Free Entrance Days to National Parks

parksWith the weather getting warmer, many of us are thinking of hiking and doing other outdoor activities. If you are planning a trip through one of our national parks, why not take advantage of the “Free Days?”

They are:

  • April 18-19
    opening weekend of National Park Week
  • August 25
    National Park Service Birthday
  • September 26
    National Public Lands Day
  • November 11
    Veterans Day

Only 127 of our country’s 407 national parks usually charge an entrance fee. So start planning your visit!

If you’re planning a trip that includes multiple national parks, you might consider the $80 annual pass that provides entrance to all national parks, national wildlife refuges, national forests, and many other Federal lands-more than 2,000 in all.

The America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass is offered free to all active duty military members and their dependents. Information on these and other pass options is available online.

*Fee waiver includes: entrance fees, commercial tour fees, and transportation entrance fees to the parks. Other fees such as reservation, camping, tours, concession and fees collected by third parties are not included unless stated otherwise.

Source: U.S. National Park Service

parks

Holiday Tips from the EPA

 holiday

 

The US Environmental Protection Agency shares the following message for reducing waste through reuse and recycling during the holiday season.

  • After the holidays, look for ways to recycle your tree instead of sending it to a landfill. Check with your community solid waste department and find out if they collect and mulch trees. Your town might be able to use chippings from mulched trees for hiking trails or beachfront erosion barriers.
  • Buy a potted tree and plant it after the holidays.
  • Have a create your own decorations party! Invite family and friends to create holiday decorations such as ornaments made from old greeting cards or cookie dough, garlands made from strung popcorn or cranberries, wreaths made from artificial greens and flowers, and potpourri made from kitchen spices such as cinnamon and cloves.
  • Turn off or unplug holiday lights during the day. Doing so will not only save energy, but will also help your lights last longer.
  • If you’re buying new greeting cards this holiday season, send recycled-content greeting cards. Buying recycled encourages manufacturers to make more recycled-content products available. Also consider sending electronic cards, and remember to recycle any paper cards you receive.
  • Think “green” while shopping holiday and birthday sales. Try to buy items with minimal packaging and/or made with recycled content. Check product labels to determine an item’s recyclability and whether it is made from recycled materials.
  • Consider the durability of a product before you buy it as a gift. Cheaper, less durable items often wear out quickly, creating waste and costing you money. Look for items that embody the concept of reuse. For example: wooden toys made from scrap wood, craft kits that take advantage of used goods and discards, and drawing boards that can be erased and reused.

  • Thousands of paper and plastic shopping bags end up in landfills every year. Reduce the number of bags thrown out by bringing reusable cloth bags for holiday gift shopping. Tell store clerks you don’t need a bag for small or oversized purchases. Use reusable cloth bags instead of disposable ones for trick-or-treating.
  • Wrap gifts in recycled or reused wrapping paper or funny papers. Also remember to save or recycle used wrapping paper. Give gifts that don’t require much packaging, such as concert tickets or gift certificates.
  • Donate the older toys that your children no longer use to charities. Also check with local libraries. A number of public libraries have extended their children’s section to include a lending collection of toys, games, puzzles, and musical instruments.
  • Many battery sales occur during the holiday season. Buy rechargeable batteries to accompany your electronic gifts, and consider giving a battery charger as well. Rechargeable batteries reduce the amount of potentially harmful materials thrown away, and can save money in the long run.
  • When giving flowers as gifts, consider buying long-lasting silk flowers, potted plants, or live bushes, shrubs, or trees that can be planted in the spring as gifts.
  • Bake cookies or other goodies for your friends and love ones and package them in reusable and/or recyclable containers as gifts. Homemade goodies show how much you care and help you avoid packaging waste.
  • If you host a party, set the table with cloth napkins and reusable dishes, glasses, and silverware. Consider renting more formal tableware that you might not use very often. Also save and reuse party hats, decorations, and favors.
  • After holiday festivities, put leftovers in recyclable containers, and share them with family, friends, or others. Donate whole, untouched leftovers from parties to a local food bank or homeless shelter.

