Some National Park Events and a Little Rant about Glee

November is the time when I go into hibernation and hammer out a fifty thousand word novel. Of course I can't just spend the whole month inside as that's not good for anyone. It's important to get out and get a dose of nature and vitamin D. Luckily for those in my neck of the woods this is a great time of year to go to a National Park and do some exploring.

Some facilities in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park are closed but others are in full swing. There are sorghum making demonstrations on the twelfth, thirteenth and fourteenth of this month, which are wheelchair accessible. Some of the horseback riding opportunities are closed or closing but others don't close until December. There are two year round camps and seven picnic areas stay open all winter. You can get more information here: http://www.thegreatsmokymountains.org/guided_walks_junior_ranger_events.

The Catoctin Mountain Park in Maryland is having a blacksmith demonstration on the thirteenth. There are also plenty of trails as well as an artist in residence program. If you'd like to stay for more than the day there are campgrounds and cabins for rent. There will be orienteering classes on the fourteenth, which should be fun and useful. Maps and compasses are provided by the park but you must return them after the course. You can get more information here: http://www.nps.gov/cato/parknews/fall-activities-2010.htm.

The Petersburg National Battlefield in Virginia offers an interesting tour of the battlefield that's good for the environment and still keeps you from getting unduly tired. These tours take place on Segways and the fifty dollar cover charge includes training on the device. These take place every Sunday. The website says at one am but I would definitely check that as it sounds somewhat unlikely. There are several events taking place on the thirteenth including birding, and the annual luminary program in honor of Veteran's Day. You can get more information here: http://www.nps.gov/pete/planyourvisit/events.htm.

The Channel Islands National Park in California offers one of my favorite things; a tidepool talk. Seeing what's going on in the tidepools is one of the things I really miss since I moved away from California. These take place every Saturday and Sunday for the next few years at eleven and then again at three. While you're there you can take a guided tour of the island, which takes place daily. For more information click here: http://www.nps.gov/chis/planyourvisit/events.htm.

If you're looking for something a little different you might want to visit the Craters of the Moon, which is jointly run by the National Park Service and the Bureau of Land Management. Not actually on the moon, this park is in Idaho and is on a dormant volcano. Four Apollo 14 astronauts visited the park in 1969 to help them train for upcoming moon missions. I guess the volcanic craters really are similar to the ones found on the moon. You can hike, camp and check out the lava tube caves, which sounds intriguing. You can get more information here: http://www.nps.gov/crmo/index.htm.

Speaking of caves, if you happen to be in Kentucky, or have a hankering for a visit, you might want to drop by Cumberland Gap National Historical Park and go on a Gap cave tour. The tour takes about two hours, is one and a half miles long and has about two hundred steps, so it's not a good fit for those who are claustrophobic or mobility limited. Also remember to use the restroom before you go as the sound of water dripping might make you uncomfortable when you're still a long way from the entrance. These tours take place on Saturdays and Sundays at ten am and two pm. If you're at the park on the twentieth you can also go on an owl prowl with a park ranger, listening for and learning about owls. If you've never been near a flying owl you might be surprised by how silent their wings are, which I guess comes in handy for nabbing prey. You can get more information here: http://www.nps.gov/cuga/index.htm.

Fans of slime molds and mushrooms will want to head over to the Big Thicket National Preserve in Texas on the fifteenth for a slime mold science café and the twentieth for a mushroom walk. Dr. Katherine Winsett, of the University of Arkansas, will present the science café and will answer questions afterwards. The mushroom walk is not like a dog walk; you'll be doing the walking, not the mushrooms. Mushroom expert David Lewis, president of the Gulf States Mycological Society, leads this walk and will identify mushrooms. This walk is different from the owl prowl above in that you'll collect specimens, which will then be placed in an herbarium collection. You should bring a knife or spoon for digging. (Do ordinary people dig with knives? It sounds like something pirates do. Mushroom pirates in this case.) For more information click here: http://www.nps.gov/bith/index.htm.

There are quite a few upcoming events at the Muir Woods National Monument in California. On the fourteenth is the welcome back salmon event with members of the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria saying a traditional salmon blessing, which welcomes the salmon back to their home in Redwood Creek. There will be storytelling, crafts, fire starting and more. This sounds like something I would love to do and I'm sad I'll be three thousand miles away. On the twenty-first is Listening to Muir Woods after Dark, which is a walk through the woods as the sun goes down, listening to the way the sounds change as the forest enters its night phase. This also sounds interesting and has a limited enrollment so I would reserve now if interested. For more information, including details of the upcoming work on the park parking lot, click here: http://www.nps.gov/muwo/index.htm.

One-Paragraph Review

This week's one-paragraph review is a rule breaker in that it's actually from me and it's pretty long but I am upset about something I saw and wanted to say, "I was extremely disappointed by the never been kissed episode of Glee. The title refers to two characters who say they haven't been kissed; Kurt, who is gay, and the new football coach called Beast (not sure if that is her actual name?). Kurt still hasn't been kissed as what the bully did to him wasn't really a kiss but was a sexual assault – specifically an unwanted sexual advance from someone who routinely hurts him. (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/sexual+assault) It's unfortunate that nobody pointed this out in the show as there are many teens watching who need to know that when something similar happens to them it's a big deal and a crime and they have recourse to make it stop.

The coach gets a pity kiss from the glee teacher who tells her she's pretty. She's forty years old and a successful football coach who is turning the losing team into a winning team. Why are we supposed to be believe that she is focused on her looks instead of her strengths? At what age do we women get to stop worrying about our looks and pay attention to our talents? I'm not sure if this story line is a failure on the part of Hollywood, where many people are obsessed with their looks, or if it's part of a larger problem with our society's infatuation with beauty, particularly young beauty. I'm curious how this episode would have flown if Beast was a man. Would we be supposed to accept that a tough football couch suddenly gets upset because he's not handsome and seeks reassurance from a woman teacher and female high school students? I think not. Have some pride Coach Beast and revel in your talent and accomplishments." Do you have a one-paragraph (or smaller) review you'd like to share? Send it in to me for consideration. You can reach me at feedback@qualitytimeweekly.com.