4 Reasons to Make a Summer Escape to Minnewaska Lodge

New York City is one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations, and for good reason. The city boasts a variety of great shopping and dining establishments in addition to world-famous museums and iconic attractions such as the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, and Central Park. Its whirlwind of activity and crowded streets, however, might not be for everyone.

Area tourists seeking a more tranquil and relaxing vacation can find solitude not too far outside of the Big Apple. Minnewaska Lodge, in particular, offers a peaceful and holistic experience just 90 minutes from New York City. Below are four reasons to vacation at Minnewaska Lodge this summer.

1. Accommodations

Surrounded by 25,000 acres of preserved wilderness near the Shawangunk Mountains, Minnewaska Lodge is a perfect getaway for outdoor enthusiasts and appreciators of nature. The lodge offers world-class hospitality and luxurious on-site accommodations.

Minnewaska Lodge has 26 unique rooms, some of which have private balconies offering picturesque mountain views, while others have cathedral ceilings. While many guests prefer to set aside their devices in favor of savoring the natural elements, the lodge’s rooms have cable TV and complimentary Wi-Fi for those looking to stay connected with current events or keep up with their work.

Minnewaska Lodge also has indoor and outdoor spaces where guests can congregate. Its Great Room features a Vermont Castings stove near which guests can keep warm while sitting on one of the many comfortable chairs. The room’s deck presents a great view of the Shawangunk Mountains. Outdoors, guests can sit around fire pits and relax in Adirondack chairs.

2. Complimentary Weekend Activities

Promising a “restorative escape” from day-to-day life, Minnewaska Lodge not only is perfectly situated to offer various self-guided outdoor experiences, but also organizes complimentary weekend activities for its guests. Events are ongoing from 8 a.m. until 9:15 p.m.

In summer 2021, guests can participate in outdoor slow flow vinyasa, meditation, and breath yoga classes on Saturday and Sunday mornings starting at 8. This is followed by a half-hour orientation session, through which staff members recommend local activities in addition to nearby hiking trails. Guided hiking tours are offered in the afternoon, inviting guests to learn about the area’s ecology and history. Outdoor evening yoga and fireside stories close out the planned activities for each weekend day.

Programs and classes are led by Erik Phillips-Nania, who serves as Minnewaska Lodge’s director of programming and activities. A former United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees attorney, Mr. Phillips-Nania is an environmentalist with experience in ancient yoga practices. In addition to leading the lodge’s weekend activities, he organizes customized small group activities, including hiking and rock climbing.

3. Shawangunk Mountains

A continuation of Blue Mountain and Kittatinny Mountain in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, respectively, the Shawangunk Mountain range is a breathtaking natural wonder with miles of white cliffs, deep oak forests, and clear mountaintop lakes, among other awe-inspiring scenery. Carved by boulder-laden glaciers more than 10,000 years ago, its quartzose rock markings are more pronounced here than those on bedrock surfaces in the Catskills and Hudson Highlands.

The Shawangunk Mountain range, affectionately referred to as the “Gunks,” is made up of the following six parks and preserves: Minnewaska State Park Preserve, Mohonk Mountain House, Mohonk Preserve, Huckleberry Ridge State Forest, Wallkill Valley Rail Trail, and Sam’s Point Preserve. Combined, these areas offer more than 760 miles of trails maintained by member groups and New York-New Jersey Trail Conference volunteers. The Gunks offer various challenging trails for veteran hikers in addition to gentle carriage roads presenting scenic views for less experienced hikers.

The area is also a great place for rock climbing, particularly at Mohonk Preserve, which offers more than 800 climbing routes with varying degrees of difficulty.

4. Hudson Valley Attractions

Those looking to venture a little further outside of the Minnewaska Lodge grounds don’t have to travel too far, as the lodge is centrally located in the Hudson Valley, which is rich in cultural and outdoor recreational attractions. Spanning 10 different counties, Hudson Valley features a number of popular and quirky river towns, mountain ranges, lakes, and historic sites.

The Hudson State Historic Park is a must-visit attraction. While there, make sure to traverse the 1.28-mile Walkway Over the Hudson, a steel cantilever bridge that connects Highland with Poughkeepsie. It was once the Poughkeepsie-Highland Railroad Bridge. Signage along the bridge provides details about its history.

For additional history lessons, visitors should check out the New York State Museum in Albany. This 100,000-square-foot cultural institution has more than 15 million scientific specimens and popular ongoing exhibits such as Birds of New York and Black Capital: Harlem in the 20s.

Some of the other iconic and historic attractions in the area include the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library, the Motorcyclepedia Museum, and the New York State Capitol. Traveling the Shawangunk Wine Trail is also a great way to spend a day.

Why You Absolutely Need to Plan a Vacation at One of These 5 Farms

When you think about a vacation it often involves relaxing poolside or experiencing different cultures and unique attractions in a foreign country. And, while either of those activities can serve as a fun escape from the day-to-day grind, there’s a growing trend in the travel industry for more meaningful and purposeful vacations. Consequently, agrotourism is one of the industry’s fastest-growing sectors.

Put simply, agrotourism refers to vacationing at a farm and, oftentimes, helping with the harvest. It allows travelers the opportunity to connect with nature and experience first-hand what it’s like living on a farm. Annie Willis explained the appeal of agrotourism to National Geographic for a 2019 feature.

