Our Favorite Mt. Shasta Lakes

Mt. Shasta is a peaceful town near the Oregon/California border surrounded by wonderful opportunities for summer adventure and relaxation. My family owned a cabin here for several years and I stayed there twice each year with my parents and siblings.

The lakes I describe below are all within a few miles from each other and are only about a 5 mile drive from the grocery store in town if you need to stock up on supplies.

Lake Siskiyou

Lake Siskiyou is where I spend most of my time while in Mt. Shasta. There is plenty of parking for a day trip as well as camp sites for both tent and RV camping. The general store has almost everything you need while camping from firewood to snacks and has wonderful soft serve ice cream. Nothing beats their soft serve ice cream on a hot day after swimming or kayaking on the lake.

View of Mt. Shasta from Lake Siskiyou

Castle Lake

Castle lake is great for a day trip and has a campground as well as free parking, but unlike Lake Siskiyou, there is no general store or rental facility. The only amenity at Castle Lake is an outhouse at the parking lot. The lake has several hiking trails and many access points for swimming and fishing. There are two smaller lakes above Castle Lake: Heart Lake and Little Castle Lake. Heart Lake is about a mile hike uphill and is most accurately described as a very large, deep pond. We couldn’t touch the bottom even when we tried. It is also quite cold, but refreshing after hiking in the hot summer sun. We have not yet had the chance to check out Little Castle lake.

View of Castle Lake from Heart Lake (Photo taken 2018)
View of Mt. Shasta from Heart Lake (Photo taken 2018)

Below is a screenshot of my hike from Castle Lake to Heart Lake using my Garmin Fenix 3 HR watch. If you look closely, Little Castle Lake can be seen a little over half a mile to the right of Heart Lake.

Heart Lake hike


What’s your experience with camping at Mt. Shasta? Please comment below, we’d love to hear!

Traditional Wet Shaving

Wet shaving with a straight razor or safety razor was extremely popular until the first Bic disposable razor appeared in the 1970’s. I’ve used all forms of shaving tools from disposable razors, straight razors, safety razors, and electric shavers. Out of all of them, I would have to say that wet shaving with a safety razor is my favorite for the following reasons:


Why We Like Traditional Wet Shaving

  • Traditional wet shaving feels much better and is an overall better experience.
    • Using a single sharp metal blade can cause irritation, but not if you lubricate your skin first. We recommend using a pre-shave oil to make sure that the razor has a smooth surface to glide across. The next step is to add the saving cream using a shave brush.
  • It’s cheaper.
    • Below, I created a list of the traditional wet shaving products that I have come to enjoy using as well as their prices and usage lifetimes.
  • It produces far less waste and is better for the environment.
    • Traditional wet shaving products were made to last and often come with less packaging.

Traditional Wet Shaving with Safety Razor

Below is a list of the wet shaving tools I have come to enjoy using. The prices and lifetimes of each will vary depending upon products, but will amount to roughly the same cost per year:

  • Merkur 34C Heavy Duty Safety Razor Price: $39.99
    • Lifetime: Forever
  • Shave Brush. Price: $22.00+
    • Lifetime: About 20 years
  • Taylor of Old Bond Street Shaving Soap in Bowl Price: $35.99
    • Lifetime: 2 years
  • Feather Double Edge Razor Blades (10pk) Price: $4.50
    • Lifetime: 80 shaves. About 8 shaves per edge.
  • Lather Bowl Price: ~$20.00
    • Lifetime: Forever
  • Taylor of Old Bond Street Pre-Shave Aromatherapy Oil 30ml $12.95
    • Lifetime: 8 months

Total Initial investment: about $135

Cost Per year: about $44

“Modern” Disposable Cartridge Shaving

These are the shaving tools I used before switching to the traditional method:

  • Edge Shave Gel Sensitive Skin with Aloe 7.0 oz. Price: $3.49
    • Lifetime: 40-60 shaves (8.5 weeks or about 2 months)
  • Gillette Fusion ProGlide Power Razor Blade Refills 8.0 ea Price: $34.99
    • Lifetime: Gillette says that you can get 1 month use out of each cartridge based on 3-4 shaves per week.
  • Gillette Fusion ProShield Razor With FlexBall Handle and 2 Razor Refill Cartridges Price: $13.59

Total initial investment: about $52

Cost per year: about $73.4

Harry’s Subscription

I’ve never used Harry’s, but went to their website to see how much they actually charge. Here’s a screenshot of the default subscription option on Harry’s.com:


It looks like they will charge $25 every 2 months.

