Friday, October 23, 2015

Table Mountain and BoKaap

On July 1, 2010, we rose early, once again with plans to hike to the top of Table Mountain if weather permitted.  In fact, there were at last only a few clouds in the sky, so we proceeded.  We drove Tafelberg Road, which runs along side of the mountain, and parked near the lower cable car station.  We walked 15 minutes down the road

to the beginning of the Platterklip Gorge trail, and hiked upwards, first through grass and shrubs,


 then up the gorge

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Learning about history and the current struggle in Cape Town's City Bowl

On the morning of June 30, 2010, we set out for a visit to the District Six museum, which recounts a Cape Town "urban renewal" project undertaken with an apartheid twist that made it sound truly malevolent compared to the US history of urban renewal a/k/a "negro removal" projects, which have been at best a mixed bag.  District Six was a vibrant downtown neighborhood, some of which was run down but made a home for more than 60,000 residents.  In 1966, pursuant to the 1950 Group Areas Act, the South African government declared District Six in Cape Town to be a White Group Area, requiring all black, Asian and colored people to move out, after which their residences and shops were bulldozed;

the new name for the neighborhood, Zonnebloem, still appears on highway signs.  These residents were supposed to be moved to the Cape Flats, but either no provision or insufficient provision was made for their housing there.  Neighbors were separated from neighbors and from proximity to their places of employment, religious worship.

The District Six museum, housed in an old church in the neighborhood

commemorates the pass laws and the forced removal as well as story of land claims advanced after the end of the apartheid area.  The organization of the museum was a bit confusing but the detailed accounts drawn from interviews with victims of the removals, along with photographs, copies of newspaper accounts, and original artifacts, form a compelling portrayal of the impact of apartheid on the lives of individuals and on a whole community.  As on Robben Island, the staff are former victims who participate in making history real for visitors; Sam and Joe chatted with a book store employee whose interview had been excerpted in exhibits displayed on the walls of the museum.

A blustery day on the Cape Peninsula – followed by exquisite soccer

With clouds covering Lion's Peak above our hotel window, and rain in the forecast, we bagged our plan to climb Table Mountain on our second day in Capetown (June 29, 2010) and opted to drive around the Cape Peninsula and reach the Cape of Good Hope.  At first, even this seemed a bad choice - after we rounded the impressive Chapman's Peak along the Atlantic coast of the Peninsula,

Monday, October 19, 2015

Visit to Cape Town — Castle of Good Hope and Robben Island

Cape Town is a gorgeous place, dominated by the mountains that tower over the city: here are views of Lions Head from our hotel room window, and of Table Mountain from basically everywhere in downtown

Whither US Soccer? Reflections on US v Ghana

This may seem like a time warp -- but I am returning to my series of removed blog posts originally written during the World Cup in 2010 for Washington Post's fan blog.  Not to be ahistorical here, but just how much have things changed under Klinsmann?

As we flew to Cape Town the day after the US match against Ghana, we read an editorial and an op-ed in a local paper, the Sunday Times, calling on South Africa to emulate the United States by using its FIFA royalties from hosting the World Cup on an ambitious soccer development program.  The editorials pointed out that the US has qualified for the finals in 1990 for the first time, and of course did not HAVE to qualify in 1994, but had used the royalties from hosting the 1994 Cup to create national development programs that enabled the US to turn itself into a regional powerhouse in men's soccer and remain a world-class country in women's soccer.

The analogy is an interesting one - obviously South Africa has a wide range of needs that are different from American ones - but this provides a good occasion to reflect on the limitations of what US soccer has accomplished.   What is shown by the US performance in this Cup, including the Ghana game, is the lack of world class players at several positions and especially the lack of depth in the team.   We have forwards who work hard but did not score a single goal.  Jozy Altidore helped create some goals but his lack of scoring reminds us why he cannot hold a starting job abroad.  And in any event he needs a consistent partner up top, the way Donovan, Mathis and others were able to partner with Brian McBride.  Charlie Davies was touted as a great hope but when his immaturity and resulting horrific injury ruled him out of the Cup we had a frantic search for a replacement that ultimately failed.  Obviously, scoring success in Mexico (Gomez) and MLS (Findley) do not translate into success at the international level.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

A Ranger-Guided Hike to Avalanche Lake – Our Last Day in Glacier National Park

We rose early on Friday, September 25, to make sure that we would be at the Avalanche Trailhead by 9 AM for a hike to Avalanche Lake, to be led by a park ranger.  We generally like to hike by ourselves to set our own pace, but over the years we have found ranger-led hikes, and other ranger-led activities in the national parks, to be extremely informative, and this occasion was no exception.

Our hike started on the Trail of Cedars, a nature walk on a boardwalk though an old-growth section of forest featuring five-hundred year old western red cedar, western hemlock and black cottonwood trees. 

