Share a Science Documentary Day

Science documentaries. I’ve got a sneaking suspicion that you love them. You’ve watched both iterations of Cosmos; you’ve joined Stephan Hawkings on an exploration of the universe; you’ve learned about the rovers, landers, orbiters, and space stations exploring our solar system; you’ve experience Sr. David full-on gushing over a hedgehog. If I were to write a blog post trying to convince you to check out some of Sweet Tea Science’s favorite science documentaries, you would scoff because you are so on top of that. And that’s awesome! Seriously, let’s take a moment to appreciate our collective thirst for knowledge!

However, let’s not get so ahead of ourselves that we forget to share this excitement, enthusiasm, and thirst with others!

I have been inspired by a lovely evening out with my partner and his friend. We had been enjoying a few beers, and we got on the subject of education, intelligence, science, space and…well, you know how conversations can go. We eventually got on the subject of exploring our solar system and trying to understand the creation of the universe. Now, keep in mind that I love these kinds of conversations and could go on and on for a while. My comments are often prefaced with “I saw once in a documentary that…[insert science here]”. I was shocked to find that the friend had never heard of some of what we were discussing. It wasn’t that he didn’t have an interest in the topics, quite the opposite! He tried to write it off as us just being inherently smarter than him, but honestly, it was just a product of being an avid science documentary watcher. The knowledge is out there, I just Netflixed my way to it! I want others to know that they can too!

I am beginning to realize that there exists a set of people out there that are interested in exploring the sciences, but they don’t believe in themselves or don’t know what avenues to explore to help with their intellectual endeavors. This is where we come in. I’m going to assume that the majority of readers are here because they are totally into science. If we all independently hosts screenings of science documentaries and invite lots of our friends that might not normally choose such a film, then think of all of the science converts! I propose we
take this opportunity to organize. I nominate September 17th, 2014 as the first annual Share a Science Documentary Day!

This is a project that will require the help and support of the online scientific community. Science Side, I’m looking at you!

Your STS Homework:

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1. Share your favorite science documentary. You may do this in the comments here, on our Tumblr, or on your own social media outlet of choice! Be sure and tag us, @SweetTeaScience, so we can reblog/post/tweet you. Feel free to use the tag #SciDocuDay2014!

2. Host a Science Documentary Viewing on September 17th, 2014. Invite friends now and get people excited!

3. After your viewing don’t forget to try and start a dialogue. Talk about what you just learned and encourage others to share their impressions.  (Editor’s note: I think this would be a great time to talk about how to pick a documentary that isn’t bunk and how to be a skeptical consumer of information.  I mean, I love me some Netflix docus, but I’ve also quit some half way because…bunk.)

4. If you’d like, write up a little something about your event. What did you watch; did people enjoy it; would you host a similar movie night again, etc. We’d love to hear back and post your feedback on our blog or Tumblr!

Best of luck to everyone choosing a film to watch. Here might be a good place to start. We’ll keep you updated via tumblr about our own plans and movies that we choose to watch at our respective events! If you have any suggestions we’d love to hear them.

Love in the Desert?

Day Eight

Arches National Park
Moab, UT
Founded: 1971

Total Miles Hiked: 10.5  (48.06 overall)

We’d arrived too late to secure a camp spot in the park, however the nearby city of Moab had a plethora of private campgrounds to choose from. After consulting our handy Fodor’s guide, we soon were on our way to the recommended Slick(Shady)rock campground. It had all of the typical amenities: small grill, shade, restrooms, office wi-fi, pool, hot tubs, showers. We may not be in the park, but we’d be living in luxury and leave smelling like delicate desert flowers. For however long that lasts.

We only had the one day in the park, so we made sure to wake up early to make the most of our time. Someone once told me that Arches NP is where you go to fall in love with the desert. Now, I’ve been living in the desert for over two years now and have only a mild toleration for an area that is mainly devoid of forests and streams. But, I wanted to give the desert another chance.