“We’ve done Italian holidays that don’t involve anything more testing than sightseeing or lying by a pool, and felt it was time for something different, which was also educational,” Willis said of her and her husband’s prior vacations. “We love Italy, and wanted to connect with the people and landscape on a more profound level than simply as tourists. We’ll have lunch with the family daily, so we can practice our Italian, and helping with the harvest feels like a positive thing to do.”

Agrotourism is big in Europe, but it is becoming increasingly popular in the United States. Below are five of the most vacation-friendly farms in the country.

1. The Jungle Farmhouse (Hawaii)

Located in Pahoa, Hawaii, The Jungle Farmhouse combines a typical farm stay with an island vacation experience. Guests stay in cottages in the Hawaiian jungle that accommodate up to eight people and include modern conveniences such as satellite TV and Wi-Fi. However, they can also engage in a variety of farming activities.

This includes eating fresh, organic eggs from the farm’s hens as well as plucking bananas, pineapple, avocados, and papaya from its trees. The farm also has baby goats and miniature pigs, while the 2.5-acre plot of land in the Hawaiian jungle is home to a variety of native birds and exotic plants.

Those looking to explore surrounding areas can visit the Historic Pahoa Village, which is about a mile from The Jungle Farmhouse. Known for its wooden sidewalks and eclectic shops, the village also includes attractions such as farmers’ markets, galleries, and a public swimming pool. The Jungle Farmhouse is also close to Kehena Black Sand Beach and a 45-minute drive from Volcanoes National Park.

2. Wildwood Farm B&B (Washington)

Those who love horses and horseback riding, in particular, will enjoy their stay at Wildwood Farm Bed & Breakfast on Whidbey Island in Washington State. The 80-acre farm, 90 miles north of Seattle, has bred thoroughbred horses for more than 50 years and offers horseback riding lessons.

It has two indoor areas and an outdoor arena for riding in addition to a saddlery and tack store. In addition, Whidbey Island offers peaceful escapes in nature with an abundance of green fields and forests. Hiking and canoeing are popular activities on the island.

3. Zion Mountain Ranch (Utah)

Stargazing is a popular activity at Zion Mountain Ranch, located 6,000 feet high up in Utah’s canyon country. Stars shine bright here in the clear night skies, but that’s far from the only reason to visit the ranch, which borders Zion National Park and is also in close proximity to Bryce National Park. The ranch itself is known for its roaming herd of buffalo and horses. The site also features a small organic farm with various vegetable plots, hens and chickens, and an orchard.

4. Los Poblanos (New Mexico)

An historic inn and organic farm in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Los Poblanos features 25 acres of greenery including lavender fields and lush formal gardens. Guests can expect a signature New Mexico vacation as the resort was designed in 1932 by architect John Gaw Meem, also known as the “Father of Santa Fe Style.” Its farm suites, some of which have private patios, are inspired by historic dairy buildings and boast clean and modern interiors.

Animals at the farm include peacocks, alpacas, and Churro sheep, while guests can enjoy field-to-fork dining from the award-winning kitchen staff at the on-site Campo restaurant. Other amenities include the Hacienda Spa, Farm Foods Market, and fitness rooms. Guests can also take self-guided tours of local trails on one of the cruiser bicycles available for rent.

5. Blackberry Farm (Tennessee)

Those looking for a more luxurious farm stay vacation should consider Blackberry Farm in Walland, Tennessee. The 4,200-acre estate offers a range of activities including cooking demos, gardening workshops, and tasting tours. Yet, visitors seeking a more authentic agrotourism experience can also take part in various farming activities on its grounds.

An ideal destination for foodies, the farm has on-site chefs, a master gardener, cheesemaker, forager, butcher, and sommelier, among other artisans. Everything harvested at the farm is incorporated into its delicious dishes, while sumac and sour cherries, among other items, are used at the brewery to create award-winning spirits.

4 Reasons to Make a Summer Escape to Minnewaska Lodge

New York City is one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations, and for good reason. The city boasts a variety of great shopping and dining establishments in addition to world-famous museums and iconic attractions such as the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, and Central Park. Its whirlwind of activity and crowded streets, however, might not be for everyone.

Area tourists seeking a more tranquil and relaxing vacation can find solitude not too far outside of the Big Apple. Minnewaska Lodge, in particular, offers a peaceful and holistic experience just 90 minutes from New York City. Below are four reasons to vacation at Minnewaska Lodge this summer.

1. Accommodations

Surrounded by 25,000 acres of preserved wilderness near the Shawangunk Mountains, Minnewaska Lodge is a perfect getaway for outdoor enthusiasts and appreciators of nature. The lodge offers world-class hospitality and luxurious on-site accommodations.

Minnewaska Lodge has 26 unique rooms, some of which have private balconies offering picturesque mountain views, while others have cathedral ceilings. While many guests prefer to set aside their devices in favor of savoring the natural elements, the lodge’s rooms have cable TV and complimentary Wi-Fi for those looking to stay connected with current events or keep up with their work.

Minnewaska Lodge also has indoor and outdoor spaces where guests can congregate. Its Great Room features a Vermont Castings stove near which guests can keep warm while sitting on one of the many comfortable chairs. The room’s deck presents a great view of the Shawangunk Mountains. Outdoors, guests can sit around fire pits and relax in Adirondack chairs.

2. Complimentary Weekend Activities

Promising a “restorative escape” from day-to-day life, Minnewaska Lodge not only is perfectly situated to offer various self-guided outdoor experiences, but also organizes complimentary weekend activities for its guests. Events are ongoing from 8 a.m. until 9:15 p.m.

