Notes from Japan

by Jon Gourley

While Christoph was in search of Cleopatra in Utah,  I accompanied Prof. Jeff Baylis from the History Department on a two week trip to Japan as part of the course:  Seismic Disasters in Japan, Then and Now: Earth, Environment and Culture.  The trip was attended by ENVS recent graduate Tori Shea (’15) as well as several other Trinity students from various departments.

The trip’s highlights included visits to various historic sites in Japan that have endured catastrophic natural disasters.  These disasters are deep reminders to the Japanese people of the fragility of life and everyday threat that goes with inhabiting this beautiful island.

In Tokyo we visited the museum and memorial of the Great Kanto earthquake of 1923, where 10s of thousands assembled in a park after the shaking only to be incinerated by the fires that engulfed the city.

The Tokyo Sky Tower

The Tokyo Sky Tower

All lined up… typical neatness of Japanese culture.

All lined up… typical neatness of Japanese culture.

Bullet trains were the preferred mode of transportation and we used our rail passes to visit the tourist town of Karuizawa, just west of Tokyo in the Japanese Alps. Karuizawa sits below the one of the most active volcanic regions in Japan, Mt. Asama.  Just prior to our arrival the threat level of the mountain had been increased and climbers were not allowed to be within 200 meters of the crater due to gaseous emissions.  We spent one day hiking on Mt. Asama and made it to the first emergency shelter before we had to head back down.  Before leaving the Asama region we also visited the village of Tsumagoi that had been completed buried in the 1783 from a debris flow that started on Asama.  The village was rediscover in part during and excavation in the 1970s.

Best sushi in Tokyo!

Best sushi in Tokyo!

Waiting for our bullet train at Tokyo Station

Waiting for our bullet train at Tokyo Station

Hiking trail up Mt. Asama.

Hiking trail up Mt. Asama.

Panoramic of Mt. Asama (right) and 1783 lava flow (below).

Panoramic of Mt. Asama (right) and 1783 lava flow (below).

Watch the video of steaming Mt. Asama

Back on the bullet train, we headed north to the region that was devastated by the 2011 great Honshu earthquake and tsunami.  While much of the clean-up for many of the cities , towns and villages has completed, the region is far from recovered.   No photo does the scope of the problem justice but a city that was one of the hardest hit, Rikuzentakata, is attempting to rebuild by literally moving mountains.  A giant rock crusher and conveyor system is moving earth material from adjacent hills and raising the ground level of the valley for future building.  The scene is surreal when one considers that the vast open valley once was a densely populated town.   It was sobering yet inspiring as to how the inhabitants of Rikukentakata are attempting to bring back their city.

Conveyors bringing earth materials from mountains in the background.

Conveyors bringing earth materials from mountains in the background.

See the rock crushers

We stayed most of time in the Honshu region at the Hotel Boyo in the fishing town of Kesannuma.  It was an especially important place during the tsunami because of its proximity on the hillside above the town.  It’s one of the few major buildings in town that was not destroyed during the tsunami and fires that ensued. The proprietor “Eddie” Eiichi Kato-san and his family had no choice but to open the hotel up as an emergency shelter in the aftermath of the disaster.  Kato-san was a wonderful host who shared his stories of the disasters (some were very difficult for him to tell) and despite the horror of the event he has an incredible outlook on life now.  He told me that since the disaster he has met extraordinary people from all around the world.  From the volunteers that came in the initial weeks and months after the tsunami, to the people who (Like our group) that come now to Kesannuma to learn about what happened and how the region is rebuilding, he is optimistic that the Kesannuma’s best days are yet to come.

Temporary structures in Kesennuma to allow restaurant and shop owners to stay open for business.

Temporary structures in Kesennuma to allow restaurant and shop owners to stay open for business.

A meal so grand it needed a panoramic.  Trinity students enjoy a feast from the Kato family at Hotel Boyo.

A meal so grand it needed a panoramic. Trinity students enjoy a feast from the Kato family at Hotel Boyo.

 

 

 

 

 

Grand Unveiling at the Knox Preserve

Gathering at the Knox Preserve under the watchful eye of several ferocious guard dogs.

Gathering at the Knox Preserve under the watchful eye of several ferocious guard dogs.