As always, we stopped off at the visitor’s center for our trinkets and usual chat with the Rangers at the information desk. We’ve yet to be disappointed by the advice of the Rangers, and this morning Steven and Emma were not about to break that streak. Rachel and I usually try and have a basic idea of what we want to accomplish in a park. How far we want to hike (usually about 10 miles per day) and what sights we would like to see (arches and some bighorn sheep, please). Steven recommend the full Devil’s Garden trail (with primitive loop), a restful afternoon out of the sun, a quick walk around Balanced Rock, and then to top it off with a sunset trip to the Delicate Arch. Emma was our go to for bighorn sheep questions. Where can we find them? Does she know where they are right now. Is she hiding them? Can she let them come out and play? We were informed that sheep sightings are still rare in the park, but to keep an eye out during the first three miles. Oh, Emma, I don’t think you realize how badly we want to see the sheeps!

Landscape Arch. Can you tell where a slab fell?

Our first trail was at the far end of the park, so we enjoyed the drive out by obsessively searching for sheep. Devils Garden is a trail that may be enjoyed at several different difficulty levels. Many of the arches available for viewing are towards the beginning of the journey directly off the gravel path. You may go as far as Landscape Arch, the longest in the park, before the primitive loop begins. Here, we were soon traversing and scrambling over rocks and ridges. Rachel’s choice of wearing a hiking dress that day was nearly a poor one, but she managed to stay decent. The crowd thinned as we encountered more and more arches and more and more difficult pathways. The rock cairns I explained yesterday were especially helpful on this terrain, and they often kept us on the right route.

We’d started off on the trail in the mid-morning hours, and were able to enjoy the cooler morning temperatures for some time. However, the desert is good at heating up once the sun is comfortable high in the sky. We aren’t ones to disregard park warnings, so we were well equipped with our water bladders in our packs, each holding 3 liters of water.

When we reached the end of the trail we were more than happy to have a rest and picnic in the limited shade we could find. Dark Angel looked over us as we munched our sammies and snacks. Then, once more, we were in the sun hiking back. Our second wind was more of a sweltering breeze due to the heat, and we were soon grateful to stand in whatever shady patch we could find. Despite the liters of water consumed, our hands were still swollen slightly by the time we reached the main trail again, a sure sign of the start of dehydration. The trail head and accompanying water supply were a welcoming sight.

Balanced rock being all balanced and such.

We had plenty of time to spare before we needed to head out towards Delicate Arch for sunset and little desire to stay in the sun for much longer and, so, set out to find a place with shade to rest, write, and snack.

The picnic area across from Balanced Rock proved to be just the place for all of our needs. While most of the tables were in the blistering sun, we managed to score one with a lovely tree bending over to protect us with its shade. I tried to write some informative words for you, oh readers, but Rachel’s napping just looked so peaceful and I knew I wanted to join.

“Meridith….Meridith. Your face it in the sun.”

Rachel, once again saving me from certain cancerous doom.

To recover from our slumber, we got after some hummus with pita chips in a completely unladylike manner. But, it did the trick and we were soon back on the trails where we explored the mini loop around Balanced Rock before setting off for the Delicate Arch trail head.

We had plenty of time to meander along the route to the most famous of all arches in the park. We encountered the homestead of the first settler in the area. An Ohio man, who escaped to the West for the drying, presumed healthier, climate.  He built a teensy one room home for himself and his son. Later, when his daughter and her family joined them, he built a proper house with wood floors and everything. It was still teensy and perhaps had just slightly more space for the 4+ people than Rachel had when she lived in my laundry room senior year of college. Teeny tiny.

Continuing once more, ever closer to the final destination, we came upon what Rachel holds among her top 10 favorite things she’s ever seen. Petroglyphs on a rock above the trail. Perhaps as old as 400 years, these markings revealed horseback Ute Native Americans hunting bighorn sheep.  Small dog like creatures were also included. We were really impressed with the lasting power of the art and we walking on finally, still wondering about the markings that didn’t last the years and the individual who had sat there so long ago patiently carving the scene.

