Explore: April 2013

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11 posts from April 2013


Observing Highlights for May: A Rare Planetary Trio

May 2013 Venus_Jupiter_Aldebaran_ChumackHRwebIf lack of binoculars or a telescope shut you out of April’s big viewing event, the two comets, May will be a much easier treat. Three planets, Jupiter, Venus, and Mercury, meet in the western sky after sunset, coming within five degrees of each other in what astronomers call a trio. The gathering of three planets is rather unique, and the next trio won’t occur until October 2015.

Jupiter has been high in the west after sunset all year, and as May opens it is clearly beginning to sink toward the horizon with the winter constellations that surround it. But Venus is coming to greet it
before it disappears near the sun. Venus has to contend with the glow of sunset as it lugs itself upward each night. On May 10, can you spot Venus just two degrees away from a newborn crescent moon? On the next night the crescent moon will appear about halfway between Jupiter and Venus.

Continue reading "Observing Highlights for May: A Rare Planetary Trio" »

7 of the World's Weirdest Beaches

Pink Sands Beach Harbour Island Bahamas weird beachesSun worshippers, rejoice: balmier days mean that beach weather is just around the corner. Time to dust off that swimsuit, sling on those sandals, and slather on some sunscreen.

A day at the beach needn’t be just another day at the beach, though. As glorious as an afternoon nap on the shore might feel, why not surprise your senses this summer?  Get ready for steamy shoreline pools and Technicolor sands, and cross these beautifully bizarre beaches off your bucket list.   

Pink Sands Beach, Harbour Island, Bahamas

This three-mile confection of a beach gets its cotton candy color from white sand mixing with the red shells of a class of single-celled organisms called Foraminifera. Waves, or sometimes fish, loosen Foraminifera from their dwellings on the underside of reefs, on the sea floor, and inside caves, causing them to wash ashore. Coral reefs provide calm, shallow waters perfect for snorkeling and swimming. Pink shores aren’t unique to Harbour Island, though—you can find similarly colored beaches in Scotland, Puerto Rico, Bermuda, and the Philippines.

Image by istockPhoto/zxvisual

Continue reading "7 of the World's Weirdest Beaches" »


6 of the World's Scariest Bridges

Qeswachaka bridge scariest bridgesHow does teetering on a spindly bamboo pole above the Mekong River sound?  How about tiptoeing across a narrow, rickety crossing in Japan's Southern Alps? Or suspended above a gorge lined with serrated limestone?

Earlier this month, we indulged thrill-seeking travelers with sky-high treehouses and treacherous trails. Today on Explore, test your bravery -- and your balance -- with these five stomach-churning bridges.  (Just don't look down.)

Qeswachaka Bridge, Peru

Suspended more than 30 feet above the Apurimac River, roughly 60 miles from Cuzco, Qeswachaka bridge is the last of the vast network of bridges that crisscrossed the Inca empire. They fell, along with the empire, in the 16th century, but indigenous Andeans continued to pass down their bridge building knowledge to future generations.

Since the Qeswachaka bridge fibers fray easily, every year or two in June, hundreds of people from various Andean communities gather for the rebuilding ceremony, where they weave blades of Qoya grass into six long cables, securing them at each edge of the ravine with eucalyptus trunks. Thanks to their communal effort, constructing the 120-foot long bridge takes only three days.

The locals celebrate the bridge’s completion with food and dancing. Even with a modern metal bridge just upstream, they form a long line at the handwoven Qeswachaka bridge, which is just wide enough for them to cross single file.

Continue reading "6 of the World's Scariest Bridges" »


Get Out! Celebrate Our Nation's Littlest Heroes

Get Out Earth Day Sierra Club Military ChildLast year, a Seattle Children’s Research Institute study found that only 51 percent of kids walked or played outside with either parent once a day, possibly placing them at risk for obesity and other health problems. In today’s plugged-in world, the statistics should hardly raise an eyebrow.

The country’s 1.9 million military children face the same challenges—among a slew of others.

Military children move and change schools frequently, making new friends each time. Most stressful of all, they’re separated from a parent who may be in danger thousands of miles away. 

