Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Happy Winter Solstice

On this First Day of Winter Season the mountain is in a cloud of fog - wet, misty, and mild (about 50 F). I took a walk along the Indian Trail around the lake, it's a beautiful hike on days like today. The colors outside really stand out against the white fog, plentiful lush greens with the rhododendron, mountain laurel, hemlock, moss, and persistent ferns. To me, the Solstice is a day to appreciate the "reasons for the seasons", and that can sometimes be a hard thing to do when anticipating the long Winter ahead! One thing I enjoy about this time of year is being outdoors and observing the environment in just one of it's many "layers", that of bare branches and leaf-littered forest floors. I can see things in a different light, and not be distracted by the eye-catchings of blossoming wildflowers, mating and migrant songbirds (although the resident birds are certainly a welcoming sight in this season!), and the constant activity of life sprouting, growing, and flourishing. Winter allows for a time to soak in the quiet, dormant, replenishing part of the energy cycle, and take notice of simple attributes that you may not have given much thought to in the past few seasons.

Cheers to the Winter Solstice, and Happy Holidays to you! Wishing for "layers" of Winter snow to cover the landscape in the coming months.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Lake Update and Go Green NRV

The recent precipitation has brought some water back in to the lake, and the mountain is currently blanketed in just under 2 inches of snow (and ICE!). The fluctuations in water level here in the past few months have been very responsive to the amounts of rain and snow due to the fact that the growing season has slowed and the forest is retaining less water. Here's to hoping for a very wet winter season on the mountain, from which we'll benefit in more ways than one!
Lake on Dec. 8, 2011
Gorgeous blue sky
As you may know, the Mountain Lake Conservancy & Hotel is a participating member of Go Green New River Valley (which you can learn more about here!). This morning I attended the Go Green NRV Breakfast Series which featured a presentation on energy efficiency in the home and in the workplace, given by the folks at Community Housing Partners in Christiansburg. The presenters did a great job explaining how a building, whether it be your home or your workplace, works as a system when it comes to maximizing resource efficiency. One point in their discussion that really stood out to me was the difference between efficiency and conservation. Efficiency speaks in terms of technology, while conservation is behavior-driven. This distinction was very re-energizing for me in terms of Mountain Lake's sustainability effort. Our organization's management team strives to provide energy and resource efficiency by technologies used within the business. Additionally, the Conservancy & Hotel must work together to encourage conservation-minded behavior on the mountain by both employees and guests. It makes me very excited to re-assess the progress that Mountain Lake has made in 2011 in terms of our sustainability plan, to set goals and outline ideas for improvement in 2012, and to renew our affiliation as a Participating Business with Go Green NRV for the upcoming year.

If you work or live in the NRV, I encourage you to check out the Go Green NRV organization. Events like the Breakfast Series are educational (and fun!) and provide a great resource to community members and businesses seeking to decrease their impact on the environment. Stay tuned by checking the ggNRV website for news and events in 2012!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

A Stroll with Bruce Parker

On the beautiful afternoon last Friday, Bruce Parker came up for a visit on the mountain and to check out the current lake level. We were joined by Tom from the Mountain Lake Biological Station on our stroll down White Pine Road along Pond Drain. Dr. Parker is a Professor Emeritus of Biological Sciences from Virginia Tech, and has studied the lake and ecology here on the mountain for the past 40 years. Dr. Parker pointed out many super-neat geological features along our walk, and talked to Tom and I about his past research and ideas about the lake. It was a very fun and informative afternoon, we'd like to thank Dr. Parker for sharing his knowledge and experiences with us on the walkabout. Be on the look out for a new display in the Conservancy Visitor Center this spring - it will include samples from carbon-dated, mature tree stumps from the lake bed, and updated historic account of the lake fluctuation levels, a new geological rock formation display, and more!
Tom and Dr. Parker near a stream conversion along White Pine Road.

Ice wonders and stream crossing White Pine Road

A mild yet snowy walkabout at Mountain Lake