In summer 2021, guests can participate in outdoor slow flow vinyasa, meditation, and breath yoga classes on Saturday and Sunday mornings starting at 8. This is followed by a half-hour orientation session, through which staff members recommend local activities in addition to nearby hiking trails. Guided hiking tours are offered in the afternoon, inviting guests to learn about the area’s ecology and history. Outdoor evening yoga and fireside stories close out the planned activities for each weekend day.

Programs and classes are led by Erik Phillips-Nania, who serves as Minnewaska Lodge’s director of programming and activities. A former United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees attorney, Mr. Phillips-Nania is an environmentalist with experience in ancient yoga practices. In addition to leading the lodge’s weekend activities, he organizes customized small group activities, including hiking and rock climbing.

3. Shawangunk Mountains

A continuation of Blue Mountain and Kittatinny Mountain in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, respectively, the Shawangunk Mountain range is a breathtaking natural wonder with miles of white cliffs, deep oak forests, and clear mountaintop lakes, among other awe-inspiring scenery. Carved by boulder-laden glaciers more than 10,000 years ago, its quartzose rock markings are more pronounced here than those on bedrock surfaces in the Catskills and Hudson Highlands.

The Shawangunk Mountain range, affectionately referred to as the “Gunks,” is made up of the following six parks and preserves: Minnewaska State Park Preserve, Mohonk Mountain House, Mohonk Preserve, Huckleberry Ridge State Forest, Wallkill Valley Rail Trail, and Sam’s Point Preserve. Combined, these areas offer more than 760 miles of trails maintained by member groups and New York-New Jersey Trail Conference volunteers. The Gunks offer various challenging trails for veteran hikers in addition to gentle carriage roads presenting scenic views for less experienced hikers.

The area is also a great place for rock climbing, particularly at Mohonk Preserve, which offers more than 800 climbing routes with varying degrees of difficulty.

4. Hudson Valley Attractions

Those looking to venture a little further outside of the Minnewaska Lodge grounds don’t have to travel too far, as the lodge is centrally located in the Hudson Valley, which is rich in cultural and outdoor recreational attractions. Spanning 10 different counties, Hudson Valley features a number of popular and quirky river towns, mountain ranges, lakes, and historic sites.

The Hudson State Historic Park is a must-visit attraction. While there, make sure to traverse the 1.28-mile Walkway Over the Hudson, a steel cantilever bridge that connects Highland with Poughkeepsie. It was once the Poughkeepsie-Highland Railroad Bridge. Signage along the bridge provides details about its history.

For additional history lessons, visitors should check out the New York State Museum in Albany. This 100,000-square-foot cultural institution has more than 15 million scientific specimens and popular ongoing exhibits such as Birds of New York and Black Capital: Harlem in the 20s.

Some of the other iconic and historic attractions in the area include the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library, the Motorcyclepedia Museum, and the New York State Capitol. Traveling the Shawangunk Wine Trail is also a great way to spend a day.

Why You Absolutely Need to Plan a Vacation at One of These 5 Farms

The Jungle Farmhouse vacation rental is located in the heart of the Puna  District on the east side of Hawai'i Island and just … | Pahoa, Farm stay,  Dream vacations

When you think about a vacation it often involves relaxing poolside or experiencing different cultures and unique attractions in a foreign country. And, while either of those activities can serve as a fun escape from the day-to-day grind, there’s a growing trend in the travel industry for more meaningful and purposeful vacations. Consequently, agrotourism is one of the industry’s fastest-growing sectors.

Put simply, agrotourism refers to vacationing at a farm and, oftentimes, helping with the harvest. It allows travelers the opportunity to connect with nature and experience first-hand what it’s like living on a farm. Annie Willis explained the appeal of agrotourism to National Geographic for a 2019 feature.

“We’ve done Italian holidays that don’t involve anything more testing than sightseeing or lying by a pool, and felt it was time for something different, which was also educational,” Willis said of her and her husband’s prior vacations. “We love Italy, and wanted to connect with the people and landscape on a more profound level than simply as tourists. We’ll have lunch with the family daily, so we can practice our Italian, and helping with the harvest feels like a positive thing to do.”

Agrotourism is big in Europe, but it is becoming increasingly popular in the United States. Below are five of the most vacation-friendly farms in the country.

1. The Jungle Farmhouse (Hawaii)

Located in Pahoa, Hawaii, The Jungle Farmhouse combines a typical farm stay with an island vacation experience. Guests stay in cottages in the Hawaiian jungle that accommodate up to eight people and include modern conveniences such as satellite TV and Wi-Fi. However, they can also engage in a variety of farming activities.

This includes eating fresh, organic eggs from the farm’s hens as well as plucking bananas, pineapple, avocados, and papaya from its trees. The farm also has baby goats and miniature pigs, while the 2.5-acre plot of land in the Hawaiian jungle is home to a variety of native birds and exotic plants.

Those looking to explore surrounding areas can visit the Historic Pahoa Village, which is about a mile from The Jungle Farmhouse. Known for its wooden sidewalks and eclectic shops, the village also includes attractions such as farmers’ markets, galleries, and a public swimming pool. The Jungle Farmhouse is also close to Kehena Black Sand Beach and a 45-minute drive from Volcanoes National Park.

2. Wildwood Farm B&B (Washington)

Those who love horses and horseback riding, in particular, will enjoy their stay at Wildwood Farm Bed & Breakfast on Whidbey Island in Washington State. The 80-acre farm, 90 miles north of Seattle, has bred thoroughbred horses for more than 50 years and offers horseback riding lessons.

