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  • Escape the winter with this literal island getaway

    As the months get warmer you might be thinking about your next island getaway. But why go to an island when you can make your own? The Uros of Peru thought so. These indigenous people have been making and living on their own islands for centuries in the most giggle-inducing body of water in the world: Lake Titicaca. However, for the Uros, the idea of an "island getaway" was much more literal. They began their lake residency to escape murder-happy neighboring tribes. Anchored to the lakebed with a rope, each island could be set free at a moment's notice. Nowadays, the islands stay put and are only periodically invaded by tourists eager to be ferried by the elaborate reed boats adorned with whimsical animal prows. Check out these buoyant abodes below.

    There are about 2,000 Uros living today, but only a few hundred still live on and maintain the islands. Image by WikiCommons

    The Uros live on 42 man-made reed islands located in the Lake Titicaca. by WikiCommons

    The Uros began creating and living on these islands to avoid their aggressive neighbors. Image by WikiCommons

    The Uros use bundles of dried totora reeds to create their islands, homes, and famously whimsical boats. Image by WikiCommons

    The islands are anchored by ropes attached to sticks driven into the lakebed, which made it easy to move the islands in the event of an enemy sighting. Image by Ben Neumeyer

    New layers of reeds must be continually added to the islands as older layers break down, absorb moisture, and rot away. Image by Danielle Pereira

    The larger Uros islands can house about 10 families, while the smaller islands are home to two or three. Image by Christian Haugen

    Walking on the islands can take some getting used to as your foot sinks 2 to 4 inches depending on the density of the reeds. Image by WikiCommons
    Channels: Outdoor
  • Can you spot the cleverly camouflaged critters?

    It's that time again--it's time to focus your peepers to find the critters hiding in plain sight. Animals big and small, feathered and slimy, are waiting below hoping to be overlooked. Whether they happen to blend into the background, or have a special talent to make their exterior match the exterior, these creatures have many, varied ways to get lost. Can you find them?

    This lizard finds it easy being green--and useful for staying out of sight. Image by Sanderslelli

    Black and white stripes blend nicely at Kruger National Park, South Africa. Image by Stephen Downes

    This Great Grey Owl would be very easy to overlook, which he'd like very much.
    Image by
    Wild for Wildlife and Nature

    This image is equal parts branch and gecko. Can you tell which is which? Image by WikiCommons

    The ptarmigan isn't too hard to spot, but can you find her five chicks? Image by Paxson Woelber

    Can you spot the falcon above? It looks like he's spotted you. Image by Wenchmagnet

    This hip-pocket frog is slippery in more ways than one. Image by WikiCommons

    One of these palm fronds is actually a lizard. Can you tell which one? Image by Steven N. Maher

    These tawny frogmouths in Australia do a mean tree bark impression. Image by WikiCommons
    Channels: Outdoor
  • Mars too far away? Taiwan's Yehliu GeoPark an extraordinary substitute

    It was announced just last week that the first civilian mission to Mars is planned for 2018. If you don't want to wait, or would prefer to stick a little closer to home, there's a little bit of Mars right here on Earth at Yehliu GeoPark in Taiwan. Located along Taiwan's north coast just a short drive from Taipei, this bizarre rockscape is the strange and beautiful love child of plate tectonics and sea erosion. The most popular rock stars here have been given imaginative names such as "The Queen's Head," "Fairy Shoe," and "Sea Candles." If you want to visit you should act fast--the sea hasn't stopped nibbling away and some geologists think these formations may not exist in 50 to 100 years. The rapid erosion rate also means that each visit is a little different, with new geologic surprises emerging all the time. Check out this extraordinary terrestrial landscape below.

