I’m Not Giving These the Boot

I took an education class a couple spring semesters ago.  Unfortunately, I don’t particularly remember the class or the coursework but I remember the shoes of the girl I sat next to.  Like most women would.

She donned a pair of outdoor boots that seemed to be a hybrid of hiking boots and waders.  The best part about her outfit was she sported these with pearls on her earlobes.

I don’t consider myself to be particularly “girly” but that may well be because I fear my outdoor comrades, male counterparts and feminists of the world would be disappointed in my weakness for shoes.  I do; however, admire any woman that can combine rugged, outdoor gear with feminine style.  As a matter of fact, my original idea for Woman, Water, Wild was to portray myself as a pink bow-wearing, girly-girl pursuing outdoor water activities I am unfamiliar with.

But because this is an outdoor blog, I will contribute this article to this particular pair.

I ordered a pair of Redhead brand Pac boots.  And yes, I chose this brand for the irony of the fact that I’m a redhead as you can see in my About Me

redhead brand, brands of the world

Courtesy of brandsoftheworld.com

section.  I recently read that a “Pac boot” can be described as a boot containing a removable inner lining that is helpful in the winter time when the cold can dampen even the best, most insulated pair of shoes.

So far, I have worn them on a more rainy day because the idea of wearing boots before it is cold enough to do makes my feet sweat even when they’re bare.  I would recommend these boots as a winter time rain boot because of the waterproof nature of the product in addition to the fuzzy (and, yes, plaid!) interior of the boots.

They are a little bit chunky but lighter than you would expect, making them a comfortable boot for all day wear.  Comfortable enough that the outdoorsy woman could wear them camping in the Apalachicola National Forest or hiking down in Gainesville’s Devil’s Millhopper.

I do have a minor complaint about the fact that these babies do not come in half sizes (which I never understand because I know plenty of people who are between sizes).

On various reviews that I read, the customers complained that these boots are slippery and don’t keep feet as warm as expected but did succeed at keeping feet dry.  As a clumsy, baby giraffe-like individual, I disagree with the slippery part of their assessments because I have yet to bust my butt!

As a Florida customer, these complaints are invalid for me and only add to my previous article, 20 Reasons I HATE the Cold.

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How to Find a Free and Natural Therapist

sunset

As my school semester comes to a close and the holiday seasons quickly approaches, I can’t help but whine to my boyfriend about all the stresses in my life (as if we all don’t have them and I’m the only one to carry the burden).

Although both men and women suffer from stress in their lives, studies show that women are more emotional when it comes to dealing with stress but also that acute and chronic stress may take a greater toll on womens’ physical and mental health.  From weight gain to insomnia to hair loss, women show their symptoms more so than our male counterparts.

What does this have to do with my blog about women and the outdoors?  The outdoors can help.  Even smelling the outdoors may help.

Being outside raises our serotonin levels which help to regulate our moods.  The more serotonin, the more satisfied and happy we feel.  If you have ever heard of what they call a “runner’s high,” this neurotransmitter is responsible.  A study suggested that women who run outside are less likely to feel anxious than those running on a treadmill and are more likely to experience higher levels of post-exercise endorphins, or happy-feel brain chemicals.

Operation patients with an outdoor view are less likely to feel as much pain and experience faster healing than those spending fewer days gazing on the green scene.

Not only does the sight of green help with the healing process, but the smell of grass was found to have a significant calming effect on out-of-control drivers.  If it works for drivers, it can work for women outside.

Activity isn’t always necessary to de-stress.  Women can experience relaxation in the outdoors simply by being outside, breathing deeply and enjoying a beautiful day. bird

In a society where relaxation is considered a nap on the couch still holding a remote or a date with our Netflix account, taking a walk outside, working out in the outdoors or taking a moment to reap the benefits of the aromatic therapy that can be provided by pines and other plants can be just as beneficial.

Studies show that finding your center can help reduce the stress in your life.  The outdoors provides women with a full body experience of a breeze blowing through hair, the smell of grass and dirt at their noses and the sun on their skin.