Members of the Avalonia Land Conservancy and Trinity’s ENVS program spent Saturday morning at the Knox Preserve in Stonington, CT to unveil four interpretative signs that outline the major habitats of the Knox Preserve. the signs were designed by Eunice Kimm (’14) as part of her integrating experience. During her senior year Eunice worked closely with Drs. Cameron Douglass and Joan Morrison, identifying and drawing birds that are common at the preserve and designing the signs.

Eunice Kimm ('14) enjoying the sunset at Fimmvörðuháls in southern Iceland during our 2014 field trip to iceland.

Eunice Kimm (’14) enjoying the sunset at Fimmvörðuháls in southern Iceland during our 2014 field trip to iceland.

The event started with lots of good food from the First and Last Bakery and a few short introductory statements by Beth Sullivan from the Avalonia Land Conservancy and Cameron Douglass from Trinity College. Beth thanked all the volunteers who help to maintain the preserve and  came out at the crack of dawn to install the signs. Cameron told us about the ecological value of the preserve, the Conservancy’s efforts to combat invasive species and, and Connectiut’s unofficial state plant.

Beth Sullivan and Cameron Douglass standing between us and the coffee. :-(

Beth Sullivan and Cameron Douglass (with borrowed hat!) standing between us and the coffee. :-(

The unveiling took only seconds (I almost missed it), but Cameron kept us entertained by introducing us to the various habitats and the management challenges associated with each.

The moment of truth - no, don't tell us about any typos!

The moment of truth – no, don’t tell us about any typos!

We then went on a short walk through the preserve, learning about the history of the site and the ongoing research performed by Cameron, Joan and their students.

In the meadow part of the preserve.

In the meadow part of the preserve.

Trinity crew with one of Eunice's signs. Sarah, Emily, Cameron with Parker (class of '36), Christoph (luriing Parker with some coffee), and saintly Preston (who still acts surprisingly normal after spending weeks with Cameron's all-female research crew)

Trinity crew with one of Eunice’s signs. Sarah, Emily, Cameron with Parker (class of ’36), Christoph (luring Parker with some coffee), and saintly Preston (who still acts surprisingly normal after spending weeks with Cameron’s all-female research crew)

Wildflowers galore!

Wildflowers galore!

You can learn more about the Avalonia Land Conservancy and the Knox Preserve by visiting the Conservancy’s website or reading Beth Sullivan’s blog. You can see Eunice’s signs for yourself by visiting the preserve and hiking the trails. Directions to the site are here – just don’t mess with Cameron’s flagging tape!

 

Cleopatra and the Rocks – Day 10: Rapids, What Rapids?

Our campsite at the little D

Our campsite at the little D

This morning I repay Sarah for some of her lost beauty sleep: Colin and Susan let us sleep in until 8 before the smell of coffee makes us crawl out of our sleeping bags.

What a couple!

What a couple!

The vultures are circling the breakfast chefs.

The vultures are circling Colin, the breakfast chef. The omelets were delicious!

We had a lazy breakfast: omelets with more coffee. Then Colin and Susan slowly broke camp, while we were enjoying the peace and quiet. By now we are pros in packing up, so everything was ready within 15 minutes. Then it went into the rapids.

Susan and the girls getting ready for the rapids.

Susan and the girls getting ready for the rapids.

Colin’s raft went first and we went for a 45 minute ride through some exciting whitewater. It was over way too soon! :-(

Almost at the end of Westwater canyon.

Almost at the end of Westwater canyon.

Christopher celebrating the quiet waters.

Christopher celebrating the quiet waters.

Almost lunchtime!

Almost lunchtime!

Yesterday we hiked at little hole. Now we passed big hole, an abandoned meander bend, before we had lunch. Lunch again was delicious: build your own sandwiches and stuff your face with cookies! We were experts in both events!

lunchtime

lunchtime

the girls swimming in the river

the girls swimming in the river

Now that all the rapids were behind us we also had the opportunity to jump into the river. The girls covered themselves with mud and worked on their tans on a rock in the river. Son we were off again and around 2 PM we arrived at the Cisco boat launch where Allen was still waiting for us. In no time everything was unpacked, the rafts were loaded onto a trailer and everybody was off. On our way to Green River we visited the petroglyphs and pictographs at Sego Canyon. In Green River we had a chance to visit the Holiday headquarters, buy a shirt, and have some soft-serve ice cream (A sure sign of a dying town!). A few hours later we arrived in salt lake, checked into our hotel rooms, had pizza for dinner and went to sleep in a real bed for the first time in ten days.

