What Was The Impact Of This Year’s Early Government Shutdown On Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park?

Those hiking the Appalachian Trail this year are surely thankful that the United States government shutdown didn’t last longer, as it would have prevented them from legally traversing 101 miles of the legendary footpath in the Shenandoah National Park. While we’re happy that some of the potential impacts of the shutdown were averted when Trump finally caved under political pressure, the fiasco had a number of other consequences (and sadly, more may be looming in the near future).

Researcher and ecologist Jeff Atkins has been diligently collecting water samples from streams within Shenandoah National Park for an awe-inspiring eight years. All of his commitment was for science. The Trump shutdown prevented him from continuing his work. That was the case beginning on December 22 of last year.

The shutdown was one big middle finger in the direction of the 40-year-old scientific undertaking, which was a large scale and long-term study meant to monitor wetland recovery after acid rain poisoned the environment decades ago.

Atkins was notably angry about the shutdown. “It’s very frustrating to have this needless disruption,” he said. “This is the biggest gap we’ve had.”

He wasn’t the only one whose work was interrupted because of Trump’s imaginary immigration concerns. Literally tens of thousands of other scientists and researchers felt the effects of the shutdown. At least a half-dozen government agencies and organizations that pave the way for research funding or scientific advancement found themselves without the resources or legal backing to continue their work.

Agencies that were affected include the NSF, USDA, NASA, and the NOAA.

Not only were these agencies unable to continue their work, but many whose paychecks come from the government went without pay until the shutdown ended. They weren’t even legally allowed to check their email! This restriction meant that organizations couldn’t coordinate upcoming events, many of which had to be cancelled.

Shenandoah wasn’t the only park that was damaged by the shutdown. Joshua Tree National Park may take centuries to fully recover from the damage done by people who were allowed in after officials decided to keep the park open (government employees weren’t allowed to do their jobs, which meant there was no cleanup during the shutdown). When it ended, rangers reported that the remains of at least 100 campfires in prohibited zones were found. $1 million in revenue was lost, but that wouldn’t even come close to paying for the damage that was done.

Without a new deal in place, another shutdown could come as soon as October 1, 2019 (and probably will).

What Is The Wilderness So Important?

The Wilderness is designated areas of land that are protected by the United States Government. Not just any federal land is qualified to be considered Wilderness. In fact, the land must have scientific, educational and historical value. Currently, our preservation efforts contain 110 million acres located across 44 states (including the U.S. Territory Puerto Rico). But why does our government go through all this effort to preserve this land? There are several reasons as to why preserving the Wilderness and protecting it from over-development are important.

One of the most important aspects is ecological. As more and more towns and cities are developed, the more places for wildlife creatures to go is limited. Having a preserved portion of land helps biological diversity and gives a home to many species of animals that would otherwise have no place to live. Having Wilderness also provides us with oxygen while filtering the carbon dioxide out of the air. By doing this, this helps damper climate change.

Another important aspect of Wilderness that is often forgotten is the recreational benefits. Many preserves have areas to hike and camp giving the opportunity for many to appreciate and be one with nature. This tourism can be a source of income for many towns that are not fully urbanized and do not have a city and often wouldn’t be visited.

In Virginia, one of the most popular Wilderness areas is the Shenandoah Wilderness in Shenandoah National Park. There are over 175 miles of trails and an abundance of woodland creatures such as deer, bears, bobcats, turkeys and over 200 species of birds. The most popular Wilderness area is Boundary Waters Canoe Area in Minnesota. On the Canadian border, there are over 2,200 camping sites that are accessible by canoe. Wildlife such as wolves, otters, moose, beavers, frogs, and bats can be found.



How Far Can A Human Hike In A Day?

Everyone is different. We’re all different shapes and sizes, and we all have metabolisms of varying speed. These are only a few of the factors that help determine how much ground we can expect to cover if we walk all day long. There are others. Hiking isn’t for the faint of heart, especially when done over an extended period of time, but here are the best indicators for how much a human can hike in a day.

First, here are the factors that could make your hike easier or more difficult.