It has two indoor areas and an outdoor arena for riding in addition to a saddlery and tack store. In addition, Whidbey Island offers peaceful escapes in nature with an abundance of green fields and forests. Hiking and canoeing are popular activities on the island.

3. Zion Mountain Ranch (Utah)

Stargazing is a popular activity at Zion Mountain Ranch, located 6,000 feet high up in Utah’s canyon country. Stars shine bright here in the clear night skies, but that’s far from the only reason to visit the ranch, which borders Zion National Park and is also in close proximity to Bryce National Park. The ranch itself is known for its roaming herd of buffalo and horses. The site also features a small organic farm with various vegetable plots, hens and chickens, and an orchard.

4. Los Poblanos (New Mexico)

An historic inn and organic farm in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Los Poblanos features 25 acres of greenery including lavender fields and lush formal gardens. Guests can expect a signature New Mexico vacation as the resort was designed in 1932 by architect John Gaw Meem, also known as the “Father of Santa Fe Style.” Its farm suites, some of which have private patios, are inspired by historic dairy buildings and boast clean and modern interiors.

Animals at the farm include peacocks, alpacas, and Churro sheep, while guests can enjoy field-to-fork dining from the award-winning kitchen staff at the on-site Campo restaurant. Other amenities include the Hacienda Spa, Farm Foods Market, and fitness rooms. Guests can also take self-guided tours of local trails on one of the cruiser bicycles available for rent.

5. Blackberry Farm (Tennessee)

Those looking for a more luxurious farm stay vacation should consider Blackberry Farm in Walland, Tennessee. The 4,200-acre estate offers a range of activities including cooking demos, gardening workshops, and tasting tours. Yet, visitors seeking a more authentic agrotourism experience can also take part in various farming activities on its grounds.

An ideal destination for foodies, the farm has on-site chefs, a master gardener, cheesemaker, forager, butcher, and sommelier, among other artisans. Everything harvested at the farm is incorporated into its delicious dishes, while sumac and sour cherries, among other items, are used at the brewery to create award-winning spirits.

The 6 Best Places to Hike in the Hudson Valley

New York City is one of the largest metropolitan areas in the world and is home to more than 18 million people. A 2014 study carried out by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene found that roughly one in five New Yorkers were disturbed by loud noises at home. A similar study two years before discovered average outdoor noise levels at several locations in the city exceeded federal public health guidelines.

Fortunately, NYC residents and tourists alike can find peaceful refuge in the nearby Hudson Valley, which is about a 45-minute drive from downtown Manhattan. The region extends from Westchester County to Albany and is home to 18 state parks, dozens of hiking trails, and gorgeous natural scenery. Below are six of the best and most beautiful hikes in the Hudson Valley.

Mills Mansion at Staatsburgh State Historic Site

Those looking to walk along the shore of the Hudson River should make their way to Mills Mansion at Staatsburgh State Historic Site. The trail leading to Mills Mansion, an elegant country home owned by Ogden Mills and his wife, Ruth, during the turn of the 20th century, extends to Norrie State Park and opens up to the shore of the Hudson River. The trail is also relatively quiet and peaceful as this is one of the few spots in the Hudson Valley where train tracks veer inland. The mansion, restored to its early 20th century appearance, houses decorative arts and original furniture from the period. It also has a gift shop.

“This is a prime spot to come in the winter, when you can listen to the ice floes cracking into each other,” notes Hike the Hudson Valley founder Mike Todd. “The park offers a huge, wide lawn in front of the beautiful mansion, along with views across the river to the Esopus Meadows lighthouse and the Catskills beyond. It’s a special place.”

Storm King Mountain

Todd, who has authored more than 80 comprehensive trail guides for the Hudson Valley, calls Storm King Mountain one of the best hikes in the region. This popular spot is best hiked during weekdays or early in the morning on weekends as its parking area can fill up quickly. The trail leading to the mountain is steep and somewhat challenging—the mountain itself is more than 1,300 feet above sea level—but offers picturesque views at various points. The summit of the mountain, directly across from Breakneck Ridge, presents a panoramic view of the Hudson River.

As if the natural scenery isn’t enough, the mountain is also the site of the Storm King Art Center. This 500-acre outdoor museum is filled with modern and contemporary art, including large-scale sculptures as well as drawings and photographs.

Black Mountain Loop

Those looking for a more relaxing and less strenuous hike should consider Black Mountain Loop, which intersects Harriman and Bear Mountain State Parks. The 8-mile trail has several historic sites, including “Burnt House,” the William Brien Memorial Shelter, and a small segment of the Spanish Mine.

Russian Bear Trailhead

Harriman State Park is also home to another beautiful Hudson Valley hike. The Russian Bear Trailhead is a 6.5-mile loop of moderate difficulty that starts near Seven Lakes Drive and offers views of the NYC skyline from Ramapo Torne. The Russian Bear is a boulder that once hung along the edge of a cliff before falling to the trail below.

The Appalachian Trail

Hiking the Appalachian Trail in its entirety is a massive undertaking. The trail is nearly 2,200 miles and can take as many as seven months to complete for through-hikers. Hiking small portions of the trail is a more sensible approach for those with limited time and, fortunately, there are several different access points. Todd suggests locations such as Depot Hill, Anthony’s Nose, Lion’s Head, and Nuclear Lake.

