Call for Submissions: The Nature Zine, issue 3

Issue3sumbissions

It’s that time of year, well, a bit past due but I was lucky enough to be doing field research for an extra 5 weeks this year. I’m looking for your submissions for issue 3 of The Nature Zine: (re)connecting with the natural world.

Get creative! Send your poems, stories, thoughts, illustrations, paintings, photos to be submitted in the next issue. Topics can include but are not limited to: favorite hikes, backcountry recipes (vegan only please), foraging tips, trail reviews, adventure stories, bike touring, species descriptions/identification tips, collages, places in the city to appreciate the natural world, permaculture, primitive skills,  fears of the natural world, train hopping, attempts to balance city and wilderness, essays, book reviews. I think you get the idea.

There will be a limited edition tape release with issue 3!

Thanks to everyone who has submitted to and supported the Nature Zine in the past and continue to do so. Issues 1 & 2 are still available, but there may be a delay on shipping as I need to focus on getting Issue 3 together for now. If you are in Chicago or New York City, you can pick up a copy at Quimby’s Bookstore or Bluestockings Bookstore.

Send submissions to batsnbikes at gmail dot com by December 1, 2014. If you prefer to snail mail your copy, please email for an address.

Thanks!!!

Advertisements

Nocturnal Friends- A visiting photographer

A very long over due post…

This past summer I had the lovely honor of having a very talented wildlife photographer join me in the field to photograph bats and other creatures he came across. Michael Durham made his bed in the corner of our living room floor crammed between the couch and the wall attempting to sleep through the daily morning commotion of Porter Cove for the better half of the month. One of my techs named the dead end road we lived on, Porter Cove, as Mr. “Pappy” Porter seemed to own most of the land in Unicoi- his extensive family were scattered throughout the trailers sprinkled within the cove. Michael slept in his living room nest or in the forest with us in an extra tent. That summer we all slept on either air mattresses or sleeping pads on the floor in the house or on the forest floor. He battled the constant thunderstorms right there with us and with all of his fancy, expensive and non-waterproof gear.

Almost as soon as he arrived into town, we were out in the field, actually I think we left just 4 hours after he arrived to Unicoi, TN. It was the hottest and most humid night of the year and I also had to tell him that he’d be driving his rental car on a road that had begun to wash away down the side of the mountain. As long as it’s not raining…too much…we should be ok.

Every night we could go out, Michael went with us. We would set up our nets to catch the bats and other equipment to record bat calls, while Michael set up his extensive high speed camera equipment inside a family-sized tent on the edge of a dirt road, often surrounded by stinging nettles and poison ivy. Each bat we’d catch, we’d record the basics and if s/he was a species of interest, Michael would let an individual bat fly in the tent, catching their precise movements as they swooped around- their mouths open as they sent out calls too high for us to hear, the sounds bouncing back to their ears as they dodge every obstacle in their way. I’m not going to even attempt to go into his set-up because I would only fail to explain the details, but these details and his passion for wildlife photography are the main ingredients to the photos that allow us to witness the beauty of these nocturnal creatures that all too often escapes us.

Bats often only conjure up images of fear, or are rarely thought about. But I want to share some of Michael’s photos from my field season with all of you. Within those few short moments he spent with each bat, he captured what most people never have the opportunity to see up close. Maybe you are reading this because you already love bats, or you are curious, or perhaps you are an excellent friend and enjoy reading what I write. And maybe it’s something else all together. Either way, his photos offer a glimpse into the life of bats and their nocturnal friends- including wildlife photographers and biologists alike.

Male northern long-eared myotis (Myotis septentrionalis) photographed in the Cherokee National Forest, Tennessee. (digital composite)

Male northern long-eared myotis (Myotis septentrionalis) photographed in the Cherokee National Forest, Tennessee. (digital composite)

Visit his site, DurmPhoto.com
photo captions taken from Michael Durham’s photo descriptions. Thanks!!

The Nature Zine, Issue 2

Completed!

