck. My friend helped rationalize it, commenting on the natural cycle of life, the food chain, the minute importance of a single bird when there are surely humans dying at the same moment… Yeah, I understand all that and yet something about this moment, about seeing the cat steal the bird, saving the bird and then seeing it being stolen again, I just couldn’t handle it. Wasn’t it enough that I wanted the bird to live?

It took me a couple of days to realize that really what I wanted wasn’t so much for the bird to live, but for me to not see the bird die. This cat has been murdering songbirds and small mammals its whole life and I knew that, never once did I feel such crushing sadness, it was only because I saw the suffering. I saw the momma and poppa bird circling overhead, chirping, terrified and angry that they worked so hard only for their baby bird’s progress to be stopped in an instant. I saw them return to the nest excited and squawking when the baby was replaced, I heard the shrieks when the cat came back.. I was a witness.

So often I try to act as a witness. Observing the present moment, aware yet detached and allowing each tiny event to flow by.. but the baby bird stuck. I was no longer in the present, it made an impact. I know this because I could not stop thinking about it and yet I knew it was uncommon for me to be that upset by the death of a single bird.

So back to yesterday, I’m walking up the steps, past the exact spot where I tried to save the baby bird a week previous and in an instant I thought, ‘okay, I’m finally over the bird incident, I set my emotions aside, I understand why I was upset and I’ve come to terms with witnessing suffering and the fragility of life,’ and it was as that thought was finishing that I see a fresh songbird carcass laying on the top step.  I let out a loud laugh from the bottom of my belly; the timing was amazing. At the instant I declared I was, over it I was challenged to face it again. Reality is truly absurd. Believe it or not, I felt better and I laughed a few more times that day about the second dead bird. It’s as if my self declaration of passing the test was enough for the universe to hand me another challenge, to ask, ‘are you sure you’re okay with it?’ And the answer was yes.

Then something else happened.. Otto Warmbier, the young American who allegedly tried to steal the propaganda poster from North Korea died. He’s dead. An American kid who might have tried to steal a poster is dead. Is it idiotic to steal something from North Korea?  Especially something with the dictator’s face on it? Yeah, duh, of course. Did an immature 21-year-old brain think for a second that it wouldn’t be such a big deal? Yeah, I’m sure. Was it? The biggest.

Even though we don’t exactly know what happened, I suppose the fact that an American abroad could be arrested, detained and returned home on the verge of death, is what’s absolutely terrifying to me. I understand what a privileged position I hold. There are citizens in our home country who worry about being potentially killed during routine stops and arrests on American soil. I get that and I don’t mean to minimize it.

Maybe Otto’s death scared me so much because I travel a lot. I think about being locked up abroad and I think about my poor parents. I think about the work they put in and how I could serve them a lifetime of grief with one stupid move, but I always imagined bribery, bankruptcy and jail time, not labor camps, comas and death. If nothing else, I expected accountability from one government to another. I expected my super power of a country to come to my rescue to at least ensure I wasn’t withering away in whatever imaginary jail I found myself in if the punishment didn’t fit the crime.

As an American abroad, I actually pretend to be Canadian. Seriously. I never offer up where I’m from and I’m the first person to criticize our country in a world that is U.S.A.-crazed. I always try to emphasize that America is not what everyone sees in the movies. I don’t live in Hollywood and not everyone is rich and beautiful, has a good education or even a full belly of food where I live. It’s a hard concept for some people to grasp.

As an American girl abroad, I’ve had at least a dozen serious marriage proposals and hundreds if not thousands of conversations about our politics and presidents. Traveling during Bush, Obama and now Trump, has opened me up to a range of discussions and reactions from folks on five other continents. After rolling my eyes and shaking my head and basically crushing the idea of the American dream to whomever I’m talking to, my cynical side starts to melt away, I back pedal and I admit that America is alright. I remark on our freedom speech, fair elections and general permission to do whatever the fuck we want, including buy assault rifles.. hopefully my foreign counterparts detect my sarcasm on the last bit, but even if they don’t, America doesn’t sound too bad. Apparently most people think it sounds pretty great (No need to make it great again, we’re already there!) and at the end of each of my trips, when I finally land back on American soil, I too agree. It’s good to be home. It’s nice to know I have this amazing country to be apart of, a place where I’m mostly free to be me without persecution.

I suppose I always assumed that being an American abroad insulated me as well. That I would always be saved by my country. I think Otto’s death rocked me because it flipped the script of what I knew to be true. If you’re an American, America has your back. Everything will be fine. The world is watching, but just like the baby bird, it doesn’t matter who is watching.

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Tree Meditation

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Happy Mindful Monday 🙂 Any excuse to use alliteration? I’m there! I thought it would be cool to start things off on a positive note, something to bring awareness to your day and potentially the rest of the week. Mindfulness is simply awareness. I like to think of it as noticing the sensations in your mind, heart and body in the present moment. It’s basically watching without judgment. It’s tough. How well you watch yourself and your actions gives you control over them or at least a starting point in understanding them more fully.

Mindfulness can be practiced and honed in a many ways, but today I’ll share a single exercise for you to work with all week. Notice the trees. It sounds simple and it is, but how often do you do it? Do you have a favorite tree in your town? No?! Why not? I’m sure there is one that is more attractive to you than the rest, this week you should find it. I have favorite trees all over the place and I can’t tell you how many people have laughed at me when I pointed them out, but it’s true. Notice the trees and you’ll realize you too have favorites. If you live above the treeline or in an area without trees, you may notice any greenery: grasses, bushes, cacti, etc.

