Make A Summer Stroll An Educational Experience

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Once and awhile this summer, set aside that power walk or jog and just take a leisurely stroll.

With a field guide or two along for the walk, you can learn an amazing amount of information about the world around you.

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This pint-size astronomer encountered a telescope bigger than he at a recent informal evening of star gazing at the Shoofly Ruins. Mike Marcotte, a contributing writer for "Astronomy" magazine brought the 14-inch Meade telescope from Texas especially for the gathering, which was June 23.

The National Arbor Day Foundation has just released a guide to the more common trees found in the western U.S., "What Tree is That?"

The 84-page guide helps identify 57 different trees found in the west. Dozens of drawings show the leaves, needles, acorns, berries, seed pods, cones and other identifying features.

"Helping people enjoy and appreciate trees is central to the educational mission of the Arbor Day Foundation," said John Rosenow, the organization's president.

There are other field guides available, including books on birds, tracks, wildflowers and even rocks.

A couple of guides for rocks are "Roadside Geology of Arizona" and "Rocks and Minerals" from Peterson First Guides.

As indicated by its name, the "Roadside" book helps identify the different geologic formations you can see from the road -- whether you are taking a nice Sunday drive or a stroll.

The book gets so detailed that it addresses what can be found at certain milepost markers, "Near the East Verde River, at mile 258, watch carefully for the base of the Tapeats and the top of the unlayered or unstratified Precambrian granite. This contact, the Great Unconformity between Precambrian and Paleozoic rocks, represents a time interval of nearly a billion years" and in part of the caption for the accompanying illustration it states, "... a handspan embraces a billion years of geologic time".

Don't be put off by the jargon, the first chapter of the book is a mini-course in geology, there for the reader to refer to as many times as necessary as they view the rocks and hard places around them.

Don't feel like a walk, but want to enjoy the night air, just look up and revel in the starlight. There are guides for studying the night skies, plus some very informative web sites: heavens-above.com, which tells which satellites are scheduled to pass over the Rim country; whatsouttonight.com gives meteor shower information; and nasa.gov.

The tree identification guide is available for $3. Send your name, address and a check of money order to "What Tree is That?", The National Arbor Day Foundation, Nebraska City, NE 68410, or go online to arborday.org.

The guide books for rocks, and many others -- from small paperback pamphlets to reference books -- can be found at the Payson Ranger Station of the Tonto National Forest, 1009 E. Highway 260, Payson, open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday; or Jackalope Books & Gifts, 234 E. Highway 260, Payson, open 10 a.m to 6 p.m., Monday through Saturday.

But first, visit the Payson library to get an idea of what kind of guide suits your taste, then make your purchase.

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