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Wilderness Week: cool trees, tiny lizards, big parks, and more!

This week marks the National Park Service’s 100th birthday, and for The Verge it’s an opportunity to explore spacious skies and majestic mountains. Preservation and conservation don’t begin and end with parks, but this timely anniversary got us thinking about wilderness and all the wild things happening in it around the world. We're going to look at ways modern human beings can enjoy nature best, and at some of the challenges facing Earth's most precious spaces over the next century.

  • Andrew Marino

    Aug 28, 2016

    Andrew Marino

    The sounds in your backyard are unique, go record them

    Pristine soundscapes are so important that the National Park Service works to preserve wilderness sounds in many natural parks. There's even federal legislation in the US, like the 1987 National Park Overflights Act, that aims to keep noise from airplanes out of the lands below. Of course, it's impossible to escape noise where I live in New York City, but recently I've been inspired to look for quieter pastures.

    But you don't have to be an audio engineer to capture your own favorite natural soundscapes. Here are some basic gadgets, tools, and tips for recording soundscapes in your own backyard. I’m a big fan of recording in stereo and I think you get a fuller and more immersive sound this way so here’s some ways you can do that.

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  • Kaitlyn Tiffany

    Aug 28, 2016

    Kaitlyn Tiffany

    The Verge Review of Animals: Champagne Lady, a wild mustang

    This column is part of a series where Verge staffers post highly subjective reviews of animals. Up until now, we've written about animals without telling you whether they suck or rule. We are now rectifying this oversight.

    As an adult who survived public schooling, I am aware that science generally demands objectivity of its practitioners. As a girl who "adopted" a mustang out of an overwhelming sense of duty and fate, I am here to tell you that there is nothing more beautiful in this world than Champagne Lady, the wild mustang.

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  • Ashley Carman

    Aug 27, 2016

    Ashley Carman

    How camping technology made us feel at home in nature

    I used to think of camping trips as a time to disconnect from society. That is, until I started covering camping gadgets and discovered that a lot of modern campers are gadget mongers, with a serious thirst for battery life. So for Wilderness Week, I talked with Martin Hogue, a professor who teaches landscape architecture at SUNY in Syracuse, to find out how camping has evolved with and for technology. Hogue is currently working on a book called Thirtyfour Campgrounds about campsites and their evolution. His research suggests that although we often think of camping as being on the opposite end of the connected spectrum, the hobby actually took off in popularity thanks to a revolutionary product of technology: the car.

    In the early days, only the elite could afford to camp. They hired help to take them into the woods and cook them meals; build them shelters; and essentially, make sure the campers didn’t die. But with the invention of the car, anyone could drive out to the wilderness. Camping became a feasible and affordable vacation option, and naturally, gadgets developed around this new pastime: hammocks to hang in your car; tables that fold out from the side of vehicles; and eventually, the RV. All these innovations brought the amenities of home outside, but ultimately, campsites were what made the outdoors accessible. No one needed to bring a machete to get through the thick of the woods and set up camp. Everything was developed already, including bathrooms and showers.

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  • Andrew J. Hawkins

    Aug 26, 2016

    Andrew J. Hawkins

    President Obama just quadrupled the size of a protected marine reserve off Hawaii

    A school of chub (Kyphosus sp.). Hawaii, Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument
    A school of chub (Kyphosus sp.). Hawaii, Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument
    Claire Fackler, CINMS, NOAA

    President Barack Obama will expand the size of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument in the Pacific Ocean to over 580,000 square miles from 140,000 square miles. The sanctuary, which contains thousands of marine species, stretches across the Midway Atoll and Hawaii, and will become the world’s largest protected marine area, The New York Times reports.

    Obama will travel to Midway Atoll next week to mark the vast expansion. First, he will address the Pacific Island Conference of Leaders and the IUCN World Conservation Congress in Hawaii, and then later in the week he will fly to Papahānaumokuākea to mark the designation and “highlight first-hand how the threat of climate change makes protecting our public lands and waters more important than ever,” according to the White House.