This April, celebrate Earth Day and the Month of the Military Child with the Sierra Club. To honor the unique service of our nation’s littlest heroes, the Celebration of the Military Child Outdoors will connect them with the lands they and their families protect. As part of the Club's Get Out! Earth Day campaign, cities across the country are hosting events this weekend where military children and their families can spend a day enjoying and exploring public lands. They’ll get to hike, cast a fly rod, pitch tents, and more. 

How can you celebrate military children this Earth Day? Check out the Sierra Club’s Celebration of the Military Child Outdoors event listing.

Continue reading "Get Out! Celebrate Our Nation's Littlest Heroes" »


Get Out! Enter to Win a Trip to Hawaii

Lanai HawaiiWhat better way to celebrate Mother Earth, than to spend some time appreciating all the beauty that she has to offer. Picture yourself walking along sandy white beaches, watching sunsets from a sea cliff view, kayaking over crystal blue waves, or snorkeling with some of the world's most exquisite aquatic life. Yes, this could be you! If you're our sweepstakes winner, a trip to Lanai, Hawaii won't be the stuff of dreams.

As part of our Get Out! Earth Day campaign, The Sierra Club is hosting a Getaway Sweepstakes for a chance to win a trip for two to the breathtaking islands of Hawaii. Winners will be awarded a five-night stay at the Four Season Resort Lanai at Manele Bay, which is just about as close to paradise as it gets.

And trust us, packing won't be a problem. The grand prize also includes a $500 shopping spree at Gramicci.com, where you can stock up on some free spirited, uber comfortable outdoor attire to keep you styling throughout your stay.

The runner up will be awarded $100 in Kiss My Face's natural, effective and cruelty-free personal care products, as well as $100 in products from Sawyer, the leader in protection against sun, bugs, water and injuries.

Ready to make this trip to paradise happen? Enter your name and email address and you could be on your way to winning the vacation of a lifetime!

--image by istockphoto/SDbT

Read More:

Get Out! Meet Celebs

6 of America's Most Dangerous Climbs

7 of the World's Strangest Flowers


Get Out! Old Outdoor Gear's Gotta Go.

Camping tent on a mountainBoots that no longer blaze trails, backpacks too uncool for school, camp stoves that haven't had that fire kindled in years — now is their time.

Dust off the forgotten denizens of your storage closet and get a spring cleaning/planet saving two-for-one by donating outdoor gear to your local Sierra Club chapter. 

The Club's coast-to-coast celebration of the upcoming Earth Day includes Re/Play, a list of locations where you can donate gently used outdoor gear and apparel to the Sierra Club. (See ya, The Little Mermaid sleeping bag and early-‘90s fanny pack.) 

Donated items will be sold through eBay, with proceeds benefiting The Sierra Club Foundation's work to encourage further planetary exploration, protection, and enjoyment. 

The Re/Play campaign also includes the option of donating a portion of personal eBay sales.


Our Mr. Green talks clothes donations

Damn good socks

Taking it easy on Earth Day

--image courtesy of istockphoto/zhudifeng 


Get Out! Meet Celebs, Save the Environment

Hawaii hikeA Hawaiian hike with Kate from Lost and a SoCal skate sesh with Tony Hawk is the stuff of LiveJournal fanfic and workday-slump daydreams.

Except this month — check it.

The Sierra Club's Earth Day “Get Out!” campaign includes eBay auctions for items like a hike with Kate actress Evangeline Lilly and a meet-and-skate with Hawk (which also includes a signed skate deck).

Other offerings include four VIP tickets to a Jimmy Kimmel Live! taping and a meet-and-greet at a Jason Mraz concert. (Look for an interview with Mraz in an upcoming issue of Sierra.) Our favorite item: two front-row seats to the "MythBusters Behind the Myths Tour."

With some auctions closing Monday night, that Earth Day to-do list might include a little computer time. More items, though, will post this week through April 28.

