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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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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The U.S. Was Just Ranked the Best Country in the World for Wildlife Travel — Here Are the Top Spots to Visit

TALIA AVAKIAN 

SEPTEMBER 15, 2018 –

Tour company True Luxury Travel has created a Global Wildlife Index to rank the best countries for wildlife tourism based on factors including wildlife biodiversity, conservation efforts, and the prevalence of national parks.

The index ranked the United States as number one, thanks to the country’s impressive system of national parks (60 in total) as well as the number of natural history museums (more than 750). For travelers looking to get closer to nature, there’s no shortage of options around the U.S.

The country’s first national park, Yellowstone, is home to rare wildlife like gray wolves, black bears, and grizzly bears. At South Dakota’s Badlands National Park, bison are known to roam right around the campgrounds, at Montana’s Glacier National Park, visitors will find a large population of white mountain goats; and at Death Valley National Park, the mesquite trees of the park’s Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes hide a variety of wildlife.

Southern Florida is the only U.S. destination where you’ll find both crocodiles and alligators in the wild. Everglades National Park has both — as well as manatees, more than 300 bird species, and more than 700 plant species.

In Alaska’s Denali National Park, visitors can observe caribou in the wild; in Florida, beachgoers can see loggerhead sea turtles come to nest; and in San Diego, the sea lions in La Jolla always draw a crowd.

The Megafauna Conservation Index also ranked the U.S. as first in the world for its conservation efforts. The index measures countries based on the proportion of land occupied by mega-fauna species, the proportion of the range of the species strictly protected in each country, and the amount of money spent on conservation. 

Travel & Leisure article

Your 2018 fall foliage guide

LAURA MOSS 

September 19, 2018, 11:54 a.m. – Mother Nature Network:

Whether you’re a ‘leaf peeper’ or just looking for great photos, here’s how to get the most out of the season’s splendor.

As the temperature drops and autumn sets in, Mother Nature is painting the treetops in vibrant hues of red, orange and gold, and many people are planning their leaf-viewing vacations.

SmokyMountains.com created a prediction map for the year’s fall colors using millions of historical data points from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

 

“Each year, we use a proprietary algorithm to process millions of data pieces and output accurate predictions for the entire country,” Wes Melton, co-founder and CTO of SmokyMountains.com, told Travel + Leisure.

Those millions of pieces of data are turned into 50,000 bits of predictive data, which are displayed on the interactive map. “This predictive map is the perfect intersection of our passions and is our favorite project of the year,” said Melton.

The color change of the leaves depends more on light than temperature, so it takes place at about the same time each year. But temperature, rain and other weather conditions can have an impact on the timing of the leaves’ changing color. For instance, because of drought in Maine, the state’s trees are already turning amber this year, reports the Bangor Daily News.

Here’s a look at what to expect this fall if you’re looking for colorful foliage.

Northeast: 

Peak time: There are a few patchy areas in the Northeast where leaves have already started to change, per SmokyMountains.com’s map. The region may be at or near its peak by early October, and it’ll be past its peak by late in the month. The northern parts of New York and Vermont will be past their peak by the middle of October.

Where to go: Walden Pond in Concord, Massachusetts, inspired Henry David Thoreau, and when you see the autumn’s colors reflected in the water, you’ll understand why. The Catskills and Adirondacks are classic foliage destinations where you can catch several leaf peeping tours or simply wander among the vivid, leafy boughs on your own. Hike to the top of Hogback Mountain in southern Vermont and you’ll be rewarded with a 100-mile view of orange, scarlet and gold. The small town of Medfield, Massachusetts, is a quiet destination off the beaten path where you can walk six miles of footpaths through the gorgeous foliage at Rocky Woods State Reservation. New Hampshire’s White Mountain National Forest guarantees spectacular leaf viewing each year. Climbing the tallest mountain on the U.S. Atlantic coast at Acadia National Park will get a stunning view of the color-splashed landscape.

Southeast: 

Peak time: Some parts of the Southeast will have minimal to patchy color changes by the middle of October. If you give it a few more weeks, swatches of Virginia, North Carolina and Tennessee will be at their peaks. However, most of the region won’t start to peak until early November, with the southernmost areas not peaking until the middle of the month.