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  • Lizzie Plaugic

    Aug 25, 2016

    Lizzie Plaugic

    Meet the Facebook group calling out fake nature photography

    A weasel using a woodpecker as its own private convertible; a wolf stuffing its snout in another wolf’s mouth; a reindeer comically failing to camouflage itself with some leaves. The internet has an insatiable appetite for bizarre wildlife pictures. But, like anything that brings us joy on the internet, these photos always came with the condition that they might not be entirely real. Truths Behind Fake Nature Photography, a Facebook page created by concerned nature enthusiasts, is trying to educate the public by calling out fakes when they spot them.

     

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  • Dami Lee

    Aug 25, 2016

    Dami Lee

    Google Doodle celebrates the diverse beauty of US National Parks

     

    Today's Google Doodle celebrates the 100th anniversary of US National Parks through a video that beautifully illustrates the wonders of nature. The animation highlights all the ways our national parks inspire awe, from the breathtaking landscape of the Grand Canyon to their role as vibrant ecosystems.

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  • Adi Robertson

    Aug 25, 2016

    Adi Robertson

    Tour Yosemite in virtual reality with Barack Obama

    If you want to celebrate the 100th anniversary of America’s National Parks Service, there are definitely worse ways than with a virtual reality trip through Yosemite narrated by President Barack Obama.

    Through the Ages is a roughly 10-minute video shot by virtual reality filmmakers Felix & Paul, in collaboration with the White House, Oculus, and National Geographic. The video was created earlier this summer, when the Obamas visited Yosemite National Park. It’s been teased since June, but it’s now available on Gear VR and Facebook’s 360-degree video platform, where it can be watched without a VR headset; an Oculus Rift version is coming soon. While it’s billed as the White House’s first VR experience, it’s following a simpler Google Expeditions educational tour of the building itself, as well as our own 360-degree video with first lady Michelle Obama.

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  • Ashley Carman

    Aug 25, 2016

    Ashley Carman

    Google will take you on a 360-degree tour of the Kenai Fjords, Bryce Canyon, and other National Parks

    Google is celebrating the National Parks Service’s 100th anniversary with a new 360-degree "interactive documentary."The company sent film crews out to various National Parks to capture the natural wonders around them along with commentary from park rangers. Five parks are featured: Kenai Fjords National Park, Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, Carlsbad Caverns National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, and Dry Tortugas National Park.

    Viewers can kayak through fjords, get up close with lava, deep sea dive around coral reefs, and explore dank caves. If you can’t make it to Alaska, New Mexico, Hawaii, Utah, or Florida this year, this might be your next best bet. The documentary’s available online and on the Google Arts & Culture App on iOS and Android. The videos also come with supplementary footage where viewers can look through artifacts from the National Parks museums. Get those Google Cardboards ready because nature is coming to you.

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  • Aug 24, 2016

    James Temple

    Climate Hackers: One man’s plan to stop global warming by shooting particles into the atmosphere

    This year is already on pace to be the warmest on record, setting off another season of heatwaves, droughts, and wildfires around the world. But it would only be the latest record to fall, as 15 of the 16 hottest years have occurred since 2001. In turn, the ice sheets are melting, oceans are rising, hurricanes are increasing in number and intensity, and climate refugees are pouring over borders.

    So despite what you may have heard about Chinese hoaxes or scientific fraud, it’s increasingly obvious that climate change is very real and well underway. Now the question is: what do we do about it?

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  • Thomas Ricker

    Aug 24, 2016

    Thomas Ricker

    Augmenting nature one plug at a time

    It’s Wilderness Week at The Verge as we celebrate the centennial anniversary of the US National Park Service. It’s a good time to reflect upon your own relationship with nature, the mother of all inventions.

    Being outdoors has always been an escape for me, a respite from the aggressive pace and mind-numbing din of the big international cities I’ve called home. When I was younger, I’d get away to the mountains, spending weekends backpacking or bombing the asphalt switchbacks on a motorbike. Now the surf is my getaway. But never have my escapes been a protest against progress like Ted Kaczynski’s, or an attempt to Simplify! Simplify! like the two years two months and two days that Henry David Thoreau spent around the shores of Walden Pond. I do share Thoreau’s urging to minimize distractions and to focus on what’s real.

