Astronomy…the great beyond! A week ago, I gave an astronomy program to the public at the California Trail Interpretive Center in Elko. Working in environmental education, botany has always been my strength, but astronomy is a side hobby and passion.
I was born in the late 70s and grew
up with movies like “Space Camp” and “Explorers.” I loved launching into space
with Lea Thompson and building a space ship out of a Tilt a Whirl cart with
Ethan Hawke. These childhood fantasies
made the world beyond our atmosphere an intriguing mystery.
Thus, when the BLM was looking for an astronomy presenter I agreed. As humans, we are all self-centered to a
certain effect. Besides the light and
warmth provided by the sun, that which lies beyond our atmosphere is of no
consequence to most people. It doesn’t
impact our daily lives and thus our observation and knowledge of that place is
The evening of September 5th
I sought to change that. Loaded up with
beads, string, a planisphere, telescope, a laser pointer, compass, tape and
scissors I was ready. But the weather
had another plan. Summer in Nevada is
generally predictable- no rain, and possible smoky skies due to fire. Unfortunately, on the night of September 5th
we had a completely overcast sky threatening to rain. The 55 people who showed up missed any direct
star observations. Nonetheless, we
worked together and built a current-day solar system model and discussed how
the planets revolved around the sun. We
learned why we see stars at slightly different times every night and see planet
in different periods and locations than we see the star background of the night
It was unfortunate weather for the
program, but there will be more opportunities to learn more about astronomy in
Elko. We will be having our next program
on the night of October 12th.
Additional programs will be advertised through the California Trail
Interpretive Center and Nevada Outdoor School-Elko.
Wednesday, September 12, 2018
I have always had a love for nature, animals and the outdoors, spending my childhood playing outside and exploring our family farm in Idaho. But, it wasn’t until I met my husband here in Nevada that I found my love for outdoor, back country adventures. We camp often and usually in primitive conditions. I’m a big fan of dispersed camping alone on public lands rather than official public campground camping with others. But that is just me.
Dispersed camping means you absolutely have to pack out every single thing that you pack in and is the true definition of “leave no trace” outdoor recreation. There are no containers to leave your garbage, there are no fire pits to build a fire, there are no toilet facilities, and no one is going to come behind you to clean up your mess. But I love the solitude of it and the beautiful back country places we have been able to see and enjoy.
I was first introduced to the concept of “leave no trace” camping long before I began working here at Nevada Outdoor School. My family has been very fortunate to take private white water rafting trips on a few rivers here in the West, but my favorite is Hells Canyon on the Snake River hugging the borders of northeastern Oregon and western Idaho. We have been lucky to experience floating quietly through this beautiful and breathtaking landscape many times and each time I experience something new and exciting. It is the deepest river gorge in North America and the upper section of Hells Canyon is designated as a “wild and scenic” national recreation area where the goal is to pass through the area and leave no trace that we were there, which is a challenge with the growing number of visitors to the recreation area each year.
The continued use of this unique environment is largely dependent upon us, the users, and thoughtful and appropriate behavior by all is essential to the protection of the canyon’s outstanding aesthetic and environmental values. It is essential to the continued protection and use of all of our public lands while observing and preserving fragile cultural and natural resources. We still cook our meals – with gas or charcoal in a portable fire pan. We still use the toilet, we just pack it from camp to camp as we travel along the river then pack it out. And we pack out every single piece of garbage and gear that we brought with us.
They truly are simple principles to follow if you really value and love the outdoors and here at Nevada Outdoor School we work hard to spread the message of responsible recreation through our Outdoor Ethics programs providing Leave no Trace and Tread Lightly trainings and outreach all across Nevada to the benefit public land use all across this great country. We can provide these outdoor education opportunities it individuals, groups or agencies for free thanks to the generous financial support of the BLM, Nevada State Parks Recreational Trails Program and the Nevada OHV Commission. For more information on our Outdoor Ethics programs and training opportunities, contact Katie Fithian, Outdoor Ethics Program Director here at NOS.
Tuesday, September 4, 2018
I have been fortunate enough to work through AmeriCorps at our local Senior Center here in Winnemucca NV for three years now. Each day brings me a new sense of well being in my position as I know I've helped someone feel a little less stressed about their situation. It could be helping them with applying for State Medicaid to alleviate medical bills, or helping them get assistance for paying their Medicare premiums or energy bills. Sometimes it's simply just listening to them for awhile as so many seniors these days are a bit lonely and just like someone to talk to once in awhile.
Some days can be extremely busy with appointments and walk-ins, but everyone is always so grateful when they leave for any help I can give them. I hear “on the street” that “if you need any help or advice on Insurance, bills, finances or anything else, go see Barbara at the Senior Center.” This lets me know of the importance of this position here, and how essential it is to seniors here in our rural area. Many cannot easily make it to Social Security offices in Reno or Elko NV., so having someone here locally is so important. I am so grateful for AmeriCorps providing this position here in Winnemucca; hopefully this position will be available for many years to come. It is so needed in our area.