Water is a hiker’s biggest concern. If you’re new to hiking and expect to go no further than five or ten miles, then a few water bottles will suffice. If you’re on a backpacking trip, you need to invest in a canteen so you can drink more water and drink it more often.

Weight is a hiker’s second biggest concern. A thru-hiker’s backpack will usually weigh between 20 and 30 pounds, although ultra-light packs might only amount to 10 or 12. If you’re only hiking for a day, you probably don’t need more than 5 or 10 pounds of food and water.

Food is important. Make sure you eat more than usual for breakfast, and then continue to snack throughout the day. Your body will start to burn calories faster than you consume them. You can compensate by eating more often and drinking.

Rest is another issue with which you may have to contend. You’ll notice how much this factor affects your physical limitations if you hike for more than a day at a time. Even an hour or two less rest than you normally get can make an enormous impact on your overall hike.

Obviously weather is a factor as well. Rain doesn’t always slow you down, but heat will definitely lower your physical limitations. Try to hike on a cool, brisk day if possible.

Over normal terrain, a healthy individual can expect to walk at least 20 to 30 miles in summertime daylight hours when well-hydrated and in low heat conditions. Food will also determine eventual outcomes. While it is possible to cover this distance even while hiking up and down mountains, it’s much more difficult. This is a feat better attempted after one or two months of low-mileage days. That gives your body time to adjust physically so you can prevent overuse injuries.

The current record for average miles hiked in a day on the Appalachian Trail was set by a Belgian dentist, and stands at a whopping 53!

What To Eat If You’re Hiking In The Winter

Staying hydrated and full of calories is important for any hiker. In the winter, it’s important to intake more calories because your body burns more calories attempting to keep your body warm and moving. It’s estimated depending on the temperature outside, your body weight and your clothing and gear, that you can burn anywhere between 100 to 500 extra calories an hour when hiking in the winter.

When determining what to eat, it’s important to understand biochemistry. First, there are carbohydrates which are quickly broken down into blood sugar which is then used by your muscles for energy. These are the best source for reliable quick energy. However, if you eat too much of them in the winter, you run the risk of them being used to quickly and causing a “sugar crash”. To prevent a “sugar crash”, it is also important to eat fats. Also, fats take longer to digest and provide energy, the energy lasts longer without the risk of crashing. Another important thing to eat is protein, although this doesn’t provide you with “quick energy” but helps provide amino acids to rebuild muscles.

Suggest breakfasts for a winter hike include:

  • whole wheat toast with peanut butter
  • oatmeal or hot cereals
  • greek yogurt with granola
  • cheese, fruit, and nuts

Your body will take longer to digest the protein and fat so it’s important to have these in the morning so you are not hungry immediately after hiking. However, it is still important to have some carbs to get your metabolism started in the morning.

We do not recommend stopping to eat lunch as you don’t want to be waiting in the cold for too long. We recommend grazing while hiking and fueling on more cheese, nuts, fruit, and rice crackers.

That night when you are finished with your hike, it’s important to replenish the nutrients that were lost throughout the day. A hearty dinner consisting of pasta, rice, bread, cruciferous vegetables, beans, and lean protein will restore stored fats and glycogen.

It will also be important to stay well hydrated as water helps break down the food which will, in turn, give you energy. Even though it might be cold out, you are still sweating which causes a loss in water. There’s a statistic that says if you are 5% dehydrated your metabolism can slow down 20-30%. Dehydration symptoms include:

  • headache
  • weakness
  • fatigue
  • irritability
  • loss of appetite

Transporting water in the cold is difficult due to the potential for it to freeze. However, there are many brands of bottles that are meant to be used in the winter months. Keep in mind, caffeine and alcohol are a diuretics and may aid in dehydration. We do not recommend drinking either before or during the hike. But we do recommend hot chocolate and thinking you are in relaxing in Miami Beach!

The Most Dangerous Animals You Might Encounter In The West Virginia Wilderness

We don’t often think of the dangerous animals that often lurk all around us, mostly because humans have no natural predators. Usually, it’s through our own stupidity that we get attacked or injured by these otherwise miraculous creatures. We don’t properly secure food, or, even worse, we purposely feed the local wildlife. Whatever the reason for the danger, here are a few of the animals of which you might want to be wary if you decide to go exploring the West Virginia wilderness!