I can’t believe it’s been a year since the first issue of The Nature Zine. Now I have a whole new collection for you to enjoy!

NatureZineIssue2

Issue 2 is packed full of intense stories, thoughts, poems, art, photos and an ‘interview’ from multiple contributors. I’m thrilled to share with you this next run of submissions- they are all quite inspiring. People share their fears, passion, and thoughts on exploring, connecting with and studying nature. The beautiful ruffed grouse on the cover was painted by Jay Dowd, owner and tattoo artist at Consolidated Tattoo Parlor and Barber Shop in Flint, Michigan. Jay and I have gone on a LOTS of outdoor adventures together and he spends any moment that he can out in the wilderness, so of course it was a pleasure to include his painting. I really enjoy receiving submissions from all over the states (and Canada!), so please keep them coming.

My friend Matt and I collaborated on a piece together for issue 2- never too late- as we had once discussed writing of our 6 month adventure (much of which has been described here, but we now we were able to reflect on our journey and share new aspects of it all). We essentially interview ourselves- as in we came up with a few questions and then separately wrote our responses. We waited to share them until we both completed our pieces. I then meshed them together, leaving them as they were- not letting our answers influence one another.

If you are interested in a copy, I’ll send you one for free, trade or a $1-$3 donation.  Donations just help to cover the cost of copies and shipping. Plus allow me to keep up with this very enjoyable project. I’m on a student budget so anything helps. Just use the the paypal button below or email me for other options, batsnbikes [at] gmail [dot] com

Donate for a copy of The Nature Zine

Much thanks to everyone who has contributed to this project! I’m keeping Issue One in print as well, so let me know if you are interested. Both a creative outlet and a way to share our thoughts on connecting with nature, The Nature Zine will continue on with more issues.  If you are interested in contributing, please send your stories, thoughts, and art to me or contact me for more information:  batsnbikes [at] gmail [dot] com

p.s. wondering what a zine is? This should help.

Pond Mountain Wilderness

We try to control our surroundings everyday.  We hide in rooms where we control the temperature.  We attempt to control the sounds around us by drowning them out with headphones or closing our windows.  We turn dials in our vehicles to create sounds we want to hear and to cool or warm ourselves.  We turn on lights when the sun fades.  The door to our house latches shut, an attempt to keep out what we don’t want in our homes.

We shut out the natural world everyday, and yet we constantly try to manipulate it.  Our actions and daily routines have impacted our climate, but we cannot control the weather.  Everyday that I work outside I am reminded of this- and I respect this constant awareness.  Sure, I’ll admit that this summer has been full of frustrations as it has stormed and rained almost every single day.  We take the risk of setting everything up to catch bats for the night, only to have a storm rush in ruining our chances at a full night of bat surveys.  Rain is only a reminder that I’m not working in a controlled environment-  I am exposed to the rain, wind, humidity, heat, cold, insects…. I have no control, nor do I want to control the wilderness.

—–

We could see lightning off in the distance, perhaps too close, but we heard no thunder.  We keep the nets open, stretched out across the old gravel road, between two metal poles- 20 feet tall.  The lighting becomes brighter, more frequent and the rain is quick to follow.  We close up for the night, but by the time our gear is packed my clothes are soaked, plastered to my body, and my hair is heavy with rain.

We’re out at Dennis Cove, near the pond and the Appalachian Trail crosses our site.  My crew departs for home, but Kyle and I make our way through the field and into the tent.  The rain continues for hours, and when it finally lets up I catch the sounds of bullfrogs and spring peepers scattered through the moments that I awake through the night.

