Sunday, August 30, 2009

Nau again

Regular readers of this space may recall posts about the eco-friendly outdoor clothing retailer Nau (pronounced "now"), which had one of its four stores in Chicago. Last we checked, Nau had called it quits last May, the Halsted store long since shuttered. Nau's fashions were always a little funny, I compared them to Star Wars cantina gear here. The shorts I bought there were a hybrid of coach's shorts and culottes.

So much to my surprise, I received an e-mail from Nau on Wednesday. It starts:

It's been a while, so we thought we'd reach out. We're writing old friends to see what's new, fill you in on our latest, and welcome you back into the fold. So welcome back.
So in other words, we're back and selling $225 hoodies. Nau gear is stocked in existing outfitters, places like Uncle Dan's here in the Chicago area.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Ravine music

It's a cool, cool summer. It doesn't take a parody of a Bananarama lyric to remind us that it's been chilly in Chicago almost all summer. Two nights ago, we went to a show at Ravinia, and most people were dressed for a Bears game. If only the wine and cheese were replaced with Jim Beam and Johnsonvilles. It's sort of like camping, except without tents and with things like coffee tables (no joke).

Ravinia is named for the dozens of ravines that run perpendicular to Lake Michigan from Winnetka to North Chicago. Here, a moraine crosses the Lake Michigan shore and leaves a terrain of dramatic bluffs and watercourses lined with northern species like juniper and paper birch. Openlands is creating a preserve a little north of Ravinia that will be spectacular. Part of it opens in fall.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Dune acres

A pair of piping plovers nested this year along the Illinois shore of Lake Michigan. I had a chance to see a few shorebirds close to home this past weekend--sanderling, least sandpiper and semipalmated plover. More photos of a trip to the park here.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Electric carp

The dreaded asian carp is closing in on the Great Lakes, reports the Detroit Free Press and Chicago Sun-Times. They're now just a few miles from leaping from the Mississippi River watershed, southwest of Chicago, and into the St. Lawrence watershed. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has turned up the power on an electric barrier in the Sanitary and Ship Canal. I fear the barrier isn't going to be able to hold these voracious eaters back forever. In the words of Dr. Ian Malcolm, Jeff Goldblum's character in "Jurassic Park," "Life... finds a way."

Bird brains

Birds are smart--and not just because we saw four common nighthawks flying over U.S. Cellular Field at the Sox game last night, wisely taking advantage of the bugs and stadium lights. I've been thinking about this lately, and a couple recent articles back it up. Thanks to one of the correspondents. Corvidae are particularly smart. They have big brains and can use tools.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Tracking narwhals

I really haven't posted about narwhals enough lately, so I thought I'd share this link. NPR is airing another story today, I believe, about the search for the unicorns of the sea.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

KletterRest-ed development

A few weeks ago, I found a sealed copy of Backpacker Magazine's 1998 Gear Guide. I've held onto it for a while, relishing the moment when I could break open this time capsule of recent history. Today, I opened it and gave it a quick read. Aside from ads for old models of Honda Accord and Mazda trucks, things haven't changed much since 1998. Still, I found a handful of items worth sharing.

-URLs. Many listed in ads and stories include the "http://" prefix. I couldn't recall if all companies had Web sites in 1998, but apparently they did. The dot-com bust would happen a year or so later. Backpacker's Web site was; this was the era of unnecessarily long and confusing URLs, back when ESPN was

-Compasses. There are a lot of ads for them. While leafing through, I was wondering if GPS existed in anything resembling its current form. Then I did find a couple ads for Garmin and Magellan. But in case you want a 1998 compass, check into Suunto and Silva brands: they seem to have made a lot of them, and they look quite nice.

-Backpacks. There's a section where many of the new backpacks look like my 1997 Lowe Alpine Australis backpack.

-Brands. They haven't changed all that much. No Arc'teryx or Cloudveil, but a lot of Eureka.

-The KletterRest. Crazy Creek, the makers of the ubiquitous camp chairs, once made a chair that doubles as a backpack. There's an ad that says "The Chair that thinks it's a Backpack that thinks it's a Chair." A quick check online seems to indicate the KletterRest went the way of the great auk.

-PBS videotapes. The pre-DVD media was available for the show "Anyplace Wild."

In sum, 1998 was a simpler time. One in which a compass and a backpack/chair made a lot of sense. Doesn't sound too bad to me.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Squirrel tale

A few weeks back, we were sleeping just after dawn when we were awakened by a loud pop. The sound was immediately followed by our Dumpster loudly slamming shut. The pop sounded something like a gunshot or firecracker. Weird things happen in alleys, we thought, and maybe it was just one of those Uptown mornings.

Later that week, a squirrel was discovered dead in the Dumpster. The squirrel's presence seemed unrelated--could someone really have shot it, scooped it up and immediately thrown it into the Dumpster? And why?

Two days ago, we unraveled the mystery. Our neighbor Jason had been walking across the alley to his car. He heard the pop and turned. He watched a squirrel get electrocuted on a power line, fall and land on top of the Dumpster.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Water world

Great Lakes water levels are rising again. Water levels have been really low during the past several years, but cold, snowy winters are leading to higher water. At Montrose Beach, the boat launch is quite a ways inland now, and it's basically turned into a walkway to the dog beach. Thanks to one of the correspondents for this story.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Happy trails

Despite the grousing here, the trip last week was a good one. Note: We didn't actually see any ruffed grouse despite the previous statement.

--The temperatures in July were some of the mildest in the Midwest on record. The trend continued throughout the trip.
--It's amazing how remote a place can be even in one of the more populous states in the union. We didn't see a single person on the trail.
--We traversed several back roads and Forest Service haul roads yet it was pleasant (above).
--There was much evidence of past habitation along the trail, but it was nice in a strange way. Abandoned buildings, oil and gas wells, even old televisions and refrigerators. You can barely make out a vacant schoolhouse in the photo above.
--The region is known for its pottery, including McCoy. My boots still are caked with red clay from the trip.
--To the best of my knowledge, we survived the trip without a single tick or spider bite.