A Beginner’s Guide to Pokémon Collection in National Parks

Pokémon Go, made available for download in America on July 6, 2016 (and adding new countries every day!) enables collection, training, and battling of the first 150 Pokémon. Individual Pokémon collection and observation is now possible, and Pokémon trainers will be venturing into their communities and the wilds that surround them in record numbers as they strive to catch ‘em all. By virtue of collecting and learning about (albeit augmented, virtual) animals, people will also rediscover their attraction to the natural world. Through Pokémon Go, trainers will develop a keen eye for their surroundings, patience for tracking, quick thinking in anticipation of Pokémon behaviors.  And what better place for young and old alike to hone their PokéSkills but the expansive wilderness of America’s greatest natural treasure, the National Park system.

The iconic U.S. National Parks have provided access to both nature and natural sciences to visitors for 100 years. Combined annual attendance to these natural wonders registers at a whopping 305 million people each year, attracting visitors from all over the world. Our National Parks span the landscape of the United States and her territories, ranging from the remote reaches of Alaska to the bustling east coast parks, like Shenandoah-a quick drive from several major cities-and hop entire oceans to appear in far pacific lands like Hawaii, American Samoa, and Guam. Sometimes, these parks pack a hefty admission fee, up to $30 in some of the most famous parks. The fees go toward necessary maintenance and upkeep of the most pristine natural environments in the country, preserving the experience for the next generation of visitors. Don’t be scared by the entry fees; reasonably priced annual passes and special free events can make access extremely affordable!  In fact, I planned a trip to Shenandoah National Park this past weekend for both my sister and me as a respite from the rigors of academia. However, once we got the news dropped of the long-awaited Pokemon Go release, our plans quickly adapted to incorporate some Pokemon collecting into our adventure.

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A quick entrance photo at the North Entrance Gate PokéGym.

Continue reading “A Beginner’s Guide to Pokémon Collection in National Parks”

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I Say Edinburgh, You Say…

I have not posted in quite some time now and I know exactly the moments to blame. I’ve decided that the best way to explain this event is via a comparison to Mario Kart, everyone’s favorite Nintendo themed racing game. Periodically during the race your character (in my case, Peach or Daisy) will encounter boost strips in a certain area of the path. If you can manage to get your kart over to pass overtop the strip, you’ll get a short boost of speed, so hopefully you can pass up your siblings for the win. I somehow managed to navigate myself to a fabulous CouchSurfing festival in Edinburgh and was given a giant burst of speed and excitement! Edinburgh Rocks 7 opened my eyes to a whole new side of the CS experience!

 I have already written about how I enjoy staying both in hostels and with couchsurfers, but even when I’m in a hostel, I like to check the community page for the area where I’m staying. Here, any member can post localized messages or events. I usually check to see if there’s a weekly meet-up or interesting event, but imagine my surprise when I found not one cool event, but a whole weekend of planned festivities! There was even a discussion thread devoted to hosts for festival goers and I was immediately offered a place to stay for the duration!  
The festival was very well planned,with plenty of time for chatting up and getting to know everyone involved (pub meet-ups, speed friending, BBQ, Scottish breakfast) amid the more intricate events (ceilidh, Highland games, scavenger hunt, talent show, free hugs, movie night). My excitement began with a night of ceilidh (apparently pronounced “kay-lee” – hhhmm). What is ceilidh, you ask? I wondered the same. As far as I could tell when the night was over it’s a Scottish Gaelic word for ‘intense evening of crazy folk dancing during which you will sweat, laugh, fear for your life, be stepped on, and enjoy every bit’. I was hooked and attended every single event during the festival. Between competing on Clan Highlanders and winning the scavenger hunt with Team LIFIA in an epic talent show tie breaker, I developed several friendships and learned about people from all over. And those new relationships are what propelled my adventures into overdrive. 
I received several offers of couches to visit during my journey.  Another American traveller and I followed two fellow Rockers (and Clansmen!) to Newcastle where we continued the fun times. From there I met back up with another new Edinburgh friend in Manchester and we spent four wild days backpacking and mountain hiking in Snowdonia national park. Then back to Newcastle for a killer electro pop show featuring Static Soul, my host’s flatmate’s band. A night of wild dancing with some of the loveliest Gordies before early morning buses to Glastonbury festival where another friend (this time from home) had procured production and stage passes for me for the last day. Somehow my most relaxing day in nearly three weeks was spent backstage watching Vampire Weekend and Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds rock the main stage before enjoying some whiskey and Mumford & Sons from the dressing room area with several lovely characters. 
Are you exhausted from just reading that last bit? I’m tired from just reliving it all as I typed! I still can not believe how just one weekend can shape so much of my trip. Even now, weeks later, I am heading to Amsterdam to join back up with the same traveller that came too to Newcastle and later I hope to meet up with another in Budapest. So many thanks are due to so many people for their hard work, generosity, and friendship. This is only one of many CS camps, festivals, and other major events that are hosted through the summers. I will be on the constant look out for others and hope to return again eventually for another Edinburgh Rocks! 
Question of the Day:
What has been your most pleasant surprise event while traveling?