  1. Although more rare than in other states nearby, you might see a black bear now and then. These aren’t usually animals to be feared. Instead, learn to respect and understand them. Black bears are normally timid, but become far more aggressive when they realize that humans are a constant source of food. Secure any food properly when hiking or camping, and bear sightings will become a lot less scary.
  2. If you’re not a fan of snakes, then maybe the outdoors of West Virginia isn’t for you. The state is known for its timber rattlesnakes, which are quite venomous, and can grow up to five feet long. You’ll most often spot them sunbathing during summer. The snake is dangerous because of its equipment: long fangs, impressive venom yield, and hey–it’s quite big, too. Luckily, they usually give you quite a bit of warning before they decide to strike.
  3. You might also run into a northern copperhead during your travels. They’re less dangerous than timber rattlesnakes, and they too will give you sufficient time to retreat (usually).
  4. You might also notice a coyote or two, but you’re more likely to hear them at night when you’re out exploring for a day or two. They usually won’t bother you much, but be careful. They’re more likely to go after small children or anyone walking alone.
  5. West Virginia is home to the venomous black widow spider. Most spiders can’t harm you with their venom, but the black widow is an exception. You’ll want to watch out for the black spiders. You can identify them by the red hourglass pattern on their abdomens. Like all spiders, they keep the insect population down–so try not to hate them too much. You’ll find these spiders lurking about piles of wood or rocks.

Is West Virginia A Good Place For A Section Hike?

If you enjoy hiking, then you’re probably accustomed to trails that extend for quite a few miles. Some follow loops, while others force you to turn around when you finish. The Appalachian Trail (AT) extends thousands of miles from Georgia to Maine, but did you know that it goes through a small part of West Virginia? This is a great place to sample a small portion of the trail as part of a section hike. You might take a couple of days or you might go out for a week. That choice is yours.

What is a section hike?

Understanding the concept of section-hiking is dependent on your knowledge of thru-hiking. Those who attempt to one-shot the AT over a span of months are thru-hikers. Those who wish to complete only a small portion at a time are section hikers. They might choose to hike only during the day and find lodging elsewhere, or they might enjoy camping out each night. West Virginia is a great place to see what a section hike has to offer.

  1. West Virginia is home to only four miles of the Appalachian Trail, and also home to the famous trail-town, Harper’s Ferry. This is a good spot for a day-hike, but you can also head out to experience another twenty miles on the border of Virginia. There are shelters along the AT, which means there are easy stopping points. This makes it a good segment hike for beginners.
  2. The Dolly Sods Wilderness has 47 miles of trails to explore across 17,700 acres. It won’t be an excruciating hike, but it’ll be a scenic one. You’ll traverse meadows, bogs, forested areas, and follow alongside meandering streams. There are a lot of starting and stopping point options, but this is a good trail if you have even a little experience with backpacking excursions.
  3. The 47,000 acres of Monongahela National Forest will lead you to the Cranberry Wilderness. This is an out and back set of trails, which means at the end you’ll have to turn around and repeat the miles. This is one of the best hikes in West Virginia.
  4. Some of the best trails in the country are alpine points high above sea level, which is why you should definitely add Spruce Knob to your list of potential segment hikes. The highest peak is at 4,863 feet and is extremely isolated. You’ll have to walk about 16.5 miles to get there, but the journey is well worth it.

Top Four Health Benefits Of Hiking

Getting outside to hike benefits your mental and physical health in many ways, according to New Jersey Employment Attorneys. Hiking allows you to commune with nature and it gets you outside with other people. You get fit and you have fun at the same time. Here are four health benefits of hiking and why you should incorporate hiking into your fitness routine.

Lose Weight

Obesity is on the rise and a lot of it has to do with the fact that we spend most of our days sitting down. Most people are not getting the exercise that they need and this is leading to weight gain. Hiking burns lots of calories because you are walking over different types of terrain and going long distances. Hiking is easy on your joints and you can burn 500 calories or more per hour when you hike. Hiking also boosts your metabolism so you keep burning calories after the hike.