So before you let yourself freak out about all the tasks you must complete, the papers you must write, that pile of papers to organize on your desk, allow yourself a moment of serenity by taking advantage of what is free and what is natural: the outdoors.

For more information about reducing stress in the outdoors, check out this awesome article on Huffington Post: http://www.athleta.net/2011/02/23/reduce-stress-in-the-great-outdoors/

Join the Wild Women of Women Outdoors, Inc.

Courtesy of Women Outdoors, Inc.

Courtesy of Women Outdoors, Inc.

I was pondering this the other day as I was sitting in class wishing I was enjoying the crisp sunshine of a beautiful Florida fall day so I decided to take it upon myself to find ways to jump-start a love for the wilderness.  Of course, in order to do that, I stayed inside and “Googled” a solution.

I was happy to come across a good “.org” site which every journalist and blogger knows is a legitimate source.  This website is called womenoutdoors.org. 

The website itself is green-hued and filled with pictures of life-vested, hiking boot-donning, smiling women engaging in my favorite sorts of activities: hiking, kayaking, fishing, you name it.  As I read on, I found that Women Outdoors, Inc. is a “nonprofit, all-volunteer organization” founded in 1980.

Courtesy of Women Outdoors, Inc.

Courtesy of Women Outdoors, Inc.

 

This chapter explores Big Cypress National Preserve, the Intercoastal Waterway (my neck of the woods, ya’ll), the Everglades, and the Florida Keys.  At only $30 a year for dues and $15 for students ages 18 to 25, these opportunities are tough to beat. 

Each year on Memorial Day weekend, the group gets together for their national conference called “The Gathering” in which all region join together to engage in activities ranging from knot-tying to kayaking to Tai Chi.

This year’s Gathering will be held at Sargent Center in southern New Hampshire.

In addition to The Gathering conference each year, Women Outdoors encourages members to attend a service-based trip called “Women Outdoors: Unleashed!”  In the past, this trip has included involvement in Habitat for Humanity in New Orleans in 2007 as well as fund-raising hikes such as Wilderness Heals for the Elizabeth Stone House in 2008.

The group encourages women to speak their ideas for Unleashed! trips for the future.  By emailing SpecialEvents@womenoutdoors.org and providing them with materials on the service or volunteer organization you would like to help benefit, the next trip could be your idea. 

The organization’s mission statement explains their dedication to promotion and education of the outdoors to women and to helping preserve the world’s natural resources.  With over 400 members, Women Outdoors is a great resource for ladies interested in nature. 

 

Presenting Her Deepness, the Sturgeon General Herself: Sylvia Earle

sylvia earle underwater

Sylvia Earle

As it is getting close to that spook-tac-ular Halloween holiday once again, I am constantly trying to come up with costume ideas even if I don’t plan on dressing up.

I am the oldest grandchild of five, four of which are granddaughters.  When I ask the youngest ones in the group what they are planning on being for Halloween, I always get the same answer: a princess.

As the only tomboy that the family ever had, I roll my eyes at all the pink and the frills and think to myself, “Man, I always wanted to be a dinosaur or a werewolf but never a princess.”  Now, I like to think of myself as a feminist in that I think women can do just as much as men can do (besides maybe flip a tire at boot camp, I tried that last week) so I try to come up with costumes that represent stronger women than Rapunzel and Cinderella.

I was on Facebook the other day and found myself delighted

to come across some children whose parents had decided they needed some real female role models.  I’ll post pictures of the little Amelia Earhart, Cocoa Chanel and, of course, Jane Goodall below.

Amelia Earhart costumeCocoa chanel costume

jane goodall costume

But, for the sake of this blog, I felt that I should talk about one of my personal role models I feel worthy of a Halloween costume.

A leading American oceanographer, Sylvia A. Earle is most famous for leading the first female team of “aquanauts” in the Tekite Project.  These women fearlessly lived in an underwater chamber for 14 days studying underwater habitats in 1970.

