Spotlight on 6 Wineries on the Shawangunk Wine Trail

The Minnewaska Lodge in Gardner, New York, is a tranquil country retreat with 26 unique rooms. It offers access to outdoor recreation, such as hiking near the Shawangunk Mountains and fishing along the Hudson River. A 90-minute drive outside of New York City, the facility stands out for its beautiful mountain scenery and the quiet serenity of its natural surroundings.

It’s also located near the Shawangunk Wine Trail, which features a dozen wineries and distilleries of varying sizes. Minnewaska Lodge is closest to Tuthilltown Spirits Distillery, but these six wineries can also be accessed along the I-84.

1. Angry Orchard

Angry Orchard

Best known for its Angry Orchard Hard Cider, which includes flavors such as crisp apple and pear cider, this Shawangunk Wine Trail member business sits on a 60-acre plot of land that features a 100-year-old apple orchard, cider garden, and tasting room. The orchard itself has been used for farming since the 18th century, while the region in which it is located was replete with cider apple orchards prior to prohibition.

Visitors can tour the facility and check out where and how the business’ innovative ciders are created. They will also receive a complimentary flight with three Angry Orchard varieties. Angry Orchard also hosts seasonal events and offers food such as wood-fired pizza and cheese boards.

2. Stoutridge Vineyard

Stoutridge Vineyard

Located in Marlboro, Stoutridge Vineyard offers an array of European-inspired wines, but largely stands out for its vinification. Built on the site of a prohibition era distillery, Stoutridge doesn’t filter or add chemicals to its wines nor does it use pumps. Instead, it produces its wine via gravity and generates all of its electrical needs through photovoltaic solar panels on its south-facing roof.

However, choosing to forgo machine methods in favor of a gravity-flow production system wasn’t just an environmentally conscious choice. The wine also tastes fresher, according to Stoutridge owner Stephen Osborn.

“Lack of pumping and filtration helps to retain the dissolved [carbon dioxide] from fermentation in the finished wine, which alters the flavor profile globally,” he explained to Wine Enthusiast Magazine in 2019. “So it’s a texture value, dissolved gasses, affecting the entire flavor profile of the wine. It becomes fresher tasting and more vibrant.”

3. Warwick Valley Winery & Distillery

Warwick Valley Winery & Distillery

Launched in 1994, Warwick Valley Winery & Distillery is situated on more than 120 acres of orchards, gardens, and manicured grounds. It boasts a critically-acclaimed wine collection produced with locally sourced ingredients.

The winery is best known for its award-winning flagship Doc’s Draft Hard Cider, which is made with apples, raspberries, and pears, among other ingredients. This cider and the assortment of wines, as well as its selection of bourbon and fruit brandies, can be sampled at its tasting room, which is open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., 362 days per year.

Guests can enjoy the orchard and facility at their own pace. To that end, visitors are permitted to pick their own apples in the fall against the backdrop of the scenic Hudson Valley views. They can even do so while sampling some of the brand’s wines or sangria. The orchard boasts in excess of 65 apple tree varieties with different flavors, textures, and shades.

Warwick Valley Winery & Distillery also operates a patio cafe with food items, including brick-oven pizza, created from local ingredients. It hosts musicians and bands on its patio in the summer and in its dining room during winter months.

4. Clearview Vineyard

Clearview Vineyard

This family owned and operated winery in Warwick, produces eight varieties of red and white dry wines. In the past, it has been listed among the top 25 vineyards in the US by Yelp and Travel & Leisure Magazine.

Like the Warwick Valley Winery & Distillery, music is an important element at Clearview Vineyard. From 2 to 5 p.m. every Saturday and Sunday, it offers live music specially selected appetizers for certain wines. Food options include cheese and fruit boards and sliced baguette.

