Hi! My name is Donna. I chase clean air. Let's go! Out of Los Angeles and into the world, chasing clean air, beauty and a sustainable life!
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Ohhh, how many press releases clog my daily in-box but two jumped out of cyberspace, prompting a "Wow! How can I learn to be more high level like these companies making a positive difference in the world?"
How often do you say that about a company?
It's clean up season, making an impact
United by Blue is a clothing company whose mission is to clean up the world's waterways. They remove one pound of trash from an ocean or waterway for every product sold. So far the company claims to have pulled almost a quarter million pounds of trash out of the water in the past five years. They do the hard work themselves! United by Blue is sold in over 400 outlets nationally and they have 3 brick and mortar stores.
Toward a balanced wild planet
Wild Planet catches and cans tuna fish in a sustainable way, using pole and troll fishing methods, which minimize bycatches, catching non-target species. As a result, Greenpeace recently endorsed Wild Planet as the #1 tuna brand for sustainability. Wild Planet is challenging the big three tuna brands to switch to sustainable fishing methods.
I wanted to see an exotic puffin up close and personal. I had read articles about the photogenic orange-billed, web-footed Atlantic puffin that lured me to European shores. But what about an area closer to home? I asked my personal assistant: "Siri, are puffins in the Pacific Ocean?" She responded that puffins are in the North Pacific Ocean.
Indigenous to the Pacific Ocean, tufted and horned puffins mate for life, breed in large colonies, and, in my mind, chirp, "Welcome to Alaska's Kenai Fjords National Park."
My journey to the puffins started at the historic Downtown Anchorage Depot, where I boarded Alaska Railroad's Glacier Discovery Train. Considered one of the most scenic train routes in the world, its large windows offered nature and wildlife viewing.
Our train snaked south toward Seward, the gateway community to Kenai Fjords National Park. We passed Cook Inlet, where white beluga whales shimmered in the sunlight. Eagle nests topped trees. Bald eagles flew. The Alaska Range towered in the distance. Conductor Davy Registe ensured passengers' comfort as we traversed a lush green landscape where water cascaded down jagged mountains and an occasional moose turned to say hello.
I'm no Tarzana, roughing it in the wild. Therefore, when I chose to romance the wild of Alaska, trepidation accompanied my journey to Denali National Park and Preserve — the largest swath of wilderness in North America. Grizzlies. Wolves. Caribou. The promise of observing wildlife in their natural habitat, surrounded by beauty as it was centuries ago, was thrilling. Predators versus prey. Red fox versus please-don't-eat-me-now Arctic ground squirrels. The Alaska Range bathed in northern lights.
Bye-bye city congestion and cell towers. I'd explore the Interior of Alaska and a new kind of freedom surrounded by Denali's 6 million acres — the size of Massachusetts — which, incidentally, boasts North America's tallest mountain at 20,322 feet. Mount Denali, "The Great One" (also known as Mount McKinley), towers over forests, glacial lakes, frozen tundra and mountains, and it is popular with photographers, climbers and tourists eager to glimpse its often-cloud-shrouded peak. I'd have three days to embrace Alaska's wilderness and squash any trepidations about roughing it in the wild.
I boarded Alaska Railroad's Denali Star train in Anchorage. We snaked north through pristine wilderness, passing lakes, braided streams and groves of trees. Our guide told stories of pioneers and gold-diggers — long-bearded mountain men who endured harsh conditions mining for gold. Stories of rugged men, far removed from my "GoldStar" train experience with plush interior, comfy seats and large curved glass windows, underscored that "roughing it" was not happening here.
The train slowed for dramatic postcard scenes, including one atop a trestle bridge 296 feet above Hurricane Gulch, which is known for its sweeping high winds and beauty.
After seven hours of scenic train travel that I didn't want to end, a colorful low-elevation taiga forest greeted my arrival to the Denali Park Station. The Alaska Range and an alpine forest, like an impressionist painting, were in the distance. Sun rays pierced clouds, illuminating wild Denali: Evergreens, paper birch and aspen trees were alive with color. Wildflowers swayed in the light breeze — pink fireweed, purple lupine and yellow cinquefoil. I inhaled clean air, soaking in the serenity of my surroundings.
I have a fantasy of taking a long walk surrounded by nature, and sleeping comfortably - bug-free - at night. Day after day. Night after night. So in the midst of my New Zealand and Canadian daydreams, a documentary crossed my desk: Walking the Camino: Six Ways to Santiago.
The Camino de Santiago is a 500 mile (800km) "path" that crosses Spain. This documentary highlights diverse travelers ages 3-73; and their personal awakenings and relationships on the road. Set against the exquisite Spanish countryside and showing the country's friendly people, "Walking the Camino: Six Ways to Santiago" may inspire you to take out your backpack, hiking poles and start planning.
