This Saturday, June 5th, is the Alabama chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s Hike for Hope event. As a supporter this year, AdventureKEEN is helping to raise awareness about suicide prevention because we believe that spending time outdoors can be a healing activity. We interviewed AFSP board member Amber Henderson earlier this week to learn more about the foundation and its programs. If you’re looking for a hike in the Birmingham area, we recommend Five Star Hikes: Birmingham, 2ed by Tom Spencer from our imprint Menasha Ridge Press. Though it’s getting a bit muggy down South, these five trails offer plenty of shade as you hike this weekend in support of AFSP’s Hike for Hope.
Aldridge Gardens — Found on page 53, this 1-mile loop circles around a lake and through some beautiful gardens. You’ll probably want to walk it more than once, noticing different flowers and creatures along the way.
Moss Rock Preserve: Boulder Field — This can be found on page 94 and offers a great hiking opportunity if kids will be joining you. It offers plenty of creeks to stand in and rocks to climb on.
Oak Mountain State Park: Peavine Falls — Found on page 126 of the book, this short (but steep) hike offers a true gem with a 20-foot waterfall followed by smaller waterfalls downstream. Take Tom’s recommended longer route, over a bridge and down the Falls Creek path, for the most enjoyable descent.
Ruffner Mountain Nature Preserve: Nature Center to Hawk’s View — This is a longer (3-mile) out-and-back hike (on page 165 in the book), so take plenty of water. It’s a little more difficult than other hikes but worth it for the views!
Cahaba River Wildlife Refuge — Found on page 179, this hike will take you along a short part of Alabama’s longest free-flowing stream (200 miles total). Wear water shoes because you’ll want to walk out into the river to get a closer look at the unique and lovely Cahaba lilies (in bloom from mid-May to mid-June of each year).
As you can see, there are lots of beautiful places around Birmingham, Alabama, where you can get out and go for a walk or a hike. We hope these five hikes will inspire you to explore your local trails, as well as support and look into the work of the Alabama chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
The Saturday, June 5th, is Hike for Hope, here in Alabama. This annual event is hosted by the Alabama chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and AdventureKEEN is a supporter this year. They have a lot going on building awareness around suicide prevention, community solutions, and helping draft governmental policies. We caught up with Amber Henderson, Board member and volunteer coordinator for the Alabama Chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and asked a few questions ahead of their Hike for Hope event.
Q: In helping people throughout Alabama, what are a few of the things your group focuses on throughout the year?
A: The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is dedicated to saving lives and bringing hope to those affected by suicide. We create a culture that is smart about mental health through education and community programs, research and advocacy, and support for those affected by suicide.
Through the work of our local volunteers, walk participants, advocates, and partners, we are helping to change attitudes about suicide and mental health. The Alabama Chapter engages with families, mental health professionals, community and local business leaders, and school administrators and faculty, as well as others interested in preventing suicide. By working together to improve the health and well-being of Alabamians, we are connecting people to resources and programs and removing barriers that stand in the way of people finding hope and healing.
Q: There are lots of ways to raise money. Why hiking?
A: Physical activity has been shown to improve mental health, and studies have indicated that spending time in nature reduces stress, anxiety, and depression. Hiking seemed like a natural choice to promote well-being.
Q: How have things been for your organization during the pandemic?
A: Navigating through the uncertainty and restrictions of the pandemic has definitely been an adjustment for us, but we feel the work we’re doing is more important than ever. We quickly adapted many of our prevention education programs to a virtual format, and since last year, the Alabama Chapter has hosted over 900 attendees through our virtual and in-person prevention education programs, speaking engagements, Advocacy Forum, and Survivor Day event.
Q: Generally speaking, how have things been for the people your group is advocating for?
A: Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in this country. It touches millions of lives—people of all ages, ethnicities, and backgrounds—but the research is clear: suicide is preventable, and the more people who stand up for suicide prevention and mental health, the more lives we can save.
