Journeys of Dr. G at Tyler Arboretum

The sabbatical project continues, exploring all that Tyler Arboretum has to offer


Tyler GPS Challenge #1

I will be doing something a little different for my post this week – something I am calling the GPS Challenge! I have seen visitors at Tyler walking around with their handheld GPS units, and I know there are even more people out there that are fans of orienteering and scavenger hunts. So think of this as geocaching for a virtual cache (now I’m sure I have grabbed the attention of some readers!).

For this first challenge, I thought I would keep it simple and the locations easy to find (all are located within the fence).  My challenge is to navigate to these three locations at Tyler Arboretum, face the compass direction shown, and Leave a Reply (at the very bottom of the post) with the answer describing what “feature” is directly in front of you.  What is the prize?  For geocachers, it is always to be the FTF (that’s “first to find”).

Good luck, and enjoy these sites around Tyler!

GPS Challenge #1 - Location 1A

GPS Challenge #1 – Location 1A.  For the compass direction, face N 125 degrees W.

GPS Challenge #1 - Location 1B

GPS Challenge #1 – Location 1B.  For the compass direction, face N 54 degrees E (same as N 306 degrees W).

GPS Challenge #1 - Location 1C

GPS Challenge #1 – Location 1C.  For the compass direction, face N 147 degrees W.

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Have you met Owlexander? He was at the Tree House Festival!

The tree houses are such a hit at Tyler Arboretum, it only seems fitting that there be an annual festival to celebrate – well, tree houses!  When you first heard about the Tree House Festival, maybe you were like me.  I originally thought to myself, “I’ve already seen the tree houses – what could possibly be different this time?  Why should I go?”  Well, if you did not make the trip out to Tyler today, be sure to mark your calendar to attend next year – there is something for everyone, things that you do not get to see at Tyler every day!

2013 Tree House FestivalFor the kids, there was a wealth of educational and fun activities.  It was fun to see kids engage with the multiple stations for hands-on arts and crafts.  I wish I was half as creative as these Tyler volunteers that were leading the crafting tables!  And I appreciate how environmentally-friendly the craft activities were – one of the tables had a copy of the book The Lorax (he speaks for the trees, you know!  There is even a website to learn more about The Lorax Project).  If kids weren’t making crafts, they were getting locked in to ropes and harnesses to climb one of Tyler’s trees (under the watchful eyes and guidance of Oakwood Tree Care Professionals, of course).  It looked like SO much fun, I wish I could have climbed!  But my eye was caught by a crowd gathering behind the barn, so I went to investigate.

2013 Tree House FestivalAs I walked closer to the group of onlookers, I could finally see what all of the gathering excitement was about – it was a collection of hawks and falcons on display!  Rarely do I get the opportunity to get so close to these beautiful birds, and the “keepers” of the creatures were there to share facts and figures and to answer any questions from the group.  Kids wanted to know why some feathers were shorter on the tail than other feathers, while adults were asking if the species were native to Pennsylvania.  I could have stood for over an hour just at this spot to watch the movements and hear the “screeching” of the birds, and to listen to all of the information shared with my fellow onlookers.  Meet two of my favorite new bird friends (the Gyrfalcon and European Eagle Owl) below!

2013 Tree House Festival

This is a Gyrfalcon, a bird typically found in northern North America, but it does come down to Pennsylvania in the winter to search for food.

2013 Tree House Festival

Meet Owlexander! This is a European Eagle Owl (also referred to as a Eurasian Eagle Owl), one of the largest owl species in the world. He is only a few months old but fully grown – and has claws that you do not want to get close to! This creature is not native to Pennsylvania.

After getting saturated with facts about the raptors (and taking many, many photos!), I decided to take the time to walk the newly-dedicated Scenic Loop path.  I wasn’t brave enough to walk on the day of the dedication, which happened to be the hottest day of the year.  But since today there was a break in the heatwave we have been experiencing (only 88 degrees today!), I wanted to give the Loop a try.  What a really enjoyable walk!  Even on a hot and sunny day like today, there are enough trees along the pathway providing periodic shade as a break from the sun.  Today was a fun and educational day – looking forward to more of these kinds of days at Tyler!

