Tips for Helping Your Lawn Survive the Winter

Tips for Helping Your Lawn Survive the Winter 01

We need to tuck our lawns in for their long winter’s nap so that they will wake up lush and healthy in the spring. While we are doing that, we can also do right by our planet by employing eco-friendly methods and products. The following tips ensure that our lawns bounce back with the least possible damage to the environment.

Clear Up the Lawn

Rake up the leaves and add them to your compost pile. If left on the grass, they prevent sunlight from reaching the grass and allow patches of mold to settle in. The dead leaves also adversely affect water quality. The phosphorus and nitrogen run off, feed algae that kill fish and contaminate our water.

For the same reasons, it’s not okay to let leaves go down storm drains. Those nutrients go right to the nearest body of water. You might as well dump a chemical fertilizer directly into the river.

Dethatch and Aerate

Thatch is that layer of shoots, stems, and roots on the surface of the soil. It prevents the grass roots from getting the water and nutrients they need for the winter. You may be able to rake the thatch up with a garden rake. If it’s especially thick, use a thatch rake or a vertical mower. The good part of thatch is it makes for more material for your compost pile.

Aerate a lawn that had too much traffic in the summer, is now compacted and, like the thatch, is creating a barrier between nutrients and grass roots. Punch plugs of soil from your lawn with a tined garden rake or a rented self-powered aerator.

Weed

Dig up invasive weeds completely, or else they will sprout again in the spring. Don’t add them to the compost pile like they are or they will grow and spread. You first have to “cook” them to death, or practice hot composting. Seal them in a black plastic bag and put the bag in a sunny spot off by itself. In a couple of months, you will see that the weeds are mere vestiges of their former selves, and you can toss them into your compost pile.

Note: Most chemical herbicides are toxic to animals and the environment in general.

Overseed

This tip is region-specific. If you live in a warm region, overseed with cool-season grassseed, such as Kentucky bluegrass or perennial ryegrass. As the warm-season grass types go dormant, the cool-season grasses will keep your lawn green throughout the winter. In the cooler regions, overseeding prevents weeds from attacking. Thin lawns are open invitations to invaders such as crabgrass and dandelions.

Tend to Your Compost

Material composted over the summer should be ready. Use that “black gold” that is brimming with nutrients to amend deficient soils or improve the fertility of your lawn. The compost gives your lawn a jump-start for the springtime.

For new compost, add a layer of straw or leaves. It needs to be alive and active even in winter, and the additional layer keeps up the internal temperature. Do not put any diseased or insect-infected plants into your compost pile, or else you’ll be returning the diseases and pests to the soil in the spring. Destroy the plants instead.

Written by Katie Marie for EarthTalk.

Featured image provided by Gus Ruballo

7 Reasons Redding, California Needs to Be on Your Travel Radar

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Redding is an absolute bullseye for outdoors adventure. This Northern California city is surrounded by seven National Forests and is about an hour’s drive from Lassen Volcanic National Park. The Sacramento River flows through the city and the Cascade Range foothills provide the beginnings of a mountainous landscape that extends north to Canada. Redding is more than just an adventure hub though, as hiking, biking, and paddling are all accessible in-town. Looking for something more exotic? Explore geothermal features, caves, and rock climbing, or simply enjoy the friendly vibe in-town. There’s something for every adventure style from technical, hardcore pursuits to letting the kiddos rip it up in the Junior Bike Park.

1. A Wealth of Trails

Redding boasts over 225 miles of multi-use trails within a 15-mile radius. It’s no coincidence that the American Trails Association calls the city home. All trails are free to the public and the majority of them are dog-friendly (and plenty are horse-friendly as well). Whether cycling along paved trails like the Sundial Bridge or hitting sweet singletrack at Whiskeytown National Recreation Area, bikers have a full range of options. Of course, there are plenty of hiking trails as well, designed to maximize vantage points of deep pine forests, rolling rivers, and the surrounding foothills. And it’s only a short drive east of Redding to Lassen Volcanic National Park, where trails explore boiling mudpots and steaming pools heated from magma deep below the Earth’s crust.

For the more daring enthusiasts, Redding also has an extra 200+ miles of trails for Off-Highway Vehicles in the Chappie Shasta OHV Area, giving motorcyclists, all-terrain vehicle and four-wheel drivers the challenge of shredding the rolling and brushy hills with views of Shasta Lake, Shasta Dam and the Sacramento River.

2. More Adventure, Fewer Crowds

UpStateCA has all the natural beauty the Golden State is known for—minus the frustrating traffic snarls, chaotic cities, and urban attitude famously generated from the southern half of the state. The Shasta Cascade region comprises 20 percent of California’s land mass but a mere 2 percent of the population. The upshot is that there is more wilderness and less bustle. The expanse and variety of adventure potential in UpStateCA means outdoors enthusiasts organically spread out, giving more room for nature’s authentic tranquility.

3. So Many Waterfalls

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Between Redding and Mount Shasta are dozens of pristine, rushing cascades.

