Wednesday, September 30, 2015

"Park Explorer" Quest

The sixth quest we attempted was good one for us since we often are out exploring in parks. The information below shows the requirement for each of the main quest categories and what we did to satisfy the requirement.

We had our choice of 2 documentaries to watch: 
  • Virunga - directed by Orlando von Einsiedel.
  • The National Parks: America's Best Ideas. Produced by Ken Burns and Dayton Duncan
We chose Virunga:

Martini Man's comments: We just finished watching Virunga and it is SUCH a moving tribute to the people who put their lives at risk in the Congo.. As some may know, this is a very unstable part of the world and it is especially uplifting to watch these brave people put themselves at risk. Some observations:

1) Corporate greed as exemplified by SOCO is nothing new. It's just more egregious in this case. Such arrogance and irresponsibility.
2) Emmanuel de Merode reminds me of the old class of the rich who took their fortune as a gift and thus resolved to give back to the world that gave so much to them.
3) Such heartfelt kudos I can only give to those folks like Andre who cared so much for the orphaned gorillas under this watch.

Very moving.............

Wisconsin Hiker's comments: We watched "Virunga" and it was heart-wrenching. To think that a national park is subject to such violent forces is so sad. People are at risk as are the endangered mountain gorillas. The gorillas are so endearing and the other wildlife is also impressive. It is sickening that poachers, militia and foreign companies are so oblivious to the destruction they cause. But it was inspiring to see that there were people trying to protect the wildlife and the park. I will be doing more research on this topic and watching the follow-up video to see what the current situation is for this park.

This quest asked us to read "Ranger Confidential" an interesting book described as "a 'tell all' about Andrea Lankford's life as a ranger with the US National Parks. Not all of what she has to reveal paints the USNPS in a idyllic light."

Wisconsin Hiker: I just finished the book and liked the way the author was able to present the variety of activities a ranger is involved in, from the mundane to the heart-stopping. It was interesting to get some insight into the difficulty of getting a job with benefits and surprising that extra training and skills do not result in higher pay. Like Zoma, what I didn't like was the choppy narrative. Even though there were several main people that appeared throughout the book, it seemed more like a collection of anecdotes than a cohesive story. I learned that I have more to fear than I realized when we hike to Phantom Ranch in November! I also learned that I really may not want to volunteer/live in a park when we are both retired. The living conditions and sketchy people may outweigh the pluses.

Martini Man: I enjoyed this book a lot. The tone of the book was respectful to the NPS's mission while excoriating them on their treatment of employees, which I found deplorable. I was struck by the wide variety of tasks these dedicated people had to fill at wages most would scoff at. The depictions of the travails they had to endure as well as their heroics made for riveting reading at times. A sobering account about behind-the-scenes dirt at our national parks and well worth reading.

This objective only required to travel as far as a local playground. But once there we had to level up our playground experience by taking on at least two challenges of fellow quest scouts.

Not done yet

For this objective we were asked to visit a state or national park and spend at least a couple hours at the park.  Then we had to describe our visit by answering questions such as: Where did you go? What did you do? Did you enjoy yourself?

Martini Man: Last Saturday we spent at Buckhorn State Park. Our primary goal was to kayak on Castle Rock Lake. Buckhorn afforded a good put in spot for our kayaks and we had a good time out on the water for over two hours.

Buckhorn is actually a pretty good sized park at over 8,000 acres. Camping looks good here as well as the facilities for camping, at least from what we saw. The hiking trails are not high in mileage and that could be improved. But it was a nice place to visit and it's not a park that is well - known, unlike nearby Devil's Lake.