Cost per year: $150

Dollar Shave Club

Again, I’ve never used Dollar Shave Club, but went to their website to see how much they actually charge. Here’s a screenshot of the default subscription option on Dollarshaveclub.com:

Dollar Shave Club

It looks like they will charge $5 for the first month and then $9 monthly from then on.

Cost per year: $108+


Gorillas: In the Midst of Destruction

Gorillas live in one of the most violent places on earth and are essentially sitting ducks. The two gorilla species live within and around the Congo River basin. This is an area roughly half the size of the United States and is largely unexplored due to inaccessibility and hostile groups and poachers. Each species has lowland and upland subspecies. Norwegian Refugee Council’s DR Congo director, Ulrika Blom, has stated that, “It’s a mega-crisis. The scale of people fleeing violence is off the charts, outpacing Syria, Yemen and Iraq.” According to the BBC, the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre has estimated that an average of 5,500 people fled their homes every day during 2017 in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

General Gorilla Facts

There are two gorilla species: Eastern and Western. Each has two subspecies. Eastern gorillas are made up of the Cross River gorilla and Western Lowland gorilla subspecies. Western gorillas include the Mountain gorilla and Eastern Lowland gorilla. This makes a total of four distinct subspecies of gorilla.

Gorilla Distribution Map
Historical sampling reveals dramatic demographic changes in western gorilla populations – Scientific Figure on ResearchGate. Available from: https://www.researchgate.net/Gorilla-distribution-map-Approximate-current-distribution-of-gorillas-in-Equatorial_fig1_50986570 [accessed 5 Apr, 2018]
In the wild, gorillas live approximately 30-40 years. They typically form groups compromised of as little as 5-10 individuals, but groups as large as several dozen including extended family have been documented. Groups are lead by the silverback, an adult male that has reached sexual maturity; signified by silver fur on his back. Groups can be made up of blackbacks (adult males that have not yet become sexually mature), adult females, juveniles (4-8 years of age), and infants. It has been documented that a silverback, after acquiring a group after battle, will kill the infants sired from the previous leader in order to ensure that the next generation are his own.

Never stare at a silverback. Staring is a challenge and he may charge.

A blackback will eventually leave his natal group and become solitary until he forms a group of his own. However, some solitary males are never able to win a fight against a dominant silverback or attract females of his own. A solitary male can form a group by attracting a female that has left her group or take control of a group through defeating the dominant silverback in battle.

Gorilla etiquette:

If a silverback charges:

  1. Go down on your knees.
  2. Bow your head.
  3. Put a leaf in your mouth; it’s a sign that you come in peace.

Physical Differences Between Eastern vs. Western Gorillas

  • The Eastern silverback has a more defined patch on his back, while the lighter hair on a Western silverback spreads to his thighs.
  • Eastern gorillas, especially Mountain gorillas, have long, black hair that helps to protect them in the cold and wet mountain conditions. Western gorillas have shorter, more bristly hair that is slightly brown to grey.

Eastern Gorilla (Gorilla beringei)

1. Mountain gorilla (Gorilla beringei beringei)

Mountain gorillas live at elevations from 8,000 – 13,000 ft. According to Gorilla Doctors, there are currently around 880 individuals. About 480 of them live in the Virunga Volcanoes Massif, an area of land that includes Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park, DRC’s Virunga National Park, and Uganda’s Mgahinga National Park. The other 400 gorillas live in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda.

Distribution of the mountain gorilla (© Angela Meder). Gorilla number: 880

Paul Rafaele, author of Among the Great Apes, explains that the mountain gorilla enjoys a leisurely lifestyle. The silverback begins his day with waking his family at 5 a.m. by beating his chest and charging them. A single family forages over 500 yards each day and activities include “playing alot and taking mid-morning and mid-afternoon naps.” At around 6 p.m., the silverback chooses a place for his family to sleep for the night.