Located in Pawling, New York, and accessible via State Route 55, the Nuclear Lake Trail is a 4.3-mile loop of moderate difficulty with little elevation change. Visitors can take in scenic views of Nuclear Lake, which was named for the nuclear experiments that scientists once conducted in facility (no longer standing) along the lakeshore. Anthony’s Nose, meanwhile, is a 2.6-mile up-and-back trail to one of the loveliest overlooks in the entire Hudson Valley.

Labyrinth and Skytop Road Loop

Suitable for hikers of all levels, the Labyrinth Trail and Skytop Road Loop offers scenic views of Mohonk Lake and the Mohonk Mountain House. The nearly 5-mile hike, located in Minnewaska State Park, is perfect for those looking for a peaceful escape in the woods. Those looking for more of a challenge can traverse the Lemon Squeeze via the Labyrinth Trail. This involves maneuvering over, under, and between a series of massive boulders and rock crevices to reach a clifftop that overlooks the Catskill Mountains. Hikers can still reach Sky Top via an unpaved road near Lemon Squeeze to take in panoramic views of Mohonk Lake as well.

Policy and Actions in 4 Key Areas Recommended by GlobalABC

Created at the 21st Conference of Parties in 2015 to address record buildings-related CO2 emissions worldwide, the Global Alliance for Buildings and Construction (GlobalABC) is composed of more than 150 national and local governments, businesses, inter-governmental organizations, and think tanks. These partners work together to advocate for and develop initiatives designed to achieve a zero-emission buildings and construction sector.

In its GlobalABC Roadmap for Buildings and Construction 2020-2050 report, the collaborative network lays out a range of policy, technology, and finance actions that can be taken in eight key areas to achieve net-zero CO2 emissions. The following is a look at some of these suggestions in four of the eight areas.

1. Urban Planning

The way buildings are governed is dictated by urban planning policies. Thus, these policies need to not only consider but prioritize sustainability in alignment with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal 11.

“Urban form is an important determinant of urban energy demand, which encompasses the overall physical characteristics of the built environment, such as shape, size, density and configuration; the street network; and public spaces,” according to the 110-page report. “Likewise, at the building scale, compactness, height, orientation and mutual shading have a great influence on energy demand in buildings and local renewable energy potential.”

More specifically, GlobalABC recommends policymakers adhere to integrated systemic urban planning policies with cohesion between local and national governments. There should also be an emphasis on cities experiencing relatively rapid population growth. Urban planning should also consider green space, transit-oriented design, and location efficiency in addition to the establishment of net-zero carbon building codes.

GlobalABC notes that only some cities have urban heat island (UHI) mitigation strategies. The organization’s goal is to ensure all cities have UHI strategies, with UHI increment lowered by 75 percent in most urban areas by 2050. This can be achieved by reducing the number of impermeable surface areas, expanding wetlands, and increasing the installation of cool or green roofs.

2. New Buildings

Regarding the construction of new buildings, GlobalABC recommends the following vital actions: developing a roadmap strategy, implementing mandatory building codes, strengthening existing building codes, and prioritizing passive design to lessen energy expenditure from cooling systems. By 2050, the alliance hopes that all countries and jurisdictions will have implemented near-zero carbon emissions building codes, with most new buildings in compliance with strengthened codes.

GlobalABC also anticipates mandatory labeling for buildings and increased use of comprehensive passports for newly constructed buildings. These passports will comprise relevant information about specific buildings, including the types of materials used in construction, renovations, and energy use. Labeling, meanwhile, should include performance parameters such as the reflectance of surface finishes and the thermal transmittance of building materials.

Ideally, prioritized technologies in new building design and construction will include triple-glazed thermal and low-SHGC windows, light-colored or reflective surfaces, and external shading. In addition to environmental benefits, sustainable new buildings place less strain on energy systems, reduce building operation costs, and support inhabitants’ physical and mental well-being.

3. Existing Buildings

Sustainability should also be addressed in existing buildings. According to GlobalABC, this can be achieved via an increase in annual renovation rates to exceed 4 percent by 2050 and further commitment to deep energy renovations. Specifically, countries with developed economies should strive to implement renovations that reduce existing buildings’ energy consumption by 50 percent.

One key policy-related action governments can take is to create more incentives for buildings to be retrofitted to maximize their energy performance. This can be supported by financial vehicles including grants and rebates, green bonds, dedicated credit lines, energy performance/energy service contracts, and preferential tax actions on sustainable products and services. Building refurbishments, meanwhile, should involve the installation of energy-efficient windows, insulation, and external shading. Architects, engineers, and other building professionals should also be better trained in cost-effective retrofits.

4. Materials

Steel and cement are among the building components that generate a relatively high level of CO2 emissions through extraction, manufacturing, and construction. In fact, these processes represent roughly 4 percent and 7 percent, respectively, of global emissions. While it is much harder to decarbonize the production of steel and cement compared to other aspects of building construction, there are still actions that can be taken to achieve net-zero embodied carbon for most new buildings by 2050. However, all stakeholders on the value chain must make this a priority.

One effective global strategy would involve the establishment of targets for material energy as well as the promotion of low-carbon building materials such as clinker substitutes for cement and timber for steel. However, increased use of timber must be balanced by sustainable harvesting to reduce potential challenges associated with an increase in demand for wood. The use of these materials should also be incentivized. By 2050, GlobalABC anticipates universal adoption of material-efficient designs and low-carbon material alternatives in addition to the use of 3D printing, building information modeling, and prefabrication.

