January 2nd, 2006

buzzed, B&W

March of the Penguins

So, here's my promised follow up about March of the Penguins.

I didn't have many expectations going into this movie, just a documentary about some penguins (Emperor Penguin's if you want to be specific). The Wikipedia article about the movie is pretty decent.

I was impressed by the serially monogamy of the penguins - once the penguins find partners, they stay with the all year, alternating the incubating of the egg, treking back across the ice pack to get food, and raising the chick.

The fact that they go months at a time w/o eating is amazing too (the penguins trek 60+ miles each year, and there's no food at the breeding grounds). The penguins starve for a few months as they find mates, then the males continue to starve after the females have laid eggs - 125+ days w/o food for the males, and the females have produced an egg, and lost 1/3 of their weight before they get back to the sea. The males incubate the eggs, while the females trek back to the water to get food. The parents then alternate, with one of them staying with the chick, and the other going to get food. It's kind of insane. Some how the female penguins know when to come back, timing their arrival back to the males with the hatching of the eggs. Who knows how they do this w/o cell phones . . .

The other amazing thing is that the father's take their turn going to get food right after the chick has hatched. Somehow they walk to the sea, stockpile some food, wander on back, and they recognize their chick by sound alone. I do wonder what about the males/females who wander back and find out their chick has perished.

I don't know, I'm just amazed at how nature works, and creates systems that seem ridiculously complex, but somehow prevail. It's kind of amusing that near the end of the Wikipedia article, there's some discussion about how they're proof of intelligent design. Right . . . it seems more likely to me that the complexity of the penguin's live is proof that life will find a way to prevail . . .
buzzed, B&W

Icy Hiking

So yesterday, I decided that I'd start 2006 off with a healthy start, and hike up Mt. Helena.

It's been warm the last week or so, with temperatures getting up into the 50s while I was gone, and yesterday was pretty mild, probably in the 40s or so. Anyway, I start going up the 1906 trail, and not surprisingly, it's icy. What was snowpack a few weeks ago is now a sheet of ice, with most of the surrounding snow melted. I decide I'll try the power line trail instead, since it looks pretty clear.

I get maybe 1/2 or 2/3 of the way up, and it's not too bad. There's only been a few spots that were icy and had to be taken with care, while the rest has been clear. The next section of the trail is pretty covered with ice, and I don't see any easy way to walk around it, or on the edges, so I nimbly start up it, making sure to put my weight on exposed rocks, dirt, whatever. Of course, at some point I end up falling, and I fall forwards, catching myself a bit Spiderman like, w/o skidding down the mountain - but my glasses fall off and I drop my Nalgene bottle. I quickly grab my glasses as they skid under me, but the Nalgene is happily skipping down the ice. I regain my footing, and thinking to myself "okay, the first fall of 2006, no biggie" and hike downwards, hoping the Nalgene hasn't gone too far. Fortunately, I hike down maybe 40 feet of trail, and there's my Nalgene, stuck in a run-off ditch.

I debate giving up and going back home, but decide I'm going to make it to the summit, so turn around and start hiking again. I make it past where I fell and I'm trucking along, feeling pretty good, when I get to another icy spot. I make it maybe 30 feet up along this icy section, when I fall, but this time I really wipe out, somehow twisting around and landing on my rear, my feet pointed downhill, and no traction. So, what happens next? I start skidding down the icy trail, and I'm picking up speed, and thinking that 30 feet of ice isn't looking so fun. I'm trying to find any kind of traction with my feet, and not having much luck. I see a rock sticking up a little, so I aim my foot at it - no luck, and my foot skips over it, but then my ass hits the damn rock, and I get that wonderful shooting pain - though it slows me down enough, that my feet get some traction and I stop.

I gingerly stand up, and feel significant pain. I check to make sure I'm not bleeding, and that my pants are intact (there's a small tear in them), but I'm in one piece. Of course, I give up at this point, figuring two falls, within 10 minutes of each other, the second one rather painful, is a good sign that this isn't one of my brightest ideas. I get down w/o incident, though the spot where I fell is still in pain, and I can't really sit on it.

Maybe I should cave and get some YakTrax or other crampon type things . . .