The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu
Nov. 28, 2023
Picchu, built around 1450 A.D. high in the Chilean Andes for the Incan
Emperor Pachacuti, is one
of the “New Seven Wonders of the World” (along with the Great Wall of
China, Petra in Jordan, the Colosseum in Italy, Chichen Itza in Mexico,
the Taj Mahal in India and Christ the Redeemer statue in Brazil).
Speaking to 45 Y’s Men of Meriden on Nov. 28, avid hiker Mark Kosnoff
gave an illustrated talk about his 2008 seven-day trek with a friend to
visit the ruins of this remarkable ancient city, which at one time
oversaw South America’s vast Inca Empire (larger than the Roman Empire).
The actual hike began
following a required three days of acclimating to the thin air in the
city of Cusco (altitude
11,200 ft.); Kosnoff’s friend promptly suffered from altitude
sickness, requiring temporary supplemental oxygen, but recovering within
three days. This city was the capital of the Inca Empire for three
centuries prior to arrival of
Francisco Pizarro and
the Spanish conquistadors in the 1500s. Kosnoff visited local
ruins which included extensive terracing (originally used for raising
crops) and remarkable buildings and walls built with enormous stones
(some the size of a small house) and precisely set together.
The three-day trek to Machu
Picchu then followed. The hiking pair was required to be accompanied by
a guide, two porters and a cook. Hiking was easier following the
previous acclimatization, but trails reached their high point at 13,729
ft. and required a bridge crossing over the
The dirt trail on Day 1 passed numerous Incan ruins, with walking on the
same level as surrounding clouds and viewing snow-capped peaks all
around. Kosnoff became very sluggish and short of breath at one point,
but quickly recovered. Day 2 required additional climbing up to Dead
Woman’s Pass along a path made with flattened stones, reaching a high
point at 13,729 ft. Then Day 3 started the descent into Machu Picchu
(located in a valley at about 8000 ft.) along a partially-overgrown
trail, with views of numerous Incan ruins.
Mark (right) and friend (left) with guide at Machu Picchu
View of trail and valley
along the Inca Trail
leading to Dead Woman's Pass
The final day began prior to 5:30 am in an
effort to view the legendary “Sun Gate” at sunrise, but the sight was thwarted
by rain and fog (“We couldn’t see a thing!”). Kosnoff proceeded to show
a series of slides from this fabled city, with views of roaming wild
llamas, Huayna Picchu
(the peak seen in most photos of the city), and the well-preserved
two-story Tomb of the Princess.
Antarctica and the
Nov. 21, 2023
and the Penguins” was the subject of an illustrated talk to 33 Y’s Men
of Meriden on Nov. 21 by Ken Morgan, Meriden Fire Chief. Providing
details of his Jan. 2023 summertime trip organized by Norwegian Cruise
Lines, Morgan also concentrated on the environmental damage occurring
due to global warming.
Antarctica is the coldest, driest and
windiest of the seven continents, with a summer population of about 5000
(mainly researchers), a number that shrinks to about 1000 in the
Antarctic wintertime (when Americans are enjoying summer weather).
Temperatures vary from 50+ degrees F. in summertime to a rock-bottom
-128.6 degrees F. in winter (a record global cold recorded at the
Russian Vostok Station
This cruise also included Argentina
(the world’s 6th largest producer of beef and home to soccer star Lionel
Messi), as well as a visit to the beautiful city of Buenos Aires,
eagerly sought by tourists. The tour also encompassed a visit to the
Falkland Islands, known for rough weather and seas and becoming
newsworthy following an Argentinian invasion of these British dependent
territories in 1982, a 10-week conflict won by the British. At that
time, Argentina was close to war with Chile, and so sent its best troops
to guard the Chilean border, leaving less-trained troops to take part in
And Chile itself, the longest country
in South America, was a tour highlight, known for its great camping,
hiking and fishing. The country is heavily populated by Magellanic
penguins, named after
Portuguese explorer Ferdinand
noticed them in 1520. Morgan displayed numerous photos of these
human-friendly birds that feed in the water, often diving to depths up
to 150 feet, to feed on krill and other prey. These penguins have poor
eyesight on land but excellent vision underwater. Their biggest threat
to survival: humans, through oil spills and other ecological disasters.