It may be some time before we can fully know the extent of COVID-19’s impact on rates of suicide in 2020 and 2021, but it’s fair to say that the pandemic has created stress for people, with many feeling isolated from their loved ones and from their pre-pandemic routines. It’s also worth reminding ourselves (and others) that Black, Indigenous, and Hispanic communities in particular have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.
The COVID-19 pandemic has presented a variety of challenging experiences for people, no matter if you have a personal struggle, are concerned about a family member or someone close to you, or have experienced a loss. It is crucial in this time that we focus on shoring up our mental health and well-being.
Q: What is the biggest challenge facing your group right now?
A: While our work and goals remain the same, our challenge now is to determine how we can best engage and bring hope to people in a post-pandemic world. We know our work is needed now more than ever. Mental health and preventing suicide must continue to be a top priority.
We are thankful for the work that AFSP is doing and hope you will check in with those around you, talk openly about mental health, and take care of yourself—you are not alone! To register or learn more about Hike for Hope, visit www.afsp.org/ALHikeforHope. To learn other ways you can get involved with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, visit www.afsp.org.
We are in this together, and help is always available. If you’re feeling alone and struggling, you can also reach out to The Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK.
If we’ve learned anything over the past year, it’s that we all do better when we work together and support one another. It’s a simple lesson that helps inform AdventureKEEN’s Shop Local Live Local program, which allows us to give back and donate money to the Book Industry Charitable Foundation today during a virtual Winter Institute Session.
“2020 was a tough year, but AdventureKEEN witnessed two silver linings,” says Richard Hunt, president. “First, we watched Binc continue its hard work to provide much-needed support to indie bookstores and booksellers. Second, we noticed that people found solace and safety while outdoors and in nature. We are thankful that our outdoors-focused titles helped those sheltering in place—and that we are able to make this donation to further Binc’s efforts.”
It can be tough to find simple ways of giving back and being effective. Binc makes that easy for all parties involved. Under the Shop Local Live Local program, all bookstores have to do is enroll. That’s it. AdventureKEEN tracks all of the purchasing and sales of AdventureKEEN books through each participating store, and at the end of the year a certain percentage of sales is donated to the Book Industry Charitable Foundation (Binc). Binc then donates that money to shop owners who need financial support to get through all kinds of personal and professional situations.
It is that kind of awareness of well-being and care that makes this program such a great fit. Those same sentiments not only help drive why AdventureKEEN publishes the kinds of books we do, but also motivate the kinds of people who like to buy hiking, camping, biking, kayaking, and other outdoor activity books.
We hope to help readers find new outdoor activities. And if we can do that while stressing the importance of shopping locally, then we see that as a win. If we can do BOTH of those things while making more people aware of Binc and the role it plays in the book community, then it’s a win-win-win!
As publishers of outdoor adventure and travel guides, we know the value that independent bookstores add to their communities. We’ve seen their benefits first-hand. They are worth supporting.
You can read what the Book Industry Charitable Foundation has to say about today’s event here, in their press release. We’re excited that—even after a year like 2020—we have the chance to celebrate bookstore owners, Binc, outdoor adventures, and readers of books, all at the same time!
In early 2016, Jordan Summers and I hopped on a conference call with the good folks at Wilderness Press in Birmingham, Alabama, to talk about updating a guidebook series on the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail (PCT). The excitement was palpable among all the participants, even over the phone, even from 2,000 miles away.
The award-winning PCT guides have been an important part of Wilderness Press since the early 1970s, when founder Thomas Winnett set out to create a groundbreaking guide to the newly minted trail running between Mexico and Canada. The books quickly became an essential resource for PCT hikers, full of rich details on the geology, biology, and history of the trail, from the Pliocene sediments that lurk above Cajon Canyon to the three-needled, vanilla-scented Jeffrey pines lining the Kern River.
But the guides hadn’t been updated since 2003. It was time.