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Celebrating the Scenic Loop

Tyler's Scenic Loop DedicationNot even the hottest day of the year could stop a toast to Tyler’s new Scenic Loop! This paved pathway begins at the pond and gently loops through the Wister Rhododendron Collection, then to the Pinetum, the Giant Sequoia and the Stopford Family Meadow Maze before returning to the pond. What I find exciting about the Scenic Loop is that now some of the most beautiful parts of Tyler are accessible to those that would not have been able to move along the gravel and dirt pathways.

A special dedication was held to thank the generous donors that made the new Scenic Loop possible: Bill & Judy Strine, Jerry & Lucille Francesco, Ross Myers (from Allan A. Myers, Inc.), and Matt Houtmann (from G.D. Houtman & Son Inc.). A toast to celebrate the opening was given by Guy Messick, President of Tyler Arboretum’s Board of Trustees.

This is a celebration of community – a celebration of those who contribute to this great organization that find the nature in the arboretum and the resources that we have are something worth preserving for generations to come. So let me just briefly say thank you for all of your support. You are in this room because you are believers and supporters of Tyler…

After the toast, we headed down to the beginning of the Scenic Loop for the final stage of the dedication – the ribbon cutting. After the ribbon was cut, the Scenic Loop was ready for visitors!

Tyler's Scenic Loop Dedication

The official ribbon cutting to kick off the Member’s Ride, Roll and Stroll event!

Tyler's Scenic Loop Dedication

The first member on the newly-dedicated Scenic Loop – and the first scooter to ride the Loop!

Tyler's Scenic Loop Dedication

Even bicycles were welcomed today on the Scenic Loop. Board member Jim Flandreau was the first one to go for a spin and complete the Loop by bicycle.

The ability to “ride” and “roll” on the Scenic Loop was a special event – bicycles, scooters and rollerblades are not allowed on the Loop every day. But Tyler’s Executive Director Rick Colbert confirmed for me that the Arboretum will be opening up the Loop again in the future for riding and rolling. I will have to think about what wheels to bring with me for the next time – looking forward to it!

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What goes on at a Board of Trustees meeting?

Tyler Arboretum - my Board name tag!If you read my About this Site page, you may recall I mentioned that I serve on the Board of Trustees at Tyler Arboretum. Led by Chairman Guy Messick, this dedicated group of individuals meets every two months to oversee that the core values and of purpose of Tyler are addressed and carried out. I started my term on the Board in 2011, and I am honored to be working with such a group of dedicated, talented people that share the same passion for Tyler Arboretum as I do.

You might be wondering… what exactly happens at a Tyler Board meeting? The first agenda item at every meeting may surprise you. It is not the approval of the minutes from the previous meeting. Instead, the Chair of the Board begins by reading the mission statement of Tyler:

Tyler Arboretum Mission Statement:  To preserve, develop, and share our diverse horticultural, historic, and natural site resources in order to stimulate stewardship and an understanding of our living world.

It is important for each of us to be reminded of our purpose and role on the Board, and the reading of the mission statement reminds us of what Tyler represents and what we are working to preserve, to conserve, and to inform and educate others about.

Then, we continue with the approval of the minutes from the previous meeting. We also receive reports ahead of time to review so we can ask questions and have discussions related to the summaries. These reports are prepared by Tyler’s Executive Director Rick Colbert, Director of Horticulture Mike Karkowski, and Director of Public Programs Betsey Ney. I am always amazed when I read these reports just how active all units of the arboretum are year-round! Board committees also provide updates, and this time we heard from the Executive Committee, Asset Management Committee, Education Committee, and the Tyler at Twilight chair Aralisha Newbold (yes, the planning for this June event takes place over an entire year!).

But the meeting is not just reports on what activities have been done in the past. The Board also discusses future projects – and Tyler has some exciting ones in store (think garden, sustainability, education…). I don’t want to give anything away, but something critical to the success of these future projects, and to continue existing programs and exhibits, relates back to effective networking and fundraising. And this is where the Board plays a very important role. We are, in essence, ambassadors to/for Tyler, and when each of us agreed to serve on the Board, we agreed to contribute our time, connections, talents, skills, and resources to help advance that mission of Tyler we hear about at the beginning of every Board meeting.

This Thursday, I’m thrilled that in my role as a Board member, I will be able to attend a reception celebrating those who made the creation of Tyler’s Scenic Loop possible. After the dedication ceremony, I’ll be joining others coming by to “ride, roll & stroll the Scenic Loop”. I look forward to seeing how other Tyler members explore the Loop on this special day. Hope to see you there!