5. Demarest Hill Winery & Distillery

Demarest Hill Winery & Distillery

Demarest Hill Winery & Distillery is the largest of the wineries along the Shawangunk Wine Trail with more than 90 flavors of wine as well as distilled spirits and brandy. The winery was launched by Francesco Ciummo in 1998 after the Italian native grew restless in retirement. It is located on a 135-acre plot of land in Warwick, which Ciummo purchased in 1982, and is open daily from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

6. Baldwin Vineyards

Baldwin Vineyards

Baldwin Vineyards differs from the others on this list as, in addition to live music, it has several large screen TVs and games for a less reserved atmosphere. A second-generation, family-owned business in Pine Bush, it has been in operation since 1982 and features award-winning Riesling, merlot, strawberry, and raspberry wines. Its spiced apple wine, created with local apples, earned Best Fruit Wine distinction and received gold medals in international and New York State competitions.

6 Reasons Why You Should Spend Time in a Sauna

Spending time in a sauna is considered a form of therapy that, much like cold plunge therapy, has several different health benefits. There are many different types of saunas, including electric saunas, which are the most common and safe. Temperatures in these rooms generally range from 150 to 195 degrees Fahrenheit.

The American Sauna Society recommends spending no more than 15 to 20 minutes in a sauna since extended stays can increase your chances of dehydration. However, shorter stays in a sauna, especially after exercising, can improve your health and wellbeing in many ways. Here’s how:

Helps Increase Circulation and Support Muscle Recovery

Increased circulation is one of the many health benefits of relaxing in a sauna. The high temperatures make the heart beat faster and blood vessels expand, allowing blood to move more freely throughout the body. Better circulation can help alleviate muscle soreness and even improve joint movement after strenuous exercise. Moreover, enhanced circulation can reduce symptoms of pain and increase mobility for people with arthritis.

The body also releases endorphins when experiencing the heat provided by a sauna. These endorphins help minimize the pain from joint and muscle soreness. Several prominent athletes, including legendary NCAA and Olympic wrestler Dan Gable, have spoken to the effectiveness of saunas in that regard. Even in retirement, Gable spends time in a sauna twice a day. He also dedicated a chapter in his book (A Wrestling Life 2: More Inspiring Stories of Dan Gable) to the benefits of saunas and their impact on his athletic career.

“Nothing’s going to replace the sauna—for me, it’s a tool of health,” notes Gable. “I always say for every sauna you take, it adds that much time back to your life. And if you can’t exercise, at least sauna, because not only will you have heart rate increases, like a workout, but … if nothing else, you know that you feel better.”

Assists with Weight Loss

Sweating burns calories, whether you’re working out or simply lounging in a sauna. People who are overweight or in poor shape can burn off calories at a relatively rapid rate when first using a sauna, while those in moderate shape can burn up to 300 calories during a single session. The heat causes your heart and cardiovascular system to work faster, which requires the body to convert calories into energy.

Of course, saunas shouldn’t be viewed solely as a weight loss tool. If you make no other changes to your diet or activity level, sauna sessions on their own will not help you lose weight or keep it off over the long term. Rather, sauna use should complement an exercise regimen and healthy eating habits.

Flushes Toxins

Sweating not only burns calories but flushes toxins such as arsenic, lead, copper, mercury, and cadmium from the body. These elements are absorbed by the body through daily interaction with the outside world and can contribute to long-term health problems. For instance, exposure to high levels of mercury can cause symptoms such as muscle weakness, lack of coordination, speech and hearing impairment, and even kidney and respiratory failure in the most extreme cases. Many doctors are proponents of saunas for their detoxifying capabilities.

Relieves Stress

Many who regularly use saunas speak about their abilities to relieve stress. The act of spending time alone in a sauna is a conscious choice to choose relaxation over distractions such as computers, phones, and other gadgets. Sitting and chatting with friends in a sauna can also reduce tension as it is a great way to unwind and socialize—without distractions—following a workout.

In addition to these perceived stress reduction benefits, there is a scientific reason why people feel more relaxed after spending time in a sauna. Heat from the sauna helps reduce cortisol hormone levels in the blood and stimulates serotonin production. Cortisol is released when we feel stressed, whereas serotonin is known as the “happy hormone.” Too much cortisol can negatively affect sleep and cause problems with the immune system.

Reduces Risk of Cardiovascular Disease

Saunas originated in Finland, and researchers from this Nordic country have since conducted studies that demonstrate the long-term health benefits of regular sauna use. One study, conducted by a team of researchers at the University of Eastern Finland over a 20-year period, tracked the health effects of sauna use among more than 2,300 participants. The researchers found that those who had at least two sauna sessions a week were less likely to be diagnosed with cardiovascular disease and coronary artery disease. They were also less likely to experience sudden cardiac death.