6 Things You Need to Know About Minnewaska State Park Preserve

New York City is the most populous city in North America and among the largest urban locales in the world. The New York Metropolitan Area has a population of more than 18 million and is home to international business headquarters, financial markets, museums, performance venues, and some of the world’s most prominent skyscrapers. Despite this, residents of or visitors to New York City don’t have to venture too far outside the Big Apple to explore nature.

Located only a 90-minute drive from New York City is the 23,000-acre Minnewaska State Park Preserve in Ulster County. Below is an in-depth look at the park and its attractions.

Located on the Shawangunk Mountain Ridge

Among the standout natural features of Minnewaska State Park Preserve is its rugged and rocky terrain, as well as its abundance of waterfalls and the sheer cliffs that frame picturesque views of surrounding hardwood forests. The park is located on the Shawangunk Mountain Ridge, which extends higher than 2,000 feet above sea level and features several access points from Port Jervis to Kingston, west of the Hudson River. Minnewaska State Park Preserve is one of several state parks and forests along the ridge.

The Shawangunk Mountain Ridge itself is composed of sedimentary conglomerate and sandstone and was formed by erosion of the Appalachian Mountains over a period of several million years. In the late 19th century, the “Gunks,” as they are affectionately known, served as a retreat for the wealthy with luxurious clifftop hotels such as Cliff House and Wildmere hotels and the Mohonk Mountain House, the latter of which is still in operation.

50 Miles of Trails and Carriageways

A popular destination for hikers, Minnewaska State Park Preserve boasts more than 50 miles of footpaths with dozens of trails cutting through dense forests and along cliff edges. Popular trails include the nearly 11-mile Upper Awosting, Lake Awosting and Castle Point Loop; 2-mile Lake Minnewaska Loop Trail; and 6.9-mile Gertrude’s Nose Trail. The latter is the most popular trail in the park with more than 2,000 reviews and a five-star rating on AllTrails.com. Described as a moderate difficulty hike, this multi-terrain trail has an elevation gain of 346 meters.

The park isn’t only a hiker’s paradise. It also has 35 miles of carriage roads for horseback riding. These trails and carriage roads can be used for cross-country skiing in the winter.

Other Recreational Activities

In addition to hiking, horseback riding, and skiing, the park offers recreational activities such as scuba-diving, boating, rock-climbing, and bouldering. The Peter’s Kill climbing area, located one mile east of the park’s main entrance, is the only area in the park designated for rock climbing. Cliffs in this area are about 70 feet high with heavily forested bases that provide shade which makes climbing them relatively comfortable. Climbers require a day or season pass and capacity at the cliffs is limited to 100 climbers and 30 boulderers per day.

Sam’s Point

At the highest section of the Gunks and most southerly part of the park is Sam’s Point Preserve. A nature lover’s dream, this 5,000-acre area boasts rare high-altitude pitch pine barrens, Lake Maratanza, accessible ice cave crevices, and the 187-foot Verkeerderkill Falls. Much of this can be seen along the Sam’s Point and Verkeerderkill Falls Trail, which runs along cliff tops and offers views of the Hudson Valley, Rondout Valley, and High Point Monument in New Jersey.

Bird Conservation Area

Minnewaska State Park Preserve is a designated Bird Conservation Area (BCA), meaning it is a migratory concentration and bird research site with diverse and at-risk species. Because of its unfragmented forest, the park provides refuge for a wide range of forest-dwelling bird species, including the Canada Warbler, Gray Catbird, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Indigo Bunting, and Black-throated Blue Warbler. Endangered Peregrine falcons also nest along the cliff face of the Gunks. In fact, the Gunks are among the most critical areas for biodiversity conservation in the northeastern US and have been designated by the Nature Conservancy as one of the “Last Great Places.”

Samuel F. Pryor III Shawangunk Gateway Campground

Those looking to stay in the Minnewaska State Park Preserve for an extended period of time can book spots at the Samuel F. Pryor III Shawangunk Gateway Campground, which is open, weather permitting, from mid-May to mid-November. Offering a minimalist camping experience, the tent-only campground offers 50 designated sites: 24 for drive-in and 26 for walkers. Each site can accommodate four people and two tents. The campground also includes restroom facilities as well as a pavilion and cooking area. It’s a five-minute drive from the main entrances and managed by a partnership of the Mohonk Preserve and American Alpine Club.

Featured Image courtesy karlnorling | Flickr

6 Reasons Why You Need to Spend More Time Connecting with Nature

Spending time in nature has been associated with a range of physical and mental health benefits and has become even more important during the COVID-19 pandemic. International travel is down considerably, and more people are exploring their own and neighboring communities. In examining data from the trail-specific navigation app AllTrails, RunRepeat found that the number of hikes logged on the app in 2020 was up 171.36 percent from the year prior—4.71 million compared to 1.74 million.

The following are six reasons why you should continue to prioritize immersing yourself in nature.

1. It Supports Mental Health

Simply living near a green space can have a positive effect on your mental well-being. Hiking in forests or participating in eco-immersive tourism, then, can be especially beneficial. Researchers of a 2009 study published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health examined the medical records of more than 345,000 residents of the Netherlands. They found that those who lived within 1 kilometer of a wooded area or nature park had fewer symptoms of depression and anxiety than those who lived further away from dedicated green space. Moreover, these symptoms were more commonly found among individuals living in urban environments.

Other studies have linked nature to happiness. In May 2013 more than 10,000 Canadians took part in the David Suzuki Foundation’s 30×30 Nature Challenge. Participants were prompted to spend 30 minutes in nature for 30 consecutive days. Not only did participants report being happier, but they also felt more productive at work, had fewer sleep disturbances, and were more energetic.

