GET YOUR KIDS OUTSIDE

Kim Dinan  |

Want your kids to be happy adults? Get them outside as children.

A recent study published in the journal PNAS found that growing up near vegetation is associated with an up to 55 percent lower risk of mental health disorders in adulthood. The study is the largest ever look at the association between mental health and green spaces. Researchers at Denmark’s Aarhus University combined satellite imagery dating back to 1985 with health and demographic data from one million people in the Danish population to understand the effects of how access to nature impacts our mental health. After accounting for socioeconomic factors, researchers found that growing up near green space reduced the risk for mental illness anywhere from 15 to 55 percent, depending on the specific illness. “Green space seemed to have an association that was similar in strength to other known influences on mental health, like history of mental health disorders in the family, or socioeconomic status,” said Kristine Engemann, the biologist who led the study.

Duke Energy to fight N.C. coal ash cleanup order

Duke Energy is fighting its order from the DEQ to dig up all of its coal ash from unlined storage bins where toxic chemicals like mercury, lead and arsenic are leaking into local water supplies. Duke is challenging the order, saying that the DEQ did not consider all of the scientific evidence when it ordered the energy giant to clean up the coal ash from six storage basins deemed low-risk, which the company would prefer to cover with a waterproof cap. Duke has 14 coal ash sites around the state of North Carolina and projects that the cost of digging up the coal ash at 8 of them will cost $5.2 billion. Excavating the additional six coal ash storage bins could raise the total cost to $10 billion, a price that Duke isn’t willing to pay without a fight. Last year the North Carolina Supreme Court ruled that Duke could collect $545 million in cleanup costs from its customers rather than its shareholders.

Scientists have successfully sequenced the genomes of coastal redwoods and giant sequoias

The first step of a five-year project to develop the tools necessary to study the forests’ genomic diversity has been achieved with the successful mapping of genomes from coastal redwoods and giant sequoias. The coast redwood genome is the second largest ever mapped and is nine times larger than the human genome. The hope is that sequencing the genomes of these giant trees will lead to conservation and restoration opportunities for the species. Scientists say that the redwood forest is not healthy and that having the resources that a medical doctor has for their human patients will help make the trees healthy again. Over the past 150 years, over 95 percent of the ancient coast redwood range and one-third of the giant sequoia range have succumbed to logging. For the record, the largest genome ever mapped belongs to the axolotl, a North American salamander.


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6 Reasons Why Your Next Trip Should Be an RV Road Trip

Randy Propster | BackPacker Magazine

Life on the open road in an RV is about discovery, and re-discovery – of your surroundings, a new route, and most importantly – of yourself. Choosing to take an RV on an adventure opens up a wide variety of experiences, including convenience and comfort, jumpstarting vacation from the minute you leave the driveway.

Here are my six reasons to consider an RV for your next outdoor adventure:

1. Plan – Or Don’t

The fantastic part about an RV trip is that planning is mostly optional. Of course, you have to move, but when and how quickly is entirely up to you! You have everything you need with you along the way, so dining and lodging needs are taken care of. Road tripping is universally appealing to both the trip planner and the wanderer.

2. Maximize Vacation Time

Rather than a point-to-point visit to a destination, the travel to and from becomes a series of micro-experiences. You have shared meals, sleepovers and quality time with family and friends during your journey. Your travel days are no longer just eating up time you could be adventuring – they are the adventure.

3. Eat, Sleep, Drive

The RV vacation gives you control over your pace, timing, and expenses. A well-stocked kitchen offers treats for everyone. Comfortable beds make sure that road warriors are rested for the next day. This flexibility gives more space to be spontaneous.

4. Stop Spontaneously & Stay

Every good road trip passes signs such as “Natural Bridge” or “30-Foot-Tall Dancing Hog.” Why hurry? Park, have a snack in the RV, and hang out for a while. When your vacation includes an RV, getting to know the kitschy side of the US or simply stopping at every country store becomes a possibility.