Lowers Risk of Dementia

Results from the aforementioned study also highlighted the cognitive benefits of regular sauna use. Dr. Jari Laukkanen’s team of researchers concluded that individuals who spent 19 minutes in a sauna at 176 degrees Fahrenheit four to seven times per week had a lower risk for Alzheimer’s and dementia. This aligns with the Alzheimer’s Association’s recommendation of sweating as critical to improving brain health.

Spotlight on 6 of the Best Solo Hikes in North America

Hiking by yourself can be a risky but rewarding endeavor. For safety purposes, you should hike only on well-marked trails that don’t have many challenging or dangerous obstacles.

You should also tell friends and family members where you’re hiking and when you expect to return. For added security, consider purchasing a two-way satellite communicator. That way, you can text others and signal your location to emergency responders in the event you get lost or experience an injury.

As long as you take these and other cautionary measures, solo hiking can be an enjoyable and gratifying experience. Spending time in nature has been shown to improve mental health, boost the immune system, and enhance cognitive functions. It is also linked to decreased risk of disease. Moreover, the freedom and solitude of a solo hike can help clear your mind and instill a sense of confidence.

Here are six of the best solo hikes you can take in North America:

1. Cabot Trail

Cabot Trail is a roadway and not actually a hiking trail, but there are several scenic highland paths and loops along the 185-mile stretch of road. Located in Cape Breton Highlands National Park in the Canadian province of Nova Scotia, the Cabot Trail has 26 trails of varying difficulty and length.

Popular trails include the Franey Trail and Skyline Trail, the latter of which is a three-hour hike that offers incredible sunset views. It is also recognized as a Signature Experience by Destination Canada. The 2.5-mile trek up the nearby Roberts Mountain is an ideal way to conclude a full day of hiking.

Some of the other more prominent hikes along the Cabot Trail include Aspy Trail, Fishing Cove Trail, and Middle Head Trail. The Ruins Walk, meanwhile, is a 1.44-mile trail that ventures through what’s left of the 18th century Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site. Those who prefer to hike with a group can take part in the annual 10-day Hike the Highlands Festival.

2. John Muir Trail

Boasting incredible mountain scenery, the 211-mile John Muir Trail starts in Yosemite National Park and extends through the High Sierra mountain range until reaching Mount Whitney, which is the highest peak in the continental US. The challenging route passes through six high-elevation mountain passes, climbing almost 46,000 feet in elevation.

It takes around three weeks to complete and a wilderness permit is required to enter the trail. It should also be noted that only 3 percent of thru-hike permit applications are accepted due to the length and difficulty of the hike.

Fortunately, navigation is relatively easy once on the trail. There is an abundance of signage and the trail itself is well-maintained. Highlights along the trail include picturesque views of lakes and mountain peaks, incredible stargazing opportunities, and unmatched backcountry campsites. The best time to hike the trail is between July and October.

3. Superior Hiking Trail

Starting at the border of Minnesota and Wisconsin, the Superior Hiking Trail runs in excess of 300 miles along the Lake Superior shoreline to the Canadian border. It’s a long journey to hike the entire trail by yourself, but there are numerous entry points along the trail for those who are interested in shorter day hikes.

There are, however, several free-to-use backcountry campsites along the trail if you intend to stay for an extended period of time. The trail offers views of the Great Lakes and passes through mountain and forest regions. A large portion of the trail is remote, but close enough to the coast and highways that it’s difficult to get lost.

4. Turtlehead Peak Trail

Unlike the prior two trails, the Turtlehead Peak Trail is a relatively short 5-mile up-and-down hike that can be completed in one day. It’s fewer than 20 miles from the Las Vegas Strip and offers a stark contrast to the bright lights and glamor of casino-and-hotel-lined streets.

Instead, it offers beautiful desert scenery that includes the Red Rock Canyon rock formations and a variety of wildflowers. The trail is part of Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, which features an additional 25 miles of trails.