I’d hardly had time to even think about where we could hike the next day- my first true day off since the field season began.  I browsed over a map in a region I knew we’d have to work- immediately attracted to the Pond Mountain Wilderness.  The trail climbs up a ridge and we can walk to the trail head from my work site plus it deposits us back into civilization at Watauga Lake- a jump into the lake after our hike.  A quick internet search, revealed little information about Pond Mountain Trail- most of what I found of the Pond Mountain Wilderness was in regards to the portion of the AT that cuts at an angle across the western portion.  I wanted to avoid the clutter of people, a wilderness trail is always more intriguing.  All I knew was that it was 4.5 miles long and runs along the ridge top, seems easy enough.  I only took a quick glance at the topographic map.  Hey, why not add on a bit more- just a quick, easy hike before starting the Pond Mountain Trail.  Laurel Fork Trail (39) next to Dennis Cove Campground would lead us south, where we would connect with FS-50F to head back North.  It would end where FS-50 crosses, and on the opposite side is where Pond Mountain Trail (40) begins.

Nine creek crossings followed by a 2.2 mile hike up a winding gravel forest service road was my definition of a “quick, easy hike.”  Well, it was actually easy but the whole taking our boots and socks off to cross 9 portions of the creek within a couple of miles- surveying each crossing for the least sketchy area to cross- made things not so quick.  The rain left the creek high, hiding any rocks that may have once been available for scurrying across with our boots on.  Other crossings found the creek to be up to my thighs.  With each crossing, we became more careless.  Looking at the topo maps now, it’s so clear to see that the trail crosses the creek many times- perhaps when it’s not a summer full of rain, a shoeless entry may not be required.

Trail 39 and 50F meet up near an open field- we filter water and what we had hoped to be our final creek session knowing that finding a water source on the ridge would be unlikely.  As we reach FS road 50F, the clouds begin to darken but only a small amount of rain finds its way down to us.  We pass the only two people we see on the trails, as they casually stroll through our last creek crossing with their fancy boot gaiters.  The next couple of miles were drowned out by the sound of gravel crunching under our boots with each step, our pace steady as we followed the road that would take us up along Rough Ridge and to Pond Mountain Trail.

We reach an open gate, 50F ends at FS-50, I point directly across the road, “That’s our trail.”  Kyle is doubtful as he looks across the gravel into the forest, no evidence of a trail to be found.  We look again at the map, Pond Mountain Trail should be directly in front of us.  It’s a wilderness trail, so I’m not really surprised that as we look ahead we see only vegetation- we hike in.  Maybe I saw a faint blue blaze, but soon enough we come across a post confirming that we are on the right path.  Suddenly it’s quite obvious, as we are on an old timber road, faded into a two track- the clearest portion of the trail.  It’s, of course, in the easiest portion of the trail that I trip over a downed tree sending myself flying through the air and slamming into the damp but still hard ground.  The fall is only a reminder that we skipped lunch, my head feels light but I’m laughing at my fall. Handfuls of almonds, pecans and some dried fruit allow me to regain my energy.

The trail narrows as it climbs the ridge.  We hike through rhododendron tunnels along the sloping slides, the path is relatively clear, the blue blazes are solid and bright but as we ascend both the blaze and the path begins to fade.  The steepness of the trail is suddenly a slap in the face as we bear right with a clear view of what lies ahead.  There are no switchbacks.  We climb the steep grade, our steps slipping on the forest floor full of decaying leaves that have absorbed weeks worth of rain.

Kyle pauses above me, periodically to wait for me to catch up to his pace.  We continuously check to make sure we are still on some sort of trail but all of a sudden we are on these large bolders, covered with lichen and surrounded by brambles with a few trees that have managed to squeeze life between rock.

The blazes are gone, there is no path.

Continue reading

Call for Submissions- Issue #2

issue2submit

Issue One of The Nature Zine is still going strong and I’m looking to put issue 2 together by September.  Please send me your stories, poems, hiking tips, backpackinging food recipes, thoughts on exploring the outdoors, your photos, your illustrations, trail reviews, escaping the city….. I could go on-  you get it.

Much thanks to my rad friends for their previous contributions, touring with my zines, adding them to their distro and spreading the word.  If you are in Chicago or NYC you can also pick up the Nature Zine at Quimby’s and Blue Stockings –  much thanks to them as well for keeping The Nature Zine in stock.

Looking forward to adding your stories and art to the next issue!  Please share widely.

