Getting Started Hiking

I’ve loved to hike since shortly after I started going to a summer camp at which you hike one or two mountains each summer and then after summer camp, my mother began dragging me up Mt Washington every year. I eventually became known as an expert hiker at camp, and I think it is perhaps the only sport I was ever any good at. It makes me so happy that more and more people are interested in going out and walking in the woods for exercise and to appreciate nature. The natural environment is free entertainment and it doesn’t take much to find a wooded area near you to enjoy. If you’re going out for the first time, or even if you frequent the woods, here are some tips to make your experience better for you and better for nature.


Stay on the trail When you go into the woods it is important to stay on marked trails.  We are visitors in the woods and many delicate plants and animals live in the forest. If one person walks through the woods one day, going wherever he wants, it won’t hurt much. However, it’s important to remember that you are not the only person going out into the woods. Imagine how many feet it takes to make visible trails. Now imagine those feet all over the forest, trampling new plants and breaking twigs off of bushes. Marked trails are not only there to keep you from getting lost in the woods (which is a wonderfully helpful purpose)  but to protect the plants and animals of the forest from humans. 

If you are above the tree line, this is especially true. The moss and lichen that grows on the rocks look sturdier and like something you can step on, but it is particularly fragile and takes a long time to grow. The eco-systems in hard to reach areas are particularly special and extra care should be taken when in them.

Watch where you step This advice isn’t only to protect nature, but to take care of your feet.  Don’t step on rocks or roots when hiking because your feet will be much more sore at the end of your walk then if you had placed your foot on dirt or soft moss with each step. I was recently walking on a beautiful trail covered with soft moss. In this case it was flat, but be careful because wet moss can be very slippery. IMG_0047

Don’t break trees or take things Don’t break tree limbs or take leaves off of trees.  Trees are living things. Leave the limbs where you find them and if they are blocking the path, try to move them out of your way gently!  Be aware, if you are with others, don’t let them snap back into the next person’s face. Don’t take things you find on your walk. What if everyone who walked the trail took a rock with them? Remember the saying “Take nothing but memories (pictures), leave nothing but footprints. ” Consider making a scrapbook of your photographs to serve as a memento of your walk. Instead of a rock or stick collection, pick a favorite pose and have your photo take at an interesting spot on each hike and make that your collection. 

One exception to the “Take nothing” rule I always try to take a plastic bag with me, or something that I can use to carry trash back out of the woods. Picking up trash is one of the few reasons I will make an exception and step off of a marked trail. Be careful that you don’t hurt yourself picking up trash, but recognize that it is always the right thing to do. 

IMG_0042Take a communications device. No matter how much you want to get back to nature and commune with the environment, always take a communications device with you. We learned this the hard way. I remember once when Jon and I were still dating, we decided to “be out in nature” and go for a hike.  We intentionally left all of our communications devices in the car (I believe that between us we had 2 cell phones and 3 pagers). We went out for a one hour hike in the late afternoon and ended up lost in the blinding dark woods for hours. We absolutely passed the point where we would have called someone for help. We were out there long enough that when we finally emerged and stumbled on a police car who could take us back to where we were parked, the park rangers were actually getting ready to search for the owners of the abandoned car in the parking lot. We learned our lesson that day and my advice to you is, turn off the ringer, put your phone in your bag and don’t think about it, but take it with you. In that case we had no understanding of how large the woods we were hiking in were or how easily one could get lost in the woods. 

IMG_0054Take a map Find out if there is a map of the area you are going to. One thing we also learned from our incident being lost in the woods is that there are maps of all the trails in that area. Many places have trail maps, even the small woods at the retreat I am currently at has a map!

Watch your step! Be careful of stepping on rocks. Rocks can be deceptive.  Sometimes solid looking rocks will move, and they can be much more slippery than you would imagine. 

Getting out into nature, even for just a short while is good for the soul. 

Happy Greening


p.s. if you are going on anything more than a short walk in the woods, take a reusable water bottle.

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What’s the Hottest New iPhone Tech – FLIR ONE Review

two power bricks glowing warm in thermal image

Warm power adapters are a sign of vampire loads

Over the weekend I got to play with one of the coolest new tools for an energy geek – a FLIR ONE Thermal Imaging Camera add-on for the iPhone 5/5S. You can literally measure and see how cool or hot you or anything around you is. A friend at church just got one and she knew how much Alicia and I would enjoy testing it.

This is not the first thermal imaging camera I’ve used before, but it is the most convenient. For those that do not know what a thermal imaging camera is, it is a camera that can see heat (infrared). They are really useful for quickly identifying air leakage in homes and other buildings. They work best when the outside and inside temperatures are very different so that you can see the change in temperature. Even though that wasn’t the case when I got to experiment with the FLIR ONE, I did find some interesting things to explore.