5. Teton Crest Trail

Found in Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming, Teton Crest Trail is 37 miles in length and takes about six days to complete. It’s among the most popular trails in the park due in part to its alpine lakes and Hurricane Pass.

Hikers can get an unblemished view of all three peaks that comprise the Teton Range. Other natural attractions along the trail include glacier-carved canyons and wildflower-filled meadows.

6. Trans Catalina Trail

The 38-mile Trans Catalina Trail loops around Santa Catalina Island, which can be reached via a 90-minute ferry ride from Los Angeles, California. There are campgrounds along the trail for those who intend to complete the multi-day hike.

However, this should only be done by physically fit and experienced hikers. The trail features drastic changes in elevation, is subject to unpredictable weather, and is home to many rattlesnakes. Other wildlife found along the trail include bison, foxes, and eagles.

These 6 Tips Will Help You Complete Your First Alpine Climb

Alpine climbing is an adventurous, challenging, and rewarding multi-disciplinary sport. It differs from traditional rock climbing in that participants climb beyond the treeline of a mountain, where they might have to navigate glaciated terrain.

Consequently, climbers should be properly trained and have experience using an ice ax and boring holes for screws specially designed for alpine climbing. The discipline also often involves hiking long distances with heavy backpacks.

Because of the dangers inherent to alpine climbing, individuals should be properly trained and take several precautionary measures before their first climb. These six tips will help in that regard.

1. Start at a Climbing Gym

Before attempting to scale a mountain, consider testing your climbing capabilities at a climbing gym. Many of these facilities offer classes that teach elementary climbing skills and techniques. Moreover, they are more easily accessible and serve as a safe training ground for you to gain experience and become more comfortable with climbing in general. You might also meet like-minded individuals who are willing to share their climbing knowledge or even take you out on a guided climb.

Once you’ve progressed enough at a climbing gym, consider signing up for a mountaineering course to become more familiar with outdoor climbing. Some gyms offer gym-to-crag instruction programs. Prospective climbers should also complete the Avalanche Skills Training (AST) 1 course for added safety. The AST 1 course touches on topics such as the characteristics and triggers of avalanches, the Avalanche Terrain Exposure Scale, companion rescue, and route selection.

2. Hire a Guide

Even with the proper training and extensive indoor climbing experience, it’s prudent to hire a guide for your first attempt at alpine climbing. Techniques often change and experienced guides can help you become familiar with any alterations. They will also have a good understanding of which routes are the most suitable for your skill level.

The majority of the best alpine climbing locations in the US are found on the West Coast. Companies like Alpenglow Expeditions, Timberline Mountain Guides, Exum Mountain Guides, and Chicks Climbing and Skiing all offer climbing clinics. The latter company delivers programming specifically for women.

3. Choose the Right Climbing Partner

You might feel confident enough in your abilities after traversing a mountain with an experienced guide, but you should still never climb alone. Adverse weather and other conditions along the route can present challenges that might be difficult to overcome by yourself.

Bringing along at least one partner ensures you will have support overcoming obstacles such as slippery slopes, loose ledges, and shattered ridges. Your climbing partner should be someone you trust and with whom you can easily communicate.

4. Plan and Manage Time Accordingly

Alpine climbing is generally an all-day or multi-day activity, so proper planning is a critical element of ensuring a safe and enjoyable adventure. Guidebooks list designated routes on mountains, but these may change over the years. Check online or ask fellow climbers about updates or changes to specific routes.

Once you know the route, consider its length, number of pitches, and grade, among other factors, to estimate how long the climb might take. You should also be aware of sunrise and sunset times in the area so as to not get caught in the dark.

On average, hiking with a full backpack should take about 30 minutes per mile. Add 30 minutes per 1,000 feet of elevation gain. This should give you a good idea of how high you should climb and when you should turn back.

5. Bring the Right Equipment

While it might seem like a good idea to avoid bringing certain items so that your backpack isn’t as heavy, this isn’t a smart approach for beginners. Do the necessary research and make a list of the equipment you’ll need and then gather those items and check them off the list before putting them in your backpack. The last thing you want is to realize you’ve forgotten an ice ax after starting your journey up the mountain.