Don DeBold

What do you get when you combine volcanic topographic with a water-rich region that includes California’s longest river and largest lake? Waterfalls! Between Redding and Mount Shasta are dozens of pristine, rushing cascades and many of them are family-friendly outings. Whiskeytown National Recreation Area is a marquee area for waterfalls hikes, so much so that the National Park Service has a webpage dedicated to visiting them all with their “Waterfall Challenge and Passport” program. The region is home to many different types of falls, from rushing vertical veils over 100-feet tall to less-urgent, moss-covered walls graced by misty forks that feed placid pools. Plus, Burney Falls in McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park is an UpStateCA icon that you can’t pass up.

4. World-Class Fishing

Anglers from all over the country come to Redding, particularly for its trout-filled waters. In fact, Forbes named the city of the top 10 trout fishing towns in North America. The Lower Sacramento River features California’s top trout fishing, with some of the world’s most powerful rainbow trout to put your skills to the test. It benefits from extracting colder water from the depths of Shasta Lake, which helps it maintain the cool water temperature that allows rainbow trout to feed and grow year-round. You’ll find rainbows an average of 16 inches long there, with 20-inchers common.

Excellent fishing is also found on the McCloud River (known for its leaping rainbows), Hat Creek, Fall River, Manzanita Lake, and the Trinity River. Redding’s iconic Sundial Bridge was built with the salmon spawn in mind—it was built as a suspension bridge to preserve their natural habitat underneath. All of these rivers are not only great, but they’re convenient—you can fish year-round and all of these choices are easily accessible just a short drive from town. For more information, check out The Fly Shop, the largest fly fishing specialty shop in the country. The 40-year-old business is a Redding landmark, and it can provide you with guide services and instruction as well as any gear you could need.

5. Dog-Friendly by Design

Dogtrekker.com has named Redding one of the top pooch-friendly adventure destinations in America. For those who loathe the concept of leaving their dogs behind, Redding is the perfect getaway. There are hundreds of miles of dog-friendly trails, including many to the aforementioned waterfalls, and there are even dog-friendly houseboats you can rent to share a few days on the water with man’s best friend. Dog-friendly lodging and restaurants abound and there are several enclosed dog parks as well.

6. Year-Round & Winter Fun

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Get into winter snowshoe or skiing at Lassen Volcanic National Park.

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Access to the Mount Shasta region means the fun goes on year-round. Mt. Shasta Ski Park has 435 acres of ski and snowboard fun (and in the summer, the mountain has downhill and cross-country mountain bike trails). The Mt. Shasta Nordic Ski Center has 15 miles of groomed trails plus plenty more backcountry tracks to enjoy. Snowmobiling is a popular pursuit through the many forest roads that transform into perfect sub-alpine touring grounds. And if you’ve never snowshoed across a volcano, you get to do just that at Lassen Volcanic National Park! Free ranger-led tours are offered on Saturday’s from January through March and provide the snowshoes for only a $1 donation.

7. Great Food, Drink, & Lodging

Eventually, you’ll need to find your way back to civilization for a warm shower, a cold beer and a comfy hotel bed. Redding features a range of cuisine from high-end seafood to laid-back brewpubs. There are plenty of locally operated restaurants and yes, many of them are dog-friendly. Stay in-town at a hotel or ramble out to one of the many clean, well-maintained RV parks.

Redding is truly the epicenter of outdoors adventure—it has some of the very best California wilderness, with the added benefit of more than 300 sunny days per year, laying claim as the sunniest city in the Golden State. Mountain hikes, vast freshwater lakes, craggy foothills, vanilla-scented pine forests, and the timeless Sacramento River add up to an outdoor playground where the only limit is your imagination.

Written by Ry Glover for RootsRated Media in partnership with Redding CVB.

Featured image provided by Don DeBold

10 Easy & Fun Things to Do in Bozeman’s Outdoors for the Whole Family

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Bozeman is surrounded by nature, bracketed by the Gallatin and Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forests and a short drive from Yellowstone National Park. It’s no surprise that most families in southwestern Montana spend a significant amount of time outdoors in all four seasons of the year. From summertime fly-fishing and hiking to wintertime skiing and snowshoeing, this outdoor community offers adventure for all ages. Here are a few local favorites:

1. Fly Fishing Day Trip

The Bozeman area is reputed around the globe for its blue-ribbon trout fishing. From the nearby Gallatin River to the famous waters of the Yellowstone and Madison Rivers, a seemingly endless supply of fly-fishing water is within striking distance of the mountain town. Many anglers bring their own fishing gear—kids equipment included—and head out on their own to great success. Those looking for a guided fly-fishing trip can choose from either walk-wade or drift boat fishing trips with local outfitters. The River’s Edge Fly Shop and Montana Troutfitters are favored shops of Bozeman locals.

2. Ski Bridger Bowl

Dedicated skiers in the family find plenty to love at Bridger Bowl.
Dedicated skiers in the family find plenty to love at Bridger Bowl.