  • Where possible, compost leftover food scraps, leaves, and grass clippings.
  • After parties, fill your dishwasher to capacity before running it. You will run fewer cycles, which saves energy.
  • Wash and reuse empty glass and plastic jars, milk jugs, coffee cans, dairy tubs, and other similar containers that would otherwise get thrown away. These containers can be used to store leftovers as well as buttons, nails, or other loose items.
  • Make the most of your jack o’ lantern. Use the removed meat to make pumpkin pie or muffins and roast the seeds as a fun holiday snack. When the holiday is over, cut up your carved pumpkin before it spoils and toss it in the compost bin.
  • Why purchase costumes that you will probably only use once and then throw away? Instead, use old clothes or buy used clothes from a consignment shop to make your costume.
  • Consider donating old costumes to local amateur theater productions, including school performances and shows put on by charitable organizations. Another option is to donate costumes to a costume rental service.

Backpacks:Can They Cause Back Problems?

backpacksThe Dept of Health and Human Services ran an article on HHS.gov about backpacks.This is what they want you to know about children and adults using backpacks.

Backpacks are a better option than shoulder or messenger bags for carrying books and supplies because the weight of the pack is evenly distributed across your body. However, backpacks that are overloaded or not used properly can make for health problems.

How Can Backpacks Cause Problems?

People who carry heavy backpacks sometimes lean forward. Over time, this can cause the shoulders to become rounded and the upper back to become curved. Because of the heavy weight, there’s a chance of developing shoulder, neck, and back pain.

If you wear your backpack over just one shoulder, or carry your books in a messenger bag, you may end up leaning to one side to offset the extra weight. You might develop lower and upper back pain and strain your shoulders and neck.

Not using a backpack properly can lead to poor posture.

Carrying a heavy pack increases the risk of falling, particularly on stairs or other places where the backpack puts the wearer off balance.

People who carry large packs often aren’t aware of how much space the packs take up and can hit others with their packs when turning around or moving through tight spaces, such as the aisles of the school bus. Students also are injured when they trip over large packs or the packs fall on them.

How Do You Know If a Backpack Is a Problem?

You may need to put less in your pack or carry it differently if:

  • you have to struggle to get your backpack on or off
  • you have to lean forward to carry your pack
  • you have back pain

If you adjust the weight or the way you carry your pack but still have back pain or numbness or weakness in your arms or legs, talk to your doctor.

Tips for Choosing and Using Backpacks

  • Consider the construction. Before you grab that new bag off the rack, make sure it’s got two padded straps that go over your shoulders. The wider the straps, the better. A backpack with a metal frame like the ones hikers use may give you more support (although many lockers aren’t big enough to hold this kind of pack).
  • Carry it well. Before you load your backpack, adjust the straps so the pack sits close to your back. If the pack bumps against your lower back or your butt when you walk, the straps are probably too long. Always pack your backpack with the heaviest items closest to your back. Don’t drop all your stuff in the main compartment (using the side pockets will distribute the weight more evenly).
  • Try a pack with wheels. Lots of kids use these as an alternative to backpacks, but there are guidelines and considerations to keep in mind with this kind of pack, too. Many schools don’t allow rolling packs because people can trip over them in the halls.
  • Limit your load. Doctors and physical therapists recommend that people carry no more than 10% to 15% of their body weight in their packs. This means that if you weigh 120 pounds, your backpack should weigh no more than 12 to 18 pounds. Choosing a lightweight backpack can get you off to a good start. Use your bathroom scale to weigh your backpack and get an idea of what the proper weight for you feels like.
  • Pick it up properly. As with any heavy weight, you should bend at the knees when lifting a backpack to your shoulders.

Summer and Snakes

snakes

With summer comes the need to be aware of the places that snakes usually inhabit.

The University of Alabama at Birmingham recently treated its first snakebite case of the season, noted Dr. Janyce Sanford, chair of the university’s department of emergency medicine.

“That is a usual pattern. As soon as the weather starts to warm up, snakes begin to get active and we begin seeing a bite or two. Still, we only see a few each spring, and people have a much greater chance of being stung by a bee or wasp or being bitten by a tick than being bitten by a snake,” Sanford said in a university news release.

If you’re in the woods or near rivers and creeks, keep an eye out for snakes and wear boots and long pants, she warned. It’s also a good idea to carry a cellphone.

“Get to an emergency department as quickly as you safely can, and that can often be accomplished by calling 911,” Sanford said. “Snap a picture of the snake with the cell phone if possible, but leave the snake behind. The last thing we need in a crowded emergency room is a snake, dead or alive.”