Imagine thousands of birds singing and swirling, as they traverse clean skies, with Mt. Shasta (one of America's tallest mountains at 14,180 ft.) providing a majestic backdrop. You've just imagined Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuges in Southern Oregon - a delightful Amtrak train ride from my home in Los Angeles, and a major nesting and feeding stop-over for 80% of the Pacific Flyway's waterfowl.
Imagine tens of thousands of birds flying from Patagonia to Alaska, and stopping along the way for food and water and nesting sources. You just imagined an exciting bit of my winter vacation.
Canada Snow Geese
Bald Eagles, Great Horned Owls, Sandhill Cranes, Western Grebes dancing, Swans, Canada Geese and more started with an incredible train adventure.
I'll write a detailed account of my train and Klamath Falls birding adventure for Creators Syndicate but meanwhile here are highlights for Chasing Clean Air readers.
On February 11, 2015, I took Amtrak's Coast Starlight Train from Van Nuys, California to Klamath Falls, Oregon in order to participate in the 2015 Winter Wings Festival; our nation's oldest birding festival.
Untampered California Coastline - View from Amtrak's Coast Starlight Train
The train was an adventure unto itself.
"Trains put you back to a more relaxed gentler time," one fellow traveler said. "The train is very friendly, and you never get bored looking out the window," said another.
Near San Luis Obispo on Amtrak Train
Spectacular California Coast - Azure Waters
On the train, I saw the California coast like nowhere else - no roadways, no trails - just train tracks near rocky coastlines and gentle waves meeting pristine sand. Rolling green hills near San Luis Obispo by day gave way to a star-filled sky and tall pine trees on Mt. Shasta at night. I met travelers from across the country. While I slept well in my Superliner Bedroom (the gentle movements of the train were very relaxing), the beauty outside called to me, as I viewed one magical scene passing into another.
Klamath Falls is a birders paradise. Bald Eagles and over 353 species of birds have been observed during spring and fall migrations. In fact, Klamath Basin holds the largest concentration of wintering Bald Eagles in the lower 48 states. There's nothing like seeing wildlife in abundance. Feeling their presence, hearing their music, seeing life in its natural habitat.
And indeed birdsong filled sweet air. Despite the fact I experienced thousands of birds, I was told their numbers were down due to local drought.
Bald Eagles and Nest
Marshal Moser Leads Laid Back Birding Tour
Highlights of my trip included overnighting on Amtrak, attending the 2015 Winter Wings Festival (Over 550 participants this year), photographing Bald Eagles (learning the differences between adult and immature), and seeing nesting Great Horned Owls and tens of thousands of water fowl thanks to my Laid Back Birding Tour with Marshal Moser.
I enjoyed staying at the Running Y Ranch resort just outside of Klamath Falls - with its walking trails, views, and peaceful feeling far from any big city. And a bonus for those of us who enjoyed Cheryl Strayed's bestseller, "Wild", the Running Y Ranch was close to the Pacific Crest Trail, which Ms. Strayed hiked and made famous in her book and movie. I hope more people enjoy nature's bounty to ensure the wild stays wild.
So I'll share train and Klamath Falls stories in a future feature but wanted to give you a head's up now, since spring bird migration is underway in the Klamath Falls area and you can still make 2015 plans.
Crater Lake, Oregon. Now THAT'S pretty!
I suggest Klamath Falls as your base "camp" to experience up to six wildlife refuges, a 300 mile long Klamath Basin Birding Trail (KBBT) - that features 47 birding sites within the Cascade Mountains, Great Basin, and Modoc Plateau - and checking-out nearby attractions like the must-see-natural-splendor of Crater Lake.
I highly recommend train travel with Amtrak (it was fun and you learn geography first hand!) but you can also drive, or fly to Medford and rent a car. When you take the train, you may call your hotel for a shuttle, or rent a car to get around to observe awesome wildlife refuges and more. And one last thing - Amtrak was on time going and returning.
For Klamath Falls tourism and nearby attraction information, check out Discover Klamath here.
My beat is front and center on the world stage! Cough! COUGH! Air quality - the lack of quality oxygen - is the giant elephant in the Chinese room, I mean, country, where gas masks are the new fashion trend as world leaders descend on Beijing for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting.
The world leaders descended AFTER the Chinese government closed factories and limited the driving of individual cars in an attempt to get the skies blue. Reduce air pollution by 40% was the goal, which many residents responded with a yawn and "Ho Hum" as they prefer government intervention throughout the year to ensure clean air.
The fact is that the skies are never really blue in Beijing, and locals risk negative health impacts.
And what about the rest of us living downwind?
Hopefully, the world leaders will discuss economic benefits of going green, carless, and coal and fossil fuel-free. World leaders, one can hope, will discuss supporting better air quality while controlling global warming: Create supportive laws for clean tech industries and encourage better habits of our citizens - for the greater good of all! That's what we want.