One last thunderstorm in Salt Lake.

One last thunderstorm in Salt Lake.

The End!

back to Day 9

want to see Cassia’s cool video one more time?
here you go

 

Cleopatra and the Rocks – Day 9: Cleopatra Revealed

Cleopatra

[klee-uh-pa-truh, -pah-, -pey-]
noun

  1. 69–30 b.c, queen of Egypt 51–49, 48–30.
  2. best seat on a raft, maybe not so great in the rapids, but definitely preferred for sun-bathing and general coolness
Sarah on the Cleopatra - well deserved, since I still owed her 1.5 hours of sleep.

Sarah on the Cleopatra – well deserved, since I still owed her 1.5 hours of sleep.

Today was not a good start for – not quite a morning person yet – Sarah. My papers said that we would meet our rafting guides at 8AM in the pretty much abandoned town of Cisco. We got there by 7:30 only to realize that we were 1.5 hours early and that there is nothing, that’s right: absolutely nothing, to do in Cisco. Luckily, the trip to the Westwater ranger station (the beginning of our rafting trip) was short (we left Allen by the Cisco boat launch) and once we had all our stuff packed away on two rafts we were all eager to go. Our rafting guides Susan and Colin were awesome and we were off to new adventures in no time at all.

Into Westwater canyon

Into Westwater canyon

Soon we left the Westwater ranger station behind and floated down the Colorado. Colin told us about the rapids, Adam was paddling happily in a small inflatable kayak and we made fun of Joan, who had unceremoniously departed her raft on a previous whitewater trip in Oregon.

Adam in some small rapids

Adam in some small rapids.

On the Colorado River

On the Colorado River

We had lunch at Miner’s Cabin, where Colin and Susan pulled an amazing Cesar Salad out of the coolers and we all munched on wraps, Pringles and cookies. Down river we went until we reached Little Hole, where Susan took us on a hike to a large alcove with petroglyphs and a great view. The alcove was just the place to be: we go surprised by a little thunderstorm. Luckily we all stayed dry under the big overhang and enjoyed a short-lived waterfall pouring over the edge of the sandstone cliff.

Petroglyphs

Petroglyphs

A short-lived desert waterfall.

A short-lived desert waterfall.

A few miles downstream we pulled into our campsite at “lower little D”, (or lower Little Dolores), the Little Dolores being a small stream entering the Colorado from the east. The site is great: lots of good camping on top of a small bluff of Precambrian black metamorphic rocks, a nice sandbar, no flies and an awesome dinner cooked by Colin and Susan under a small tarp during two thundershowers. The pineapple upside-down cake turned out awesome, and so did the steaks and everything else.

The little Dolores running blood-red from some spring thunderstorms.

The little Dolores running blood-red from some spring thunderstorms.

Photobombed!

Photobombed!

We did a little pre-dinner hike to a small waterfall, enjoyed the peace and quiet, and late evening campfire. No s’mores though. Joan and Christoph decided that this is definitely the way to travel!

back to day 8
let’s take a little break
onward to day 10

Cleopatra and the Rocks – Day 8: That Moon Looks a lot Like Peach Pie!

Half a peach pie to be precise! Half a peach pie on sale at Moab’s City Market grocery store and purchased while waiting in an endless line at Starbucks. Joan wanted coffee, Christoph was happy to get out of grocery shopping (how long can it take to buy to cups of coffee ??) and definitely pulled the short straw. Two billion soy macciatos with hazelnut, a dash of 2%, a  sprinkle of cinnamon, and “oh, would you mind filling my water bottle too” later Christoph was still  half a dozen customers away from putting in his order, while Joan had purchased all the needed groceries, packed the van, went to the bathroom, rinsed out her travel mug, read the newspaper, called her husband, rescued a Caracara somewhere in Oklahoma – and refused to buy pie. Lauren, Hadley and Christoph bought it while (still) standing in line and and shared it with Sarah later that night. I’ve never seen three girls inhale a pie faster! Ever! Why  we went to City Market in the first place?  I have no recollection.
After our shopping spree  we backtracked a bit and headed into the La Sal Mountains on the La Sal Mountain loop. We had lunch at Warner Lake campground, where it was pretty chilly but beautiful amongst all those aspen trees. That’s definitely a spot to keep in mind for summer camping.