Get Fit

Hiking tones your entire body and your butt, abs and hamstrings are going to get a fantastic workout. Hiking makes your bones stronger and it also strengthens your core. Your hips are going to get stronger and so are your leg muscles. If you want to make your back stronger you can put weights in a backpack. Start with light weights and gradually increase the size of the weights. This additional weight is also going to make your body burn more calories.

Lower Your Risk Of Disease

Regular hiking can lower your risk of many diseases. Your blood pressure is going to go down when you hike and you also reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke. Hiking regulates your blood sugar levels which is going to reduce your risk of getting diabetes. Your cholesterol levels are going to decrease which is good for your heart health. Your body will process glucose better which is good for your overall health. Studies show that regular hiking can also reduce your risk of getting some types of cancer, including colon and breast cancer.

Boost Your Mood

Getting out in the fresh air is going to boost your mood and being out in nature makes you feel better. You get to spend time in the sun which makes you feel good and if you hike with other people you are also going to enjoy being social which is a big mood booster. Hiking in nature will boost your creativity and you just feel better when you spend time outdoors. You are also less likely to get depressed when you hike and hiking makes you feel happier. These effects can last for a day or two.

Hiking allows you to explore new places and it will make you healthier at the same time. You get to explore new territory and the more you hike, the more you want to hike. If you are ready to get fit and you want to have fun while you are doing it, get out a map, lace up your hiking shoes, and hit the road.

The Oceans and Wilderness Need Each Other: Here’s Why

The oceans of the world are vast, wide, and deep. They constitute about 70 to 80 percent of the earth’s surface, and if one were to look at a Google planet shot of the ocean, one could easily get the sense that there is much of the oceans and seas that seems to have gone on with their life even while human activity on the water has risen exponentially since the first exploratory ships of the Vikings.

Everyone pretty much knows the definition of “ocean.” But how many people know the definition of “wilderness”? While there is a general understanding of the term, there seems to be no hard and fast definition of the term when it comes to the ocean.

Why would the ocean have to have a definition of wilderness? It is an interesting question. Most of us think of wilderness as an area of land that has had minimal to no human contact or disruption. In some ways that would seem like a good definition for the ocean, as an area of the water that has had minimal to no human impact.

But the reality is that virtually no ocean fits a land-based definition of wilderness. There are areas, however, that have had such minimal human contact that they essentially are the areas that revitalize the entire ocean because of their relative pristineness to allow for breeding of many animals and fish species, restoration of coral reefs and other important actions that keep the oceans vibrant.

There is a push to create wilderness areas in the oceans, similar to wilderness created in various countries to protect the sites from human impact, and especially restricting those impacts that do occur (after all, some wilderness areas are popular tourist attractions).

The question arises about what should be the definition of a wilderness in the ocean? Members of the Wilderness Conservation Society and a professor from Australia set out to create a definition of a wilderness area, using such criteria as those areas which have as little impact from 19 different stressors – including fishing, commercial shipping, light pollution and invasive species.

What was found was that less than 15 percent of the ocean could even be defined as “wilderness” based on these criteria – a patch of water in the southern Pacific Ocean and some small areas near both poles.

However, could a wilderness be created through working of the U.S. Wilderness Act, where areas that people deem worthy of protection are protected by statute? Even areas that have been spoiled may be established as wilderness areas to severely restrict and all human use In the future.

While much damage has been done to the numerous ecosystems, many of them are not irreparably harmed if we take the lead in preserving some of these areas now and prevent further degradation for future generations.

Tips or Hiking in the Summer

As the weather turns around and the sun comes out, it’s hard to sit inside. Hiking is one of the most common outdoor activities and can be enjoyed by anyone. If you are going to be hiking in the summer, make sure that you are hydrated and well prepared.

Tips for a Summertime Hike

With some help from Modern Hiker, we have put together a list of things for you to think about while you are hiking this summer.