Jordan and I spent the next two years planning, hiking, and photographing the PCT. I covered Southern California and he took on Northern California, plus all of Oregon and Washington. We encountered all kinds of minor and major challenges along the way: sprained ankles; tick bites; blisters; record snowfall; delays and closures due to mudslides, swollen rivers, and wildfires; body aches that lasted long after we were off the trail; and a brief, unforgettable encounter with the deceivingly pretty poodle-dog bush. Still, we never forgot our obligation to Winnett and his co-hikers, who tackled the trail with little more than notebooks and surveyor’s wheels. And we never stopped being dazzled by the trail’s beauty and its power to inspire and heal. It was the experience of a lifetime.
Thanks to a dedicated team of editors and graphic designers, the 7th editions of the guides to Southern California and Northern California, as well as the 8th edition of the guide to Oregon/Washington, are finished and on shelves—with color photos, charts, and maps to reflect the trail as it is today. They arrive at an uncertain time for hikers all over the world, as air travel restrictions and thru-hiking permits remain in flux.
On this blog and on social media (on Facebook and Instagram), we aim to spotlight the PCT in a variety of ways, with updates on closures and permits, and tips on gear and accessible day hikes. Plus, photos—lots of photos. We hope that you will follow along and that the trail’s wild landscapes and amazing diversity will motivate you to hike your own hike, whether it’s now or some time in the future.
Laura Randall is the author of Pacific Crest Trail: Southern California. It is available wherever books are sold.
Learn to identify the birds of Texas, and make bird-watching even more enjoyable with Stan Tekiela’s famous Birds of Texas Field Guide. This book features 140 species of Texas birds organized by color for ease of use. Do you see a yellow bird and don’t know what it is? Go to the yellow section to find out.
This new edition includes more species, updated photographs and range maps, revised information, and even more of Stan’s expert insights.
Here are some amazing birds to watch out for:
The Boat-tailed Grackle is a noisy bird of coastal saltwater and inland marshes, giving several harsh, high-pitched calls and squeaks. It eats a wide variety of foods, from grains to fish, and is even seen picking insects off the backs of cattle. The bird will even visit bird feeders!
Did you know that the Boat-tailed Grackle makes a cup nest with mud or cow dung and grass? Interestingly, the Boat-tailed Grackles in Texas and on the Gulf Coast have dark eyes. Birds farther east, on the Atlantic Coast, have bright-red eyes.
The Spotted Towhee and Eastern Towhee were once considered a single species called Rufous-sided Towhee. It is found in a variety of habitats, from thick brush and chaparral to suburban backyards, and it is usually heard noisily scratching through dead leaves on the ground for food. Over 70% of its diet is plant material. The Spotted Towhee eats more insects during spring and summer.
The Black-necked Stilts is seen year-round along the coast in Texas, and it can be found along the East Coast and as far north as the Great Lakes. The bird nests solitarily or in small colonies in open areas.
This very vocal bird of shallow marshes gives a “kek-kek-kek” call. Its legs are up to 10 inches long and may be the longest legs in the bird world in proportion to its body. Black-necked Stilts are known to transport water with water-soaked belly feathers (belly-soaking) to cool eggs in hot weather.
The bird aggressively defends its nest, eggs, and young. The young leave the nest shortly after hatching.
So grab Birds of Texas Field Guide for your next birding adventure―to help ensure that you positively identify the many birds that you see.
About the author: Naturalist, wildlife photographer, and writer Stan Tekiela has written more than 175 field guides, nature books, children’s books, wildlife audio CDs, puzzles, and playing cards, presenting many species of birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, trees, wildflowers, and cacti in the United States. With a Bachelor of Science degree in Natural History from the University of Minnesota and as an active professional naturalist for more than 25 years, Stan studies and photographs wildlife throughout the United States and Canada. He has received various national and regional awards for his books and photographs.