John Eckman

An easy 20-minute drive from downtown Bozeman, Bridger Bowl is the preferred local’s ski area, and it offers runs suitable for skiers of all skill levels. A vertical rise of 2,700 feet and 2,000 skiable acres of terrain, including a terrain park, is coated with an impressive annual 350 inches of snow. Lucky visitors will have the chance to experience Bridger’s famous "cold smoke" powder days.

3. Cross-Country Ski Bohart Ski Ranch

Just down the road from Bridger Bowl is the cross-country ski haven of Bohart Ranch. A family favorite, the complex offers more than 30 kilometers of regularly groomed trails over varying terrain, including both classic and skate-style tracks. Friendly instructors offer lessons tailored to both children and adults, and rental gear is readily available. Relaxed ski excursions through the hills often result in wildlife sightings.

4. Ride the Lone Peak Tram at Big Sky

Big Sky Resort’s famous Lone Peak Tram ferries skiers to intermediate terrain in the winter, but in summertime it’s a favorite diversion for families. The 360-degree view from the comfortable tram offers views of two national parks, three states, and surrounding mountain ranges, even as far south as Wyoming’s Tetons on a clear day. The tram takes riders to an impressive 11,166 feet summit while a guide points out mountainside features and helps keep an eye out for goats.

5. Raft the Gallatin River

Enjoy rafting on continuous whitewater and stunning scenery.
Enjoy rafting on continuous whitewater and stunning scenery.

Visit Bozeman

The Gallatin River may be best known for its fly fishing (famously recorded in the movie *A River Runs Through It) *but it’s also a haven for whitewater enthusiasts. Thanks to rolling, continuous whitewater and stunning scenery, a whitewater rafting trip down the river is a must-do during a visit to the Bozeman area! Friendly local guides lead the way and ensure rafter safety while on the water. Most local guides will take accompanied children as young as age five.

6. Hike Sacajawea Peak

Enjoy excellent family hikes around Bozeman.
Enjoy excellent family hikes around Bozeman.

Visit Bozeman

The Bridger Mountains line the eastern side of the Gallatin Valley, forming an impressive barrier visible from anywhere in Bozeman. One of the most prominent peaks, Sacajawea, is a favorite of local hikers, and for good reason — the 4.1-mile out-and-back is rated as a moderate hike and is best suited for teenaged children and older, but the view from the top is well worth the climb of 1935 vertical feet. Mountain goats dot the rocky trail, offering convenient distractions during the climb! Those with smaller children can seek the nearby "M" trail, suitable for all ages.

7. Stand-Up Paddleboard on Hyalite Reservoir

Most outdoor shops in Bozeman offer stand-up paddleboard rentals. Smaller kids enjoy sitting on the board while being propelled by a paddler, and there’s hardly a better way to take in the scenery! Hyalite Reservoir, located 10.5 miles up Hyalite Canyon south of Bozeman, is a favorite location for stand-up paddleboarding. Fishing and picnic areas help break up the day, and the reservoir offers easy access with paved parking areas.

8. Wildlife Watch in Yellowstone National Park

Prepare to see plenty of roadside Bison at Yellowstone.
Prepare to see plenty of roadside Bison at Yellowstone.

Mark R Frye

It’s hard to imagine a family vacation to the Bozeman area without a slight detour to nearby Yellowstone National Park. An hour-and-a-half drive will transport visitors to the national park’s plethora of activities, including wildlife watching, hiking, boardwalk-strolling, and scenic drives. Children delight in making a list of species sighted and keeping count of how many bison are on the roadway.

9. Stroll the Gallagator Trail

Running more than 1.5 miles through the east side of Bozeman, the Gallagator Trail is well-utilized by locals looking for an evening stroll with their dog or a quick post-work run. The largely-flat, crushed-stone trail is easy for users of all ages and can accommodate a stroller. Climbing rocks are dotted throughout the trail. It connects easily to downtown, offering the perfect opportunity to top off a stroll with a coffee or ice cream.

10. Tube the Madison River

Summertime in Montana means hot weather, and there’s no better way to escape the heat than to get in the water. Local outdoor shops offer float tube rentals and shuttles to the nearby Madison River, where a popular stretch through Bear Trap Canyon sees steady tuber traffic throughout the busy summer months. The river’s slow, meandering course offers a relaxing escape on the steamiest days.

Written by Jess McGlothlin for RootsRated Media in partnership with Bozeman Tourism.

Featured image provided by Visit Bozeman

6 Tips for Planning the Perfect Overnight Canoe Trip in Alabama

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There is absolutely nothing more soothing than the sound of water lapping on a shore, canoe, or kayak, or the beautiful white noise of water roaring through a tight rocky chute or crashing on the shore of a pearly white beach.

If you’ve experienced these sounds, whether by kayak or canoe, you know how they can make a might outdoors especially tranquil. Now, imagine being lulled to sleep by these soothing sounds as you camp next to those waters.

Camping near a slow-moving blackwater river, beside a rushing stream, in dark and mysterious bayous, or along a sandy shore is truly a remarkable experience. Whether you’re a beginner looking forward to your first paddle campout or a seasoned boater, there are some important steps you need to take to ensure that your overnight paddling trip goes smoothly. Here are six of the most important things to consider.