Beyond wearing appropriate gear—waterproof jacket, mountain trousers, warm insulated gloves, mountaineering boots, and a climbing helmet—consider packing your back with the following: water container, sunscreen, lip cream, crampons with antiball plates, a pair of prussik loops, first aid kit, and a 70-meter rope.

You should also use a printed topographical map as opposed to relying on a phone or GPS to show you the way up the mountain. Your phone could die quickly in cold temperatures and a GPS device won’t give insight into the belay on certain segments of the mountain.

6. Don’t Be Afraid to Quit

You should always be aware of your surroundings when climbing and take into account changing weather conditions. If it looks like a storm might be on its way, don’t be afraid to bail and trek back down the mountain. Do the same if you feel uneasy or lack confidence at any point along the climb. It is not worth endangering your safety, and you can always try again on another trip.

Spotlight on the Benefits of Salt Caves

The use of salt caves for therapeutic purposes dates back to 1843. Felix Boczkowski, a physician working in Poland, noticed that men working at the Wieliczka Salt Mine had better respiratory health than that of the general population. Today, salt cave therapy, also known as halotherapy, is particularly popular in Europe, as there are thousands of salt caves located throughout the continent. In addition, there are hundreds of them in the United States.

These manmade salt caves are generally covered in slabs of Himalayan sea salt. Proponents of halotherapy attest to its ability to strengthen the immune system, relieve respiratory conditions, and improve the skin. Some experts on salt caves state that the effects of spending one hour in one are similar to spending an entire day at the beach.

“It is commonly believed that the Himalayan salt will release negative ions (electrons) into the air,” notes Alex Eingorn, the co-manager of Breathe Salt Room in New York. “Inflamed tissue is usually acidic, that is electron deficient, and thus, more electrons available will help the inflamed cells repair.” Read on to learn about some of the potential health benefits of salt caves.

Improve asthma symptoms

A small study found that children exposed to halotherapy experienced an improvement in asthma symptoms. The double-blind, controlled study, which was published in the October 2016 issue of Pediatric Pulmonology, included 55 children with mild asthma between the ages of 5 and 13 who were split between two groups. The results showed that members of the group that spent time in a salt room with a halogenerator experienced statistical improvements across a variety of quality-of-life parameters. Members of the control group, who spent time in a room without a salt halogenerator, reported no improvements.

Moreover, salt caves can contribute to well-being through their soothing ambiance. For instance, the Salt Therapy Grotto & Spa in Naples, Florida, features a cave that replicates the beach atmosphere at night with the backdrop of a full moon over the ocean and stars painted on the ceiling. The lights are also dimmed, and guests can relax in lounge chairs during the 50-minute sessions. Another cave offers a sunny ocean view and features a tent and sand area. Each of the caves is constructed with 10 tons of salt from 13 different locations, including the Himalayas, Poland, France, Hawaii, and the Dead Sea.

While Himalayan salt caves are the most popular form of halotherapy, others incorporate amethyst crystals. For instance, Flow Motion in Ferndale, Washington, has a cavern that has a capacity for four people and features amethyst crystals from Uruguay and Brazil adorning its walls that imbue the room with lavender, violet, lilac, and deep purple hues. Guests can relax on reclining chairs in the caves for 50-minute sessions and experience the healing powers of the salt, which is complemented by soft infrared-heated cork floors and the soothing sounds of waterfalls.

The spa owner, who is a member of multiple caving clubs, drew inspiration for the amethyst room from a cave in Pennsylvania and from Korean spas, which generally feature rooms covered in different gems and stones.

Reduce stress and anxiety

Sound baths are another form of alternative healing that has become increasingly popular in recent years. This meditative group practice involves the use of various instruments or tools, such as gongs and crystal singing bowls, to produce healing sound vibrations. The Asheville Salt Cave in North Carolina combines the holistic healing practices of salt caves and sound baths through a scheduled sound healing concert once a month.

The Asheville Salt Cave has more than 20 tons of pink salt adorning its walls and floors and its sound healing concerts feature various African instruments and singing crystal bowls. The frequencies produced by these instruments help calm the mind and, in some instances, have been shown to reduce stress and anxiety. Other salt cave businesses in North America, such as Quantum Float & Salt Cave and Himalaya Salt Cave, offer sound healing treatments in their respective salt caves.