2. Eastern Lowland or Grauer’s gorilla (Gorilla beringei graueri)

The Eastern Lowland or Grauers gorilla is the largest of the four gorilla species. These gorillas inhabit the lowland forests of eastern DRC and the Albertine Rift. Until the 1990s, populations were estimated to be around 17,000 individuals, but recent surveys estimate far lower numbers at only 4,000 individuals.

Current data indicates that these gorillas only occupy about 13% of their former range. Surveys from both the WCS and FFI document that the Grauer’s gorillas has declined at least 77% in the last 20 years.

Western gorilla (Gorilla gorilla)

1. Western Lowland gorilla (Gorilla gorilla gorilla)

Distribution of the Western Lowland Gorilla (© Angela Meder). Gorilla number: 100,000-200,000

The Western Lowland gorilla live in the dense rain forests of Cameroon, Central African Republic, Congo, Rio Muni (Equatorial Guinea), Gabon, Angola, and the DRC. They currently inhabit the largest geographic range and has the largest population of the four gorilla species. The total population is estimated to be as many as 100,000 individuals, but accurate counts are not easily attained due to the forest density and remoteness. They have been recorded at densities as high as 10 individuals per square kilometer.

2. Cross River gorilla (Gorilla gorilla diehli)

Distribution of the Cross River gorilla (© Angela Meder, with information from Rich Bergl). Gorilla number: 250-300

The Cross River gorilla can only be found within highland forests on the border of Cameroon and Nigeria. This is currently the world’s rarest ape. Their population is currently estimated to be around 250-300 individuals divided into several sub-populations as illustrated in the above distribution map.

Conservation Threats


Over the past decade, the largest drivers of deforestation have been clearing for charcoal and fuelwood, small-scale subsistence farming, mining, and urban sprawl. Industrial logging has opened up vast areas of the Congo to commercial hunting, leading to a poaching epidemic.

The charcoal traders have already destroyed about a quarter of the hardwood old-growth forests in the southern section of the Virunga National Park.

-Paul Raffaele


Congo is one of the planet’s largest producers of copper, gold, zinc, tin, diamonds, and other metals like coltan. The problem with mining in Congo is that armed groups are most often in control and benefit directly from mining activity.

The southern copper belt is one of the world’s richest sources of copper. Congo has recently emerged as the world’s leading cobalt producer, a by-product of the copper smelting process and an important component of electric cars.

Congo is also responsible for 80% of the world’s coltan. Coltan is the common name for columbite-tantilite, the mineral used to extract Tantilum, a metal widely used in cell phones and other electronics to coat capacitors for energy storage. Tantilum holds an electric charge better than any other material.

Gorilla Zoonosis

Zoonotic diseases are those that can be transmitted between both animals and humans. Gorillas are at constant risk of contracting such zoonotic diseases from humans. Human transmitted diseases include polio, malaria, measles, strep throat, tuberculosis, herpes, and Ebola. Animal transmitted diseases include salmonella, rabies.

For example, in 1985, a gorilla contracted measles from human visitors. Veterinarians reacted by vaccinating 65 gorillas with a dart gun to keep the disease from spreading. All survived.

How can you help?

  • Use electronics for as long as possible. Think twice before casting your perfectly good phone away for the newest model.
  • Recycle electronics when no longer useful.
  • Purchase only sustainable wood.
  • Purchase from companies that use conflict free minerals. Intel explains that “Conflict free” and “conflict-free” as defined by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, refers to “products that do not contain conflict minerals (tin, tantalum, tungsten and/or gold) that directly or indirectly finance or benefit armed groups in the Democratic Republic of the Congo or adjoining countries”.
  • Donate to gorilla conservation organizations.
  • Visit the gorillas. Conservation is dependent upon a future of global tourism.

Visit the organizations below:

logologo (1)berggorilla-evlogo (2)Virunga National ParkDianFosseylogoLarge.60460f70C04-K0L_400x400



Butler, Rhett. “Congo Deforestation.” Mongabay.com, 23 Jan. 2016, rainforests.mongabay.com/congo/deforestation.html.

“Conflict Minerals.” The Price of Precious, ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2013/10/conflict-minerals/gettleman-text.