Warner Lake campground.

Warner Lake campground.

After Adam had emptied out half the strawberry jam onto one taco and a few last bathroom visits we headed up the trail to Gold Knob. We first hiked through lots of dark conifers before the trail gained height through some wide switchbacks that led us through more beautiful aspen trees.

Lauren, Hadley and Sarah and plenty of aspen.

Lauren, Hadley and Sarah and plenty of aspen.

Almost there Joan, well - not really.

Almost there Joan, well – not really.

After about an hour or so we reached the saddle between Gold Know and the rest of the La Sal Mountains and headed through the grass straight to the peak.

Adam and Christopher almost up there.

Adam and Christopher almost up there.

At the top of Gold Knob. The snow was pretty deep  as Hadley can tell you.

At the top of Gold Knob. The snow was pretty deep as Hadley can tell you.

View into Castle Valley.

View into Castle Valley.

We spent maybe half an hour up on top, enjoying the views, eating our snacks and checking text messages…
After our return to Warner Lake we finished the La Sal Loop, drove through Castle Valley and all its subdivisions, and camped at a so-so campsite at Dewey Bridge, at the banks of the Colorado. No record exists of the demise of the peach pie.

back to Day 7
onward to Day 9

 

 

Cleopatra and the Rocks – Day 7: Man-Eating Cows Revisited

Our camp at Comb Wash. Tiny Allen hiding under plenty of majestic cottonwoods. Did I tell you that they are my favorites? :-)

Our camp at Comb Wash. Tiny Allen hiding under plenty of majestic cottonwoods. Did I tell you that they are my favorites?
:-)

This morning we decided to brush up on history and culture and visited the highly recommended Edge of the Cedars State Park and museum. The exhibitions were outstanding and we spent quite some time looking at artifacts, photographs and a partially excavated ruin in the back yard of the museum. Joan and Christoph made sure that everybody had read and re-read the little display on “context”, which is just as important in notebook writing as it is in archeology. Lunch was spontaneously had at the local Subway while the professors stood in line to get their daily coffee fix. Then we headed through the Abajo mountains to Newspaper Rock.

The man-eating cows are still alive and well at Newspaper Rock.
The man-eating cows are still alive and well at Newspaper Rock.

The man-eating cows depicted on the rock were a true menace in 2002. Clearly they were early risers and did not look kindly on sleeping in. Rumor had it that on our very first ENVS fieldtrip they got the students out of their sleeping bags by giving the tents a little shake-down. How they did that without opposable thumbs will always remain a mystery, but they did make it onto the back of our very first field trip T-shirt:

The very first ENVS shirt - ever!

The very first ENVS shirt – ever!

The campsites in the Abajos were pretty empty but they also looked pretty cold, so we moved on and hoped for a site at Windwhistle campground. We were in luck. After a long drive we arrived at a mostly empty campground and picked two sites before we headed out to Needles overlook, a few miles down the road.

Needles Overlook

Needles Overlook

View down from Needles Overlook.

View down from Needles Overlook.

Afterwards it was time for some reflections and landscape observations. The group dispersed, looked for a comfy spot and wrote down some solo observations.

Sarah writing her solo-observations.

Sarah writing her solo-observations.

Since too much solitude is not good for you either, the evening ended with some fierce card games after dinner.

Not exactly sure whose winning, but Lauren looks pretty intense!

Not exactly sure whose winning, but Lauren looks pretty intense!

Sunset over Windwhistle campground.

Sunset over Windwhistle campground.

back to day 6
onward to day 8

Cleopatra and the Rocks – Day 6: Happy Honaker

Yep, this title makes more sense when you hear me say it. Just imagine a thick German accent!

Horsecollar Ruins in Natural Bridges N.M.

Horsecollar Ruins in Natural Bridges N.M.