1. Choose a Suitable Trip

The key to experiencing the perfect overnight canoe trip is selecting a destination that matches your desires and abilities. Of course, you want to select a journey that has plenty of natural beauty, history, wildlife, and maybe even a few challenges—but, it should be reasonable. It’s thrilling to dream of paddling among alligators in the dark bayous of the Mobile-Tensaw River Delta (aka “America’s Amazon”), but that dream involves certain risks that are suited to only the most seasoned paddlers.

Choosing the perfect trip boils down to picking a route that fits your skill level. If you’re a beginner, you should consider trying your first paddling campout with an experienced group or outfitter.

It’s also important to factor in time requirements. Consider how much time you have for a trip, taking into account travel times to the put-ins, take-outs, breaks for lunch, swimming, etc. That will help determine the length of the trip.

Start slow and work your way up to more challenging trips, and always keep it simple. Shorter trips on smaller bodies of water are just as fun and exciting as paddling larger waterways.

2. Consult the Experts

Pull out that old trusty paper map or guidebook or consult online maps to find a waterway to your liking. Then, use the internet to find local clubs and outfitters in the area of the waterway you want to paddle.

“The knowledge of an outfitter allows you to experience everything from whitewater to the salty waves of the Gulf of Mexico and everything in between,” says Jim Felder with Alabama Scenic River Trail (ASRT). “They can show you things it could take you a lifetime to learn otherwise.”

Outfitters can offer insights on the best times of year to paddle the waterway, and they’ll point out possible launch sites and takeout locations. Plus, they can inform you of possible campsites and identify areas prone to log jams and portages.

Another consideration is the weather. It’s not only important to be aware of storms so you can stay warm and dry, but it’s also important to know how weather affects the waterways. Heavy rain hundreds of miles north of a river will dramatically affect the river’s water levels farther south. Without warning, paddlers downstream of a storm could find themselves in swift, rising water. And keep in mind that it’s dangerous to paddle a river that has reached flood stage.

Many streams and creeks in the Southeast are seasonal, and rain greatly affects their water levels. During periods of heavy rain, waterways can reach flood stage and become too hazardous to paddle. During a drought, there might not be enough water to allow your boat to float, and you’ll end up dragging it frequently.

Before you launch, consult an outfitter, American Whitewater, or another resource to determine the current water flow of your destination and whether the conditions are safe.

You also need to identify quick escape routes in case of emergency. “With Google Earth and all the other satellite mapping resources these days, there should be little chance that you run out of places to get out of the water,” says Felder. “Anywhere a road crosses a creek, you can probably get out.”

3. Choose Campsites Carefully

Ok, so you’ve found the river you want to paddle. Now, what about camping? Many people think that any river, creek, or stream is publicly accessible. You may be just fine paddling that waterway, but unless designated campsites have been established, you may find yourself stepping out of the boat and trespassing on private property.

If land in the river—like a shoal or sandbar—has trees growing on it, it's probably part of the adjacent landowner's property. If there aren’t trees on the land, you're likely OK.

Once again, this is where contacting local outfitters and paddling clubs comes in handy. You can also turn to ASRT, which has made things easier by logging hundreds of campsites along the state’s waterways.

4. Keep it Simple When Gearing Up

As you’re gathering your camping gear and supplies, remember the mantra “keep it simple.”

There’s no need to go fancy and invest in a lot of expensive gear. In general, you should try to carry a relatively lightweight load. Remember, you have to bring all of it with you. The size of your canoe or kayak will limit your load, and if you have to portage, you have to physically carry all of that gear with you. And, of course, extra weight and how it’s loaded can play havoc with the balance of your boat.

While it’s good idea to go light, don’t leave behind important essentials. Bring (and wear) your PFD, and be sure to pack food, water, a fire source, first-aid kit, flashlight, sunscreen, maps, and navigation devices. If you paddle during mosquito season, or if rain is a possibility, consider bringing a tent. Otherwise, you can choose to just sleep out under the stars.

REI has a very useful and complete list of “possible” items to take on a paddling campout, so check it out and make adjustments to suit your particular needs.

Before you depart for your camping trip, do a shake down by loading your boat to find the perfect balance when stowing the gear. Then, eliminate any items that you decide you don’t really need.

Be sure to use watertight bags or containers to protect items that shouldn’t get wet, such as clothes, sleeping bags, electronics, matches or other fire-starting supplies.

5. Food and Water

The adventurer in all of us dreams of paddling down a river, dropping a line, and catching our meals fresh from the river. It’s a dream, friends. With luck you can, but it’s not something you want to rely on. So, do a little meal planning, and bring your own provisions. Most paddlers like quick and easy breakfasts to get the day started, a more substantial lunch, and a larger dinner.

Avoid carrying perishables like eggs, and keep things simple. Breakfasts can be as easy as oatmeal, cereal with dry milk, fresh fruit, bagels, or muffins. Lunches can be anything from PB&Js to tuna and crackers to summer sausage and cheese on crackers. For dinner, you can’t beat the latest freeze-dried meals. They’re tasty and quick, with easy cleanup. And, be sure to pack along your favorite snacks, too.