Emergency doctors do not need to see the snake that caused the bite. A large number of bites are dry — with no venom injected — or are from nonpoisonous snakes, Sanford noted. By monitoring the wound for a few hours, doctors can tell if venom is present, and appropriate antivenin can then be given to the patient.

Most bites by snakes are not fatal. Those at higher risk include the elderly, very young children and people with underlying medical problems”, Sanford said.

More information:

The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about snakebites.

SOURCE: University of Alabama at Birmingham, news release, April 24, 2014

Hiking with the Kids

School is almost over, summer is fast approaching, and the season of family get togethers, reunions, vacations and barbeques is close at hand. Quite a few of these events may take place in a park, where there will be the chance to take the kids out for a family hike.

Hiking is a great way to spend some quality time together as a family, and is a terrific form of exercise. Getting out in nature, and maybe leaving behind all the instant communication technologies, can be quite liberating too.

hiking

Now, before you get up and hit those trails, there are some simple and important rules you should keep in mind. Remember, you want this to be a fun experience, for both you and your kids.

You can always hike more, but never less.

So, start out with a short hike in mind. If it is going well, you can simply add to it as you go along. Go too far, for too long, and you may be carrying the little ones back to the car.

Safety first.

Bug bites, sunburn and skinned knees are the most common safety issues you want to make sure you can take care of on the trail.

• Sunscreen and bug-spray all exposed skin before setting out on the trail.

• Long pants are better than shorts in protecting the legs from bug bites.

• For the skinned knee, or hand, some anti-biotic cream and band-aids are a good idea to have on hand.

Stay hydrated!

Make sure you bring along plenty of water. There is no such thing as too much water, and the best place to carry your water is inside you. Do not wait until you are thirsty to drink. Stop every 20-30 minutes and take a few swigs of water. Stay away from sugary drinks, straight water is more than good enough.

Keep up your strength.

Have some good energy snacks with you too. Depending on the length of the hike, you may want to stop, perhaps at a scenic viewpoint, and take a little break with something to eat.

Have a plan if…

The last simple rule needs a whistle Make sure each child has a whistle attached to them. I don’t mean in their pocket, I mean around their neck, or looped into their belt, so they cannot lose the whistle. If, they should ever become separated from the group, they can blow the whistle loud and clear, while staying put. Make sure this is explained to them before, and reviewed during, the hike.

Have fun!

These rules, if followed, will go a long way in making that family walk in the woods a good one. Having it be a good time, a good memory, that is the key to getting the kids – and you – to want to do it again. Hiking is a great exercise that can take your kids to great places as part of a life-long activity.

Some helpful websites for making the family hike fun and safe:

Hiking with Kids – American Hiking Society http://www.americanhiking.org/resources/hiking-with-kids/

• A short list of ideas to keep the hike “kid-friendly.”

Helpful Tips on Hiking – American Hiking Society

http://www.americanhiking.org/gear-resources/tips-for-your-next-hike/

• An excellent resource on everything you may need to know about getting started with hiking. From boots to bug-spray, rain gear to snacks, and safety and first-aide on the trail.

hiking

Kids and Hiking – REI

http://www.rei.com/learn/expert-advice/kids-hiking.html

Just Jeff’s Hiking Page

http://www.tothewoods.net/HikingWithKids.html

Tips for Hiking with Kids

http://www.wta.org/hiking-info/children/resources-for-families/how-to/tips-for-hiking-with-kids

 

Article by: Ned M Campbell is the head coach of James Madison High School’s wrestling team in Brooklyn, NY, and is a USA Wrestling nationally certified coach. He is a West Point graduate and former U.S. Army Officer, who also teaches history at James Madison teamHigh School.  Prior to teaching, Ned M Campbell worked with children and adults with disabilities during summer programs with IAHD and Southeast Consortium,  and volunteered time supporting a therapeutic horseback riding program for youth and adults with disabilities.

Campbell is a published writer, and a contributing writer to the “Can Do” Street blog for kids and parents. In addition, he is the voice of Coach Campbell in “Can Do” Street programs.

Editor’s Note: Be sure to check out Coach Campbell’s co-article for kids, on this subject, featured on the “Can Do” Kids blog at http://candostreet.com/blog-kids/