Alleviate sinus and respiratory issues

Moreover, salt caves could potentially help to alleviate sinus and respiratory issues. In 2015, Montauk Salt Cave in New York was launched after the owner discovered the health benefits of halotherapy the year before when trying to find a solution for her son’s sinus and respiratory issues. After several doctor appointments and with no hope for a solution, she and her partner took their son to a salt cave in New Jersey. After one session, he slept through the night and didn’t have coughing fits in the following few days.

At Montauk Salt Cave, guests are prompted to relax in the Himalayan salt-filled rooms on comfortable zero-gravity chairs and can meditate, nap, or spend their time as they choose. Music is played during each session.

6 Farm Stays in North America You Need to Check Out

Travelers in North America looking for off-the-beaten-path options should consider farm stays. Also referred to as agritourism, farm stays allow guests to reconnect with nature and, on occasion, participate in farming activities. Accommodations, meanwhile, can range from rural bed and breakfasts to operational cattle farms.

Farm stays are particularly popular in Australia and New Zealand as well as in parts of Europe, but places that offer these experiences can also be found throughout the US and Canada, the latter of which even has a farm stay program for international travelers and students. The following are six popular farm stay locations in North America:

1. Foxingham Farm B&B

Located in Mansfield, Ontario, Foxingham Farm B&B features apple, walnut, hazelnut, and almond orchards and is surrounded by lush green countryside and the Blue Mountains. It has three double rooms and a shared lounge that features a large fireplace and library. Outside, guests can hike the Bruce Trail or visit nearby locations for fishing, swimming, golf, and archery, among other activities. Moreover, guests are treated to breakfasts comprised of locally sourced ingredients.

2. Liberty Hill Farm

This idyllic farm in Rochester, Vermont, is owned by Beth Kennett, who, over the years, has welcomed a diverse range of guests into her home in an effort to help them connect to the natural world. The farm features a bright red barn and a large pasture filled with Holstein dairy cows. The farmhouse, meanwhile, was constructed in 1825 and has seven guest rooms.

Guests are invited to help milk the cows and prepare fields for planting. In return, they receive family-style meals with local and seasonal ingredients. During their downtime, many guests choose to explore the scenery surrounding Route 100 and visit attractions such as Cabot Creamery. This Vermont Cheese Trail facility receives its milk from Liberty Hill.

farm

3. Myra Canyon Ranch

Myra Canyon Ranch is about a half-hour drive from Kelowna in the heart of the Canadian province of British Columbia. An ideal destination for families, it has an adventure park, a horse riding stable, and plenty of space for hiking and mountain biking. Guests have a private entrance to their rooms and can even hop on a horse outside their door to ride around and explore the ranch. Other amenities include a hot tub, Wi-Fi, and barbecues.

4. Hull-O Farms

Travelers looking to fully immerse themselves in farm life and engage with a variety of animals should make a point to visit the historic Hull-O Farms in Durham, New York. Established in 1779, the 300-acre family farm is now managed by seventh-generation farmers Frank and Sherry Hull, who provide guests with home-cooked meals and host bonfires every evening.

Visitors are required to help out with daily chores, which includes milking cows and mending fences, but they have plenty of downtime to explore the farm and visit nearby local attractions. On the farm, guests can fish in the pond, play with rabbits and kittens, and go on hayrides. The farm also has a corn maze toward the end of summer and a pumpkin patch in the fall. Hull-O Farms received a TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence and was named one of the 20 Best All-American Family Vacations Your Kids Will Love.

5. Abbey Road Farm Bed & Breakfast

Owned by John and Judi Stuart, this bed and breakfast is in the heart of Oregon’s Willamette Valley, also known as its wine country. A more upscale farm stay, Abbey Road incorporates elements from European agritourism establishments and is rich in arts and culture. Guests stay in circular rooms set in a converted silo, and each room features a king bed and Jacuzzi tub.