Earle then began to write for National Geographic     in order to arouse greater public interest in the ocean as well as pollution awareness.  Fighting for the aquasphere deserves a Halloween costume as more than 75% of the Earth’s surface is covered in water, our most important resource.

Not only is she a leading female environmentalist to this day, working for Google Ocean Advisory as well as being National Geographic’s Explorer-in-Residence (known as Her Deepness), but she has held the women’s record since 1979 for a solo dive in a deep submersible (3280 feet, 1000m) achieved in the Deep Rover that she designed with her husband.

What I most admire about Sylvia A. Earle is her leadership on Sustainable Sea Expeditions from 1998 to 2002 endorsed by the United States Marine Sanctuary.  She is an expert on the impact of oil spills and lead research trips following the Exxon-Valdez spill in 1989.

 the blog movie theater

Making oil spills which invoke more fear than The Blob disappear.  Who wouldn’t want to be her for Halloween?

What would Captain Planet Do? 10 Steps to Avoid Water Pollution

captain planet

Courtesy of comicvine.com

Water pollution is an issue.

We don’t think about it often in the United States where bottled-water snobs turn their noses up at Aquafina but reach into their office mini-fridges for a Dasani but, around the world, clean drinking water has become a commodity more difficult to find.

Despite the appearance of a the water stores of a first-world country, the United States allows water to run off roads covered in chemicals, dirt, trash and disease-carriers without a second thought to an issue that threatens quality of life and public health every day.  Sure, the Clean Water Act, instated by the National Resource Defense Council, demands that sewage industries and others reduce their pollution of streams and lakes but the real problem exists in our backyards, our homes, our communities and even our cars.  The average U.S. residence uses approximately 100,000 gallons of water a year according to the Environmental Protection Agency’s website.

As every outdoorswoman knows, water provides us with not only a basic need but a place to swim, fish, boat and tan alongside so it is important to take steps necessary to conserve the pure drinking water available to us.

The National Resource Council provides us with “10 simple ways you can help reduce pollution and run-off” which I list and discuss below:

  1. Avoid hard, unnatural surfaces around your home. Concrete, asphalt, that fake golfing grass… all of these encourage water to run every which way to exit your yard.  Water is best filtered through grass or soaked through porous material such as soil.  Don’t want ants or bugs crawling on your feet while you sit outside?  Use wood decking instead of concrete.
  2. Plant native plants and use natural fertilizers.  By doing so, you are insuring our drinking water stays chemical-free.
  3. Don’t over-water lawns or gardens.  Water conservation is just as important as reducing water pollution.
  4. Be sure to recycle and throw trash away properly.  Never flush non-degradable objects (plus, these may clog your toilet so just don’t do it!).  This includes pet waste.  Keep anything you wouldn’t want in your drinking water away from any drainage areas.
  5. Never dispose of chemical products such as paint and cleaning supplies by flushing them down the drain.  Your local sanitation center can take care of these hard-to-dispose products.  Just give them a call.
  6. Use non-toxic household products.  Not only will this protect your water but it will protect your children and pets.
  7. Recycle motor oil you’ve used.  Just like Office Depot can reuse printer ink cartridges, some auto parts places can re-use oil.  Remember, 250,000 gallons of water can be polluted by a single quart of motor oil poured out on the ground.
  8. Go to the car wash!  An at-home car wash uses twice the amount of water a drive-through car wash does.  Some of these professional car wash places even recycle “dirty” water.  It’s a good excuse to avoid a grueling chore.
  9. Tattle, tattle, tattle.  If you see someone, something or some industry polluting or contaminating a water source, alert your local environmental protection group.  Better yet, join one yourself and become a better citizen of the world which leads us to number 10…
  10. Be an activist.

Remember, your mom and your dad would want you to recycle… Check out this PSA from the 70s brought to you by the U.S. Coast Guard and Owens Corning Fiberglass.