1) Start Early: Getting an early start can be beneficial in a number of ways. First off, it’s cooler in the morning than the early – late afternoon hours. Another reason for an early start is so you can climb to a higher elevation while it is cool and the temperature is rising (at higher elevations it is cooler than the ground level).

2) Cover Your Skin: No one enjoys sunburn. When you are hiking, we advise that you cover up your skin. Wear a loose fitting long sleeve shirt, pants, sunglasses, and a wide brimmed hat to keep away from the sun. If your skin is going to be exposed, apply suntan lotion regularly, as you are likely to sweat it off quickly. Also, you should avoid cotton and go with a material that releases heat.

3) Hydrate: This tip should begin a day or two before a big hike. Staying hydrated on a hike is very important as the strenuous activity can quickly lead to dehydration. Make sure you have plenty of water packed for the hike and remember to sip, not chug. Consuming a lot of water quickly can lead to other complications.

4) Bring Snacks: At some point on your hike, you are going to need a refuel. Bring snacks that are high in sodium and potassium, they will replenish lost electrolytes. Snacks like trail mix and electrolyte boosters for your water should fill your needs.

5) R-E-L-A-X: Remember, hiking in the sun is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. Take your time and don’t be afraid to take a seat and cool off for a bit, have a drink and a snack, dry off, and give your muscles a rest.

6) Bring Extra Clothes: You might be saying, “Extra clothes…. in case we get stuck?” Nope! Extra clothes are important for hiking in the heat because, as gross as it is, you are going to sweat, a lot. It will be so refreshing when you stop for a break and you have a dry t-shirt in your bag or an extra pair of socks so your feet remain dry and blister free. Also, being sweaty can lead to bugs swarming you, a change of clothes will help, but nothing will prevent a swarm around your head like bug spray.

7) Know the Signs of a Heat Stroke: A heatstroke can cause you to faint or sometimes even be fatal. It is important that your partner and you are aware of the warning signs of a heat stroke.

  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Muscle crampms
  • Nauseas
  • Disorientation or confusion
  • Lack of sweating

If you are feeling any of these symptoms, stop and take a break. Asses where you are on the trail and devise a plan to return to base. If you can’t make it to base, don’t be afraid to call for help.

8) Check the Weather: The weather can change quickly when you reach a high elevation. Make sure to check the weather when you get to the trail to avoid getting trapped in a downpour.

9) Pick the Right Trail: Do some research before picking a trail. On a hot and sunny day, a trail without any tree cover may not be your best bet. Find a trail that has plenty of shade, water, and elevation. All three of which should do their part to cool you off on a hot day.


For Those Who Want A More Interesting Hike

This site is dedicated to preserving and hiking in the wild. However, there is more to nature than just trees and animals in the forest. One of the greatest things about our country is the fact that we have many different biomes including desert and grasslands. For those who want to explore a different side of nature then look no further than meteor impact sites. What is more natural that falling debris from the sky, the same debris that caused our existence and is made from the same materials as earth? So if you are interested in more than just a normal hike, here are three must go see meteor impact sites.

Odessa Meteor Crater, Texas

In 1892, a local rancher was searching for his stray cattle when he stumbled upon this 550 feet in diameter crater. There are several meteor impact sites in the area but this one is the biggest. It is believed somewhere between 20,000 to 50,000 a large asteroid broke up in the atmosphere causing these craters. There’s also a museum where you can see pieces of the preserved meteorite.

Barrington Crater, Arizona

This site lets you stand on the rim of the actual crater. The diameter is about 4,000 feet wide caused by an asteroid that was approximately 160 feet wide over 50,000 years ago. It’s estimated the crash released energy equivalent to 20 million tons of TNT thus destroying the actual meteorite. It was discovered in the early 19th century and called Canyon Diablo due to it’s out of this world appearance.

Middlesboro Crater, Kentucky

The only Eastern US meteor impact site, the city itself is formed within the meteor crater! Early settlers were drawn to this area due to the minerals found in the crater and Middlesboro is now known as “The City Built Inside A Meteor Crater”. The impact was created over 300 million years ago by an asteroid estimated to be 150 feet wide!