Showing posts from May, 2014

Baku, Azerbaijan

Location: Baku, Azerbaijan
Dates: May 27-31, 2014

I visited Baku, Azerbaijan in late May 2014 to attend the World Forum of Young Scientists, a conference organized and sponsored by the Azerbaijan Ministry of Youth and Sports. I arrived at the airport around 2:00 am via a flight from Istanbul and made my way to the Marriott Hotel by bus through the mostly empty city streets (traffic in the city was terrible the rest of the trip). The hotel was great and situated along the Caspian Sea across from Government House and a park along the coast in downtown Baku.

The following morning the conference began at the National Academy of Sciences with the opening ceremony. We then visited the gravesite and memorial to Heydar Aliyev, the former president who led the country during and after Soviet rule, followed by Martyrs' Lane, a memorial and cemetery for those killed in various conflicts. From the Martyrs' Lane there were great views of the city, sea, and nearby Flame Towers. That evening…

Qabala, Azerbaijan

Location: Baku to Qabala, Azerbaijan
Date: May 30, 2014

On my last full day in Azerbaijan, I went on a day trip to Qabala in the north-central part of the country on the southern edge of the Caucasus Mountains. Qabala is the oldest city in the country, and today the city's economy is dependent on tourism.

The trip by bus took about three hours from Baku and began in the desert along the Caspian Sea before gradually climbing into the grasslands and eventually forests and mountains. After passing through the city of Shamakhi, the road narrowed and descended a winding route into a deep valley, across a mostly dry river, and back up the other side. We stopped for lunch at a place along another mostly dry river just outside the east side of Qabala.

After lunch we went to Nohur Lake, a scenic lake at the base of the mountains that had been overrun with kids celebrating their last day of school. By the time we reached Qabala, it was already late afternoon, so we didn't have time to v…

Russell Cave National Monument

Location: Bridgeport, Alabama
Date: May 1, 2014

Russell Cave is a 7.2-mile long cave in northern Alabama that is the third longest cave in the state. The large main entrance to the cave was the location of the earliest known human settlement in the southeastern United States, with evidence that the cave was occupied nearly 10,000 years ago.

Today a short boardwalk goes from the visitor center and into the cave entrance where the settlement was located. You can't go any further into the cave, but there are a few hiking trails that traverse the hillside above it.

© Copyright 2017 Matthew Pintar. All rights reserved.

Salamanders of the Great Smoky Mountains

Location: Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee and North Carolina
Date: April 30-May 1, 2014

The southeastern United States has the greatest diversity of salamanders of anywhere in the world, and the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee and North Carolina claim to be the "Salamander Capital of the World" with 30 species having been found in the national park. In particular, the lungless salamanders in the family Plethodontidae (they "breathe" through their skin, mouth, and throat) have 24 species in the Smokies.

During my hike to Chimney Tops other stops elsewhere in the park, I had no problem finding many salamanders, including the red-cheeked salamander (Plethodon jordani), and its imitator, the imitator salamander (Desmognathus imitator). If you want to see salamanders, look under rocks and logs in a variety of areas, such as the forest, along trails, and along streams.

© Copyright 2017 Matthew Pintar. All rights reserved.