Tag Archives: Ohio

Photo Adventure: Lake Erie Islands

11 Sep

I’m not even going to try to explain the past few weeks of my life. Every time I think about it I get overwhelmed. Let’s just say that there were parts that were fantastic and parts that were crazy stressful.

So here’s a few photos from the Lake Erie Islands.


Put-in-Bay Harbor


Cannon demonstration at Perry’s Victory NM


The monument (which just celebrated the bicentennial of the Battle of Lake Erie)


My Parents, hanging out by the Lighthouse at Kelly’s Island


In Yosemite I am constantly reminded of what happens when glaciers slide over hard sheets of granite. In Ohio I get to see what happens when glaciers slide over soft limestone bedrock. Pretty cool.


Corn on the Cob really is better in the Midwest


Also here’s a random picture from my friend Emily’s wedding because it was fun and crazy beautiful.

~Robin (Not at all sorry for the randomness)


My Big Fat Cleveland Getaway

25 Jul

Just when you thought had a fix on my location I took a quick trip back to my hometown for a wedding.


It was a Pinterest perfect combination of sass and class.


My friend Kristina loves the yarn bombed trees in Cleveland Heights.


Elegant Lily pads at Cleveland Botanical Gardens.


We took a bike trip on the Canal Towpath in Cuyahoga Valley National Park. This crazy structure is a lock for the old Ohio and Erie Canal. There is a really cool program in the summer where if you bring bikes onboard you can ride back on the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad for only $3.


Apparently I was really into taking pictures of bridges on this trip. This is the I-80 Bridge, it is home to a nesting pair of Peregrine Falcons.


This is the Route 82 Bridge.


Details on the Old Station Road Bridge.


I was ready to gloat that this picture didn’t have a bridge in it when I realized that the boardwalk technically bridges the Beaver Marsh.


I’m sure there’s also a bridge somewhere in this picture.


Bats Man and Robin

12 Feb


I love bats.

Most people probably think that I just missed the last train to crazy-town but it’s the truth.  I love bats.

I still remember the first time I saw a bat.  I must have been about seven years old, it was dusk in the middle of the summer and my parents were wrapping up a day of yard work.  If I had noticed the bats at all I probably would have mistaken them for birds, but my Dad pointed them out and told me they were bats.  At first I was a bit creeped out knowing real live bats hung out in the safety of my backyard, because bats were well associated in my brain with Dracula, Halloween, and abandoned belfries.  (Did I even know what a belfry was at seven?)

Later, my brother invented a game of throwing a softball up into the air to watch the bats dive at it.  I don’t remember if I had already learned about echolocation or if that came later, but I whenever I teach my students about echo location the same image comes into my head:  A baseball and a bat, one arching up and curving back down in a steady, predictable pattern, the other swooping reeling, and changing direction at a breakneck pace, elegant contrasts profiled against the sky and the familiar trees of our backyard.

At some point I learned that the bats were diving at the softball because they thought it was a flying insect, their source of food.  Looking back I’m sure that if a bat had ever collided with the softball it would have died, and I’m equally sure I would have felt horrible as they both dropped out of the sky, but they never did.  The bat would always realize, often times at the last second, that the missile was way too big to be even the most succulent moth and swoop away.  It was a long time before I realized that this game must have been positively infuriating from the bat’s point of view.


As incredible as this aerial display was, I didn’t really fall in love with bats until I moved to New Hampshire.  I spent a summer living in the attic of a cabin in Fraconia Notch State Park, and early, early in the morning I would hear incessant squeaking coming from a corner of the ceiling.  I assumed it was one of the mice I was in a constant state of battle with that summer.  One evening as I was getting ready to go to bed, from the same corner I saw a bat drop out of the crack where the ceiling met the log wall.  I stood frozen in the middle of that room and I could hear the fluttering sound of its wings as it flew around the room for nearly half a minute.  Even in the confines of that tiny room it was an agile flyer, swooping around me, the furniture, and the walls without crashing into any of them.

While I was startled by this first appearance I didn’t really mind it. Maybe I truly did miss the last train to crazy-town, but a bat seemed like short change to the plastic-chewing, food-seeking, hantavirus-carrying, no-kill-trap eluding rodents that I was currently at war with.  Besides, if I couldn’t even rig a trap for a mouse, successfully evicting a bat was way out of my league.

That’s when I started doing more research.  Quite a few of the people I told about the bat immediately raised the concern of bats carrying rabies.  As it turns out, according to the CDC, less than six percent of bats that are captured and tested carry rabies.  That figure doesn’t even take into account all of the bats that are happily zipping around like tiny furry fighter pilots.  There is a high percentage of human rabies cases that are caused from bats, but in many cases the patient did not seek medical attention for a trivial little bat bite.  What’s more, in the majority of these cases the person was bitten while trying to remove the bat.  I made a mental note to go to the doctor if I got bitten, or saw evidence that the bat was diseased and stopped worrying about it.

I also was surprised to hear people say that bats made a habit of flying into people’s hair.  My own observations of their ability to navigate contradicted the idea and many sources dismissed it. I hardly pay any attention to my hair anyways, and a bat stylist might have been an improvement.

