Category: Outdoors

Find The Right Volunteer Opportunity For You

Giving back to one’s community can provide a sense of purpose and improve an individual’s overall well-being. Data from Volunteer Hub indicates that people who volunteer improve their health by strengthening their bodies, improving their moods and reducing stress. Volunteerism also produces additional benefits, including boosting one’s positive perception to others. A study from CareerBuilder found 60 percent of hiring managers see volunteerism as a valuable asset when making recruitment decisions. Furthermore, human resources executives attest that contributing to a nonprofit can improve leadership skills.

By understanding the value behind volunteer work – for the people or organization on the receiving end as well as the volunteer – more individuals may decide to donate their time and services. However, finding the right volunteer opportunity may take some trial and error. The following are some tips for finding the right fit.

· Consider skills and interests. Before choosing a volunteer opportunity, make a list of activities that you enjoy. This may help guide volunteer choices. For example, if you like hiking, you may volunteer to clean up a local park.

· Assess your skill levels. Is there something you are particularly adept at doing? For example, if you are a certified public accountant, you may be able to volunteer by mentoring young accounting students, or doing taxes or bookkeeping tasks for the elderly or less fortunate.

· Think about commitment level. Figure out how much time you can spend volunteering. Maybe you only have the weekends or a few hours in the evenings? Understanding how much free time you have can help you choose opportunities that fit within these parameters.

· Research potential organizations. Not all nonprofit groups are created equal. Utilize resources such as CreativeVolunteer that vet charitable groups to determine if they are trustworthy.

· Define your goals. Have goals in mind when selecting opportunities. Defining a goal can help you maintain the motivation to volunteer and see a project through to completion.

· Start small. Wade into a volunteer opportunity slowly to see if it is the right fit. This may include volunteering one day a week or month. Increase the time you spend volunteering once you’ve found the right place for you.

Volunteering can bring joy to a person’s life, especially when individuals find an inspiring opportunity.

Leaf Peeping Planning Guide

Millions of people each year look forward to the magnificent colors on display in autumn. Fall offers irreplaceable views, whether you’re atop a mountain ridge or thick in the folds of a forest. In addition, the crackle of leaves underfoot and the earthy smell of the soil tempts the senses even more.

Some advance planning can help make fall foliage trips that much more enjoyable and awe-inspiring.

Peak Viewing Times

Areas of the northern-most latitude will start to show color earlier than more southern areas. Generally speaking, the leaf-viewing season begins in late September and runs through early November for much of North America. Peak times for viewing depend on areas of travel and time of year. For large swaths of Canada and the United States, plan trips for late-September to mid-October. The Weather Channel offers maps and charts at www.weather.com/maps/fall-foliage for the peak times for many areas of the U.S.

Pick Your Destination

Anywhere with deciduous trees provides the opportunity to witness blazing autumn color. During leaf-peeping season, travelers can go coast to coast and see awesome vistas. Some regions are particularly known for their leaf displays. New York’s Catskill and Adirondack regions are prime spots for visitors in the autumn. Those who live further north will find that leaves in Vermont are such an attraction that routes are published indicating where to enjoy the best views. Further south, Central and Eastern Virginia peak in late October. And don’t forget the shores of the Great Lakes, which are awash in reds, oranges and yellows by mid-September. The travel resource Frommer’s offers more leaf-peeping locales to visit.

Pack The Right Gear

While most people are not without a smartphone that can capture amazing high-resolution imagery, serious leaf photographers may want to take out their prized camera equipment for leaf-peeping excursions. Also bring along a map or a GPS-enabled device so you can explore back roads and areas off the beaten path more readily.

There are plenty of apps that can help with foliage-finding adventures, so a phone is a handy tool. When packing, also bring along hiking boots, comfortable layered clothing and any equipment you’d normally take for an afternoon in the great outdoors.

Another idea is to hit the ATM machine prior to the visit. Many smaller towns and their local shops may not take credit cards, so it’s best to have cash on hand for food and souvenirs.

Extend The Day

Make leaf-peeping part of a larger series of events for the day. Scope out vineyards where you can sample local wines or plan trips around orchards, where you can come home with beautiful photos as well as fresh-picked apples and pumpkins. You may find a county fair or street festival while exploring.

Outdoor Activities That Are Perfect for Seniors

The great outdoors beckons people of all ages. Fresh air can be hard to resist and the benefits of spending time outdoors are so numerous that it behooves anyone, including seniors, to answer the call of nature.