As for water, if you’re paddling freshwater that can be treated, bring the proper water-treatment system or a stove to boil water. Even if you’re prepared to treat water, you should still carry a minimum of one gallon of water per day per person.

6. Fire it Up

There’s nothing like sitting around a campfire after a day on a river. Before you shove off, check fire regulations to see whether or not campfires are allowed, where you can build them (sometimes they’re only allowed on sandbars), and if there are any burn bans in effect.

Organizing an overnight paddling trip for the first time can be a challenge, but it’s also pretty exciting. With all of the things you need to consider, it can feel like you’re planning a great expedition. By mapping out things carefully and gathering information from knowledgeable sources you’ll ensure smooth days on the water, and you’ll finally experience every paddler’s dream—a peaceful night where the lovely sound of lapping water lulls you to sleep.

Written by Joe Cuhaj for RootsRated Media in partnership with BCBS of AL.

Featured image provided by Jordan Bauer

8 Reasons Charlotte is an Awesome City for Outdoor Lovers

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Not that long ago, mentioning you were from Charlotte led to an inevitable lesson in Southeastern U.S. geography. What state is that in? Did you say Charlottesville? Charleston? But that’s all changed as the Queen City’s rocketed to third place in the list of fastest-growing U.S.cities.

Abundant four-season outdoor recreation opportunities and a focus on healthy, active living are major contributors to the Queen City’s newfound notariety. Here’s our list of the top reasons why you need to get outdoors in Charlotte.

1. It’s Home to the World-Class U.S. National Whitewater Center

An Olympic kayak and canoe training center, multisport mecca, concert pavilion, and gastropub all rolled into one at the USNWC, the epicenter of Charlotte’s outdoor adventure scene. At the center you can raft Class I-IV whitewater, climb, zip, navigate high ropes obstacles, paddle the Catawba River, and run or bike on more than 40 miles of singletrack. Then, you can relax with a craft beer and burger on the River’s Edge Grill patio at sunset.

2. Charlotte is Close to the Smokies, Appalachians, and Blue Ridge

The tallest peaks east of the Mississippi reside just a couple hours west of Charlotte, offering lush day hikes through thickets of rhododendron, mountain laurel, and wispy Smoky Mountains mist. The Blue Ridge Parkway winds its way from Cumberland Knob to Cherokee, with miles of easy out-and-back routes to spectacular 360-degree vistas. For backcountry hikers, there’s no shortage of challenging weekend loops traversing Smoky Mountain balds and Appalachian valleys.

3. The City Embraces Cyclists and Runners

Every few months, we celebrate the opening of yet another section of urban greenway connecting neighborhoods with parks and community spaces. The bike- and pedestrian-friendly movement that’s sweeping the city is great news for road-weary cyclists and runners looking for scenic training routes. Little Sugar Creek Greenway is evolving into one of the most popular segments of the future XCLT Trail that will extend 30 miles from Pineville to University City. South End’s Rail Trail is ground zero for happy hour runs, and cyclists own the Booty Loop, where they gather for evening and weekend rides through the shady streets of Myers Park.

4. Neighborhood Gear and Bike Shops Abound

From Davidson to Waxhaw, local bike shops and gear outfitters offer expert advice to keep Charlotteans peddling, paddling, and pitching tents. Stores host group rides and give route recommendations, with service bays for maintenance and repairs. Check in with Performance Bicycle and The Bike Gallery downtown; Spirited Cyclist to the north; South Main Cycles in Belmont; and NC Velo south of the city.

Great Outdoor Provision Company has been outfitting North Carolina hikers and paddlers for more than 30 years. Then there’s the USNWC Outfitter, a virtual trip to candyland for outdoor enthusiasts. Major retailers like REI, North Face, and Trek have set up shop in Charlotte as well, another sign of Charlotte’s love affair with adventure.

5. The Outdoor Community is Passionate and Welcoming

Much of the credit for Charlotte’s outdoor awakening goes to local advocates who have worked tirelessly for change. And the best news—there are plenty of ways to get involved. The Carolina Thread Trail offers trail master certification classes, the Tarheel Trailblazers expand singletrack with trail work days, and Sustain Charlotte is bringing issues like clean air and water, public transportation, and local food systems to the forefront of the community conversation.

6. Bikes, Brews, Bouldering — We’ve Got a Festival for That

Nothing whips up enthusiasm like a good party, and every month brings new opportunities to celebrate the outdoors in the Queen City. Open Streets 704 closes downtown streets to cars for a four-mile street festival. At Biketoberfest, businesses and breweries line the route to welcome cyclists, and the Charlotte Marathon has grown into a weekend party and the city’s signature running event.

USNWC festivals draw thousands for equipment demos, sports competitions, live music, food trucks, and craft beer. In addition to holiday celebrations (think paddling a neon green river for St. Paddy’s Day and running a 5K with Santa), there’s Flowfest’s yoga and bouldering; an outdoor gear market every October; and Tuckfest, four days of multisport competitions and clinics that opens the summer season in April.