Guest Blog: Ecologist on the Appalachian Trail

This is my little sister, Sara!!!!

Note from Rachel:  I’m really excited today to have the very first guest post of this blog’s (short) history!  Allow me to introduce my kid sister, Sara.  When I describe her to people I usually give these stats:  she’s a scientist, she plays competitive roller derby, she’s way smarter than me, and she’s one of the coolest people you could ever meet.  She just graduated with a BS in Biology with a concentration in Ecology and Wildlife Management from my alma mater Western Kentucky University.  In college, she had some pretty amazing adventures and some really cool scientific experiences.  Check out this write-up of her long-term internship with the National Parks Service and this article about an African wildlife management course she participated in last summer (here is a video about the course…she’s basically the star).  After her graduation and the completion of her honor’s thesis this spring (she examined song bird use of restored old-fields), she decided to take a much deserved break from the world.  And what better way to get away from it all  than to go hiking, right?  

Never really known for moderation, my sister doesn’t just decided to go camping for a few weeks.  No, no.  She decides to hike about 600 miles of the Appalachian Trail.  And, because I think a big portion of this blog should always be dedicated to enjoying nature, I’ve asked her to write a few guest posts along the way.  So here you go.  Two girls, two hammocks, one dog, and about a million trees.  What could go wrong?  

Ecologist on the Appalachian Trail- 6/29/13


Hello!  To avoid starting my own blog to later abandon, I will be sharing my summer 2013 adventures on my sister’s already established blog- thanks Rachel!

We (Holly, our 4 legged friend Annie, our gracious chauffeur Nathan,  and myself) started our adventure on June 19th.  We left KY and headed up to New York City to see my friend, the incredible Austin Brown. While there, we visited The Museum of Modern Art, the American Museum of Natural History, Central Park, and the Stonewall Inn. On Sunday, June 23rd, we left New York and headed to Harper’s Ferry, WV to start our two month, 600 mile, trek through the woods of Appalachia.  Nathan dropped us off just before night fell, and the three of us were on our way!

After a rough first night (rain and a tree falling on Holly and Annie), we had a great first day on the trail. There is nothing like waking up in the woods. We walked about 10 miles our first day, even with a stop to hide from a pretty bad summer storm (Note from Rachel:  Sara’s current Facebook status is, “All it does is rain on the Appalachian Trail”). The first night we staying in David Lesser Memorial Shelter camping area, which had plenty of good hammock hanging trees (our means of “shelter”).

Holly, with the tree that feel on her on day one!

The next morning, we started “the roller coaster,” a 13.5 mile stretch of tightly packed accents and descents. I had heard that days 2 and 3 are the worst days of adjustment for long distance hikers.  So that, added to the roller coaster, made for a pretty intense first week. Luckily, for every accents there is a view, making for a beautiful first few days.  By day 4 we had our trail legs. We started the day with the end of the roller coaster, and soon doubled our mile time. By the end of the day we’d hiked over 15 miles and got to see Sky Meadows State Park, which put a huge smile on everyone’s face.

Sara looking out over Sky Meadows

We made it to Front Royal by day 5 and hitch-hiked into town (sorry Mom!). It was out first hitching experience but getting picked up in a trail town with packs on your back isn’t very hard. We got a ride to Nate’s Garage, owned by Holly’s friends, who opened their home to us for the weekend. From the garage, we went to Lucky Star, the local bar they frequent. It was a very cool place; we quickly put the killing on some nachos and beer and met a ton of new friends.

The next morning, everyone woke up with a headache, but we were still ready to go for a paddle on the Shenandoah River. After scoring some free grub by crashing a graduation party (just kidding, we were invited), we launched our boat to paddle 10+ miles. This was a great way to spend our first zero day (zero day= zero miles hiked in long distance trekker speak).  We got to rest our hiking muscles, while working out the only muscles we’ve been neglecting!

Paddling the Shenandoah River
Annie contemplating her float.

Nate and Liz have been so great to us, not to mention they live in one of the prettiest places I’ve been in the eastern US.  I’d love to make it back here someday.  We are having a lazy Sunday, resting up and resupplying. We plan to get back on the trail later on today (Sunday June 29) and head on towards Waynesboro, VA.

Blog Spot:  Annie’s Trail

Trail Dog!

Our little puppy friend, Annie, is having a blast! She loves the woods and it has brought out a new side to her personality. The shy, skittish puppy who left KY has a different sort of confidence about her.  She has decided she’s our protector and lets everyone we meet know it- growling until we reprimand her. She was so protective from the very first day we decided AT stood for “Annie’s Trial.”  She has gotten the most trail magic so far, mostly in the form if food scraps, and she’s made lots of puppy friends.  She has enjoyed her zero days but did not enjoy the river, she’s a trail dog I guess.  Everything she does amuses us! She’s been a great addition to the company.