Photos from Buckhorn State Park

Wisconsin Hiker: On SEP 27 we made a trip to Devi's Lake State Park near Baraboo, WI to do some hiking. It is a park that I have been going to since I was a little kid and is one of the busiest state parks in WI. The lake is popular for swimming, non-powered boating and scuba diving, while the bluffs surrounding the lake are great for rock climbing and hiking. We made a circuit of the lake, hiking on both the east & west bluff trails, with a short detour to visit the Devil's Doorway rock formation. And of course no visit is complete for us unless we indulge in a chocolate malt from the historic chateau on the north shore.

We had to choose a park within the borders of the city we live in (or a neighboring city, the city your grew up in, or a city you will be vacationing to in the near future) and then research the origins of the park.

Wisconsin Hiker: We recently heard about a relatively new nature preserve near us, the Badertscher Preserve in Muskego, WI. It was established in 2012 when the city purchased 104 acres adjacent to the Ridges Conservation site, creating over 130 contiguous acres of conservancy. The Borst family owned the land previously and the purchase by the city was funded by a portion of the city’s landfill settlement funds earmarked for conservation and was supplemented by a Stewardship grant from the State of Wisconsin. The Little Muskego Lake Association also generously donated $50,000 toward acquisition and development.. The park is named in commemoration of the family that farmed there for many years. The preserve covers rolling glacial topography and includes an oak savanna, wetlands, woodlands and prairies. Hiking and bow hunting is allowed on the site. We enjoyed our first hike there on OCT 25.

This one asked us to find our "inner kid" and use sidewalk chalk to create a public work of art.

Not done yet

For this one we watched a video and then tried to capture motion utilizing playground equipment.

Martini Man: Went to the playground Monday night with our niece, her two little boys aged 7 and 5 months and two other little ones (2 and 7 months) she was watching for a friend. We had a pleasant time pushing the babies in the swings while the other two ran amok on the playground equipment. But we had an ulterior motive. To satisfy the Photography requirement for the Park Explorer badge, I photographed the seven year old showing his prowess on the overhead bars. He's quite the young lad.

Wisconsin Hiker: We visited our niece Julie to take some "playground in motion" photos using her son Anthony as our model.

For this one we had to pamper ourselves by creating a FANCY picnic. We had to choose at least four of the "fancy" picnic options listed below.

1) A blanket
2) Pillows
3) Beverages from a glass bottle or mason jars
4) Food wrapped in paper and tied with string
5) Home made food
6) Cloth Napkins
7) Music
8) Candle Light
9) An outdoor game
10) Dessert!

Wisconsin Hiker: We enjoyed a "fancy picnic" today, incorporating 5 items from the list: blanket, cloth napkins, beverage from a glass bottle, homemade food and dessert. Menu: grape tomatoes, red grapes, Italian sandwich on baguette (w/Sopressato, Capocollo, provolone & homemade pesto), decadent turtle brownie bar and sparkling French lemonade. It was nice to relax with the picnic after spending so much time planting ~60 letterboxes at the park over the past 2 days. The food was great but next time we need to allocate more time for just RELAXING - with time to read, play a game and maybe sip some wine.

We were asked to visit a National Park and obtain a cancellation stamp while were there.

Wisconsin Hiker: We visited Fort Clatsop one of the Lewis and Clark National Park sites. We looked at the exhibits in the Visitor Center, watched an informative movie and toured a replica of the fort where the L&C group wintered in 1805-06. It was a nice historical park and I was once again amazed at the arduous journeys these early explorers endured.

Martini Man: We visited Fort Clatsop National Park while we were in Oregon. This was the westernmost abode of Lewis and Clark's famous expedition and it sounded like a miserable time was had by all. Lots of rain, which is something the Pacific Northwest could REALLY use right now. The park itself was quite informative and it whetted my appetite to read up on this singular feat.

For this objective we had to find a physical or "virtual" cache in a National Park.

Not done

This was an easy one - play an outdoor game at a park with friends!

Martini Man: All right, we took in a game of lawn croquet at Lake Park, done the genteel way in pursuit of the Park Explorer badge. Rules are very different from what I learned as a kid and it apparently is meant to encourage sociability. So once one of two competing teams gets their ball through the wicket, that's a mark for them and EVERYONE to move on to the next wicket. So it's not so much a race as it is a game of points. Very enjoyable.