Keeping With New Tradition

The smell of adventure still lingers, as I let down my hair I catch the fragrance of a campfire- the smell of smoke tangled in my curls.  The smell is faint, as I returned to Braddock this afternoon and stood under the hot shower rinsing away the scents of my last 24 hours, the humidity and smell of smoke mixing together, filling the room.

Two years ago, I found myself at Caddo Lake State Park in Texas with Matt.  My knee destroyed, we spent 3 nights there, overlapping xmas and realizing how wonderful it is to avoid the mass consumerism of the holidays, the stress of families, the guilt of not doing (“buying”) enough-  all of that is forgotten when you are camping and on a bike tour.  It didn’t matter that the temperature ranged from 20-40F and that it sleeted on us- we had a camp fire, delicious hot dinners and nature surrounding us.  I promised myself that I would spend every xmas after this one camping.

Last year I failed to camp, and I felt disappointed in myself.  This year was different.  I needed to camp.  I needed to hike in the forest.  I needed to breath in the crisp cold air and eat a hot meal perched next to a fire.  Most people tell you that it’s too cold or that you are crazy but Alex was thrilled on the idea of winter camping with me, as was I that she would join me on this adventure.

Arriving in Raccoon Creek State Park, sleet steadily falling, we expressed excitement that a thin layer of snow blanketed the area- a coat of white with bits of greens and browns bursting through.  We caught glimpses of icicles hanging over the edges of moss covered rocks and as the pavement turned to gravel we noted that we were the only ones camping in the park.  We wouldn’t see anyone else until the next morning, driving out of the park.

Armed with waterproof jackets and layers of warmth, we assembled the tent as quickly as possible to keep the rain out.  Before the sun set we were able to go on a quick hike and assemble our fortress against the rain that would allow us to keep dry on the picnic table and enjoy dinner and conversation next to the fire during the rain/sleet/snow.  With my hatchet we chopped apart a small downed tree- tying the parts to the picnic table after scraping off the snow we draped a tarp over the logs to create our shelter.  We felt accomplished and satisfied with our work, minus the few times when the wind would shift blowing the smoke directly into our little fortress.

It took more time that I had hoped it would, but soon enough we had a fire to keep us warm (in the 30F night) and it would also provide us with our dinner for the evening:  hobo pie pizzas (pizza sauce, daiya “cheese”, onions, garlic and fresh basil) followed by vegan s’mores.  A few steps away from the fire and within seconds you’d realize just how cold your surroundings were, so we spent the evening hovered around the fire snacking and enjoying being away from the city.  Around 10pm the rain had given up, leaving behind a fog covered forest- the moon was shrouded in this fog but its light illuminated, reflecting off the moisture, creating light in the evening that made us question if we had just stayed up all night until it was 6am.  We checked our watches doubting the time of day, I stood up away from the fire, mesmerized that I could see everything around me without my headlamp when earlier I had to use my light to reach for something a few feet away- the outlines of trees, the tent, even the trail head off in the distance was visible.  It was beautiful and gave me a sudden burst of energy-  I wanted to go for a hike, yet the chance of more rain and the comfort of the fire brought me back to a mode of relaxation.

In the tent and burrowed into our sleeping bags, we could see our breath, hear a barred owl calling,  and struggled to find ways to keep our feet warm.  Tying our jackets around the foot of the sleeping bags offered a bit of a shield but with my poor circulation, it’s never enough.  We awoke around 3am to our bladders screaming at us to brave the cold, dashing outside kept us awake for another hour or so before we drifted into our second sleep.  Waking up in a tent, bundled against the cold on any morning brings a smile to my face.  We had tea, oatmeal and a hike to look forward to before departing the forest.  Opening the rain fly of my tent and entering the forest is better than any present that I could open under an xmas tree.

The Nature Zine, Issue One

Earlier in the year I put out a call for submissions for the first issue of The Nature Zine.  In the spring, I set a deadline for myself- to finally complete a zine before the end of the field season.  With the contributions and support from friends, I finally put forth the effort to complete the first issue of this project.