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  • Russell Brandom

    Aug 23, 2016

    Russell Brandom

    Bat lickers lick bats in bat cave, get caught

    On March 16th, 2015, two hikers named Codey Foster and Dusten Ray Gill licked a tricolor bat in violation of federal law. The bat was hibernating in the Bowden Cave in West Virginia’s Monongahela National Forest, remote enough that if the hikers had kept their bat-licking escapade to themselves, no one might ever have discovered the crime. Unfortunately for the duo, they also spray-painted their names on the cave wall and uploaded evidence of the crime to Facebook.

    A local caving group discovered the graffiti two months later and forwarded the report along to the Forest Service, which sprung into action. Investigating the names, they discovered the duo’s Facebook pages, and discovered photos of the licking as well as the following exchange.

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  • Aug 23, 2016

    Nick Statt, James Temple and 1 more

    The best outdoor gear for camping, hiking, and exploring nature

    Photography by Vjeran Pavic

    It's Wilderness Week here at The Verge, and that means thinking about all the ways we can explore and admire nature, even if our park getaways happen to be few and far between. Because every good outdoor experience involves traveling light with gear that lasts a long time, we've put together a list of some of our favorite camping and hiking items. If you're in need of some suggestions for how to sleep, drink, and cover ground in comfort — and for a practical price — we've got you covered.

    From the perfect water bottle to the most comfortable and versatile footwear, every item here is a quintessential piece of equipment that's survived quite a few National Park excursions and hiking trips abroad. (In the case of Verge videographer James Temple, these locales include Mt. Everest.) The choices aren't supposed to please everyone; this is a collection of our personal items, and each carries with it a sense of sentimental value. That said, each one has logged the miles and earned its place in our collections. Maybe they can do the same for you.

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  • Loren Grush

    Aug 23, 2016

    Loren Grush

    Bill Nye discusses our nation's parks and why Earth is the best place to live

    Bill Nye may be constantly studying the other planets in our Solar System as the CEO of the Planetary Society, but yesterday, the Science Guy was marveling at what our planet Earth has to offer. Nye stopped by Brooklyn Bridge Park in New York City to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Parks Service, which was created by Woodrow Wilson on August 25th, 1916.

    We caught up with Nye to discuss why it’s so important to celebrate our nation’s parks and what we can do to help preserve them. One of the biggest threats facing these regions of our country is climate change, says Nye, which means some of the unique features of our national parks may not be around for much longer. "I just got back from Glacier National Park, and there are a few glaciers left. And the official word is 2030, they’ll all be gone," said Nye. "But the park rangers I spoke with — a dozen park rangers over the course of a few days — no, no, five, six, seven years, certainly by 2025, all the glaciers will be gone." For those looking for ways to help preserve these parks, Nye says the best thing to do is vote (though he won't tell anyone who to vote for).

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  • Alessandra Potenza

    Aug 22, 2016

    Alessandra Potenza

    Uprooted: how climate change may kick off an artificial migration of trees

    Whitebark pines
    Whitebark pines
    Wikimedia Commons

    Whitebark pines are majestic trees with a whitish, often wind-curled trunk that grow up high in the Rocky and Sierra Mountains, in the Western US. They’re icons of Yellowstone National Park, where they provide high-calorie seeds for many animals, including grizzly bears that eat the seeds before hibernating. Some whitebark pines manage to live for a thousand years, but many of them are now dying.

    The reason? Climate change. Warmer temperatures have allowed the mountain pine beetle to survive winters, exposing the trees to the voracious pest. And a vicious, lethal fungus is also on the attack. As a result, the USDA Forest Service estimates that 97 percent of the whitebark pine’s natural range will disappear by 2100 in the US.

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  • T.C. Sottek

    Aug 22, 2016

    T.C. Sottek

    Welcome to Wilderness Week!

    Without its national parks, "America The Beautiful" might be a song about polluted skies, dirty strip malls, and gated playgrounds. The park system has lovingly been called "America’s best idea" for a good reason; even in a time when it feels like our neighbors are yelling at each other more than ever, we can all agree that parks already make America great.

    This week marks the National Park Service’s 100th birthday, and for The Verge it’s an opportunity to explore spacious skies and majestic mountains. Preservation and conservation don’t begin and end with parks, but this timely anniversary got us thinking about wilderness and all the wild things happening in it around the world.

    Read Article >