7. Plenty of Waterfalls and Swimming Holes

There’s only a couple months when the Charlotte weather’s too cold to get your feet wet. You can relax beside some of the most scenic aquatic spots in the Southeast, all an easy day trip from downtown. The best spot include High Shoals Falls at South Mountains State Park, Carrigan Farms Quarry; Hooker, Triple, and High Falls in DuPont State Forest; Eno Quarry in Eno River State Park; the summit and waterfall loop at Stone Mountain State Park; and Pisgah’s thrilling 60-foot natural waterslide at Sliding Rock.

8. Epic Climbing Surrounds Charlotte

Charlotte is home to a solid climbing community, and beginner to expert climbing destinations are within easy reach of the city, adding up to great year-round cragging. Close to home, Inner Peaks has two locations for instruction and training, while Crowders Mountain State Park offers beginner to intermediate sport and trad routes minutes from downtown. USNWC has everything from belay classes to private instruction on its 30-foot rock wall, 46-foot spire, and free climbing Deep Water Solo routes. More experienced climbers drive two hours north to quality quartzite routes at Moore’s Wall, Pilot Mountain, and Sauratown, or head west into Linville Gorge, one of the southeast’s premiere climbing destinations.

Written by Ann Gibson for RootsRated Media in partnership with OrthoCarolina.

Featured image provided by Better Bike Share/Michael C. Hernandez Photography

Tips for Helping Your Lawn Survive the Winter

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We need to tuck our lawns in for their long winter’s nap so that they will wake up lush and healthy in the spring. While we are doing that, we can also do right by our planet by employing eco-friendly methods and products. The following tips ensure that our lawns bounce back with the least possible damage to the environment.

Clear Up the Lawn

Rake up the leaves and add them to your compost pile. If left on the grass, they prevent sunlight from reaching the grass and allow patches of mold to settle in. The dead leaves also adversely affect water quality. The phosphorus and nitrogen run off, feed algae that kill fish and contaminate our water.

For the same reasons, it’s not okay to let leaves go down storm drains. Those nutrients go right to the nearest body of water. You might as well dump a chemical fertilizer directly into the river.

Dethatch and Aerate

Thatch is that layer of shoots, stems, and roots on the surface of the soil. It prevents the grass roots from getting the water and nutrients they need for the winter. You may be able to rake the thatch up with a garden rake. If it’s especially thick, use a thatch rake or a vertical mower. The good part of thatch is it makes for more material for your compost pile.

Aerate a lawn that had too much traffic in the summer, is now compacted and, like the thatch, is creating a barrier between nutrients and grass roots. Punch plugs of soil from your lawn with a tined garden rake or a rented self-powered aerator.

Weed

Dig up invasive weeds completely, or else they will sprout again in the spring. Don’t add them to the compost pile like they are or they will grow and spread. You first have to “cook” them to death, or practice hot composting. Seal them in a black plastic bag and put the bag in a sunny spot off by itself. In a couple of months, you will see that the weeds are mere vestiges of their former selves, and you can toss them into your compost pile.

Note: Most chemical herbicides are toxic to animals and the environment in general.

Overseed

This tip is region-specific. If you live in a warm region, overseed with cool-season grassseed, such as Kentucky bluegrass or perennial ryegrass. As the warm-season grass types go dormant, the cool-season grasses will keep your lawn green throughout the winter. In the cooler regions, overseeding prevents weeds from attacking. Thin lawns are open invitations to invaders such as crabgrass and dandelions.

Tend to Your Compost

Material composted over the summer should be ready. Use that “black gold” that is brimming with nutrients to amend deficient soils or improve the fertility of your lawn. The compost gives your lawn a jump-start for the springtime.

For new compost, add a layer of straw or leaves. It needs to be alive and active even in winter, and the additional layer keeps up the internal temperature. Do not put any diseased or insect-infected plants into your compost pile, or else you’ll be returning the diseases and pests to the soil in the spring. Destroy the plants instead.

Written by Katie Marie for EarthTalk.

Featured image provided by Gus Ruballo

Fall and Winter Composting for a Lovely Spring

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Autumn provides ample brown material for composting, and turning food scraps into fertilizer gives you everything you need to get a jump start on soil enrichment before the frost sets in. Whether you are already skilled at composting and want to make the most of the nutrients you save or are just starting out, the results can make a major difference in the health of your lawn or garden. Fall and winter composting ensures that your garden is ready to shine the next year, and it makes it simple to recycle and reuse organic material in an eco-friendly manner.

Preparing the Soil

If you already have a home composter setup or an outdoors composting bin, remember to keep the balance of green and brown materials — from the kitchen and the yard respectively — at about an even 50/50 blend. There are a few ways to speed up the composting process, from shredding and heating the materials to agitating regularly, but all fertilizer creation takes time, and it’s best to get an early start in the fall for plenty of prep time.