Look out for a nursery makeover with actress and The Honest Company co-founder Jessica Alba, face time with Tae Bo inventor Billy Blanks, and a cutting board signed by Parks and Recreation's Nick Offerman. All proceeds benefit The Sierra Club Foundation's work to inspire more exploring, enjoying and protecting of our planet.

This month, at least, facing the sobering realities of climate change doesn’t exclude a little fun. 


Esperanza Spalding inspires, gets Johnny Cash stuck in our heads

Eva Longoria talks pesticides and changing the world one day at a time

Jessica Alba on toxic chemicals and Craigslist shopping

--image courtesy of istockphoto/sweetlifephotos 


Get Out! It's Almost Earth Day.

Earth Day is a terrible thing to wasteApril 21 and 22 are two of the Sierra Club's favorite days. First comes Club-founder John Muir’s birthday on Sunday, followed by Earth Day on Monday, one of the few major holidays not synonymous with acquiring more stuff. In that vein, the Club’s "Get Out!" campaign is all about acquiring experiences.

The Sierra Club’s Earth Day site has a calendar of 500-plus things to do across the country, with events leading up to and beyond the official holiday. Events run the gamut from film screenings and jazz shows, to backpacking and habitat restoration.

Here are 17 of the many ways to celebrate this coming Sunday and Monday:

Continue reading "Get Out! It's Almost Earth Day." »


6 of America's Most Dangerous Hiking Trails

Half Dome trafficWith temperatures rising, many of you are gearing up for a vacation with family or friends. You might be dreaming of the world's most stunning canyons or America's newest monuments, but we know that some of you are also looking for a serious challenge this year. For those who are brave enough, prep those hiking boots, gather your supplies, and tackle some of America's most challenging and scenic hiking excursions.

Mist Trail, Half Dome, California

Tucked away in world-renowned Yosemite National Park, the Mist Trail attracts thousands of visitors every year to climb to Half Dome's 8,836-foot-high peak. Hike through beautiful pine forests, bustling waterfalls, and what seems to be a vertical staircase before reaching the steel cables that will take you the last 400 vertical feet to the top of the dome.

Even with cables to assist, the final ascent to Half Dome requires extreme strength and is only for the brave at heart. Without the cables, the hike to the summit of this beautiful landmark would be virtually impossible. And even with this assistance, there have still been unfortunate causalities on this Californian adventure. Since 1995, six deaths have occurred at Half Dome -- one when a hiker was attempting to pass other climbers on the cables.

Continue reading "6 of America's Most Dangerous Hiking Trails " »


7 of the World's Strangest Flowers

Strange flowers corpse flower rafflesia arnoldiiFor most of the U.S., winter is finally loosening its icy grip. Besides freshening your wardrobe, cleaning house, or planning your next national parks trip, why not celebrate by admiring some flowers and plants, perhaps the most telltale signs of spring's arrival? Sure, you can stop and smell the roses, but why not also marvel at the rafflesia arnoldii, touch-me-not, Eastern Skunk Cabbage, corpse flower, voodoo lily, and Hydnora africana? While you could trek across the globe to view these bizarre blooms, in some cases, you need only venture as far as your local botanical garden.

Rafflesia arnoldii: Weighing up to 15 pounds and measuring more than three feet across, rafflesia arnoldii is the largest individual flower on Earth. While it boasts fleshy, burnt-orange petals dotted with whitish pustules, it lacks leaves and roots, parasitizing the woody Tetrastigma vine in the rainforests of Borneo and Sumatra.  Impressive still, Rafflesia arnoldii emits a fetid odor that some compare to decaying flesh, earning it the nickname "corpse flower."

For such a bold blossom, the Rafflesia arnoldii remains elusive, spending most of its time hidden within its host's stems and roots. The flower appears when its buds break through the Tetrastigma vine's bark. A cabbage-like head develops, eventually blooming and staying open for only about five days. Rafflesia arnoldii's rank smell lures carrion flies. The flies crawl down the male flower's central chamber toward the anther, which transfers pollen onto their backs as they brush against it.  They then carry the pollen to a female flower. The projections emerging from the flower's center may help radiate heat and waft the carrion smell.

Continue reading "7 of the World's Strangest Flowers" »

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