But I did learn something that worried me.  Biologists were concerned by something called “White Nose Syndrome.”  It had started with bats in New York State, and it was disrupting the bats during their winter hibernation causing them to be spotted flying around and eating snow.  It was killing enormous numbers of bats, and other than a few vague references to a fungus, no one seemed to understand what was causing the bats to die.  And no one knew what to do about it.

I won’t say we always got along perfectly during my summer of the bats.   For one thing, their habit of squeaking noisily in the ceiling at five in the morning got old fast.  I also remember waking up one night to realize that a bat was noisily rustling around on top of a plastic bag that had one of my knitting projects in it.  (I vaguely remember muttering “You can share my room, but stay out of my yarn!”)

But more often than not I was delighted when they (literally) dropped in.  I vividly remember watching one crawl around upside down using the hook-like thumb on it’s wing.  I was surprised, having been told that bats need to drop from a perch to be able to fly, to see a bat crawl around on the floor in the corner of the room and then effortlessly flutter back up into flight.  Besides, having a bat for a roommate earned me at least a few bragging rights.


My summer in New Hampshire eventually ended.  I moved back to civilization away.  While I didn’t start liking bats any less, I certainly didn’t think about them as much.  I still heard snippets about White Nose Syndrome here and there, and it still worried me, but I was too busy with my non-bat life to really stay in the loop.

About a week ago a bomb was dropped on me.  I got an email saying that Icebox Cave in Cuyahoga Valley National Park was being closed due to concerns over White Nose Syndrome.  A confirmed case of White Nose Syndrome was found nearby in one of the Summit County Metroparks.  I hadn’t even noticed that another case of White Nose Syndrome was confirmed in Ohio nearly a year ago. Even worse a case of White Nose Syndrome was confirmed not far from my cabin in New Hampshire the same year that I was there.  The year afterwards bat populations all over the state plummeted.

Even though I’m thousands of miles away in California now it’s struck a nerve.  Those are my bats, in my favorite places, the ones that I used to play “dive at the softball,” with and yelled at to keep out of my stuff.  I want to do something about it this time around.

Although we have learned more about it, we still haven’t figured out how to stop White Nose Syndrome from killing bats.  It’s caused by a cold loving fungus that probably originated in Europe.  When the bats hibernate for the winter, particularly in caves and mine shafts, the fungus grows around their nose, causes lesions on their skin, and disrupts their hibernation causing them to waste precious energy stores flying around when there isn’t a food source available. White Nose Syndrome has devastated the affected bats, killing anywhere from 70 to 100 percent of their original populations.

Many efforts to protect bats have been focused on preventing people from spreading the fungus. Countless parks and preserves have closed caves and mines to prevent the spores from being introduced to places where bats are known to hibernate. The Fish and Wildlife Service is encouraging cavers to decontaminate their gear before entering caves.  Another way to help bats is by protecting their healthy populations. Avoid disturbing them when they are hibernating and protect the forests and wetland areas where they live and hunt. Hang bat houses to provide a place for them to live. Avoid using pesticides that kill the insects that they depend on for food.


Finally, even if you can’t welcome a bat into your house, at least welcome them into your heart.  As insect eaters and pollinators they play an important part in agriculture and our own food chain, not to mention mosquito control at your next barbecue.  They are truly fascinating critters that are often unnoticed or feared for all the wrong reasons. They could use a little more love.

You can find more information about bats and White Nose Syndrome from these wonderful places:

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Bat Conservation International
National Speleological Society 
Encyclopedia Smithsonian

~Robin (with a nod to XKCD and Hyperbole and a Half)


28 Aug

I’m sorry, Robin can’t come to the blog right now. She’s currently having a marvelous time road-tripping back across the country to Yosemite. For a wrap-up of her her summer exploits please view the following pictures after the beep.


This summer I….


Visited the homeland.


Finished some old projects.


Finished some new projects. (This pattern, with some modifications)


Wandered in my favorite place.


Was pleasantly surprised to discover a hot air balloon festival.


Took time for reflection.


Had trouble following directions.


The Gracious Granville Girls

27 Jul
Hey! There is still a chance to help us raise money for a cool guy and a great cause.  Check it out!


No, I’m not dead.  I’ve just been away from the blog for awhile.  I don’t have April’s excuse of bouncing around the country for the past month, (but I’ll let her tell you more about her own wanderings.)  Even Andy the “lazy man” has managed to bike over 50 miles a day and update his blog more than I have.

I have shuffled back to Ohio to enjoy the summer heat and humidity, and my time not blogging has mostly been taken up by crafting.  However, I did manage an expedition to Granville, Ohio, to visit my friends Grace and Mary.

The week I spent in Granville was fantastic, so fantastic that I’m having a hard time finding the words to describe it.  After I got home my friend Jeff said “I don’t know what the female equivalent of a bromance is, but you are clearly in one with Grace.”