As the compost matures, try using a garden tiller to aerate the soil and work the material into the ground. Adding nutrients during the fall months can promote faster and healthier growth in spring, but preparation should end before the first snows fall. Adding more nutrients during the cold winter months can actually promote mold and undesirable decomposition of roots or bulbs, making it a better idea to save compost for later use when the ground starts freezing.

Planting Seeds

Planting in autumn is only natural, as it is harvest season when the fruits drop and wildflowers spread seeds abundantly. Once your soil is ready, begin planting the seeds for next year’s blossoming flowers. Annuals and perennials both benefit from early planting before the ground hardens. The natural hardening and packing of the soil during the winter months provides added protection against scavenging animals and freezing winds.

Protect the Ground

It’s entirely likely that you’ll end up with far more brown matter during the fall season than your kitchen scraps, grasses and other green materials can match. Avoid adding too much brown material to your compost mix, and instead use these nature-made tools to keep the ground safe and ward off unwanted mold or mildew that can crop up when the ground freezes and materials break down on the frozen surface.

Protect the ground in your planting beds as well as lawn areas with layers of mulched brown materials. Pine needles and similar yard waste provides ample protection against both frost and mildew throughout the winter months as the needles and bark do not break down easily.

Winter and fall don’t necessarily mean an end to your efforts composting at home. The materials produced naturally during this time can help ensure the ground has all the nutrients and protection it needs to weather the snowy seasons and spring back when the warm weather returns. Taking the time to get the right mix of materials and focusing on composting early and protecting the ground as the seasons change can make a real difference the next year.

Written by Avery Phillips for EarthTalk.

Featured image provided by Justin Ha

The Dark Side of Sustainable Technology and How We Can Fix It

The Dark Side of Sustainable Technology and How We Can Fix It 01

Advancements in technology have the potential to do great good and great harm to our environment. The toxic lake of tech waste in Batou, Mongolia, is testament to the damage that modern technology can do to the environment. The man-made pool of toxic sludge is a result of the tech industry, which relies heavily upon rare earth elements to create everything from magnets to smartphone screens.

On the other hand, advances in technology have allowed renewable energy industries to thrive and gain traction in many countries across the world. About 2.5 million Americans work in renewable energy, which benefits from technology coming out of the tech sector.

Is Clean Energy Truly Clean?

It would be quite difficult to do a proper analysis of the actual environmental costs of the industry and innovation that actually goes into producing the components for renewable power. The production of materials and technology required for a renewable energy operation could potentially be executed in extremely environmentally unfriendly ways — which defeats the purpose.

There have been a number of advancements in electrical engineering, one of which has made batteries an increasingly useful resource in clean energy. They’re used in clean cars and provide increased energy security. There are, however, severe environmental impacts associated with batteries, especially those designed for electric cars and renewable power operations.

Sustainable From the Ground Up

Clean energy is a noble goal, and despite the political climate it remains competitive in the U.S. There are a lot of reasons to hope for a future in which the majority of energy is clean, but without clean methods of production we might just be spinning our wheels.

We need to start thinking about sustainability in the design process. The engineers who create advancements in renewable power need to start considering the impact not just of the result of their ideas, but of the systems that create them. From the production of basic materials, to transport, to the machines required for assembly, we need to change the entire supply chain that creates clean technology.

Good News: We’ve Already Started

Green careers are popping up across a number of industries, which include electrical engineering and design, giving sustainability-minded individuals the chance to push change forward at all levels of innovation, creation, and production.

From legal careers that focus on green issues, to corporate social responsibility positions that give people the opportunity to change the way an entire company thinks about the business they do, there are opportunities emerging for individuals to create real change. For people concerned about environmental issues, it’s rare to have the opportunity to do so much good. The work can be so daunting that we don’t know where to begin.

Solar power, wind power, and electric cars are high-end products and the result of long, complex production chains. Until we change the way those chains work, the footprint of clean technology may continue to have an unpleasant dark side. The bottom-up change is absolutely achievable.

Written by Avery Phillips for EarthTalk.

Featured image provided by Solomon Hsu

Cleaner Indoor Air Quality Can Help You Sleep Better

Cleaner Indoor Air Quality Can Help You Sleep Better 01

The key to a healthy indoor environment is clean air, but many of the finishes and furniture in a typical home or office off-gas pollutants that can compromise air quality. While opening a window might help, it also could make matters worse by introducing auto exhaust and other noxious emissions in. So, what’s a clean air lover to do about keeping the indoor environment safe?

Change Your Filters

For starters, it can’t hurt to change the filters on your furnace and air conditioner(s) on a regular, scheduled basis. Manufacturers recommend changing out furnace filters every three months, but mileage may vary depending on square footage and other factors. (When you install a new filter, write the date on it when it should be changed to keep yourself honest.) Also, getting your HVAC air ducts cleaned once every few years—or more frequently if you have pets or lots of people using the space in question.