Wisconsin Hiker: We had fun with friends while learning to play 6-wicket croquet at Lake Park in Milwaukee, WI.

Watch a video that explains what happened when wolves were re-introduced to Yellowstone National Park.

Martini Man: This is amazing to watch and listen to! I've long thought that the absence of predators in Wisconsin was an issue with the deer population and this just re-enforced my opinion. But changing the course of rivers? It makes sense but it's so bizarre how one change in the ecosystem can have such a far ranging effect and so fast as well. Simply amazing.....

Wisconsin Hiker: Wow! I found this very interesting. It was a very well constructed video, I was amazed how much information they packed into 4 1/2 minutes. It is good to remember that a balance is needed in nature and that every creature plays a role. Stunning photography of the animals and the scenery!

MICRO QUEST 2 - Literature
For this MQ we read the article "One Woman's Journey Brings Physical Geocaches to National Parks" by Eric Schudiske. The topic was based on the fact that in many US National Parks, geocaching is either banned or severely limited. Some people are working to come to a more cache friendly agreement with the National Parks.

Martini Man: Common sense approach by hydnsek. I do agree that it's an educational endeavor and I also absolutely agree that allowing letterboxes and geocaches brings traffic the parks would never have had otherwise.

The issue I see is some geocachers and letterboxers are not very bright about placement and that can create friction with the custodial staff. So I think the hobbies have to do all they can to educate folks about proper placement and how to hide something without destroying the environs around the box or cache.

Thoughtful discussions here.....

Wisconsin Hiker: It was interesting to hear that geocachers have a formal program to work with parks, but not too surprising since that hobby is definitely more regulated and structured. I know of a few letterboxers that have tried to work with both National and State Parks to allow boxes to be placed in the parks, with varying success. I personally have had experiences with some park personnel who have been rabid about not allowing any letterboxes in THEIR parks (MN and IL) and others who have enthusiastically welcomed them (CT, NH, IL and WI).

MICRO QUEST 3 - Research
For this objective we had to spend a short amount of time researching parks that met two criteria, then add this park to our "bucket list":

Wisconsin Hiker: I found a list of the 59 National Parks and discovered that I have already been to 35 of them. One that I haven't been to, but that we may be passing by in November, is Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park in Colorado. I had never heard of it and recently some friends mentioned visiting it in their blog. I'm putting it on my list of places to visit since it looked spectacular. Not sure if the weather will cooperate in November, but it is a place I would like to see.

For this MQ we watched a video about slack lining and base jumping. These are illegal in US National Parks, yet there is a group of enthusiasts who do it anyway.

Wisconsin Hiker: Pretty, but nerve-wracking! Background music was nice. I wonder how long it took them to figure out when the moon would be in the right position. I was torn between wanting him to wait to be sure he was steady before starting and wanting him to hurry before the moon rose to high. I was amazed to read the caption below the video and see that the video was shot from over a mile away!

Martini Man: Incredibly beautiful to watch. But one has to wonder about the flouting of the park rules. We only see the successes, not the failures and a failure there would have been ....a mess.  But still pretty......

We had to solve a puzzle contains a string of letters, along with instructions to help you manipulate those letters. Follow the instructions, one by one, to transform the string of letters into a phrase.

Wisconsin Hiker: It was pretty quick, but I luckily interpreted the "move back" instruction correctly and then was able to recognize the phrase before completing all the steps.

Martini Man: Found the phrase, but I messed up the first set of instructions. Needed a little coaching to get this one right.

We needed to get at least 1,000 points to complete the quest and we both exceeded that.  We thereby earned our sixth badge!  Visiting parks and being outdoors is one of our favorite activities so this was a fun badge for us! 

"Park Explorer" badge

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