Board of Trustees meeting at Tyler Arboretum

This is only half of the Board pictured here from our meeting on July 15 in the Terrace Room of “The Barn.” Rick Colbert is pictured on the far left, and next to him is Guy Messick.

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Walking through wildflowers

For my year-long journey of Tyler Arboretum, I decided that I should jump right in and attend one of the summer programs.  I have attended several events in the past, but never signed up for any of the guided programs.  Fortunately, there was one offered this morning that I didn’t even have to sign up for – I just had to show up!  In the Tyler Topics Summer 2013 newsletter, under Natural Studies, the following program description caught my eye:

Wildflower Walks – every Wednesday, 11AM to 1PM
As summer heats up and the trees spread their leaves, sun-loving wildflowers bloom in the open meadows. Tyler’s expansive space and diverse ecosystems support a wide variety of plant life all year round. Discover the beautiful and fascinating summer wildflowers as Tyler with experts Richard Brenner and Dick Cloud every Wednesday morning.

Wildflower Walk - 07/03/13Although I took some biology courses in college, I know little about plants, especially wildflowers.  This program, free with admission to the arboretum, was just what I needed to give me an introduction to a part of Tyler that I would often walk by and admire, but then continue to walk on.

The two Tyler volunteers that led the tour were excellent – they knew the common and Latin names of plants, if a plant was invasive, when it blooms, what the smells are… and what I most appreciated, they had such passion for leading our group around.  After the first half-hour, the skies opened up and began pouring down on us, but that didn’t stop our fearless leaders or the rest of us tagging along (that tells you something about how engaging they made the tour – even in the rain!).  From plants I was familiar with (black-eyed susan, clover, goldenrod, St. John’s wort) to ones I had never heard of before (such as butter-and-eggs!), I was fascinated by the amazing variety of wildflowers across the landscape.  I never knew that plants could have a square stem, and I learned about some insects and pollinators.  We even saw the tiniest of frogs/toads (we’re not sure if they were frogs or toads – they were so small!) moving across our path.

Wildflower Walk - 07/03/13What I appreciated the most was that the tour helped me view Tyler from a completely different point of view.  As a geologist, I tend to look at the “big picture” and view everything at a large scale.  I like to visit mountains and canyons, where I struggle to capture the view in one photograph.  But this tour made me get up close and personal with these wildflowers – literally!  I was encouraged to look at how the water drops pooled up on the leaves to look like diamonds.  I was shown the tiny petals on flowers.  I now realize that one can find beauty in even the tiniest parts of Tyler.  I will now be visiting Tyler with a different lens, looking even closer at the surrounding environment instead of taking in just the big picture.

As the wildflowers are growing and blooming at different rates and times, I was told I could attend the walk again next Wednesday and have a different experience.  This is a program I certainly want to join at a future date.  I clearly still have more to see and learn!
Wildflower Walk - 07/03/13


The journey begins!

Today, July 1, is the first day of my year-long quest to explore Tyler Arboretum. I plan to travel all the trails, take advantage of programs and events, and share my excitement for exploring the outdoors. I also plan on picking up as many facts as I can about Tyler and sharing them here on this blog.  For example…

DID YOU KNOW… Between 1681 and 1944, the current arboretum property was a working farm owned by eight generations of the same Minshall/Painter/Tyler family!

The PondAnd wouldn’t you know, my first day that I set out to start my Tyler exploration was clouded over with nonstop rain. As I have a degree in marine geology, a little water has never stopped me! I grabbed my umbrella and started a short stroll inside the fenced portion of the Arboretum. If you haven’t walked through Tyler in the rain, I strongly encourage you to do so. Not only is the landscape just as beautiful, but the sound of the rain falling through the overhead tree canopy was so peaceful and relaxing. I headed to the Pond to watch the raindrops fall on the water, and I was kept company by some of the Pond’s wildlife!

The Pond

Some company in the rain at the Pond! The sign tells me these are Eastern Painted turtles.

I am looking forward to many, many more visits to Tyler – in the rain and in the sun! My challenge will be to decide what events to sign up for. Should I join the Mornings in the Fragrant Garden program on July 10, or tag along with one of the Summer Bird Walks that takes place every Wednesday, or challenge myself with a hike along the Painter (Red) Trail, or…. wow, so many options! I think I better bookmark the Events and Exhibitions page on the Tyler website to stay on top of everything.