Tag Archives: National Park

It’s Not Nice to F**k With Mother Nature! (And Probably Won’t Work Anyway)

As a long time resident of Fort Lauderdale, I’ve always thought that building on the barrier island, that is to say, Fort Lauderdale beach itself, was a really stupid thing to do. Nevermind that these buildings nakedly face the full force of a hurricane or tidal wave. As a systems engineer, my intuition was that structures on the island would disturb the natural flow of tide and sand that built the island. In a complex system like the ocean, there’s no way to know the “butterfly effect” of disturbing this process.

Noted geologist, Orrin Pilkey, says that building on the shifting sands of barrier islands is a form of societal madness. These structures, Pilkey believes, are the primary insult to natural beach processes. Not everyone agrees with him, but everyone (scientists) agrees that human actions are hurting the situation in one way or another. Cutting channels for cruise ships and building jetties to protect those channels are probably the worst offenders.

Hitchhiking on the remains of Baltimore Rd on Assateague Island
Hitchhiking on the remains of Baltimore Blvd on Assateague Island

Assateague Island, just off the coast of Maryland and Virginia, is also a barrier island. In 1950, a 15 mile section of the Maryland side of Assateague was platted for development, and a paved road, Baltimore Boulevard, was constructed to traverse the new development. A major storm in 1962 destroyed or covered most of Baltimore Boulevard, and many of the structures on the island were destroyed. It motivated politicians (who usually sell out to private money) to create the Assateague National Seashore. Hurray for them for supporting a measure that makes sense: Preserving a barrier island ecosystem for its natural inhabitants and sand flow, and for visitors to enjoy.

Assateague is famous for it’s wild ponies. The ponies inhabit the salt marshes and pine forests of the island. Legend says that the ponies are from a shipwrecked Spanish Galleon, La Galga. It was a military ship guarding a fleet of Spanish trade ships on their way from Havana, Cuba in 1750. They ran into a hurricane and were taken off course, up the Gulf stream. La Galga ran aground on the barrier island. The Spanish war horses escaped and became, over the years, these wild ponies with large bellies from their salt diet.

Assateague2013_0119Deena and I decided to spend a few days there on our way south. We originally had a prime beach campsite but learned that the forecast was for freezing temperatures and 30-40 mile per hour winds. Wisely, or perhaps I should say “carefully”, we moved our tent to a protected area behind a pine stand. All night, we could hear the wind howl but our tent barely rippled.

The island is quite interesting with very distinctly different ecosystems: salt marshes, white sand beach and pine forest. We didn’t see many ponies, but the deer were not shy. The park has some lovely trails that highlight the geographic features of the island. The Assateague photo album is here.

Wouldn’t it be nice if all the barrier islands were national parks?Assateague2013_0088

 

Getting Older Has Some Benefits Other Than Denny’s Senior Meals

I won’t even go into the downside of aging. I’m pretty sure you can think of a few appropriate to your own age.

On the other hand, there are some benefits to getting older, including getting wiser. Well, some people get wiser.

In Brazil, when we went to Carnaval in Salvador, Bahia, we purchased entrance to a “block” and a “camarote”. A “block” is a big rope at the back of the music truck where the paying people can dance. (Outside that rope, it’s shoulder to shoulder and packed really tight with people, some of whom are pickpockets.) A “camarote” is a bandstand on the side where you can safely watch the music trucks and dancing people pass by in the street. The entrance ticket is not a piece of paper, but rather a specific T-shirt that you wear for admittance.

If you don't have a special t-shirt, you dance in a street this crowded.
If you don’t have a special t-shirt, you dance in a street this crowded.

When we arrived in Salvador and went to get our entrance t-shirts, we had to wait in a huge line for more than an hour. Frustratingly, all our admittance shirts weren’t even ready for us. We had to return two days later and the line was even longer!

I tried, in my broken Portuguese, to explain that we’d already waited in line the day before. That attendant referred me to another fellow who spoke English. He was a nice young man who took me aside where no one who could speak English was listening. “In Brazil,” he said, “there’s a law that if you are 65, you don’t have to wait in line. How old are you?” I said, “Um, yeah, that’s it, I’m 65.” Deena and I were escorted up front with him explaining “Ele tem sessenta e cinqo.”

In the United States, after paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxes, I’ve finally reached the age where I can purchase a Senior National Park Pass. For an additional $10 in cash, that is.

Seriously, it’s a really good deal. The Senior National Park Pass, which is a lifetime pass for only $10, gets me and whoever’s with me into any National Park in the country for free. If Deena and I are camping, we receive a 50% discount on our campsite. In fact, that bargain is probably the only reason that we’ll keep the old van and see more of the U.S.A.