Also a well-known columnist and radio personality, his syndicated column appears in more than 25 newspapers, and his wildlife programs are broadcast on a number of Midwest radio stations. Stan can be followed on Facebook and Twitter. He can be contacted via www.naturesmart.com.
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If you’re stuck at home, you might, like millions of others, find yourself wanting a new hobby. Stargazing is a free, rewarding way to Be Well, Be Outdoors that you can start tonight—assuming the clouds cooperate. Better yet, you don’t need a fancy telescope or a lot of gear to get started, though binoculars and a comfy lawn chair don’t hurt.
What You’ll Need
Binoculars or a Telescope
A Lawn Chair
A Field Guide
Stellarium (stellarium.org), a free virtual planetarium
What To Do
Stargazing is always better if you do a little prep work first. First, on the day you want to observe, check the weather to make sure it’s clear. (You’ll soon find yourself loathing clouds). Start with the moon and the planets. They are very bright, easy to find, and they make fascinating targets for binoculars or a small telescope.
Download Stellarium and enter your location to find when, and in which direction, the moon or planets will be visible. Also scope out your yard or observing area to spot where you’ll have the best vantage points.
Your east-facing view, say, might be blocked by a neighbor’s house or trees across the way, so find the best place to observe from ahead of time. For more background, peruse a field guide to get curated information an app can’t offer.
When it’s time to start observing, set up a lawn chair, slap on some bug spray, and bust out your binoculars or, if you have one, a telescope. It’s handy to have binoculars for everyone observing, and be sure everyone knows how to use them before you start stargazing. Otherwise, it can make stargazing a frustrating experience, especially for kids.
Even if you live in an area with a lot of light pollution, our nearest neighbors—the moon and the planets—always put on a good show. The moon is especially rewarding when viewed with binoculars.
For the best view, try to observe when the moon is in the first quarter or third quarter phase, and look at the “terminator” (the line dividing the moon between the illuminated half and its darker portion). There you’ll get the best contrast and can see the most detail. It’s also fun to look at a map of the moon ahead of time to get an idea of where astronauts have actually walked around! Google Moon (google.com/moon) is great for this.
If you’re patient and fiddle with the settings on your phone, you can even snap some pretty great photos by holding your phone over the eyepiece of a telescope or holding it against a binocular eyepiece (though a tripod helps immeasurably).
When you’re viewing the planets with the unaided eye, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn will look like bright, unblinking stars. (The other planets are trickier to spot or require more advanced gear or perfect skies.)
Through binoculars, you can see the planet’s color more clearly, and you can even see objects such as Jupiter’s moons.
Through even a small telescope, the planets come alive. Don’t expect to see pristine images like those created by the Hubble Space Telescope, but if you’ve never seen the planets with your own eyes, it’s amazing once they come into focus for the first time.
Through a telescope, you can see Jupiter’s bands, Saturn’s rings, Mars and its famous red color, and Venus’s phases.
Taking photos of planets through the eyepiece of a telescope is tricky, but it’s a lot of fun to try. Even a blurry photo of Saturn feels like an accomplishment. (It’s 910 million miles away, after all.)
Once you get the photo bug, you’ll quickly learn that there are all sorts of smartphone adapters for telescopes and binoculars, and you can also start looking up deep-sky objects (think galaxies, star clusters, etc.) to observe.
To really wow your family, point out the International Space Station as it passes overhead. NASA runs a website called Spot the Station (spotthestation.nasa.gov) where you can plug in your zip code to find sighting opportunities, including when to look, how high up in the sky, and what general direction. The station will look like a very bright “planet” or “star” that is moving quickly across the sky. If you’re prepared ahead of time, you can even snap pictures of it as it moves overhead.
If you are interested in a field guide, check out Night Sky: A Field Guide to the Constellations by award-winning author Jonathan Poppele or 101 Amazing Sights of the Night Sky by George Moromisato. For more stories about nature, sign up for our newsletter now!
Photography: Courtesy of AdventureKeen author and colleague Brett Ortler