Chipper the Dog Sets a High Bar for Recycling

MARY JO DILONARDO | MNN |

Not long after Katie Pollak adopted Chipper in Mesa, Arizona, the puppy showed an interest in bettering the environment. Actually, he just liked playing with plastic bottles when he found them on walks.

“He was always eager to pick them up!” Pollack tells MNN. “Because of his interest, I began encouraging and rewarding his ability to pick up and carry water bottles. I would celebrate and give him treats each time he would offer to pick up a bottle. Then it stuck, and became our thing!”

Chipper the recycling dog with backpack of trash

Quinci joins Chipper on all his adventures. (Photo: Katie Pollak)

Now 8 years old, Chipper has developed a passion for the outdoors and for picking up trash. He, Pollak and her other pup, Quinci, are often found in nature.

“We go out a few times a week. Sometimes we go out with the intention of cleaning up an area,” she says. “Other times we’re just out for a hike or paddle, but always carrying bags with us to clean up any trash we come across.”

If the trash is in the water, Chipper will swim out to get it. (Photo: Katie Pollak)

Pollak and her dogs often meet up with friends to do organized cleanups in the area.

Chipper has become a bit of a celebrity for his recycling efforts. He’s well known in the community, and more than 31,000 people follow Pollak on Instagram to keep track of his adventures. The pair recently even made an appearance on the “Today” show.

Sometimes Chipper finds other interesting castoffs. (Photo: Katie Pollak)

Chipper doesn’t limit himself to plastic bottles. He picks up whatever trash he finds, including cans, discarded clothes and the occasional old shoe.

Chipper has helped Pollak spread the word about protecting the environment. (Photo: Katie Pollak)

Pollak says Chipper’s interest has sparked her own.

“I am very passionate about the environment and wildlife. I believe it is our responsibility to protect it, to keep it safe and preserved for future generations,” she says. “I love that Chipper has inspired me, to put even more of a focus on this issue. We do our best to spread the word and encourage others to at least take notice of the problem, so we can all work together to overcome it.”

Chipper swims back with a bottle he found. (Photo: Katie Pollak)

Chipper — who Pollak describes as “a mixed breed with a pure heart” — always has his buddy Quinci along for moral support.

The recycling pup seems to enjoy the spotlight.

“Chipper is handling fame much better than I am!” Pollak says. “He loves the attention that comes with it.”

Chipper always does his part to contribute to community cleanups, bringing his contributions to the pile. (Photo: Katie Pollak)

Mary Jo DiLonardo writes about everything from health to parenting — and anything that helps explain why her dog does what he does.


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Let’s Hear it for the Radical Simplicity of Walking


Simplicity and slowness are core components of virtually all the best adventures.

Walking is king of both of these. Walking requires no expertise and can, if you prefer, entail zero training, preparation, or planning. If you decided that you wanted to walk around the world, you could be packed and on your way ten minutes from now. It’s that simple.

Walking journeys require little gear, though it is worth spending more money on lightweight kit if you can. You could, in fact, fly to the start line of most walking journeys using only your carry-on luggage allowance on the airplane.

In many parts of the world, you will stand out on your travels for being very rich. Rich enough to afford the time for your adventure. Rich enough to buy fancy snazzy equipment, a plane ticket, and a possess passport. Going for a long walk gives you a better chance of not being perceived in this way and to engage more naturally and equally with the people you meet. People will think you are crazy – that is a given. But they will at least not be covetous of your expensive bicycle. You will share the road, as an equal, with people walking to school, walking to work, walking to their fields, walking as a pilgrimage, walking because they are too poor to take the bus.

On the flip side, walking can be very monotonous – arriving at the horizon takes an inordinate amount of time. When you’re hungry and thirsty the ‘just a few miles’ to the next town can last an eternity. Blisters, a heavy pack, and a blazing sun can turn a walk into the most exquisite form of agony.

I don’t think I have ever done a journey as painful as one on foot. And the agony is not reserved for long journeys: I once walked a lap of London, a week-long walk, with a friend of mine, Rob, who has also done a 3000-mile walk. He still tells me that the pain he was in on our stroll trumped anything he experienced trekking all the way from Mongolia to Hong Kong.

I have also walked 600 miles across southern India. It was a tiny journey compared to the vastness of India as a whole. So I saw but a fraction of the country. And yet it remains one of my richest travel experiences. What I saw, I saw well. I wanted to walk because walking is slow and simple and difficult.

I wanted to visit India. I decided to walk from the east coast of in Tamil Nadu to the west coast of in Kerala. I did the tiniest amount of planning I could do yet still have the nerve to commit to the journey. And then I set off. The most difficult, nerve-wracking part of the whole trip was landing in India in the middle of the night, getting to a bus station, finding the correct bus in the melee, then surviving the suicidal, maniacal drive to the coast where my walk would begin.