According to researchers with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service, human beings benefit both physically and psychologically from spending time in nature. Such experiences can reduce stress and help lower heart rates, potentially decreasing individuals’ risk for cardiovascular disease. In addition, the Forest Service notes that spending time outside in green spaces has been linked to a lower risk of depression.

Seniors who are retired or even aging empty nesters who are still in the workforce can make great use of their free time by venturing into the great outdoors. The following are a handful of senior-friendly outdoor activities that provide a great reason to get off the couch and take in all that Mother Nature has to offer.

Hiking

Hiking provides a great workout and an ideal opportunity to spend time in an idyllic setting. The U.S. National Park Service notes that hiking helps individuals build stronger muscles and bones, improves their sense of balance, has a positive effect on heart health, and can decrease the risk of certain respiratory problems. Hiking is an especially attractive outdoor activity for seniors, as many parks feature trails with varying degrees of difficulty, ensuring there’s a trail for seniors whether they’re seasoned or novice hikers.

Water Aerobics

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that water-based exercises can be especially helpful individuals with chronic diseases, a category many seniors fall into. The CDC notes that one study published in the journal Arthritis & Rheumatology found that improves the use of joints affected by arthritis without worsening symptoms. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services also notes that swimming can lead to improved health for people with diabetes and heart disease. Seniors can reap these benefits by going for a dip in their own backyard pools or a local body of water, such as a lake or ocean. Many swim clubs also offer discounted memberships to seniors, making these another great and affordable way to reap the benefits of swimming.

Fishing

Of course not all outdoor activities need to make seniors huff and puff. Fishing provides a great reason to get outdoors, and many individuals devoted to fishing report feeling less stressed after a day spent casting for their favorite fish. Individuals who consume what they catch also can benefit by improving their diets, as the American Heart Association notes that consuming certain types of fish has been linked to a lower risk for heart disease and obesity.

Volunteering

Local environmental groups often sponsor cleanups at parks and waterfront attractions like beaches and lakes. Volunteering with such organizations is a great way to get outside and give back, and working with like-minded individuals can be a great way for seniors to meet new people. In addition, a national study sponsored by the Corporation for National and Community Service in 2019 found that 88 percent of Senior Corps volunteers who initially reported a lack of companionship reported a decrease in feelings of isolation after volunteering.

The opportunities for seniors to enjoy the great outdoors are endless. Taking advantage of such chances can benefit seniors in myriad ways.

Scenic Campgrounds Across North America

Thousands of campsites litter the North American landscape, providing an opportunity for campers of all ages and interests to find a place to call home for a few days. Many campsites feature some spectacular scenery and other attractions that make them coveted spots to pitch a tent. Here’s a look at a few camping locations that boast incredible views.

• Bartlett Clove Campground, Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska: This remote and stunning campground offers views of crystal blue glacial water with a thick forest that surrounds the shoreline. Visit in the summer when the days are long and warm.

• Hanakoa Campsite, Napali Coast State Wilderness Park, Kauai, Hawaii: The Napali Coast is recognized as one of the most beautiful coastlines in the world, and camping here can feel like you’re camping in paradise. Cliffs, waterfalls and streams make this location picturesque.

• Garden Key, Tortugas National Park, Florida: Tortugas National Park is a remote series of islands which are accessible after a two-hour ferry ride from Key West. It offers a tropical camping experience under mangrove trees, sitting on the edge of beautiful blue waters. Lighthouses and historic forts are adjacent, while one of the world’s largest barrier reef systems can be steps from your tent.

• Jedediah Smith Campground, Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, California: If you’re intrigued by the opportunity to camp beneath towering, ancient redwoods, look no further than this campground. Camp among the natural beauty with plenty of solitude and space. It’s possible to spot black bear, river otters, bobcats, and other indigenous animals while traversing 20 miles of hiking trails.

• Buttle Lake and Ralph River Campgrounds, Strathcona Park, Canada: Visitors can behold the view from Golden Hinde, the highest peak on Vancouver Island, which towers at 7,210 feet. Also worth checking out is Della Falls, the highest cascade in Canada, which requires a multi-day excursion by boat and foot. Soaring mountain peaks, waterfalls and rivers also are accessible within these campgrounds.

• Assateague Island, Maryland National Seashore: The scarcity of tree cover on the island offers nearly unblemished views of miles of ocean. Campers can enjoy herds of wild horses and the siren’s call of the beach and ocean. While open year-round, late summer and early fall are the most comfortable time for camping.

