Thursday, February 27, 2014

Ramblin' Along Las Ramblas

The destination and dates are booked: it’s off to Barcelona, Spain in September. Located on the Mediterranean Sea on Spain’s eastern coastline, Barcelona is the country’s second biggest city and “one of the coolest places on Earth,” according to Lonely Planet.

The city combines a sunny Mediterranean climate with classic urban style common in Western Europe. In terms of art and architecture, it is the land of Picasso, Gaudi and Dali. Legend has it that Barcelona -- founded by the Carthaginians about 200 years before the time of Christ -- was named after Hamilcar Barca, the father of Hannibal.

Will likely take the tour to nearby Montserrat (below), a mountain of unique round rock pillars molded by the elements from limestone, pebbles and sand that once was submerged beneath the sea. A Benedictine monastery -- one of the most important shrines in Spain -- is wedged into the side of this mystical mountain.

The cove beaches of Costa Brava await to the north of Barcelona. The “rugged coast” offers some of the most spectacular stretches of sand and sea in all of Spain. Close to the coast, the city of Figueres is the birthplace of Salvador Dali, a leader of the surrealist movement in art who also delved into the world of sculpture, film and photography.

One of the top architectural attractions in the entire country will be located mere blocks from my hotel, the Axel Barcelona. The La Sagrada Familia -- an otherworldly temple that remains a work in progress nearly 80 years after the death of its creator, Antoni Gaudi -- is among the world’s more ethereal structures.

Also located close by is Spain’s most famous street: La Rambla. With narrow traffic lanes and plane trees, La Rambla is a busy pedestrian boulevard packed everyday with tourists and locals alike, making it a popular spot for “entrepreneurs” of all stripes, including pickpockets. Well, forewarned is forearmed, I suppose.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

The Aldo Leopold Society

To paraphrase Woody Allen, it was only a notion at first, but then it became an idea that ultimately led to a concept: a reunion of wilderness rangers and backcountry aficionados who worked as seasonal employees for the Wenatchee National Forest.

It appears the concept will become a reality. A group of us -- all former employees of the U.S. Forest Service -- will convene from August 16-24 in Spider Meadows (below) along Phelps Creek in the Glacier Peak Wilderness in Washington. We will come from near and far to celebrate the 50th anniversary of The Wilderness Act of 1964.

We will celebrate that milestone and the occasion of spending time together in the wild. The Wilderness Act of 1964 defines wilderness as an area “where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain, an area retaining its primeval character and influence.”

Aldo Leopold, one of the champions of the wilderness movement in America and author of that classic tome, A Sand County Almanac, probably summed it up best: “there are some who can live without wild things and some who cannot.”