Sierra Club launches a wiki for trails

Hikers, backpackers, and other outdoor enthusiasts in general now have a new tool at their disposal thanks to the Sierra Club. Late last week, the organization that has promoted outdoor adventure for more than 110 years, launched a new website called Sierra Club Trails that aims to become the online resource for the best hiking, biking, and paddling trails across the United States.

The new trails site follows the popular “wiki” model for generating content by having users contribute their knowledge and experience, and in the process, an online community is built with the idea of sharing that information. Users create an online profile and login, which gives them access to the Sierra Club’s tools for creating content on their favorite places to hike, including general information about the trail conditions, directions to the trailhead itself, and some thoughts on the difficulty level that hikers can expect. Best of all, using that wiki approach, the information can be easily edited and updated as it changes over time.

The Sierra Club is excited about building and utilizing this online community and to that end they’ve inclued some other resources to encourage hikers, mountain bikers, and paddlers to interact with one another online. They’ve built a set of forums for discussing various topics such as gear, trail food, and other outdoor hobbies. There is also a page dedicated to upcoming events, and another for sharing trail lore on a variety of subjects.

For now, Sierra Club Trails has been launched in beta format, while content is being filled in and users join the fun. But there are already a number of great trails in the wiki database, with more being added on a daily basis. You can add your favorite hiking, biking, and paddling trails by heading over to the site, createing a profile and sharing the places that are special for you.

Exactly how green is your vacation? Take this quiz!

Even if you manage to do more than a staycation this summer, vacations just aren’t what they used to be. Along with paying to check baggage and incredibly high gas prices comes a whole new level of social responsibility; seems like we can’t even take a simple American road trip without considering all the environmental costs involved.

For those of you that are concerned with just how green your summer travels are, the Sierra Club has two easy quizzes to figure out where your vacation ranks on the green scale. The How Green is My Destination quiz looks at the environmental impact of where you are going and the How Green is my Getaway quiz analyzes just how your mode of travel — bike, bus, airplane, etc. — changes the greeness of your upcoming vacay.

To take the quizzes click here.

Video: Earth Day ode to the John Muir Trail

I’ve been thinking about John Muir and people who have such a passion that their whole life is dedicated to its pursuit. John Muir, as I wrote in a previous post, was dedicated to the preservation of nature. To really see the world as John Muir, the founder of the Sierra Club, saw it, hiking the John Muir Trail is one option. The trail winds 211 miles through mountainous scenery that includes three national parks: Yosemite, Kings Canyon and Sequoia.

Typically, people start at Mt. Whitney and head to the Yosemite Valley. The best time for hiking is July through September. The Pacific Crest Trail Association has a terrific guide that explains details about the trail and gives suggestions about planning a hike.

To enjoy the hike from the comfort of your computer screen, here is a video I came across with exquisite shots that vary between landscape, closeups and people. It’s perfect for enjoying the earth and reinforcing why it’s important to take care of it. Thanks to raceyjones for sharing on YouTube the 20-day hike he took on the John Muir Trail August 2006.

John Muir: An Earth Day ode

Even though this weekend was filled with Earth Day activities, the actual Earth Day is today. Because yesterday was John Muir’s birthday, it seems fitting to mention those places that travelers are able to appreciate today due to Muir’s dedication to the environment. Besides, he was a traveler with a capital T, the kind Abha referred to in her post on Henry Lee McGinnis, the 80 year-old who has been walking for 16 years.

Born in Dunbar, Scotland, April 21, 1838, Muir quit his job at age 29 after a machine accident almost blinded him. He decided to start walking to learn about nature. The journey took him to Cuba, Florida and California. Remember he was walking. He was so enamored with California that he made it his home. Muir is credited with helping to create Yosemite National Park, as well as, Sequoia, Mount Rainier, Petrified Forest, and Grand Canyon National Parks.

And if that wasn’t enough, Muir helped influence President Theodore Roosevelt to form the National Monuments program and founded the Sierra Club.

Here’s a quote of Muir’s to take along with you this Earth Day.

Walk away quietly in any direction and taste the freedom of the mountaineer,.Camp out among the grasses and gentians of glacial meadows, in craggy garden nooks full of nature’s darlings. Climb the mountains and get their good tidings, Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves. As age comes on, one source of enjoyment after another is closed, but nature’s sources never fail.

–from our National Parks, 1901.

Mardi Gras the green way: Think recycle

When buying up those Mardi Gras beads and trinkets to feel festive with the best of them, look for beads that have been recycled. Every year beads by the bushels (lots and lots and lots of beads) are tossed into the crowd who watch the parade. These cheap plastic baubles from China (see post about bead safety) may be great around a person’s neck but not in a landfill.

The Sierra Club and Arc of Greater New Orleans have a joint effort going to get people to buy recycled beads from them. Not only are you helping the environment, but you’re helping these two organizations that are working towards rebuilding New Orleans. The thing is, the beads are sold in 30 pound bags. That’s a lot of beads. They also have other recycled Mardi Gras goods.

To find out how to get these recycle beads and other Mardi Gras trinkets, head to the Sierra Club Delta Chapter Web site. The phone number and email are listed there. While you’re at the site, check out the other efforts being made to help New Orleans ecologically rebuild. The Greater Arc of New Orleans is located at 925 S. Labarre Road. This is an organization that serves adults with developmental disabilities. You can also turn in beads for recycling here. There are two other locations. Call 504/837-5105 for information.

To buy artsy and interesting products made from recycled beads, check out Unique Products. There is a wide selection of night lights like the one pictured. The money from these purchases also goes to aid New Orleans. You can buy on-line.