• Watchman Campground, Zion National Park, Utah: This campground is surrounded by rocky peaks, juniper woodlands and massive sandstone cliffs. Bike trails along the Virgin River and other hiking opportunities help set this campground apart. Breathtaking sunsets also attract thousands of visitors to this area of the country.

Camping is made even more special when visitors spend time at a stunning campsite with awe-inspiring views.

Necessities for Your Next Road Trip

The travel industry is big business, annually generating hundreds of billions of dollars for businesses that cater to people who love flying the friendly skies and hitting the open road. Though many people might envision vacationers as international jetsetters, the U.S. Travel Association notes that four out of five domestic trips are taken for leisure purposes, proving that people with a love of travel need not book flights to indulge their wanderlust.

The National Travel and Tourism Office of the U.S. Department of Commerce notes that rural sightseeing is the fifth most popular leisure travel activity among domestic travelers in the United States. Travel aficionados who want to experience such sights for themselves should not forget the following necessities before embarking on their next road trip.

• Food: Rural countrysides might be idyllic, but such areas may not provide travelers with any dining options, so be sure to pack meals for everyone in the car if you plan to head far out into the country. Stopping along the way to enjoy a picnic can make the trip more enjoyable. If you plan to visit a less remote rural area with dining options, then some snacks might suffice. Pack non-greasy foods that won’t crumble, like carrots or grapes, so you don’t make a mess in the car.

• Comforts of home: Drivers may not need any comforts of home on road trips, but passengers, especially children, might. Blankets, pillows and toys for the kids can make long drives more comfortable for youngsters, while adult passengers who may want to nap on the way to and from the countryside will no doubt appreciate a pillow to make the car more comfortable.

• Printed directions: Thanks to smartphones and GPS systems, the days of printing directions are largely a thing of the past. But signals from cell towers may not be strong in remote locations, prompting drivers to get lost until they can reestablish a signal. Printed directions to predetermined destinations can help drivers avoid getting lost. Drivers without certain destinations in mind should pack local maps so they can pull over and find out where they are if their cell network connections suddenly disappear.

• First aid kit: A basic first aid kit that includes bandages, antibacterial cream, pain relievers, and medicine that treats motion sickness can help passengers who become ill or hurt themselves while on the trip. Jot down the addresses of hospitals or doctors’ offices near your destination and along your route and place this list inside your first aid kit just in case someone needs medical attention.

• Automotive supplies: Before embarking on a road trip, drivers should always take their vehicles to a mechanic for tuneups. But even vehicles that are tuned up and inspected can break down, so make sure you have road flares, flashlights, fresh batteries, jumper cables, and a spare tire in the trunk just in case your car does break down.

Road trips make for fun excursions, and such trips can stay fun if drivers prepare themselves for any potential obstacles while out on the road.

How to Reduce Risk for Lyme Disease

When the weather warms up and hours of daylight increase, few people can resist the allure of the great outdoors. Nature beckons each spring, and those answering that call must do so safely. Lyme disease is a potential threat for people who live in certain regions. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that Lyme disease cases have been reported in nearly every state, though residents in certain states are more vulnerable than others. For example, CDC data indicates that incidence rates were highest in several states in New England, including Maine, New Hampshire and Rhode Island, while rates in Oklahoma, Missouri and Wyoming were especially low.

Lyme disease is spread by the bite of an infected tick. Playing, hiking, camping, or working in wooded or grassy places where instances of Lyme disease are high increases a person’s risk of being bitten. But that doesn’t mean those in areas like New England, the mid-Atlantic or the upper-midwest must avoid such activities. However, they should take steps to prevent tick bites when going out into the great outdoors.

• Recognize where ticks live. The CDC reports that blacklegged ticks cause Lyme disease and that such ticks live in moist and humid environments. In addition, the Lyme Disease Association notes that ticks are most likely to be in certain areas, including woods, areas where woods meet lawns and where lawns meet fields. Ticks also may be living in tall brush/grass, under leaves, under ground cover, near stone walls or wood piles, or in shady areas. Ticks also may be drawn to areas around bird feeders or outdoor areas designated for pets.

• Wear insect repellent. The CDC recommends wearing insect repellents registered with the Environmental Protection Agency. Repellents should contain DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus, para-menthane-diol, or 2-undecanone. The EPA even has a tool on its website that can help people choose the right repellent products for them. That tool can be found at https://www.epa.gov/insect-repellents/find-repellent-right-you. The CDC advises people to treat clothing and gear, including socks and tents, with products containing 0.5 percent permethrin, which can remain protective even after several washings. Pre-treated clothing may be protective even longer.