“Cross River Gorilla.” Cross River Gorilla – Berggorilla & Regenwald Direkthilfe E.V., http://www.berggorilla.org/en/gorillas/species/western-gorillas/cross-river-gorilla/.

“DR Congo Displacement Crisis ‘Worse than Middle East’.” BBC News, BBC, 6 Dec. 2017, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-42250230.

“Mining Firms Are Dismayed by a New Congolese Mining Law.” The Economist, The Economist Newspaper, 10 Feb. 2018, http://www.economist.com/news/business/21736595-they-have-more-lose-if-president-joseph-kabila-falls-power-mining-firms-are-dismayed.

Raffaele, Paul. Among the Great Apes: Adventures on the Trail of Our Closest Relatives. Smithsonian Books, 2011.

“Western Lowland Gorilla.” Smithsonian’s National Zoo, 5 May 2017, nationalzoo.si.edu/animals/western-lowland-gorilla.

What to Know Before Starting a Beehive Pt.1

How Bees Make Honey (there’s science to it)

Honey begins as nectar, a sugary liquid secreted by flowers. Worker bees use their tongue-like labellum to lap (not suck) up the nectar and then store it in what’s called the honey stomach or crop. This is different from the stomach used for normal digestion, the ventriculus. Bees use the honey stomach as a chamber to break down the nectar in a process called inversion. During inversion, an enzyme called invertase breaks sucrose down to its simple sugars: glucose and fructose. Another enzyme called glucose oxidase breaks down the glucose and slightly increases the honey’s pH. Back at the hive, the product is regurgitated from the honey stomach into the mouth of a house bee to continue the refining process. It is possible for this honey to be regurgitated by multiple bees and takes place over a twenty minute period. To speed up the evaporation process, the bees begin to fan the honey when it becomes about 20% water. After the water concentration is reduced to 17-18%, they finally move it to cells and cap them with wax for long-term storage. A single bee will only produce 1/12th of a teaspoon of honey in its lifetime.


Beeswax is produced from small glands on the underside of a bee’s abdomen. These glands form white flakes that bees soften by chewing before use for construction.

Wax scales
Source: How to Keep Bees & Sell Honey by Walter T. Kelley

How Bees Use Pollen

Honey provides energy, while pollen is a bee’s main source of nutrients. Ross Conrad claims that, “honey bees get all their vitamins, minerals, fats and protein from bee pollen”. Pollen is so vital for the health of larvae that bees store it in and around the brood nest. Fresh pollen has a high moisture content and excess must be stored in capped cells to prevent mold growth. This stored pollen is called bee bread. To prepare this pollen for storage, worker bees fill approximately three-quarters of a honey comb cell with pollen and then fill the rest with honey.

What is Royal Jelly?

In order to become a queen, a female larvae must be fed royal jelly exclusively. It is secreted by the hypopharyngeal gland of the young nurse bees and is made up of more than 50% water and contains proteins and sugars.

Propolis (Bee Glue)

Propolis is made from a resin-like coating found on the leaf buds and flowers of trees and other plants. The coating is used as a defensive barrier that protects those delicate plant parts from pathogens and insects. Honey bees simply scrape off the coating and carry it back to the hive just as they do with pollen. Actually, the propolis looks very similar to pollen when carried by a bee, except that it is usually chestnut brown in color and glistens in the sunlight.

Propolis is the glue that bees use as a cement for various purposes such as filling in holes or cracks, repairing combs, and making the hive entrance easier to defend. There have also been cases where bees have completely encased intruders like mice and snakes with propolis.

Honey Bee Life cycle and biology

There are three classes of bees in the hive:

Queen bee1
Center of photo: A queen bee

The queen is the mother of all the bees in the colony. Queen bees develop faster and live much longer than worker bees. Queens develop in 15.5 days while worker bees require 21 days. Queens live for several years as compared to a worker bee’s few months. She has a stinger that, because it is not barbed, allows her to sting multiple times without dying. She only develops reproductive organs, while the worker bees develop organs to produce all of the various chemical substances previously mentioned. She lays 1000 to 2000 eggs per day. Each egg is deposited on the bottom of a cell and a brood temperature of 97 degrees Fahrenheit must be maintained. Eggs usually hatch in 4 days. Fertilized eggs become females, the workers. Unfertilized eggs become males, the drones. Worker bees can lay unfertilized eggs. The food a larval female is fed determines whether or not she becomes a queen or a worker (as previously discussed).