2. It Boosts Immunity

Additional studies have supported the notion that spending time in natural surroundings, whether it’s forests or parks, helps strengthen the immune system. Researchers have suggested that one of the primary reasons for this is phytoncides, the airborne chemicals plants produce to protect themselves from insects and to keep from rotting.

Forest bathing, or “shinrin-yoku,” is a popular therapeutic practice in Japan. To confirm the immune-boosting benefits of this practice, researchers split individuals into two groups and had them each walk for several hours in wooded and urban areas on two different days. Members of both groups showed lower concentrations of cortisol and had lower blood pressure and pulse rate on the day in which they walked in the forest.

3. It Inspires Creativity

Research has also explored the effect spending time in nature has on creativity. As part of a 2012 study, 120 people split into two groups were given creativity tests. The first group of 60 people took the test before embarking on a hike, while the second group was administered the test after a four-day hike. The group that had already been hiking scored 50 percent higher than the other group. This wasn’t surprising to lead researcher Ruth Ann Atchley, who pointed to the many distractions of modern life as an impediment to creativity.

4. It Promotes Weight Loss

Being outside on its own doesn’t directly impact weight, but hiking in forests on trails with significant climbs in elevation can help burn calories quicker and more efficiently. One study found that spending time at higher altitudes not only lowers appetite but can speed up metabolism. It can also be easier and more enjoyable to exercise in nature as opposed to walking or running on a treadmill or in urban areas.

5. It Improves Short-Term Memory

Being in nature enhances cognitive function, particularly short-term memory. A study conducted at the University of Michigan involved two groups of students that were prompted to take a brief memory test before and after walking in different settings. The group that walked around an arboretum scored 20 percent better on the test than they did before the walk, whereas the other group walked down a city street and didn’t show consistent improvements from the first test.

6. It’s a Meditative Experience

In his book Sky Above, Earth Below: Spiritual Practice in Nature, well-known spiritual teacher and meditation master John P. Milton spoke about the high-tech distractions, environmental toxins, and noise pollution in the modern world that attack our sensibilities. He argues that being immersed in nature is a spiritual and even meditative practice that promotes connectivity with the natural world.

“When we leave these tensions for a while to cultivate our natural wholeness in the wild, we are renewed with the fresh vitality and spirit of Nature,” he wrote. “New pathways open for living in harmony with our communities and the Earth. We discover deep inspiration to help transform our lifestyles and our culture toward harmony and balance.”

Milton isn’t just theorizing about nature’s meditative effect. Researchers from the University of Edinburgh and Heriot-Watt University used portable electroencephalograms to measure the brain waves of 12 healthy young adults after they walked 1.5 miles through three different areas: a shopping district, a green space, and a busy commercial district. Analysis indicated lower engagement and arousal and a higher degree of meditation among participants when they moved into the green space.

Solo Nature Excursions: 6 Things You Need to Know for Safety and Enjoyment

Extensive research has been conducted on the wellness benefits of immersing oneself in nature, whether that means simply spending time outdoors during work breaks or taking prolonged weekend hikes or retreats. One study involving 20,000 participants, conducted by the European Centre for Environment and Human Health at the University of Exeter, found that those who spent at least two hours per week in natural environments were much more likely to report positive signs of physical and mental health than those who did not meet the two-hour threshold.

Additional research on the effects of spending time in nature has uncovered benefits including decreased risk of heart disease and diabetes, enhanced cognitive function, and a better-performing immune system. Going on extended solo hikes is a particularly effective way to take advantage of these benefits, in addition to building self-confidence and independence. Below are six tips and activities to help solo hikers ensure that they have a safe and memorable journey.

1. Pack the Basics and Know Your Surroundings

Hiking alone requires consideration of a range of safety measures. First-time solo hikers should only travel on well-marked trails, in areas with which they are familiar or that they have learned about from others. It can be easy to get lost in expansive wooded areas that are not properly marked.

Moreover, conduct a thorough study of the area in order to avoid coming across unexpected and potentially dangerous wildlife. For example, areas with high bear activity should be avoided by those hiking on their own.

Pre-hike preparation, while always essential, proves particularly important for solo hikers, as they have nobody else on which to rely for supplies. Above all else, make sure to pack enough food and water. Assuming moderate temperatures and activity levels, it is generally recommended that individuals consume roughly half a liter of water per hour during a hike. However, consider bringing more water in case of an emergency; for instance, if you are planning a four-hike hike, bring at least two liters of water.

Other vital supplies include a map, a compass, a first-aid kit, sunscreen, extra clothing, and a flashlight.

2. Alert Others to Your Plans

Regardless of the intended difficulty of a solo hike or nature excursion, it is important that you tell others, whether it be friends or family, of your plan. Inform them of any expected stops and the duration of the journey, and then stick to the plan, unless you have a way to alert others to changes in real time.

3. Organize a Photo Scavenger Hunt

While simply roaming through green spaces and trails is enough to receive some of the physical and mental benefits associated with spending time in nature, you can make your hike more rewarding by turning it into a photo scavenger hunt. Before you start, make a list of items typically found in the wild; then, seek these items out and photograph them as you hike. These items may be specific plants or wildlife, types of trees, or things of a specific color.

4. Pack the Fixings for a Meal

Rather than just bring small snacks to maintain energy levels during a prolonged solo hike, consider first stopping at a local farm or orchard to pick suitable ingredients for a meal. As opposed to purchasing food from a supermarket, this fosters a greater connectedness with nature as well as an appreciation for the farmers and workers who grow and pick the food.