Access to the Antarctic
coastline required sailing through Drake Passage, renowned for
gale-force winds and icebergs, with wave heights up to 30-40 feet; it is
here that the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans meet unimpeded. Shrinking of
glacial ice shelves and calving of icebergs are increasing due to
climate change. Morgan’s photos included an ice station and the
Antarctic coastline. The continent is also home to the remarkable Gentoo
penguin, which can swim underwater up to 25 m.p.h.
MidState Arc Inc. and ATECH
Using Technology to Stay Independent as we age
Nov. 14, 2023
this age of ever-expanding utilization of computer technology and
artificial intelligence, there is growing hope for those with
disabilities (including aging, autism, and intellectual and physical
incapacities) to remain independent in their own homes, rather than
relying on round-the-clock nursing or institutional care. Speaking to 39
Y’s Men of Meriden on Nov. 14, Pam Fields, CEO of Midstate Arc Inc. and
ATECH (Assistive Technology Training Center, a growing commercial
spinoff) described in detail how this occurs.
Fields first described how technology
can assist people with living on their own and aging in place, including
robotic vacuums and mops, window blinds that adjust by remote or voice
controls, pull-down cabinets, and temperature control. Doors may be
opened or relocked by voice commands, and cooking may be automated using
smart burners and pans (which adjust cooking time and then shut off). If
you leave your stove (e.g. for more than five minutes), it will shut off
if you don’t reappear within the set time, and microwave ovens can be
regulated to shut off if a burning odor is detected.
Health of the home’s occupant can be
enhanced using automated medication dispensers (which alert you when
it’s time for your next dose, or call a friend or family member if you
fail to take it). Blood pressure and pulse oximetry can be computerized.
Visual impairment is being conquered; BlindSquare technology will walk
you through a building to your destination, warning you of objects in
your path, and an OrCam device (attached to your eyeglasses frame) can
read text to you and identify people in front of you. For the hearing
impaired, an automated bed shaker will alert you in case of fire.
Technology Equipment used by ATECH
And speech barriers: devices are now
being developed to “degarble” jumbled speech. Several programs are now
competent to verbally or textually translate languages (e.g. Spanish to
English). GPS devices tracking one’s location can now be incorporated
into patches sewn on clothing. Fall pendants are common, alerting
authorities if you should tumble. But today, ATECH has teamed up with
Mule Security Systems, assisted by artificial intelligence, to create
devices which after a two-week training period can send an alert if your
toilet flushing routine deviates significantly from your norm, or
provide smart door locks (activated by eye gaze, fob, or fingerprint
Biologist at DEEP (CT Dept of Energy and Environmental Protection)
Managing the Invasive Tree of Heaven
(host of the invasive Spotted Lanternfly)
Nov. 7, 2023
is currently draped by some 2800 plant species, of which 1800 predate
the colonization of the state and about 1000 were subsequently
introduced by later settlers and travelers; however, among these newer
types are 97 invasive species which aggressively affect the surrounding
flora and destroy surrounding habitats. Speaking to 38 Y’s Men of
Meriden on November 7, Peter Picone, Wildlife Biologist with DEEP (CT
Dept of Energy and Environmental Protection) provided a colorful
slideshow and talk about the Tree of Heaven (Ailanthus
altissima), one of the more aggressive species.
Picone noted that this species was
introduced from Asia to America in 1784 by a gardener from Philadelphia.
In Connecticut, it was first identified along the Housatonic River, with
seed spread via the river’s stream. If unchecked, this species may grow
to a height of 80-100 feet (with trunks up to three feet in diameter)
and multiply via the 350,000 seeds created by each. Furthermore, the
Tree of Heaven acts as host for the Spotted Lanternfly, a destructive
insect also introduced from Asia, which
crops including soybeans, grapes
and stone fruits.
Removing this plant species remains
challenging. It is best to remove it early in its life cycle, because of
its logarithmic growth if unchecked, displacing native vegetation.
Simple felling is ineffective, as the extensive root system responds by
creating additional plants. For removal, large trees require girdling,
while smaller trees are cut down and the stump treated with a foliar
herbicide which is absorbed into the root system.
Invasive Tree of Heaven
Picone has devoted special attention
to scenic Charles Island, located a half-mile off the coast of Milford
and accessible by land only at low tide (during a full moon) via a
tombolo (sandbar); visitors are sometimes trapped as the tide comes in.
Vigorous action by Picone and others has successfully eliminated the
Tree of Heaven along with planting benign trees on this
Natural Area Preserve.
A flurry of questions from the audience followed this presentation.