After some unexpectedly steep uphill climbs, we finally turned a corner and were presented with a sight we’d only seen in photographs, postcards, and nature documentaries. Delicate Arch. We’d arrived early enough to get a decent spot among the droves of people with the same sunset plans we had. It did, however, prove difficult to get a shot of the arch without a group of ridiculously posed tourists. The line of groups and families waiting to get that perfect picture under the arch seemed never ending, and if any stayed too long blocking the shots of other photographers wanting that solitary shot of the majestic arch, they were requested in no polite tones to move along.

We had both expected the sun to set behind the arch, however it actually slunk away behind our backs, drawing the shadows up over the arch from the bottom. Still a wonderful sight to behold. Several adventurous young sightseers took in the view from atop the nearby rock formations. The darkness grew, yet we stayed behind to enjoy the desert night. We were well prepared with jackets and headlamps, so felt no anxiety towards the upcoming night hike back to our vehicle.

The darkness welcomed us and we welcomed the sounds and sights of the nocturnal wildlife, awaking with the moon. We kept a slow pace so that everyone could pass us and take their noises with them. It’s always good to hear people enjoying the natural beauty of the parks, however many do not realize that the show is not over. It’s just starting. Once the night air was empty of these sounds, it began to offer up its own. We chose a spot on a small bridge over a pool of water. Day or night, water is a great place to find wildlife. We waited. It was not long until we were rewarded with the sounds of bullfrogs calling to potential mates, the flapping of bat wings as they whiz by us, and various insects chirping and humming. We listened and watched the stars come out before we said our final goodbyes to the park.

I don’t know if I’m in love with the desert yet. It’s still hot and often times not as elaborate or as colorful as Arches. Maybe I’m a little in love with shade in the desert, and that counts.

*more photos later – I can only do so much on stolen Yellowstone Staff wifi!*

Question of the Day:
What is your favorite type of landscape?

Everything the Light Touches is Yours

Day Five

Zion National Park
Established: 1909

Total Miles Hiked: 11.1 (25.7 overall)

Arriving at Zion NP the afternoon before had been a breathtaking event. Chelsea had warned us of its beauty, but the canyon is truly a sight you need to behold with your own eyes to appreciate. We wound down the mountain from the Southeast entrance, taking in as many views as possible without driving straight off the road. We passed through a tunnel and held our breath like good adventurers are supposed to do. We attempted to do the same at the next tunnel, but when we nearly passed out we decided it was best to cut our losses. For your future endevors, know that a 1.1 mile long tunnel is not the best place for the breath holding game. We managed to snag one of the few remaining First Come First Serve campsites (South Campground), checked out the nearby Visitor’s Center for our customary swag, and settled down with a hot dinner courtesy of my new backpacking stove. Then off to bed for another night in the tent.

Ranger Carolyn had warned us the previous day against hiking the Narrows due to a high chance of flash floods (we later learned that there indeed had been a flood on this day). She could tell we were pretty extreme ladies and recommended the Observation Point hike. This 8 mile hiked gained 2,148 feet to a viewpoint of Zion Canyon.

We were up and scurrying around the campsite before the sun peeked over the canyon walls. With a hot breakfast in our bellies, we gathered the supplies we’d need to fill our day packs. Snacks. Lots of water. First Aid Kit. Rain gear. Hats. Sunscreen. Headlamps. Multi-tool. Binoculars. Phones (in a plastic baggie). Cameras. Maps. Rain.

Rain?

We might have been ready to head out on our hike, but apparently nature wasn’t ready for us. We managed to stow our packs in the car, grab our letter writing box and hide in the tent while we waited out the rain.

A few postcards later, the rains let up and we quickly grabbed our packs and headed towards the visitor center before the sky changed its mind. Zion NP is uniquely in that it is primarily car-free park. We were able to leave our car at the campsite and walk a short jaunt to the nearby shuttle stop, where we immediately hopped on a shuttle. The ride was accented by an audio tour that points out major formations along the route in addition to detailing each stop. We rode our shuttle to the very top to catch the whole speal before heading back to our desired stop at Weeping Rock.

Hiking a narrow part of the trail.