• Check for ticks every day. Ticks can be found anywhere on the body, and the CDC recommends checking for ticks every day. Pay particular attention to underarms, in and around the ears, inside the belly button, the back of the knees, in and around all head and body hair, between the legs, and around the waist.

Ticks pose a threat when spending time in the great outdoors. Various preventive measures can help people reduce their risk for Lyme disease.

5 Reasons Kids Should Play Outside More

Whether it’s dance lessons, computer projects, art class or yoga, kids these days are busy bees. And while such activities are enriching and fun, experts say that many kids aren’t spending enough time doing something much simpler and every bit as important as structured programming: playing outdoors.

“Finding time for the kids to play outside can be such a challenge for parents,” says Keri Wilmot, a pediatric occupational therapist and an expert contributor to TheGeniusofPlay.org. “As a parent I worry about ‘stranger danger’ or whether my kids will be able to navigate social issues on their own. Without spontaneity, playtime has lost some of it’s fun.”

Outdoor play is necessary for healthy child development, according to The Genius of Play. The initiative, whose mission is to raise awareness about the importance of play and help parents make play a critical part of raising their kids, is sharing five benefits of unstructured outdoor playtime:

• Physical Development: Research has shown that physically active kids tend to be leaner and healthier, while an inactive childhood can lead to a sedentary (and likely unhealthy) lifestyle in adulthood. Furthermore, physical play builds gross and fine motor skills necessary for success in school and beyond. Hanging from the monkey bars, for instance, helps kids develop the hand muscles needed to grip a pencil.

• Risk-Taking: Through outdoor play, children are given the opportunity to step outside their comfort zones and try new things. While taking risks won’t always lead to success on the first try, moments like a first bike ride without training wheels, or the first trip down the big slide in the playground, are critical for building the confidence and resilience needed to pursue a future career, start a business, or handle life’s many challenges.

• Social Skills: Childhood games played outdoors can help build social skills and teach kids to follow directions. From games as simple as tag, to those with more complicated rules, like “Kick the Can,” “Capture the Flag,” and sports like soccer and basketball, communication, teamwork and other important social skills are developed during outdoor play.

• Problem Solving: Children’s imaginations are often stimulated by the world around them. Being outside widens their horizons and can encourage kids to tap into their creativity in order to come up with solutions to challenges, such as learning how to build a sandcastle or figuring out how to climb up a jungle gym.

• Reducing Stress: So much outdoor play involves physical activity, thrilling moments and a sense of freedom, all of which can boost endorphins, helping to lower stress levels and reduce anxiety and depression. Interestingly, simply touching dirt when creating mud pies or digging for worms can be beneficial. According to a Bristol University study, certain types of “friendly” bacteria in soil have been found to activate the group of neurons that produce serotonin, which contributes to a feeling of well-being and happiness. So, don’t be afraid to let your kids get a bit dirty out there!

For play ideas, expert advice and other play resources, visit TheGeniusOfPlay.org.

Playtime is essential for children. To promote health, happiness and confidence, be sure some of it is spent outdoors.

Classic Ways to Have Fun and Keep Cool this Summer

Downtime sounds fairly straightforward, right? Unfortunately, busy schedules often prevent many families from spending enough time together simply relaxing and having fun.

With an overwhelming 96 percent of people believing it’s important to have downtime together as a family, according to research from Mintel Trends, you may be looking for some ways to do just that this summer.

Check out these great ideas for the warm weather months ahead:

Picnic Time

Sunny day? A picnic can be extremely easy to prep on a moment’s notice. Pack some blankets on which to spread out, as well as lunch — which can be as simple as sandwiches, fruits, veggie sticks and dips. Bring along lawn games, such as a croquet, badminton or bocce set, or keep things simple with a couple of frisbees or a soccer ball. Then, find a shady spot in a nearby park to enjoy the afternoon. Don’t forget to take along some bags, in case there are no garbage cans around. You’ll want to leave the area as pristine as you found it.

Hit the Pool, Lake or Beach

Nothing says summer fun more than relaxing or splashing around at the pool, lake or beach on a hot day. And this is one activity that doesn’t require a lot of advance planning; just grab some SPF and a few pool floats and you’re ready to go. Easy to pack and inflate, the latest novelty pool floats from Intex are the perfect accessory to look cool while staying cool in the sun. Durable and trendy floats for all ages like the Angel Wings Mat, a Sit N Float lounger, Realistic Sea Turtle Ride On, even a juicy Strawberry Island or Watermelon Island, are available at select online, big box and specialty retailers. Just don’t forget to pack the camera because there will be plenty of picture-perfect selfies for any Instagram post!