The Nature Zine: (re)connection with the natural world  (Issue One)

The Nature Zine: (re)connecting with the natural world (Issue One)

Issue One consists of a few stories and thoughts, 3o pages in all, on adventures, childhood memories, thoughts on experiencing city and forest, and more.  For example, I used this as an opportunity to finally write out my experience of having an allergic reaction to bald faced hornets while in the middle of a forest, off trail, a couple of hours away from the hospital.  I gave away the first run of 50 to friends but have recently made another run of 50.   If you are interested in a copy, I’ll send you one for free, trade or a $1-$3 donation.  Donations just help to cover the cost of copies and shipping.  Just use the the paypal button below or email me for other options, batsnbikes [at] gmail [dot] com

Donate for a copy of The Nature Zine

Eventually, I’ll provide a pdf version but I like this only being available as a hard copy for now.  Plus, it’s fun to get mail and keep with zine tradition.

Until then, I’ll at least share my introduction:

October 2012

Welcome to Issue #1 of The Nature Zine:

Over that last few years, I’ve spent more and more time away from my usual city life.  I’ve jumped back and forth from one extreme to the next.  For a few months, I would walk out my back door and into an alley in Detroit or Flint or any other various city street I’ve stepped into from my always temporary home.  Compare this to walking out my door and into a forest, or not having a door at all.  Just climbing out of my tent and into the crisp morning forest air.  I fall asleep to the swaying rhythm of katydids and the calls of owls, woodcocks and whip-poor-wills, sometimes even the drumming of a ruffed grouse as the sun sets.

Each year I spend more of my time in the forest.  Each year I learn more and my connection grows stronger.  Sometimes I need to slow down and not just analyze, learn from and understand my surroundings but enjoy them.  Reminding myself that it’s ok to hear a bird calling and not remember their name, I can still appreciate their songs.

Out here in the forest, with all that there is to explore, I sometimes still find loneliness.  I struggle to find that balance of my love of nature and my need to be around amazing people to share vegan meals with over both thought-provoking conversations and laughter. Social validation.  I need both in my life.  But as I walk deeper into the wilderness, I fear that I am often cutting myself away from my social connections.

As I near the end of my 8-month track of living in a house in the middle of a state forest in Pennsylvania, so many thoughts rush through my mind.  How do we find that balance?  For those of us that live in the city and crave the outdoors- we miss the smell of freshly fallen leaves on a dew covered forest floor.  In the city I miss the chorus of frogs and songbirds but in the forest I find myself escaping to the city so I can shout along with friends to my favorite punk bands.  I drive back to the forest alone but as my headlights brighten my surroundings and the tree branches arch over me I feel this sense of them welcoming me home.  I step out of my car that is polluting their air and I take a deep breath, I let it all out.

For each of us, that balance differs but we must never lose our connection with nature.  In a city, I always find myself in any park nearby.  I watch the pigeons for hours with friends or sometimes alone.  I observe the squirrels and catch them stealing glances at me.  We see plants bursting through the cracks of pavement.  Become mesmerized by the way ants can clean the sidewalk in a way similar to how they make use of a forest floor.  Birds build their nests in the cracks of old buildings and bats fill the attics and night skies of cities.  We have destroyed their homes and pushed them out, and unfortunately our actions continue.  The more we ignore nature around us, the less we will notice as more and more of it is destroyed.

This zine is about sharing those connections you’ve had.  It’s about reconnecting.  It’s about sharing your fears.  Sharing your adventures.  It’s about our love and respect for both city life and the natural world.  Both can exist.

Learn. Share. Explore. Connect. Respect. Enjoy.

Stand in solidarity with the natural world,

Nessie Grace

Both a creative outlet and a way to share our thoughts on connecting with nature, The Nature Zine will continue on with more issues.  If you are interested in contributing, please send your stories, thoughts, and art to me or contact me for more information:  batsnbikes [at] gmail [dot] com

Much thanks to everyone for who contributed to Issue One.  Cover art by Amanda Blodøks.