The basic setup was pretty good. You snap a special mounting case onto your iPhone 5 or 5S (I wonder how long until they have a version for the new iPhone 6) and then clip that into the thermal camera. You need to install the Free FLIR ONE app from the Apple App Store to use the camera, but that only took me a few minutes. With the camera attached, the phone feels very similar to when I have an external battery pack case attached to my iPhone.

thermal image of the outside of a refrigerator

Check out the hot spot under the fridge and the cold spots near the ice dispenser
Dont’ forget to clean the coils to save energy

The FLIR ONE has a separate on/off/tune switch that you use to turn it on. When it is in the off position, lens covers go over the two special cameras on the FLIR ONE to protect them in your pocket or pocket book.

Once I figured out how to get past the introductory instruction pages, using the FLIR ONE was a snap. You can switch modes depending on what you are looking for with the camera. I like the Iron mode as it is nice and colorful. You can even choose a different mode after the fact if you want to see how the image looks in a different mode. The FLIR app stores the captured image files and data itself, as well as provides the option to save a copy to your photo library on the phone.

In addition to finding air leaks in homes, Thermal imaging is great for identifying energy vampires around the house.  You can see in the picture the power adapters for computers and phones that are hot even though they are not in use.  The picture of our refrigerator shows the heat coming off of the coils below and the cold spots where the ice maker and water dispenser comes through the door.  Have you ever cleaned the coils under your fridge?  It is a great way to save energy and extend the life of this expensive appliance.  

Another feature with the FLIR app that I really like is the ability to pull down the image to see a visible light photo of the thermal image, which is really helpful in explaining to folks what the pretty pictures actually mean.

thermal image showing an LED vs Incandescent bulb

See how much cooler the LED is for the same brightness

I still haven’t figured out how to get the images out of the FLIR system into a mode I can use off the phone except for taking screen shots. I hope they come out with a small app that could enable me to analyze the raw images, complete with the extra data, on my laptop.

At $350, the FLIR ONE is an expensive toy, I mean tool, but you could afford a new iPhone to attach it to when compared with a standalone thermal imaging camera. The cheapest standalone Thermal Imaging FLIR camera I’ve seen is just under $1,000 and it has a puny screen and is a pain to save images.

Since the internet is made for pictures of cats, I figured I couldn’t end this post without a thermal picture of our two cats and their glowing eyes.

Thermal image of two cats on a bed

Two cats as seen by the FLIR ONE

Happy Greening!

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Identifying Ragweed

2014-08-23 19.10.14

Are you allergic to ragweed?  Jon is.  According to Wikipedia, Ragweed is a very common allergen.  Just ask around and you're sure to find people who know they are allergic to it.  But do you know how to recognize it? … [Continue reading]

How Many Times Should You Use Your Disposable Razor?

razor with disposable tips

There are a lot of things that we have been taught should be disposable, like silverware and diapers. I agree, sometimes it is wonderfully convenient and helpful to have disposable items. We took plastic forks and spoons to the beach with us this … [Continue reading]

Charcoal vs. Propane Revisited

food on wood pellet grill

Last summer I blogged about the age old controversy: Which is the greener way to grill: Charcoal or Propane? My conclusion was that it matters far more what you grill than how you grill it. Now I have discovered something new and I … [Continue reading]

Music That Inspires Me To Be Green

drawing of acoustic guitar

I can relate to Kermit the Frog saying, "It's not easy being green."  Recently, I have been struggling to stay motivated and write blog posts to motivate others to be green.  With everything going on in the world these … [Continue reading]

Living Smaller – Make Friends With Your Neighbors

metal measuring cup with organic sugar

"Bye mom, I'm going next door!" "Can I go to David's house to get Daddy?" "Run across the street and get a cup of sugar." Making friends with your neighbors is generally a good idea. Life is better when you know the people who live around you … [Continue reading]

Amazon Packaging FAIL

small plastic card packed in a big box

Why does Amazon insist on using a card board box to ship everything? Today I received a Windows Update Card (i.e., something the size of a credit card that has the license key printed on it) attached to a card board insert inside a much bigger … [Continue reading]

Addicted to Electricity

tangle of charging cables in a car

"My life would be miserable and I wouldn't ever be happy, unless I had a shelf full of boardgames in my room [if I didn't have electricity]." "If you're not charging your iPod, could you plug in my iPhone?"  "I have another cable, I can … [Continue reading]

Upgrading Historic Church Pendant Lights to LED

300W LED Upgrade

Have you noticed that many churches have the same lantern-style chandeliers? Our church and my mother's church both have them. Jon and I can't help ourselves, but we notice the lighting wherever we go.  We don't necessarily notice how bright it … [Continue reading]