I hated those first 24 hours. I always do. I find crowded foreign places lonely, overwhelming, and frightening when I am by myself until I am established in a country. I invariably wish I’d stayed home and not bothered. It’s only once I commit to the journey, get moving down the road, that I can relax and the joy and excitement and curiosity comes bursting forth once more. I followed the course of a holy river through southern India carrying a tiny pack. I ate at street stalls, and at night I slept under the stars in my mosquito net, in cheap trucker’s hostels, or with kind families who took me into their homes. It was a busy, noisy, crowded journey and I savored it for those very reasons.

Indeed, it was a very conscious contrast to a walk I had undertaken the year before when I crossed Iceland by foot and packraft. I chose Iceland for its emptiness and beauty. I traveled with a friend so I had none of that pre-trip worry and I could share any other concerns that I had. We didn’t actually have time to worry: the night we arrived in Iceland we gorged on a barbecued whale, knocked back vodka shots, and danced the midsummer night away so effectively that we were too hungover to begin our expedition the next day.

If you decided that you wanted to walk around the world, you could be packed and on your way ten minutes from now. It’s that simple.

Twenty-fours later, then, we were off. Laden with all our food for a month, plus cameras, crampons, and packrafting gear, our 40kg packs were a daily torture. We walked as fast as we could: move slowly and the trip would take longer, so our rations would be spread thinner still. My main memories of that journey are pain, hunger, incredible scenery, isolation, and lots of laughter. It was a great trip.

You can speed up the slowness of your walk by running. And anyone can run; Jamie McDonald was a novice runner when he set out to run thousands of miles across Canada. I have never done a running journey, but I have run marathons and ultramarathons, including the 150-mile Marathon des Sables through the Sahara Desert. The memories are seared into my mind, perhaps from the pain, perhaps from the euphoric satisfaction of being very fit and churning through distance.

You cover miles more quickly when you run than when walking, so you can potentially do a longer journey. But you also risk greater agonies and need to travel even more minimally to reduce the weight of your kit. Every gram counts. Injury risks rise. People will think you are doubly crazy, but this may play to your advantage if you’d like to raise money for a charity during your trip, as Jamie did, running in a superhero outfit costume.

All the long-distance runners in my new book, including senior citizen superhero Rosie Swale-Pope who ran around the world, have resorted to using some form of trailer during their expedition. It improves the efficiency of their run but reduces the minimalist simplicity. Karl Bushby is using a trailer for his multi-year hike – the longest human walk in history – and Leon McCarron and I took the cart idea to stupid extremes when we set out into the Empty Quarter desert with the worst cart in history (designed by the combined genius of both our incompetencies) laden with 300kg of food and water.

Terrible though our cart was, when the terrain was good it was incredible how easy it was to tow such a vast weight in a cart.

If I were forced to choose, I would say that bicycle trips trump journeys on foot, except where the terrain would be impassable on two wheels or if there is some other reason why a bike would not work, for example, the vast load of our cart in Oman.

I have done lightweight walks and walks laden with wilderness gear. I’ve walked with a big cart and I have run through the Sahara with my toothbrush sawn in half to save weight. It’s hard to lump all these experiences into one category.

There is one common thread, however: travel on foot is slow. It is the speed that most of the human race experienced life for thousands of years, right up until the last couple of hundred years.

In the time span you have available for your adventure, you will see the fewest places if you decide to walk. But the places that you do see, you will truly see. And that is worth a lot.

This post originally appeared on Alastair Humphrey’s website.


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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!

 

Your Adventure Shots on Instagram Could Raise Your Insurance

Shannah Compton Game | Outside Online

But the flip side is that your healthy fitness habits—so deemed by lurking insurance companies—could lower premiums

Many of us use our social media accounts to showcase our lives—or at least some glorified, filtered version of them, where we’re always on top of a mountain or looking strong and confident at the gym.

We know the posts are public; that is, after all, the whole point. But what you might not have known is that we should now count insurance companies as potential secret followers lurking among our audiences. That’s right—just as hiring managers use LinkedIn to confirm resumes, some insurance carriers are turning to social media to find new ways to justify premiums and substantiate claims.

Here’s what you need to know about this creepy new frontier in the health and fitness space.      

First, Some History (Thanks A Lot, New York)

In January 2019, the New York Department of Financial Services became the first regulator to allow insurance carriers to use social-media data to help set insurance premiums and verify claims. The official statement read, in part:

“The Department fully supports innovation and the use of technology to improve access to financial services. Indeed, insurers’ use of external data sources has the potential to benefit insurers and consumers alike by simplifying and expediting life insurance sales and underwriting processes. External data sources also have the potential to result in more accurate underwriting and pricing of life insurance.”

Insurance carriers are always on the lookout for ways to improve their underwriting process and confirm that insurance claims are legit. Typically, they ask a series of questions on an application to dial in your risk classification. Here are some standard ones that I’ve seen repeatedly on life- and disability-insurance applications:

  • Do you hang glide?
  • Are you a pilot of a plane?
  • What countries are you traveling to?
  • Do you participate in any adventure sports?
  • Do you scuba dive?
  • Do you participate in hazardous sports?