Get Your Hike On This Fall in Florida

With the start of the new fall season, comes crisper weather and bluer skies in Florida.  Although the leaves won’t change as drastically as those northern states (and by northern, we Floridians mean Georgia and above), this time of year is reminiscent of Thanksgiving, pumpkins, cider and, of course, the great outdoors.

apalachicola

Courtesy of holidaytripper.com

One great way to get in touch with a nature-loving, tree-hugging, leaf-crunching side is taking advantage of the hiking trails that vein out throughout the Florida landscape.

Below I describe four different trails from 4 different regions in the state below.  These areas include Northwest, Northeast, Central and South Florida, so your neck of the woods won’t be left un-explored!

Northwest:  Enjoy a serene hike through a swampland on higher ground where one doesn’t need to worry about getting their boots wet and soggy.  Apalachicola National Forest is just a short drive from the capitol in Tallahassee and entrance into this park is free!  The 1.2 mile loop is known as the Camel Lake Loop despite the “Camel Lake” being more a pond.

Sweetwater Preserve

Courtesy of Floridahikes.com

Northeast:  Grab your furry friend and hit the Gainesville-Hawthorne State Trail in Sweetwater Preserve because this hiking adventure permits dogs!  Just on the northern edge of Payne’s Prairie, a location of historic cattle drives across Florida, this trail is 2 miles long and is also great for novice to intermediate mountain bikers.  Check out this trail map for more info!

The Senator

Courtesy of jonathanturley.org

Central: If you ever find yourself in Seminole County packing a pair of hiking boots, be sure to stop by Big Tree Park.  The area is iconic to a 129 foot cypress tree dubbed fondly as, “The Senator,” which is among one of the oldest in the U.S.  Unfortunately, the natural giant was cut short during a 1925 hurricane but the park has been reopened and another tree planted in memory of this beautiful giant’s stature.  Although this trail is short at .3 miles, it is an emerald example of Central Florida’s natural beauty.

key biscayne

Courtesy of tripadvisor.com

South:  If you are ever down in Key Biscayne with a passion for salty sea air and a brisk hike with a lighthouse view, check out Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park.  The 1.5 mile hiking trail offers a unique view of the funky, above-water shack of Stiltsville.  On the way to the Cape Florida Lighthouse and the marina, several nature areas bisect the trail.

As you enjoy hot apple pies with melting vanilla ice cream, football rivalries, warm hues of orange and gold, remember a great way to stay active during this beautiful season is to enjoy some swamp-side, beachside and naturally Florida trails.

The Lion’s Share: Florida’s Lionfish Problem

Courtesy of the FWC, lionfish

Courtesy of the FWC 

A University of Florida researcher sees no end in sight for the eradication of the invasive fish in Florida waters that has been taking a lion’s share of reef habitats.

Tom Frazer, professor and interim director of the school of natural resources and environment, was published in this year’s issue of Reviews in Fisheries Science that shows troublesome lionfish may never be removed from Florida’s coastline reefs but may be kept under control in targeted areas. 

 

Frazer’s research took place on Little Cayman Island with the Central Caribbean Marine Institute based out of Princeton University.  The group studied the threats posed by lionfish to the reefs there such as eating native fishes and potentially reducing biodiversity in the ecosystem, he said. 

 

The spiny, ornate lionfish were identified off the coast of Florida in the 1980s, Frazer said.  Since then, they have skyrocketed in numbers and have now spread to Caribbean and South American waters as well as the Gulf of Mexico. 

 

The creatures were first seen within Bloody Bay Marine Park on Little Cayman Island in 2008, he said.

 

The research done by Frazer’s team off Little Cayman Island was conducted over several months in 2011.  The group measured and dissected the stomachs of lionfish removed off of 11 reef sites by local dive masters, he said. 

 

Voracious and venomous predators, these fish victimize valuable juveniles of native species such as grouper and snapper, he said. 

 

The dissection was done to find whether bigger lionfish have different diets than the smaller, he said.  Frazer’s research shows that smaller lionfish eat shrimp, a much less economically valuable resource. 

 

The reason lionfish are such a threat to the reef ecosystems is they are prolific breeders, Frazer said.  A mature female has the ability to lay tens of thousands of eggs every two to three days.