We left early to visit Natural Bridges National Monument. We got there just at 8 AM to use their bathrooms and steer some business to the visitor center’s gift shop. Afterwards Christoph dropped the group off at the Sipapu Bridge trailhead. As soon as the last student had disappeared into the canyon he turned that van around and headed to the next Starbucks – yeah, not quite. A quick visit to the Starbucks website showed that the closest store would have been back in Moab. So, he went to the Kachina Bridge trailhead and picked up the crew after a short hike through the canyons.

Kachina Bridge

Kachina Bridge

Next we headed south towards Muley Point, one of our favorite viewpoints in the region. Unfortunately the weather was too bad, and Allen not quite up to the task of driving on a very slippery dirt road in drizzling rain.

The view from the Moki dugway. The name probably comes from "Moqui", the Spanish name for the nearby Hopi tribe.

The view from the Moki dugway. The name probably comes from “Moqui”, the Spanish name for the nearby Hopi tribe.

The view wouldn’t have been that great anyway, so we turned around and drove down the Moki dugway, an impressive couple of miles that go pretty much nowhere, except straight down (or up). We had lunch at the Goosenecks where we admired the incised meanders and talked with the ranger in the ticket booth about the dirt road out to the Honaker Trail trailhead. He was pretty much clueless.

The goosenecks of the San Juan.

The goosenecks of the San Juan.

Luckily the description in our guidebook was spot-on, Allen enjoyed the improved dirt road and took us even closer to the trailhead than the book suggested. It had begun to rain again, and we hiked the first mile or so in a steady drizzle.

At the beginning of the Honaker Trail.

At the beginning of the Honaker Trail.

After a mile across the sagebrush we arrived at the canyon rim. A small cairn indicated the trailhead, but it was far from obvious how we would reach the San Juan, approximately 1300 ft below us. The canyon walls seemed pretty much vertical. Nevertheless, there was a trail, the guidebook assured us that it would be a piece of cake, and down we went.

Adam and Christopher trying to give Joan a heart attack halfway down the canyon.

Adam and Christopher trying to give Joan a heart attack halfway down the canyon.

Almost down by the river.

Almost down by the river.

The trail was pretty easy. It consisted of short, steep sections through breaks in the cliff-forming rocks that were connected through long, gently sloping switchbacks in the slope-building weaker sediments. It took about 90 minutes to get down and less than that to get back up to the canyon rim (fewer photo stops).

The canyon of the San Juan river.

The canyon of the San Juan river.

In the meantime it had  even stopped raining, and after an exciting hike we arrived back on top of the canyon and could see Allen waiting for us in the distance.

Allen on the horizon.

Allen on the horizon.

Comb Wash at night.

Comb Wash at night.

From here we briefly stopped at the Sand Island petroglyph panels and had showers in Bluff before we returned to Comb Wash for a rather late dinner under the cottonwoods.

back to Day 5
onward to Day 7

Cleopatra and the Rocks – Day 5: Anasazi Ruins and my Favorite Trees

Our campsite at the Colorado River.

Our campsite at the Colorado River.

Today started with a long drive from Onion Creek back to Moab and South to Natural Bridges National Monument. Unfortunately we missed out on a campsite in Natural Bridges, which had us backtrack all the way to Comb Wash, where we had lunch under large, scrappy-looking cottonwoods. Yes, they still are my favorite trees – they exemplify the West, and nothing beats falling asleep under their rustling leaves.

Cottonwoods galore - who cold wish for a better campsite...

Cottonwoods galore – who cold wish for a better campsite…

Cassia discovered a nice big lizard, which was properly photographed:

Cassia in action ...

Cassia in action …

... and her not too happy-looking subject.

… and her not too happy-looking subject.

After setting up tents, looking at the map and taking some more pictures we piled back into Allen and drove back, through Comb Ridge, to Butler Wash. Butler Wash contains a few Anasazi ruins and a visit to the ruins can be followed up by a great hike to the top of Comb Ridge.

Allen packed to the brim.

Allen packed to the brim.

Hiking up Comb Ridge.

Hiking up Comb Ridge.

 

Ephemeral pools on Comb Ridge.

Ephemeral pools on Comb Ridge.