5. Make Unexpected Connections

Nothing says “welcome” like seeing another RV at a campground. Pulling up in an RV automatically invites you to be part of an adventure-loving community. Road travel encourages some social time (if you want it!). When your schedule is flexible, taking the time to converse with local shop owners and other like-minded travelers offers new perspectives on destinations and can open you to experiences you wouldn’t otherwise know about.

6. Play Better Games

Have you been on a road trip if you haven’t played The Alphabet Game and stared out the window looking for words in alphabetical order? With an RV as your vehicle of choice, the family can gather around the table and play some board games to better pass the time. Just be mindful not to play ones with lots of pieces that could get too shuffled if you hit a bump – yikes.


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10 REASONS WHY SPRING IN SOUTHWEST VIRGINIA IS AN EXCEPTIONAL TIME TO VISIT

If you crave small-town friendliness and adventures in the great outdoors, there’s no better time to explore the town of Abingdon, located a particularly beautiful corner of Virginia. We’ve found the top 10 ways to enjoy a trip to Southwest Virginia this spring.

1. Bike the Virginia Creeper Trail!

The Virginia Creeper Trail is a 34-mile, rails-to-trails bicycle path that travels from Abingdon to Whitetop Station, Virginia. Start at either end of the trail and enjoy a breezy, downhill ride with a convenient shuttle pick up at the bottom.

2. Explore South Holston Lake

Mountain ridges and thick forest make up the undeveloped shoreline of South Holston Lake. It’s a popular place to rent a pontoon or kayak and spend the day enjoying pristine scenery.

3. Scale the rocky heights of Backbone Rock Recreation Area

Backbone Rock Recreation Area is part of the Cherokee National Forest that straddles the border of Virginia and Tennessee. The most notable feature is Backbone Rock, which features a 20-foot long hole that was blasted through it to make way for the railroad back in the early 1900s.

4. Visit the Wild Ponies at Grayson Highlands State Park

The biggest attraction at Grayson Highlands State Park is its wild ponies, which were first introduced to the park in 1974 to graze on the grassy balds. During the spring you’re most likely to see foals taking their first steps while the mares look on protectively.

Photo by Bob Diller

5. Enjoy Springtime Blooms

Roads through this neck of the woods are winding, but you’ll be glad for the slower pace thanks to the eruption of color on either side. White and pink laurel and magenta rhododendron grow to enormous heights here, while the flowering dogwoods have white and pink flowers growing on their delicate branches.

Photo by Bob Diller

6. Day Hike the Appalachian Trail!

The storied Appalachian Trail covers a 167-mile stretch of Southwest Virginia. Abingdon is an official AT Community partner, and some hikers on the AT take the 12-mile detour to visit the town where they’re welcomed with a variety of lodging options, access to outfitters, and lots of friendly restaurants.

7. Paddle the North Fork of the Holston River

The Class I/II rapids make for a relaxing ride along a remote section of this scenic river flanked by rocky bluffs. It’s the perfect setting to learn kayaking techniques—kids as young as eight can navigate the river on their own. Pack your water shoes and book a trip with Adventure Mendota.

8. Mingle with Locals at the Abingdon Farmers Market

Open from the April until Thanksgiving, the Abingdon Farmers Market sells local produce, meats, cheeses, and wine directly to the consumer. Some vendors have sold their wares here since the Great Depression.

9. Music and Festivals

Southwest Virginia is filled with places to listen to live music. Wolf Hills Brewing features musicians performing on Friday and Saturday nights, in addition to various events during the week. Spring is also the start of festival seasons. The Virginia Creeper Fest at the end of April features a wide variety of outdoor activities surrounding the area’s most famous trail.

10. Eat at a Farm-to-Table Restaurant

Avid readers know Barbara Kingsolver for her many bestselling books, but she and her husband Steven Hopp are also advocates for the local food movement, and co-owners of The Harvest Table restaurant in Meadowview. At Abingdon Vineyards, order a flight of wines and a plate of cheese, crackers, salami, nuts, preserves, chocolates and other artisan snacks for a riverside picnic. Dogs, kids and kayaks welcome!