The two of them have an extremely odd and terribly infectious idea of what “fun” is.  Here Grace and I were slathering ourselves with mud and leaves to play camouflage.


Mary and Grace are both dedicated to sustainable living and are transforming their house into a homestead.  They let me help them battle tomato worms in their garden, drool over cheese making supplies, and riffle through their books about beekeeping and breadmaking.  Mary gave me the courage to try this ricotta cheese recipe from Smitten Kitchen when I got home.  It was easy, it came out wonderfully, and I took her advice and added a teaspoon of honey for cheesecake-like bliss.


We also continued exploring the mounds that Mary piqued my interest in the the last time I visited.  We saw what we could of the Octagon section of Newark Earthworks.  Unfortunately, very little of the Octagon is open to public access on most days because it is currently inhabited by a golf course.  We also ventured to two effigy mounds that were built by Fort Ancient peoples, the Alligator Mound in Granville and the Serpent Mound in Southern Ohio.

What with all the Indian mounding going on it wasn’t surprising that one of our jam sessions turned into us naming ourselves “The Mound Glow Girls.”

If anyone in this video is destined to be an overnight internet sensation it’s Sam, who was acting all cute and adorable when I set up the camera and promptly started licking himself the second we hit the “record” button.

All of this fun and excitement has got me plotting ways to get Grace and Mary to move back to California with me in the fall.  Thus far all attempts at flattery, bribery, and hypnosis have been unsuccesful.  The leaflet campaign will be commencing shortly, but if anyone knows a Jedi please tell them I would be willing to trade their services for homemade ricotta.


For the Mounds

9 Jan

On New Years Eve I visited my friends Grace and Mary. Mary graciously gave me a tour of the Great Circle Mound in Newark Ohio.


The Great Circle, (upper left) Observatory Circle and the Octagon (upper right) the Great Square (also called Wright Earthworks) and the Ellipse (lower left.)  Photo Courtesy of John Hancock

Ohio is speckled with ancient mounds, but the Newark Earthworks are particularly remarkable.  Covering several square miles, they are the largest complex of earthwork mounds in the world.  They were built on a massive scale and made with a great deal of precision.   For example, the walls of the Great Circle Mound at their lowest point are eight feet tall and ringed by an inner moat five feet deep.  The walls are even larger at the opening, creating a dramatic entryway to the space within the circle.

Curiously a common dimension, approximately 1,054 feet is repeated throughout the Earthworks.  It is found in the diameter of Observatory Circle, and a square with sides of that same dimension would fit perfectly into the Octagon.  If you were to multiply that number six times you would find the distance between the Octagon and the Square and between Observatory Circle and the Great Circle.  Even more mathematically obtuse, the circumferences of the Great Circle and the Square are identical.  Ironically it is this complexity and scale of the mounds that led early European scholars to assume that the mounds could not have been built by the ancestors of the Native Americans.  For many years their construction was credited to a race called “the Mound Builders” which were often believed to be a lost tribe of Israel.  It wasn’t until 1982 that a new generation of researchers found new measurements that were more significant; the earthworks at the Octagon are aligned to within half a degree of the moonrise at significant points in the lunar cycle.

Photo courtesy of Timothy E. Black.

Another remarkable thing about the Earthworks is that we still don’t know precisely what they were used for.  We know through archeological evidence that the mounds were built about 2000 years ago by a group of people that we have named “the Hopewell Culture.”  Excavations also tell us that the complex was not a permanent settlement of significant size, that the structures don’t seem to have been built for defensive purposes, and there are a large number of burials located in the ellipse that include artifacts from as far away as the Rocky Mountains, the Atlantic Ocean, and the Gulf of Mexico.

Sadly, only a small portion of the original complex remains.  Part of the earthworks lay in the path of the Ohio and Erie Canal, and much of them were covered by the city of Newark.  The Great Circle Mound is the best preserved and is cared for by the Ohio Historical Society.  They also own a small remnant of the Square, today known as the Wright Earthworks.  Much of the the Octagon remains intact, but only escaped development by becoming a golf course.

The Newark Earthworks, along with the equally fascinating Serpent Mound, several mounds at Hopewell Culture National Historic Park, and Fort Ancient are up for nomination as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.  They would share this designation with places like Stonehenge, the Pyramids at Giza, and Mesa Verde.  Part of the nomination process requires a demonstration of community support.  If you would like to help support the nomination process you can take a few minutes and sign a petition.  You could also find information here about sending letters to Ohio representatives and the National Park Service asking them to support the nomination.  The deadline if you would like to do either of these is Wednesday, January 12.


Photo Courtesy of Timothy E. Black.

It’s hard for me to put my finger on why this nomination process has suddenly become so important to me.  Part of it may be that I am still struck by my first encounter with a World Heritage site when I visited New Grange in Ireland five years ago.  It may also be that Mary and her sister Grace have a way of pulling other people into their passions with a magnetism so strong it could counteract a black hole.  But there was also something extraordinary about walking into the Great Circle, through the same entrance that the Hopewell would have used two millennia ago.  It makes me wonder what sort of wonder and excitement did this place hold for them?