At the crest of Comb Ridge, a very long and impressive monocline.

At the crest of Comb Ridge, a very long and impressive monocline.

View from Comb Ridge. Comb Wash, our camp site, is somewhere down there between the cottonwoods.

View from Comb Ridge. Comb Wash, our camp site, is just south of the highway to the right of the brown dirt road. If you squint a bit you can see our yellow LL Bean tents.

We spent some time at the overlook, taking in the ruins before following a small drainage uphill towards the crest of the ridge. Our hike followed a series of ephemeral pools. A few years ago they were full of tadpoles. This year we find hardly any. Maybe we are too early in the season. The view from the ridge is as breathtaking as ever, and our students learned a bit about the uplift of the Colorado Plateau, synclines, anticlines and – of course –  monoclines.

Joan on her way back down the ridge.

Joan on her way back down the ridge.

The return trip down the slickrock was pretty fast, and we decided to check out the Anasazi ruins in Mule Canyon. The entrance fee is pretty steep but well worth it. We hiked into a small canyon, enjoyed the lush vegetation and kept our eyes open for some ruins.

At the Mule Canyon trailhead.

At the Mule Canyon trailhead.

The ruins were not that hard to find. Clearly, some (all ?) of the thousands of visitors that cam before us had found them already and left a clear path up the side of the cliff. The ruins were small, most likely re-built, but still pretty impressive. We were glad we came. Pretty big, black rain clouds made us beat a hasty retreat but, again, we didn’t see more than a few sprinkles, though it rained quite a bit later that night.

Anasazi ruins in Mule Canyon.

Anasazi ruins in Mule Canyon.

Bonus cottonwood! One can never have enough cottonwoods in a blog post.

Bonus cottonwood! One can never have enough cottonwoods in a blog post.

back to Day 4
onward to Day 6

Cleopatra and the Rocks – Day 4: Eight Little Piggies Take a Shower

Yep, today was one of our shower days. Though, honestly, we didn’t really need one yet, but the showers at the Lazy Lizard Hostel were just too good to pass up. By now we are so efficient that even after “sleeping in” until 7 AM we still made it out of camp by eight. I told you we’d turn Sarah into a morning person!

Redrock and cool wildflowers in Arches National Park

Redrock and cool wildflowers in Arches National Park

We made a brief stop at the Fiery Furnace, which did not look particularly fiery in the clouds and headed out on a quick hike to the Windows, where we hung out in North Window and watched several elderly photographers attempting suicide by climbing onto that last ledge to get that perfect shot. Sarah did so not look forward to trying out her brand-new wilderness first aid skills. Technically this wasn’t all that wild anyway. We were about a quarter mile from the parking lot. So some poor real EMTs might have come to our rescue pretty quickly – maybe.

In the Window

In the Window

Some comic relief after our photography friends seemed safe again...

Some comic relief after our new photography friends seemed safe again…

Afterwards we went into Moab for showers and supplies.The showers were as awesome as always, and the Starbucks in City Market slower than the guys at Mather Hall.

This little piggy is headed for a shower!

This little piggy is headed for a shower!

After lunch we filled  our water jugs at Maternity Spring (no joke) and drove out to Fisher Towers where we did not get a campsite :-(. Luckily the group campsite at nearby Lower Onion Creek was available and we camped in style: shelter, plenty of space, and a nice campfire as usual. We returned up to Fisher Towers in the afternoon and went on the obligatory trail to the Onion Creek overlook.

Fisher Towers

Fisher Towers

Just a quick group shot before the thunderstorm gets us ...

Just a quick group shot before the thunderstorm gets us …

A couple of guys were climbing one of the towers, and we almost lost Adam who was more than ready to abandon us for his new-found climbing buddies. At the end of the trail dark clouds and thunder made us beat a hasty retreat. We got back to the parking lot staying dry. Those dark clouds were more thunder than real rain.

The thunderstorm that made us run -- for nothing!

The thunder clouds that made us run — for nothing!

In camp, after dinner, we listened to a few campfire talks and had a nice campfire with s’mores and the works.

Sarah burning her s'mores.

(Always) hungry Sarah burning her s’mores.

Keeping up with field notes.

Keeping up with field notes.

back to day 3
onward to day 5