Baseball, Up Close

Root, root, root for the home team at a minor league baseball game, where there are no bad seats and fans have more chances to interact with the players, pose with the mascot and even round the bases. A great activity for a weekend or even a family fun night mid-week, minor league baseball games are affordable, fun and local.

When the kids are out of school and the days are long, use all that downtime to your advantage, finding classic ways to unwind, reconnect and have fun.

Enjoy More Time Outdoors (Even When It’s Cold)

The amount of time people spend outdoors has dramatically decreased, as the Environmental Protection Agency now reports the average American spends 87 percent of his or her time in a residence, school building or workplace. Being outside is linked to better moods, more physical activity and less exposure to contaminants (concentrations of some pollutants are often two to five times higher indoors). Also, people who spend time outside may not come into contact with surface germs or develop various illnesses spread as often as those who spend a lot of time indoors. Cold weather can make the desire to be outside less appealing, but it is important for one’s mental and physical well-being to get outside. The following activities might coax people outside for some crisp air.

Create snow critters

Why do snowmen and women get all of the fanfare this time of year? Just about any living or fictional creature can be molded from snow and embellish landscapes. Use food-grade coloring in spray bottles to added even more creative flair to snow designs.

Go on a nature hike

While many plants and animals hibernate in winter, there is still plenty to see. Bring along a sketch book or camera and capture nature in winter. White-washed hills can be beautiful to behold, and many small animals and birds look even more vivid against the white backdrop of snow.

Make an obstacle course

Turn an area of the yard or park into a homemade obstacle course. It’s much more difficult, — and a great workout — to try to jump over snow mounds or run down paths when decked out in warm layers. Engage in lighthearted competitions with friends and family members.

Build a bonfire

Children can set off in different directions to gather up firewood to craft a bonfire with adults in a safe location. S’mores taste equally delicious whether it’s warm or cold outside, and in winter they can be accompanied by toasty mugs of cocoa.

Get sporty

Sledding, skating, snowshoeing, and ice hockey are just a few of the winter sports that can get the heart pumping and muscles working outside. These activities are entertaining and also great exercise.

When venturing outdoors in winter, dress in layers. This way clothing can be put on or taken off to reduce the likelihood of hypothermia.

Tips to Prevent Summer Brain Drain

Studies show that summer brain drain can be a formidable force, setting kids’ progress back over the long break from the classroom. But you can help kids avoid losing their academic mojo. Here’s how.

Take a Hike

Not all learning has to happen indoors or while sitting still. Take a family nature walk and ask kids to pay special attention to the plant and animal species you encounter on your journey, as well as any special rock formations or other geological features you see, taking notes and photographs as you go. Once back home, do some research about the most interesting things that you saw.

Make Music

Music education is important for budding minds, and learning music at home in summer can be easy and affordable. Stock your household with a portable keyboard designed for students in mind. For example, the CT-X700 boasts a high-quality sound system, as well as features that are perfect for student musicians, like a six-track recorder, a library of 100 built-in songs, and the Step-Up Lesson system, which allows students to learn the songs with the display showing proper fingering and notation. Its USB-MIDI port connects to any Mac, PC, Android or iOS device with no drivers or installation needed. The included music rest is designed to support tablets, and the built-in smartphone shelf holds your device as you use the keyboard with favorite music apps.

Read Outdoors

Summer is the perfect opportunity for students to delve deep into what interests them most. Make a day of it. First stop: the library or bookstore, where kids can find reading materials dealing with their favorite topics. Then, pack a picnic lunch and find a shady spot in a local park or your own backyard, to read outdoors. At the end of the day, everyone can discuss what he or she read.

Math Fun

Make math more fun with a free, all-in-one web-based mathematics resource like Classpad.net, that allows users to draw geometry figures freehand and input calculations as they would on real scratch paper. Geared for K-12+ mathematics students, the app is designed to be equally usable by keyboard/mouse and touchscreen-based platforms, so that students can keep up their math skills wherever their summer adventures take them.

Take a Vacation

Going somewhere new and interesting? In advance of your trip, have kids spend some time learning about the history and culture of your destination. If you’re going abroad, they can even learn some basics of a foreign language.

To keep minds active all summer long, be sure to combine learning and fun.