Our guide, “John,” seen here standing in front of an example of a tree’s broad but shallow root system,

spoke about the way in which water – both frozen and unfrozen — shapes and had shaped the environment in Glacier National Park and specifically in this old growth forest.  This part of the forest has been undisturbed since 1517 (the precise date determined from tree rings), but it is highly depended on the continuous moisture provided by the melting of glaciers from the hiugh mountain areas of the park.  At current rates of melting, by 2030 those glaciers will be reduced to mere snowfields which may not continue melting throughout the summer.  It remains to be seen what will come of areas of the forest such as this one once that occurs.

We passed by the Avalanche Gorge, where the swift-rushing Avalanche Creek has carved a narrow valley straight down through the rock

As we passed into a younger section of the forest, only 200 to 300 years old, we paused to look at this nurselog, whose decaying contents allow it to host several new trees

and this glacial erratic, a huge rock that was carried to this spot by an ancient glacier

We stopped here to look at the consequences of an avalanche that occurred only a few years ago.  The opposite slope was at first cleared of vegetation, which is now coming back only in the form of low bushes, except the trees on the left side which mark the edge of the avalanche.  On our side of the hill are several trees that were lopped off some twenty to thirty feet above their roots – they succumbed not to the falling snow and ice a debris, but to the powerful, 200 miles per hour winds that were pushed ahead of the falling avalanche

Finally we reached Avalanche Lake itself.  John explained that the brilliant greenish-blue of the water is produced by the large quantity of rock-flour that is produced by the glaciers grinding down the rocks over which they slowly descend. 

Some of the surrounding mountains are reflected on the surface of the lake

On the far side of the lake were a set of waterfalls descending from Mount Bearhat

John ended our tour with a long reflection on the impact of climate change on this park, and the potential that lessons drawn from our visit to the park might inspire others to think about climate change and our social responsibility to begin to address it in our generation.
As we sat by the side of Avalanche Lake, we watched this water ouzel dipping into the water to catch food, as well as hopping along a nearby log

As we headed back down the trail, we spotted this Stellars jay, first on a log and then in nearby trees

as well as this tiny caterpillar underfoot

here I am inside a hollowed out redcedar tree trunk – with a fallen black cottonwood next to it

and a western redcedar tree with a large goiter

We got back from our Avalanche Lake hike in the midafternoon, and we wanted one more hike, perhaps a more strenuous one, before dinner.  So we headed further toward Logan Pass and stopped at the Loop – the one truly hairpin turn on the Going to the Sun Road – for a walk on the Loop Trail. 

Had we had a longer time to walk, we could have gone the full four miles to reach the Granite Park Chalet, but as it was we had less than two hours because we wanted to have an early dinner so that we could get to sleep at a reasonable hour before hitting the road at 7 AM the following morning to get to a birthday party in Seattle at 6 PM Saturday afternoon.
Our hike took us across this stream

and up a ridge along the valley from which the headwaters of Upper McDonald Creek rose. with waterfalls plunging down from this peak whose name we could not identify

We turned a corner, heading up the side of a ridge toward another mountain

but our time ran out and it was time to head home
We took note of this interesting plant

this view of the mountains heading back toward Lake McDonald

the side of a rock wall

and this fungus on the side of a dead tree

Argh!  Time to get off our last trail!

That night we had dinner once again at the Belton Chalet restaurant.  It was a bit of an anticlimax, as our waiter kept getting our orders wrong – we ordered the Belton Sampler appetizer but were served the middle eastern sampler instead (which was pretty good, just not what we had ordered); I ordered the huckleberry ale and was served a huckleberry soda (being late in the season, the huckleberry beers was out, OK, but then let me know so I can pick another beer!).    I had the grilled salmon main course which was tasty, and Nancy tried the vegetable tart which she found less inspired than her meal from the previous visit.   We were too full for dessert; so we headed home to pack for our long drive to Seattle the next day.  We made excellent time, taking about eleven hours even including a stop for a tasty lunch at the Longhorn BBQ in the Spokane Valley.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Hiking Piegan Pass in Glacier National Park

We got a bit of a late start for our first day after having traveled over to the west side of the park, and I was determined to do a more substantial hike given that the first hike of the day was likely to be our only hike that day, and I felt that my leg would be up to a greater test.  Our selection was the hike top Piegan Pass, which I had overheard a park ranger suggesting the day before to another inquirer ahead of me on the line to get advice.  This meant that we would have to drive back past Logan Pass into the eastern half of the Going to the Sun Road, to the Siyeh Bend parking area; it proved to be a good choice for the day.

We began by passing the “confluence of two streams” where we had briefly strolled the previous day; after that the trail began to climb steadily, but not steeply, through a pine forest.