Where to go: You’ll never fail to get breathtakingly colorful views with a trip to Great Smoky Mountains National Park — there’s a reason it’s among America’s most visited national parks. If you’re looking to get a tour of what the Southern states have to offer, check out Alabama’s Fall Color Trail, which will take you from the scenic views of Oak Mountain State Park to Cheaha State Park, the highest point in the state at 2,407 feet above sea level. The overlook at South Carolina’s Caesars Head State Park offers one of the most stunning views of autumn in the Appalachians, and a hike to nearby Raven Cliff Falls offers an ideal photo opportunity where water cascades down the dramatic 400-foot falls surrounded by fall colors. The city of Asheville, North Carolina, is a great stop if you crave a hip urban setting surrounded by gorgeous foliage. Georgia’s Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest always has spectacular views for leaf peepers. Arkansas’ Ozark Mountain Region also promises an array of crimsons, yellows and oranges that offers many stunning photo opportunities.

Midwest:

Peak time: Like some parts of the Northeast, the Midwest is already experiencing some slight foliage changes. Those areas — the northern portions of Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota — will peak by early October. The rest of the region is expected to peak later in October.

Where to go: Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is home to some of the most gorgeous fall foliage in the country, framing the area’s more than 200 different waterfalls in a backdrop of spectacular color. Just 20 miles from downtown Cleveland, Ohio, sits Cuyahoga Valley National Park, a 33,000-acre preserve where you can spot bald eagles and other birds nestled among the leaves. The Illinois River Road National Scenic Byway offers the opportunity to see autumn’s splendor from a variety of viewpoints — from scenic bluffs to glistening waterways. Missouri’s Katy Trail is the nation’s longest rails-to-trails bike path, and it’ll take you through small towns and farmland and give you breathtaking views of the Midwest’s fall foliage.

Central U.S.:

Peak time: The northernmost states in the region won’t begin to really change up the colors until near the middle of October. About half of Texas won’t peak until early November, however, well past the rest of the region’s foliage pinnacle.

Where to go: They may be called the Black Hills, but this area of South Dakota is blanketed in a variety of colors every autumn. Leaf peepers looking for an overview of what the area has to offer should take a drive along the Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway. Montana’s Glacier National Park offers breathtaking views at all times of year, and fall is no different. Although the park is home to many evergreens, you’ll also see bright yellows and crimsons, which creates a stunning contrast among the greens. Nestled in the Missouri River bluffs in northeastern Nebraska, Ponca State Park offers gorgeous landscapes dotted with fall colors and the Lone Star State has more to offer than just cacti — Lost Maples State Natural Area is a great place to see some of fall’s best oranges and yellows.

Northwest:

Peak time: The window for foliage in the Northwest is pretty small. By mid-October, look for Idaho to be near-peak with Washington and Oregon hitting their stride later in the month.

Where to go: The Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area that spans southern Washington and northern Oregon is typically an ideal place to see the colorful show put on by the area’s maples, cottonwoods and ash trees, but wildfires late in the summer of 2017 have made the area less-than-hospitable for leaf peepers. The Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest in Washington is home to gorgeous creeks and lakes that reflect the colorful foliage, and Mount Rainier National Park boasts brilliant fall colors, thanks to its vine maples, huckleberry bushes and larch trees. Oregon’s 2.3 million-acre Fremont-Winema National Forest offers many scenic vistas of vibrant oranges and yellows, and Idaho’s Teton Scenic Byway is a must-see with its variety of colors dotting the mountain range. You might be surprised to find so many hues in Alaska’s Denali National Park, but the area’s breathtaking beauty gets much more colorful in the fall. Keep in mind that fall starts early and ends quickly in Denali, so make your way up there in late August or early September to catch the park’s brilliant reds and oranges.

West and Southwest:

Peak time: The middle swath of Colorado and the northern part of New Mexico will peak by early October with Utah and Arizona following suit a week or so later.

Where to go: Aspen may be known for its skiing, but every autumn the golden foliage of the town’s namesake tree makes the area’s slopes worth the trip even without snow. The leaves begin changing in Arizona’s Coconino National Forest as early as September, but the gold rush really beings in October. New Mexico’s Sangre de Cristo mountains are splattered in orange, gold and yellow every fall and offer a wealth of photo opportunities, and you can never go wrong with a trip to the Lake Tahoe area during this time of year. The fall color show lasts for weeks here, and the gorgeous foliage provides the perfect backdrop for the variety of outdoor activities available at Lake Tahoe.

Editor’s note: This story was originally published in October 2011 and has been updated with new information.