Whether you’re hiking a favorite trail, going for a bike ride or simply sitting in the garden—it doesn’t get much better than spending quality time outdoors.
That’s why the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy family is inviting you and your family to #OptOutside with us, REI and millions of others on Black Friday, Nov. 25, 2016! Grab your grandpa, Grover and the rest of the gang—and give the gift of time, sun and the great outdoors. That’s a feel-good holiday present everyone can enjoy.
If you want to go the extra mile, here’s a list of five ways you can make a difference while you #OptOutside this year.
1Help Others Experience the Outdoors
At 85, my nana is a lean, keen power-walking machine, but not everyone can keep up with her quick cadence on the trail (namely me), whether from an injury or physical disability or even just a lack of knowing where to go. This #OptOutside day, you might get together with someone who needs a little extra assistance to experience nature. Need some inspiration? Check out this heartwarming blog about a wheelchair bike program in Illinois.
If you’re not sure of where to go, you can visit TrailLink.com to look up nearby trails. Best of all, TrailLink is free and allows you to filter your search for rail-trails with gentle grades, paved surfaces and wheelchair accessibility.
2Be a Citizen Scientist
Being a citizen scientist means you get to learn about the world around you through observation. Depending on what sort of science piques your curiosity, you choose and monitor your subject, report on it and sometimes even analyze your findings. Added bonus, participating in citizen science can be a great activity for fostering youth enthusiasm in science through practice-based learning.
A few examples are wildlife counts, stream health monitoring and even the easy task of mapping your backyard using the YardMap app.
3Plan a Cleanup
Small or large scale, with many or just you, a cleanup is a terrific way to spend time out of the house while making the community better for everyone. The RTC family recently made a difference by cleaning up a trail near our office, and you can do the same; commit to picking up litter, raking leaves or removing weeds on your local trail, at a public park, community center or waterway! Just be sure to bring appropriate materials, and check to see if you need permission first.
4Take a Shelter Dog on a Field Trip
Sadly, there are many pets that don’t get to spend time with their family over the holidays, because they haven’t yet found their forever home. To help our furry friends connect with people, there’s a growing movement amongst animal shelters to let volunteers “borrow” adoptable dogs during the day. If available at your local shelter, taking a pooch out for a hike or a trail walk is a wonderful way to opt outside and inspire happy wags.
You can contact your shelter to learn if they offer this opportunity, or you might try out a dog-borrow-locator app like Bark ‘N’ Borrow. And don’t forget to snap a selfie of you and your new friend; it might even lead to an adoption!
5Make a Difference by Supporting Trails
You can always give back to your community by supporting the trails you love! In addition to giving everyone at any stage of life a wonderful and safe space to enjoy the outdoors, trails unite and connect us. Everyday, we are amazed by the efforts and enthusiasm of trail volunteers and supporters from all across the country and are indescribably thankful for their help in building and protecting a nationwide network of trails.
Snap Some Bonus Fun!
Grab the camera and get outdoors for our “I Support Trails!” photo contest! Starting Tuesday, Nov. 15, we’re asking everyone to take photos of how they opt outside (on the trail, biking, hiking, walking, birding, etc.) and send them to us by #OptOutside day on Nov. 25. The photo that receives the most votes on social media will receive a special RTC swag bag of giveaways!