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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8 things every hiker can do to address (or avoid) overcrowded trails

Bothered by busy trails and poor trail etiquette? Here’s how every hiker can address the issue of overcrowded trails.

When I started as the travel and outdoors reporter at The Seattle Times, among the first advice I received was to be careful when writing about hiking, because people feel strongly about “over-loved trails” in Seattle. Based on reader comments and emails, this has proved to be true.

When I ventured out to my first popular local trail — Poo Poo Point in the Issaquah Alps — I went midday on a gray, rainy weekday, and was surprised to find it pretty much empty.  It was only when I went back the next week in drier weather that I saw what people were talking about. The trail was packed, and I had to navigate around faster and slower hikers here and there. Still, it wasn’t as bad as some had made it sound. But while increased engagement with the outdoors is a good thing, poor trail etiquette and  unethical practices can have a harmful impact.

The good news is  hikers are not powerless in the face of heavily-trafficked trails and unsustainable outdoors practices. I spoke with Kindra Ramos, avid hiker and director of communications and outreach at the Washington Trails Association (WTA), and together we came up with some actions every hiker can take to confront the issue of “over-loved” trails.

1. Seek solitude on lesser-known trails

 

There are more than 3,000 trails on the Washington Trails Association’s Hike Finder Map, and more are added regularly. The WTA database doesn’t even account for all the trails in Washington state. So if it’s solitude you seek, look beyond the popular trails like Poo Poo Point and Rattlesnake Ledge.

Ramos suggests taking a chance on a new trail by randomly selecting a hike from the Hike Finder Map, or filter your results based on specific criteria. Also good to know? New trails are created every year. You can check with your local city council or parks department to find out where they are.

2. Know before you go

Don’t feel like taking the risk on a new-to-you trail only to find it crowded? The WTA and AllTrails websites have trip reports and reviews written by fellow hikers. Check them out before you go.

If you’re heading to a state or national park  with a visitor center, call ahead and ask when the trails are busiest. If all else fails, ask a local. Avid hikers can tell you where the busiest trails are. (If you ask nicely, they might even tell you what trails they seek out when they need a little solitude.)

3. Consider a rainy-day hike

Not afraid of a little rain, are you? Despite Pacific Northwest locals’ notorious tolerance for gray skies and wet weather, trails are likely to be less busy on rainy days. So pack your rain gear and get out there.

Ramos herself dons a headlamp and hits the trail in the early morning to avoid crowds. “It’s an opportunity to see a trail in a different way,” she says. She recommends hiking at off-peak hours — like early mornings or weekdays.

4. Volunteer

Trail maintenance requires a lot of work and willing volunteers. If you’re concernedabout the impact  on your favorite trails, join a local work party or stewardship program to help combat trail erosion and assist with trail maintenance. The Pacific Crest Trail Association, the Washington Nature Conservancy and Seattle Parks and Recreation’s Trails Program offer plenty of opportunities. For both new and seasoned hikers, volunteering can be a great way to learn more about trail maintenance and emergency preparedness.

5. Make some noise

Can’t get your hands dirty maintaining trails — or just don’t want to? Use your voice instead. “As you saw during the closure, volunteers can’t do it all, so in addition to giving back via volunteering, I really encourage hikers to talk to their representatives about why investing in these infrastructures is so important,” says Ramos.

WTA is scheduled to host a Hiker Rally Day in Olympia, when concerned hikers can meet with legislators, engage in outdoors training and network with others, on Tuesday, Feb. 19. Registration information is available at wta.org/get-involved/events.

6. Teach and learn

Bothered by the poor trail etiquette of others? They might just be unaware of best practices for keeping our trails safe and minimizing our impact on them. That doesn’t mean angrily confronting people on the trail. There are more effective ways to share your knowledge. Direct people to resources on sustainable practices. You can also share tips on social media or volunteer as a group hike guide.

Still learning yourself? Seek out a friend or experienced hiker you know and ask for pointers, join a Meetup group for hikers, or subscribe to an outdoors magazine. (Many offer tips for hiking safety and best practices.) There are also outdoors workshops and courses available through organizations like REIthe Washington Trails Association, the Mountaineers and other local outdoors groups.

7. Embrace some of the change

It’s not for everybody, but if you embrace some of the positive aspects of a busy trail, you might like it. “Often, trails, when they’re built right, can hold folks sticking to the path,” says Ramos. She also emphasizes the importance of annual maintenance and the volunteers and land managers who help maintain Washington’s trails.

As long as users are engaging with an eye to sustainability, a busier trail experience is just a different trail experience — not necessarily a bad one. In fact, there are even some positive aspects. For new hikers, busier trails can offer a sense of community and safety. And there are always other trails.

8. Hitch a ride

Parking is a major issue at several popular trailheads. When lots are full, hikers often resort to parking on the sides of the road, creating a traffic hazard. Consider alternatives like Trailhead Direct. The trail might still be crowded, but seeking alternatives to driving will at least reduce your carbon footprint and spare you parking woes.