Young bee emerging from cell

Workers are sterile females and all have stingers. Unlike the stinger of the queen, worker’s stingers are barbed. Worker bees only live about 6 weeks and change jobs as they age. The youngest bees clean the hive, feed larvae, build wax cells, and the make honey. House bees are typically between 12-18 days old. Bees responsible for foraging (nectar, pollen, water) are the oldest, around 2 – 6 weeks of age. By fanning their wings, workers also provide air conditioning and circulation for the hive to maintain correct conditions.

Drones are the males and are shorter, but heavier set than the queen. In my experience, the drones are easier to find in a hive than the queen. They do not have stingers and their only duty is to fertilize the queen and die in the act of mating. During a shortage of honey stores or at the end of a honey flow, drones are driven from the hive to starve. Drones are also the only bees that are allowed to enter any hive they wish without being attacked.


“Bee Pollen – An Overview.” Bee Culture, 29 Dec. 2016, http://www.beeculture.com/bee-pollen-overview/.

Conrad, Ross, and Ross Conrad. Natural Beekeeping: Organic Approaches to Modern Apiculture. Chelsea Green Pub., 2013.

Kelley, Walter T. How to Keep Bees and Sell Honey. Walter T. Kelley, 1993.

Pearson, Gwen. “Royal Jelly Isn’t What Makes a Queen Bee a Queen Bee.” Wired, Conde Nast, 29 June 2017, http://www.wired.com/2015/09/royal-jelly-isnt-makes-queen-bee-queen-bee/.

Triplehorn, Charles A., et al. Borror and DeLongs Introduction to the Study of Insects. Thompson Brooks/Cole, 2006.

Interested in starting a beehive? Leave a comment below to share your thoughts or ask a question!

Get an Old Typewriter to Work Again

I recently purchased a typewriter for 35$ at a local auction. I knew absolutely nothing about typewriters before this and the only thing I could be sure of is that it was old. The front plate had fading lettering that said “Remington Noiseless” and says “Rebuilt at Remington Noiseless Factory” on the back. Most typewriters can be dated by their serial numbers. As you can see, this typewriter’s serial number reads “XR210135”. All Remington typewriters with serial numbers beginning with “XR” can be dated to 1934 beginning with number XR200001. I found this information here: Typewriter Database

Most of the keys stuck when I pressed them down or didn’t return after being pressed. However, this is normal for typewriters that haven’t been used for a long time. If your typewriter is in good condition, I do not recommend taking it apart. These machines were built to last, and most of the inner mechanics will most likely be intact.

I began by cleaning off the decades of dust and grime by using a brake cleaner. The brake cleaner worked well for this purpose because it removed old grime without leaving a residue while evaporating quickly, simply leaving the mechanics clean. I avoided spraying the cleaner into the upper platen area and directed it to the typekeys and inner mechanics.

After thoroughly cleaning, I still found that the typekeys were sticky and slow to return to their resting position. At this point, I considered using a lubricant. After some research, I found that whether or not to use a lubricant on depends on the typewriter. It turns out that most portable machines wont require ANY lubricant at all. Typewriter aficionados simply recommend pressing the keys multiple times to loosen them up. I found that this method worked for most of the keys. However, there were still a few that were terribly stuck. I thus decided that a lubricant was needed. I read several blogs that recommended using WD-40 to loosen up the keys. However, it turns out that WD-40 isn’t actually a good lubricant. The keys may work well initially, but it evaporates quickly, leaving a sticky residue that welcomes dust and will cause the keys and typebars to to stick again.  I resolved to purchase a lubricant similar to sewing machine oil since the mechanics are similer to typewriters. I used a few drops of 3-IN-1 (a little goes a long way) and after repeatedly pressing the keys, it was typing like new again.


What’s your experience with older typewriters? Leave a comment below!




How to Properly Start and Maintain an Insect Collection

In this article, I introduce you to insect collecting and provide you with a brief introduction on how to properly start and maintain an insect collection. I will also walk you through the stages of collecting, preserving, and displaying specimens.  Continue reading How to Properly Start and Maintain an Insect Collection