U.S. National Parks Try New Ways To Appeal To Minorities

Cesar Chavez monument - national parks
Flickr, Sam Garcia for the City Project

While U.S. national parks see millions of annual visitors, only 1 in 5 are non-white, and Hispanics (the fastest-growing demographic in America) account for only 1 in 10 visitors. The New York Times just reported about programs hoping to increase visitor diversity by engaging minority audiences with targeted blogger content and highlighting American Latino and African American contributions to park history.

Non-profit organizations are working with the Parks Service and adventure outfitters to market the fitness benefits of the parks, create new attractions, and recruit more minorities to work in the Parks Service. Blogger Carol Cain was selected for one of the American Latino Expeditions and wrote on her blog about making the parks part of her (Latina) heritage, but also warned about the sense of “isolation” she felt as one of the few people of color in the parks.

The National Parks will be free to all on September 28 for National Public Lands Day, and again in November for Veterans Day weekend.

10 Things You Didn’t Know About The Idaho Backcountry Where Hannah Anderson Was Found

A 16 year old named Hannah Anderson was abducted by a family friend last week in a series of events that left both her mother and brother dead. Her saga began in Southern California and ended far away, in the wilderness of Idaho, when she was rescued by FBI agents over the weekend. Anderson’s abductor, James Lee DiMaggio, had fled to one of the most remote areas in the United States, the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness. The protected area is a beautiful place, but few people know much about it. In an effort to give you a clearer picture of this northern area that is relished by outdoors enthusiasts, here are some facts about the Frank Church River Of No Return Wilderness.

  1. It’s the second largest protected wilderness in the contiguous United States.
  2. It’s the largest area without any roads in the contiguous United States.
  3. The wilderness stretches across six different national forests.
  4. The wilderness was renamed after Senator Frank Church after he had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer because of his efforts to protect the environment while in Congress. President Reagan signed the act less than four weeks before Church’s death.
  5. The diverse mix of wildlife found within the area includes wolverines, grey wolves, mountain lions, mountain goats, elk and lynx.
  6. It is the home of the Salmon River, a popular whitewater rafting spot.
  7. Despite the myriad bodies of water within the area, only 10 inches or so of precipitation fall annually near the rivers while as much as 50 inches accumulate near the mountaintops, usually in the form of snow.
  8. There are 296 trails throughout the area.
  9. There are 114 bridges within the area.
  10. There are 1.5 million acres of trail-free land within the wilderness.

Wilderness Search for Kidnap Suspect and Girl

NeighborGoods Allows Travelers To Borrow From Locals

Gone are the days when travelers have to pack bulky items. Now they can just borrow instead.

NeighborGoods is changing the face of consumption, facilitating a borrowing and lending culture within neighborhoods. This is great for people who want to meet their neighbors and spend less, but it’s also great for travelers who want to meet locals and borrow items they didn’t want to bring along for the trip. I spoke with the founder/CEO of the site, Micki Krimmel, via email about the potential the site holds for travelers.

“One of my favorite personal experiences using NeighborGoods was when I was traveling. I was in Austin, TX for the South by Southwest festival and I borrowed a bike from a local. I searched the Austin area and set it up before I arrived. It saved me hundreds of dollars in transportation costs and helped me experience the city like a local. Another great example of this is a new mother who was traveling alone to LA to visit family for a week. She didn’t want to haul her baby stroller on the plane by herself so she found someone in LA willing to lend her one for the duration of her stay.”

Krimmel went on to discuss another benefit travelers might find in using NeighborGoods:

“Travelers who prefer to pack lightly will find that NeighborGoods is a great resource to borrow bulky items that don’t travel well like baby strollers or sporting equipment. Borrowing a bike or a surfboard from a local also helps travelers avoid tourist traps and experience their destination more like a local.”

How to Meet Locals While Traveling

At The Aspen Animal Shelter, You Can Rent-A-Pet On Your Vacation

hikers with dog
Courtesy of Aspen Animal Shelter

If you’re a frequent traveler as well as an animal-lover, there are two scenarios that likely describe you: petless and sad about it, or pet-owner, but usually forced to leave it at home or board it. Neither is a happy option, but the always-innovative Aspen Animal Shelter has a furry, feel-good Band-Aid for you.

The for-profit, no-kill shelter offers a Rent-a-Pet program that allows visitors to borrow dogs from two hours to an entire weekend. Explains Director Seth Sachson, “Our motto is ‘Exercise your heart. Walk a dog or cuddle a cat.’ It’s meaningful for a shelter to have this type of program, because these are adoptable animals, and visitors and volunteers are helping the dogs get exercise and develop socialization skills.”

Rent-a-Pet, which is also open to residents, pairs pet-friendly people with dogs (or cats) to ensure a good fit. If your desire is to spend a full day out on the trails, you’ll get an athletic animal that’s up to the task. Casual strolls may find you with a more mellow mutt. And, bonus: like most ski towns, Aspen is incredibly dog-friendly, so you’ll find that many hotels (including the toniest of properties) welcome pets.

Will Fatberg Hunting Be The New Glamping?


It’s always good to learn a new word every day, and today’s word is fatberg. A fatberg is exactly what it sounds like–a giant mass of fat. In this case, a giant mound of fat blocking up one of the world’s largest sewer systems. So what does a fatberg look like? Watch this video to find out, but don’t blame me if you can’t ever bring yourself to eat a kebab again.

The fatberg in question was discovered in Kingston, southwest London. A congealed slab of oil, fat, food and other trash such as cleaning wipes, the 15-ton monstrosity was the size of a double-decker bus and had reduced the main sewer line to only 5 percent capacity, preventing locals from flushing their toilets.

They should be grateful. Thames Water officials say if they hadn’t caught it in time, the toilets would have started backing up and raw sewage would have spewed out, a bit like that barbershop scene in the remake of The Blob.
The brave workers at Thames Water have slain the fatberg with high-pressure hoses, but more fatbergs may be lying in wait to attack innocent toilet sitters. Now’s your chance to help. Many cities offer sewer tours. Brighton has one, as do Paris and Vienna. The closest thing you can get in London is tracing the underground Fleet River, which was used as a sewer for much of its history.

What the world really needs are overnight sewer camping tours where each person is equipped with a high-powered hose. Brave adventure travelers could venture forth into the Stygian darkness, ready to do battle with malevolent fatbergs. Forget glamping, you overpaid bank executives, and give something back to society for a change. Go hunting fatbergs!