Scrub The Air With Houseplants

Another way to help filter your indoor air is the all-natural way: with house plants. While humans have always had a special relationship with the plants around them, it wasn’t until NASA published research in the 1980s that we knew just what an important role house plants could play in ridding indoor environments of noxious chemical pollutants. Plants scrub particulates from the air while taking in carbon dioxide and processing it into oxygen, thereby creating more clean air for us to breathe. Garden mums, spider plants, dracaenas, ficus, peace lilies, Boston ferns, snake plants and bamboo palms are great choices given their especially powerful air purifying abilities.

Get An Air Filter

Yet another relatively easy indoor air quality fix would be to purchase an air purifier that plugs into the wall and uses carbon filtration or other methods for filtering contaminants out of the indoor environment. The Coway Mighty and Winix 5500-2 share top rankings from leading consumer review service, Wirecutter, while the Dyson Pure Hot+Cool Link gets kudos for great air cleaning with style.

Re-Paint In Low-VOC Style

If you really want to go all out, think about repainting interior walls with paint formulations that use little or no volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) that have been linked to respiratory problems, headaches, nausea, dizziness and fatigue, among other health worries. AFM Safecoat is the industry leader in low- and no-VOC paints and finishes, but the big players like Sherwin-Williams and Benjamin Moore now also have healthier formulations for a quickly increasing number of eco-conscious home improvement customers.

Refurnish

Another easy albeit more costly way to improve indoor air quality would be to get rid of those old couches, mattresses and other furniture which were required by law to contain flame retardant chemicals before we knew how harmful they could be to our indoor environment and health. Now that California has mandated that new furniture products cannot contain these noxious chemicals, more and more manufacturers (including Ikea and Pottery Barn) are starting to phase them out, so it’s a great time to replace that old mattress with a new one that won’t off-gas carcinogens every time you plop down onto it.

Written by Roddy Scheer and Doug Moss for EarthTalk.

Featured image provided by Mark Solarski

Environmental Heroes LaDuke, McKibben and Fox Inspire Millions To Take Action

Environmental Heroes LaDuke McKibben and Fox Inspire Millions To Take Action 01

Thoreau, best known for his book Walden taught us how to live a simple life and take pleasure in nature’s splendor all around us. Leopold’s 1949 book, A Sand County Almanac, encouraged us to respect the land and its inhabitants and manage it with future generations in mind. And Carson, whose book Silent Spring is credited with advancing the global environmental movement, taught us that the world would be sick, let alone way too quiet, without the soundtrack of wildlife. While these voices from the past still guide our conservation ethic, a new generation of visionaries is reimagining what it means to be an environmentalist in response to the new existential challenges facing our species and our planet.

One of them is Winona LaDuke, who cut her activist teeth in the 1980s when she helped launch the Indigenous Women’s Network and campaigned for tribal land claims in Minnesota. In 1993 she partnered with the folk-rock duo Indigo Girls to launch Honor the Earth, which raises awareness and support for Native environmental issues and develops resources for the survival of sustainable Native communities. Honor the Earth uses music, the arts and the media to spread awareness about our dependency on a clean, healthy planet. Most recently, LaDuke set up her tipi at one of the Dakota Access Pipeline protest camps; she has been outspoken about the need to reject such projects and the oil slated to run through them.

Many Americans first learned about the potential perils of climate change from Bill McKibben’s 1989 book The End of Nature. McKibben has subsequently penned more than a dozen books on related topics, and in 2006 crossed over into activism, helping lead a five-day walk across Vermont calling for action on global warming. He went on to launch 350.org, a global climate organizing effort named after climate scientist James Hansen’s contention that atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide above 350 parts per million would be unsafe for humanity and the planet. Pioneering the use of social media to grow its ranks, the group coordinated 5,200 demonstrations in 181 countries as part of its “International Day of Climate Action” in October 2009 and rallied hundreds of thousands more people at subsequent events. 350.org is currently gearing up for the People’s Climate Mobilization on April 29, 2017 and is hoping for a record turnout in Washington DC and at other simultaneous rallies around the world. McKibben remains an outspoken critic of both the Keystone XL and Dakota Access Pipeline projects.

While McKibben worked his way into our hearts through his writing, Josh Fox did it with video. The filmmaker’s 2010 documentary _Gasland_ focused on the environmental effects of hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) of shale formations to recover natural gas deposits. The Oscar-nominated film became a key lever in the anti-fracking movement and Fox went onto become a vocal opponent of fracking. In 2016, Fox traveled the country on behalf of Bernie Sanders’s campaign for President and helped pen a historic climate amendment to the Democratic Platform calling for the institution of a national carbon pricing system, the phase out of gas-fired power plants and higher efficiency standards for federal energy projects. Fox currently works as Creative Director for Our Revolution, a non-profit Sanders launched following the 2016 Democratic primaries to get more Americans involved in the political process and organize and elect progressive candidates.

Of course, the work of LaDuke, McKibben and Fox is nothing if not inspiration for others to become part of the solution to our environmental problems. Cut down on your own emissions, tell your neighbor, and show up at the next big rally to fight global warming. We will all be glad you did!

Written by Roddy Scheer and Doug Moss for EarthTalk.

Featured image provided by Rodion Kutsaev