The growth rate of lionfish is so quick that scientists struggle to study them before maturity. 

 

Adults have no known predators, Frazer said. 

 

The REEF Headquarters director of special projects, Lad Akins, said derbies have been held throughout Florida in an attempt to keep the lionfish population under control.  In these competitions, divers and snorkelers try to catch as many fish as possible in a given time frame using spears or nets.

 

This year’s tournament in Key Largo hosted 11 teams that brought in 461 lionfish, he said.  The largest of the fish was 410 millimeters long.  Prizes were given for the most fish caught, the largest and the smallest.

 

The event was September 8. 

 

Akins added the effort to maintain control of the lionfish population in Florida and Caribbean waters must be sustained over time in order to work. 

 

Similar derbies have been hosted in Palm Beach and Broward counties, according to the REEF Headquarters website. 

 

In a phone interview, Florida Wildlife Conservation Commission public information specialist

Amanda Nalley said the possibility of completely eliminating lionfish is unlikely because they swim to depths that prevent divers from capturing them.  

Because of the increase in lionfish numbers, a temporary change has been made in the regulations for lionfish fishing, she said.  The change allows non-licensed divers to go after the species as long as they use equipment approved by the FWC such as pole spears, Hawaiian slings or other lionfish-specific devices. 

 

The limit for unregulated fish is two fish or 100 pounds per day, whichever is more. 

 

Commercial fish harvesters have no such limit but must report their catch, Nalley added.  These harvesters are also helping the cause by going after lionfish even if the fish are a by-catch caught along with their commercial game.  Lionfish can weigh up to 2.6 pounds. 

 

“I think that in order to make a significant impact on lionfish the effort will have to be sustained for a very long period of time and I’m hoping that, when we identify the locations that are most important, we can allocate the resource that is needed through that effort,” Frazer said.

Dolphins plus at Dolphins Plus

When the South turns back into the North again, the water eventually clears crystalline and brings you to the first welcoming island of the Caribbean, Key Largo, where Dolphin Plus introduces their favorite porpoises for the purpose of making friends.

The agency commits its time to the conservation and protection of marine mammals through educational programs including individual swims for their clients with the dolphins on location. Although the experiences offered come at a cost, Dolphin Plus works hand-in-hand with the Marine Mammal Conservancy which dedicates research to marine mammals internationally.

Sea lions are also present on-location.

The Marine Mammal Center’s website states dolphins are in the classification, cetaceans, which means “toothed whales” that range between five and 60 feet in length. There are 73 known species of porpoises including the bottle-nose dolphin and the sperm whale.

Dolphins use ecolocation to identify objects and other creatures in their environments. The sound travels to the nearest solid objects and bounces back to indicate the placement of the animals’ surroundings.

It is believed that millions of years ago, cetaceans lived on land but evolved fins and tails upon moving into their aquatic environment. Dolphins are closely related to hippopotamuses.

With the education provided by staff at Dolphins Plus, swimmers can make their experiences memorable in interacting with the 11 dolphins on the premises.

Johanna Phillips describes the experience of swimming with dolphins as “amazing.” Her opportunity to visit the dolphins was an undergraduate graduation present from her parents.

“It was so much fun swimming with the dolphins in the “natural swim” where the interactions are up to the dolphins,” the 22-year-old University of Florida veterinary student said. “If they didn’t feel like playing, they didn’t have to.”

According to Phillips, swimming on the side of the body and making eye contact with the marine mammals would allow you to swim next to them. She swam with five dolphins.

“It was one of the most incredible interactions I’ve ever had with animals,” she said.

Dolphin-enthusiasts are encouraged to engage theirselves in Dolphin Plus’s dolphin education programs which range in price and are available to individuals of all ages including the Marine Biologist for a Day and Dolphin Body Language Workshop.

Swimming with dolphin experiences start at $195 for a 45-minute swim but cost more depending on the program chosen.

For more information about dolphin swims at Dolphins Plus, visit their company website at http://www.dolphinsplus.com/.

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