Disability- and life-insurance carriers will offer you insurance based on a rating classification. The standard top rating is usually referred to as Super Preferred Non-Tobacco, which only a small fraction of the population qualifies for. As you might have guessed, those lucky few then tend to get lower-cost premiums.   

Health and travel insurance don’t use the same rating classification, so your social media presence isn’t as important in those areas—at least not yet. Health-insurance rates vary based on where you live, what type of deductible you have, and whether or not your company underwrites a portion of your premiums. Travel insurance is based on the amount you wish to insure your trip for, in the case of an unexpected cancellation.

Why Your Posts Matter

Each insurance carrier will have its own set of lifestyle-based questions. The risk of lying about your activities could come back to bite you in more ways than one.

For example, let’s say you file a disability insurance claim. If insurance carriers have access to your social media feed and see a photo of you skiing down a mountain or zip lining through the jungle in Costa Rica, well, that’s going to raise some red flags and could trigger an immediate denial of your claim. Conversely, if you stated on your application that you don’t participate in hazardous sports, and then the insurer sees a photo of you BASE jumping on Insta, that can be grounds to offer you a higher rating class, which means you’ll end up paying more money for your insurance.

It’s Not All Totally Unfair

There’s a flip side to all this, too: insurance companies might also reward you for a healthy, active lifestyle. The car-insurance industry, for example, has been using lifestyle data and mobile apps to help reduce its premiums for so-deemed “good” drivers for years. Many health-insurance companies are offering gift cards and incentives to stay healthy and check in each time you go to the gym and work out. These credits and incentives can help reduce your health-insurance deductible, putting more money back in your pocket.

A recent Wall Street Journal article pointed to the fact that living a healthy lifestyle could be a great incentive for reducing insurance costs, so there’s that argument for publicly sharing that data.  

How to Protect Yourself

For starters, turn on your privacy settings in your social media feeds, especially Facebook and Instagram. This will limit your posts and feed to only your friends—not insurance carriers. If you want to be supercautious, you can also untag yourself from friends’ photos of yourself in an adventurous setting, which the suits in New York could deem risky. 

Social media will, of course, only tell a fraction of your story. Insurance carriers still rely on good old blood and urine samples to figure out your risk classification. There’s also a lot of health and lifestyle information that can be uncovered from your doctors’ records when you apply for disability or life insurance. But it’s worth taking a minute and ensuring that your feeds align with your insurance applications and claims. It’s just a little bit more filtering and polishing of our digital lives, after all.


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Daniel Boone National Forest

 Emily Duty | Jan 18, 2019 | National & State Parks

Daniel Boone National Forest

 

In Winchester, Kentucky, you can visit the Daniel Boone National Forest. It spans hundreds of acres, several counties and is filled with great history, stunning rock formations, endangered animals, and more. 

Inside this post, you will learn how it got its name and what there is to see and do when during your visit. 

Who was Daniel Boone?

In case you don’t know, here’s a quick history lesson. In short: Daniel Boone was an American Pioneer and explorer who spearheaded the exploration into what is now known as the state of Kentucky.

After the Revolution, he became one of the leading citizens there, helping to establish roads and rules, and survey the land. So, it’s fitting then that in 1966 the Cumberland National Forest, which originally opened in 1937, changed it’s named to honor Boone. 

The Forest

Millions of visitors head to the Daniel Boone National Forest each year to soak up its beauty and abundant wildlife. And also to enjoy the outdoor recreational activities.

Popular attractions are Cave Run Lake, Laurel River, and the Red River Gorge. The Red River Gorge Geological Area is known for sandstone cliff, natural stone arches, and unusual rock formations. One formation, in particular, is the Natural Arch. It was formed throughout many years, thanks to wind erosion, water, and ice. It’s now considered a sacred sight to the Cherokee Indians. 

Animals and Plants

In addition to interesting rock formations, the forest is also home to an incredible amount of biodiversity. The naturally eroded sandstone that helped to form waterfalls, cliffs, gorges, bridges, arches, and pathways provide an alluring habitat for the plants an animals within the forest. There are 18 different species of endangered or threatened animals, like bats, fish, and mussels. 

Get Outside 

green pathway inside of Daniel Boone National Park in Kentucky

The Forest is a popular destination for outdoor adventure and outdoor enthusiasts of all kinds. It’s nearly 600 different trails, winding rivers and streams make it an excellent place for a quiet escape and peaceful hike. 

It’s also the perfect place for fishing, climbing, horseback riding, and camping. Or if water sports are more your thing: kayaking, canoeing, and rafting. 

Are you looking to stay the night? There are four different camping locations within the park. Some have cabins available for rent, and others with RV accommodations. 

Enjoy 

Enjoy your visit. Nothing is better than the great outdoors.


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