In addition, taking time to stop and rest while you eat presents an opportunity to become immersed in the beauty of your surroundings.

5. Record Your Observations

Another way to make a solo hiking experience more enjoyable and memorable is to record observations in a journal. This can involve detailed written descriptions of not only natural surroundings but also the emotions you experience during this time. Making sketches of these observations is another effective way to connect with nature.

“The practice calms your mind and increases your attention to detail and appreciation of beauty,” writes Paula Peeters in her book Make a Date with Nature: An Introduction to Nature Journaling. “It improves your recognition of different animal and plant species, and your understanding of where and how they live. With time, it also improves your ability to observe, to draw and to write.”

6. Make a Natural Souvenir

Souvenirs serve as reminders of one’s travels. Although you may think of souvenirs as items you purchase in local markets or at airports, they can be acquired without spending a cent. You can collect souvenirs in nature as long as you make a point not to damage or disrupt the environment.

Consider making a personalized souvenir by gathering natural items such as sticks, petals, and leaves. Fashion these items into a unique keepsake that can serve as a conversation starter in the future.

6 Personal Goal Setting Books You Need to Read ASAP

Many of the most successful people in the world share at least one thing in common: they set clear and defined goals, directing their actions toward achieving those goals. By setting clear and attainable life goals, you can go through your day-to-day life with a sense of purpose and clarity. The beginning of this process involves determining the goals that will not only motivate you but inspire you to act. These six books can help in that regard.

1. Creating Your Best Life: The Ultimate Life List Guide (Caroline Adams Miller and Michael B. Frisch)

Life coach Caroline Miller and Dr. Michael B. Frisch take a science-based approach to self-discovery and outline 16 areas that are central to helping readers achieve their goals and aspirations. The 290-page book is filled with dozens of interactive quizzes and exercises, such as “100 Things to Do Before I Die” and a Web of Influence Map,

prompting readers to identify their wishes, ambitions, and needs.

Originally published in 2010, the book pioneered an evidence-based approach to setting and achieving goals and has maintained its status as one of the premier books in this area. It builds upon Miller’s studies in applied positive psychology and weaves the science of happiness with Locke & Latham’s goal setting theory.

2. Your Best Year Ever: A 5-Step Plan for Achieving Your Most Important Goals (Michael Hyatt)

Similar to Miller and Dr. Frisch, Michael Hyatt adopts a research-based approach to helping individuals find purpose and establish meaningful goals. However, as evidenced by the title, he prompts readers to imagine their best year ever and outlines ways they can overcome daily struggles to achieve their potential. Not only does it provide a framework for goal setting, but the book also discusses motivation, confidence, and the importance of positive, goal-oriented habits. Most importantly, Hyatt discusses how attaching habits to goals can make them easier to pursue and attain. For instance, if your goal is to run a marathon, you’re first going to have to get into the habit of running several times per week.

A Wall Street Journal Bestseller, Your Best Year Ever is one of four books recommended by mindset and productivity coach Liz Huber, who claims to have read hundreds of goal setting and achievement books. It is also endorsed by Tony Robbins. In addition to science-backed methods, Hyatt incorporates some of his real-life experiences in the book.

3. Nine Things Successful People Do Differently (Heidi Grant Halvorson)

A social psychologist specializing in the science of motivation, Heidi Grant, PhD, is the associate director of Columbia University’s Motivation Science Center and global director of research and development at the NeuroLeadership Institute. In her book, she goes into detail about the habits and attributes of successful people and outlines the following nine things readers can do to achieve their goals:

  • Be specific
  • Seize the moment
  • Know the endpoint
  • Be a realistic optimist
  • Focus on getting better as opposed to being good
  • Commit to long-term goals
  • Improve willpower
  • Don’t tempt fate
  • Focus on actions to achieve those goals

Published by Harvard Business Review Press in 2011, Nine Things Successful People Do Differentlywas named to Thrive Global’s 7 Books to Help You Reach Your Goals in 2020 list and Entrepreneur magazine’s list of 12 Books for Goal-Oriented Entrepreneurs.

4. Essentialism (Greg McKeown)

Essentialism is another of the four books recommended by Huber. This book is particularly impactful for those unable to find time to focus on achieving their most cherished goals. Author Greg McKeown discusses how essentialism (i.e., ignoring distractions and focusing solely on what matters most) is the key to sustained success and happiness.

“Only once you give yourself permission to stop trying to do it all, to stop saying yes to everyone, can you make your highest contribution towards the things that really matter,” writes McKeown.

5. Rewire Your Brain (John B. Arden)

In Rewire Your Brain, John B. Arden offers a comprehensive, science-based approach to overcoming mental blocks that might otherwise prevent you from achieving your goals. Arden explains the science behind changing one’s thinking in a way that can be understood by all readers. He also introduces its four-step process, known as FEED (Focus, Effort, Effortlessness, and Determination).

The essence of Arden’s argument is that through repetition, we can reprogram our brains as desired. For instance, you might not immediately be fully motivated to exercise daily, but your brain can be re-wired to enjoy and anticipate it via repetition.

6. The Magic Lamp: Goal Setting for People Who Hate Setting Goals (Keith Ellis)

Like some of the aforementioned books, Keith Ellis offers a useful acronym to help readers set and follow through on their goals in The Magic Lamp. He uses the acronym LAMP (Lock on, Act, Manage your Progress, Persist) to motivate readers and does so with a relatable, down-to-earth approach.