    There are about 180 of these bulbous forms called Mushroom Rocks at Yehliu GeoPark. Image by WikiCommons

    Yehliu GeoPark is open from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. From May through September open hours are extended to 6 p.m. Image by WikiCommons

    The shore hugging formations above, called Ginger Rocks, are among the park features particularly vulnerable to erosion. Image by WikiCommons

    This regal formation, known as "The Queen's Head," is the unofficial emblem of the nearby town of Wanli. Image by WikiCommons

    Entrance to the park costs a little less than $2 at current exchange rates. Image by WikiCommons

    The pitted honeycomb surface of these rocks hints at their volcanic origins. Image by Bernard McManus

    The smooth stone and bowl formations above are called Sea Candles. Image by Bernard McManus

    Bridges and walkways allow visitors to get a close look at all the sights, but not too close--staying on the paths is strictly enforced. Image by WikiCommons

    The rock star above, named Fairy Shoe, is a popular resident of the park. Image by WikiCommons

    Yehliu GeoPark is still subject to the eroding waves. Some geologists think much of this will have washed away in 50 to 100 years time. Image by Bernard McManus
    Channels: Outdoor
  • Utah's nature-made subway ride is Bucket List worthy

    While Zion National Park has no train, it does have a subway, and the lottery to visit this subway has just opened up for the year. This cylindrical slot canyon is so popular only 80 permits are issued per day, and a lottery reservation system is enacted between March and November to handle peak demand. Getting to this curvy canyon is no small task. The 9.5-mile round trip hike is strenuous and requires technical skill. But if popularity and beautiful images are anything to go by, the journey is well worth it. Take a ride on nature's subway below.

    While the subway itself is only a quarter of a mile long, getting there is a somewhat difficult 9.5-mile hike round trip. Image by Stephanie

    Only 80 permits are issued per day and they can be difficult to get during peak times in spring and summer. Image by Terra Trekking

    If you want to bring your friends you'll have to be selective; groups of more than 12 are not allowed.
    Image by Terra Trekking

    Getting to the subway does require some route-finding and rappelling, so it's not for the inexperienced. Image by Terra Trekking

    Algae thrive in the low light deep in the subway tunnel, causing the vibrant greens seen in these pools. Image by Mike Henderson

    The subway is located between two peaks named North and South Guardian Angels.
    Image by CCharmon

    As swimming is required in some areas, going in the warmer months is advised.
    Image by WikiCommons

    Heavy snow melts and spring runoff can flood and shut down the subway, so make sure you check the train schedule before heading out. Image by Jeremiah Roth
    Channels: Outdoor
  • The rainbow eucalyptus brings art to nature, naturally

    Looking for a bright spot after the monotone winter months? Then set your color-starved eyes on the rainbow eucalyptus. These wild trees might look like a conceptual art installation, but those vibrant hues are all nature made. The only eucalyptus variety native to the northern hemisphere, these trees are cultivated around the world as crowd-pleasing arboretum bait as well as for wood pulp used in paper making. These trees are pretty tolerant and will grow in a fair variety of climates and soils, but they prefer the tropics and will not tolerate frost or prolonged flooding.The color of the bark is actually an indication of age. The youngest bark is bright green and matures through a color wheel of purples, oranges, and maroons. And while they look whimsical, they're serious trees. The rainbow eucalyptus can grow to be 240 feet tall and nearly 8 feet in diameter. Check out this spectrum-spanning flora below.

    Rainbow eucalyptuses are also known by the names "Mindanao gum" and "rainbow gum."
    Image by WikiCommons

    These trees can grow to be 240 feet tall and nearly 8 feet in diameter. Image by Andy Simonds

    Rainbow eucalyptus is the only variety of eucalyptus native to the northern hemisphere.
    Image by WikiCommons

    While cultivated all around the world, the rainbow eucalyptus' natural distribution spans Indonesia and South East Asia. Image by Harry Alverson

    Different colors indicate the age of the bark. The youngest bark is bright green while the oldest is orange or maroon. Image by Back to Earth - Artworks

    These trees are pretty tolerant and will grow in a fair variety of climates and soils, but they prefer the tropics and will not tolerate frost or prolonged flooding. Image by Roberto Verzo

    Rainbow eucalyptuses are grown decoratively as well as for wood pulp used in making paper.
    Image by Cody Perhamus

    Even though they're evergreen, the constant sloughing of the color-morphing bark means no tree ever looks the same for long. Image by Spencer9

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