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Welcome May {2017}

Near the beginning of each month we like to pause and take a look at what’s going on in the world around us, with a particular focus on animal activity, farmers’ fields, and environmental holidays. *Somehow we took a year-long hiatus from posting our monthly welcomes. Anyway, we’re hopping back on the train, and you can find our archive of previous welcomes here.*

This is our third spring living in Colorado, and I think I’ve finally adjusted to the weather patterns. For example, I now understand that spring is just another word for limbo (defined as : “an intermediate state or condition”). One day provides the most beautiful summer weather you could imagine, the next day you’re clearing the snow from your car.  That weather may drive some people crazy, but I’ve grown to love it. It creates more of a slow, gently slide from winter into summer, making the spring seem like it lasts forever, and completely wiping any sense of what month it is from my brain. I’m pretty sure that April lasted 50 days this year, yet I thought June was starting tomorrow. “WHAT IS GOING ON?”, says the well-adjusted Coloradan. 😉

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Sydney Coastal Walk


You’ve spent a few days in Sydney and you’re ready for adventure. The Coastal Walk is the best way to stay close to the city center while enjoying a bit of nature and getting some exercise in. If you go about completing the entire walk from Coogee to Bondi it’s about six km and will take you anywhere from two to three hours, but I recommend packing a little beach backpack, starting in the morning and seeing where your day takes you.  Along the way, there are plenty of opportunities for side quests. You can challenge yourself by scrambling over boulders, refresh yourself by taking a swim in various tidal pools and beaches and of course there are plenty of places to stop and eat and drink throughout your journey. 


Like most of our travel posts on Live Seasoned, we like to give you a general idea for your day or adventure, but leave the details up to you. For that reason, I’ll point out a few of my favorite places to take a dip and grab a bite to eat, but otherwise, the world is your oyster. Pack your bag, slather on some sunscreen and have one of the most beautiful walks of your life. The Coastal Walk is not to be missed. I trotted along this path five days in a row never tiring of the scenery. 



Before I ventured to the coast, I was under the impression that it would take up a full day, which it certainly can, but I didn’t realize you could hop on and off the walk, take a bus to one area and then walk or uber to another, the possibilities really are endless. On my final day in Sydney I decided to walk north from Coogee to Bondi and then turn around and walk all the way back. With ample rest and refresh time throughout it was quite an easy walk and the perfect final day on the eastern coast. This walk is suitable for young and old alike, beginners and uber fit altheletes, it’s really perfect for everyone.


What to pack:

  • Sunscreen
  • Water bottle 
  • Sunglasses
  • Sneakers (it can be done in sandals)
  • Camera
  • Turkish towel or sarong




Highlights:

Take a dip in the rock enclosed tidal pool near Coogee. After you cool off, scramble over sandstone boulders, sunbathe by the sea and brave the incoming tidal waves. 

Now it’s time to begin the walk, head north to Gordan’s Bay and enjoy the pristine views. 

Take a seat in the shade at Bundock Park for a little rest while you watch the surf lap along a collection of rocks, fondly referred to at Wedding Cake Point, way out in the ocean, don’t worry, you’ll see them. 

After a little refresh, it’s time to head further north towards Clovelly Beach. If the rough Sydney surf intimidates you, the Clovelly ocean pool is the perfect solution. Swim a few laps, drip dry on the sunbathing deck and then pop into Sea Salt cafe for a little snack. 

After a nibble, prepare yourself for Shark’s Point, a massive rock cliff that is sure to take your breath away. Sit and meditate here for a moment before walking on towards Clovelly Bowling and Recreation Club where you should certainly buy a drink to enjoy in the air conditioned event ballroom that overlooks the ocean. 

Once you’ve had a proper break and you’re all cooled down, walk through Waverly Cemetery towards Nelson’s Bay and Bronte Beach. Bronte baths is another nice seaside salt pool for swimming and lounging or you can head to Bronte Road, the street behind and parallel to the beach and park, for a lunch prepared with fresh ingredients. Over the course of the week, I ate at Jenny’s & Bronte Bela and both were yummy.

The next section of the walk, between Bronte and Tamarama is absolutely gorgeous so really take your time on the cliff and cave section and do some exploring.


 Round Mackenzies Point and  enjoy the final stretch to Bondi Beach. Bondi is a surfer’s paradise and you’ll likely see hundreds in the water at any one time. After strolling past the beautifully painted cement wall that separates the grass and sand at Bondi, stop at Lush Cafe to reward yourself with a snack and libations.

You could easily end the night here by watching a movie in the park or grabbing dinner at one of the dozens of restaurants on Campbell Parade, but if you’re up for it, you could also stroll back once you’re feeling refreshed.


If you decide to walk back, which you should because the sun hasn’t set yet, end your night at Coogee Pavilion. It’s an enormous restaurant with multiple bars and a ton of game and play areas for families downstairs and lots more ocean view seating upstairs for a calmer chill, outdoor garden type of vibe.

After dinner and drinks, you’ll probably have to crawl back to the car, but I know it was worth it.

Pack a bag, tie up those trainers and hop on the coastal walk and remember, jumping off the path occasionally makes the experience last longer and fuels you for that next flight of stairs so take my suggestions and nibble, drink, meditate, swim and play along the way. Enjoy!

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