After taking in a few informational signs, we were hiking and ascending towards Observation Point. We hike and climb. We climb and hike. We sweat and walk. We later agreed that had someone pointed out to us the ending location of our hike it would have been much more daunting. However, since we were blissfully unaware of the realities of our situation, the day went by quickly. We cheerfully greet people as they pass us. The normal hiking pleasantries, “Hey there, How’s it going?, See ya at the top, Holy crap, sir, is it much further?”. We enjoy talking to strangers. Most smiled and replied in kind.

It must be noted that every single stretch of this trail offered a wonderful view. We twisted in and out of different areas along the canyon walls. Sometime overlooking the Virgin River. Sometimes in narrow canyons. Sometimes with a view of pine trees. We took a birage of photos along the way, each time completely certain that the image captured couldn’t possibly be topped by another.

When we were thinking that we simply couldn’t go on much further, a lovely couple encouraged us with the reassurancet that we were only a few switchbacks from the top and then the trail would level out among the trees. We scrambled to the top and bathed in the shade of the Ponderosa Pines. Only a tiny bit further.

Hol-lee-crap.

View from the top

Now that’s a view. Even with clouds rolling in with some light rain on the far side of the canyon, this was still a spectacular vantage point overlooking Zion Canyon. The other hikers seemed just as pleased with the visual reward and lounged around, looking victorious. We were quickly welcomed into the elite ranks of successful summiteers. People are much more willing to chat with you when they are rested and enjoying the fruits of their labors. We took photos for other groups and they returned the favor for us.

I believe everyone would have been content to stay at the top of the canyon wall for the better portion of the afternoon. The clouds were creeping closer, and even though we were on the highest of high ground, we still felt the need to get back to our campsite. Bidding farwell and exchanging some campsite numbers with our new friends, we scampered down the trail much faster than the climb.

Happy faces at the top!

Safe and sound at the campsite, we once more began to forage. We were quite proud of our afternoon feat and felt deserving of an appropriately delicious treat. Before leaving for our journey, we’d stocked up on food and snacks, but one stood above the rest.

M&Ms.

They are the perfect candy. My favorite. I love eating them one color at a time. Letting them sit in my mouth until the candy coating melts (in the rightful place) them enjoying the chocolately center. Rattling the bag to make sure I’ve captured all the yellow ones before moving on to green.

We pull the unopened bag from our cooler. A fresh chill treat. I pull back the plastic tab to reveal the resealable zipper. XXL 56 ounce bags don’t mess around. I pull open the bag.

Now there is really only one reason I would go through the trouble of taking you through this giant lead up. Something bad has happened. Something tragic. A disaster of fierce proportions.

The bag had leaked.

Only a wet, brown desicration remained.

You can imagine my heartbreaking disappointment. My new favorite candy is now goldfish crackers. That is all I have to say about that.

I decided to make a glorious dinner to raise our spirits and set off into town in search of an onion. So many grand meals start with an onion. I decided on the camping stove version of the meal Chelsea had prepared for us. When I got back to good ol’ campsite 34 I was greeted by Rachel and two of our new friends from Observarion point. B and Br had decided to take us up on our dinner enticements and came bearing gifts of cheese, ramen, and a slackline. My dinner didn’t call for their provided ingredients, but Rachel’s enthusiasm over the slackline was immense. She’s now hooked and wants her own to perfect her skills.

After enjoying some after dinner refreshments, we chatted, we wandered about, we discussed the finer points of being a trail creeper (hint: it involved popping out from behind bushes and aggressively inquiring whether the unsuspecting hiker is a part of a very popular social networking site). The night wound down, as did we, and the first few stars began to visualize. Rachel gets excited if there are more than 4 stars out and tried to point out what she could. Br somehow manage to manifest a purple laser pointer that could be used to point out stars. But it was not quite dark enough. Our new friends eventually had to return to their own campsite, but gifted the laser pointer to us (they had two) so that Rachel could fulfill her new found desire to point at things in the sky. We will have to pass it on eventually and keep the camping karma going by meeting more friends and bestowing something of ours onto them.

Zion friends, if B managed to remember the website and you come check out our blog, shoot us an email with your details at alwaysscientist@gmail.com. If you include your addresses we’ll send you postcards!

Questions of the Day:
Have you ever made friends when talking to strangers on an adventure?