During their stay, guests can sample world-renowned Pinot Noirs and take in live music in an outdoor concert setting. The farm also has a concierge service that helps guests select suitable wineries and restaurants to visit. Conversely, guests can choose to spend time at the farm completing various chores and learning how to make goat cheese.

6. Seaweed and Sod Farm B&B

This Atlantic Canada retreat is located in the rural region of Kempt Head, Nova Scotia, centrally located to a variety of natural attractions. It is a relatively private two-bedroom bed and breakfast situated on 100 acres of land overlooking the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve Bras d’Or Lake. Guests have access to a shared lounge area and can wander the acreage to meet the farm’s many hens, sheep, and llamas.

Seaweed and Sod is located between the Fortress of Louisbourg and the Cabot Trail. One of the most scenic drives in the world, the Cabot Trail can take several days to fully explore due to its abundance of restaurants, cultural festivals, and outdoor recreation opportunities. The drive alone presents stunning ocean vistas and a look at the spectacular Cape Breton Highlands National Park.

Everything You Need to Know about Cold Plunge Therapy

If you exercise too vigorously, you may notice subsequent pain caused by small tears in muscle fibers. This is called delayed onset muscle pain and soreness (DOMS). While muscle fibers repair relatively quickly and help strengthen muscles (the intended result of regular exercise), it is possible to have an intense workout without feeling extreme muscle soreness over the next 24 to 72 hours.

One way to alleviate DOMS symptoms is to take a coldwater plunge, also known as cryotherapy or coldwater immersion. This practice involves sitting in a pool, sometimes filled with ice cubes, with water between 45 and 55 degrees Fahrenheit.

How Cold Plunge Pools Work

Cold plunge pool therapy helps decrease muscle pain and soreness by stimulating blood flow which, in turn, minimizes muscle inflammation. In addition, it has been linked to decreased metabolic activity and is said to flush lactic acid, among other waste products, out of affected muscle tissues. Some proponents of cold plunge pools also use hot tubs after the therapy as this is believed to speed up blood circulation and decrease recovery time.

Studies have proven the effectiveness of cold plunge pools in aiding recovery, but some have suggested it might not be beneficial for those looking to enhance muscle size and strength. In 2011 the Cochrane Library released a review of 17 cryotherapy studies and concluded that cold plunge pool therapy was most effective for runners. There are different variations of this recovery method, but most sessions are relatively short and last between five and 10 minutes.

Chillers and Cooling Towers

While it’s possible to get the water to the appropriate temperature with the use of ice, some technological advancements, such as chillers and cooling towers, make cold pool plunges much easier to facilitate.

An on-demand chiller works similar to a water heater but with contrasting results. Instead, it cools the water to the desired temperature before allowing it to flow from a bathtub faucet. This is made possible by a small circulation pump that guides the water through an evaporator before returning it to the water tank.

Cooling towers, meanwhile, are used for pools and are less effective in warm areas. They do not utilize evaporation, and water is often unable to consistently reach below 55 degrees Fahrenheit. They may even heat the water on hot and humid days.

Use by Athletes

Athletes, runners especially, are the primary users of cold plunge pool therapy. Professional athletes have been known to immerse themselves in cold water once or even multiple times per day to aid in workout or injury recovery. The National Football League’s Green Bay Packers, for instance, have a cold plunge pool at the team’s practice facility for all players to use. Colleges and high schools have also been installing cold plunge pools and chillers in recent years.

Life Coach Tony Robbins Is a Major Proponent

Inspirational speaker and life coach Tony Robbins sometimes speaks on stage for up to 16 hours straight when delivering one of his seminars. As part of a routine to keep himself energized, the 57 year old starts his morning with a workout. He follows this up by sitting in a sauna for five minutes before taking a dip in a cold plunge pool. It’s such an integral part of his routine that he has a sauna and cold plunge pool at seven of his homes. The practice was recommended to him by his personal trainer for its cardio benefits.

A blog post on Robbins’ website notes that cold plunge pool therapy not only promotes overall wellbeing but also relieves symptoms of various medical conditions and has long-lasting health benefits. It goes on to say: “And when practiced on a regular basis and turned into a habit, you begin to experience health benefits, including long-lasting changes to your body’s immune, lymphatic, circulatory, and digestive systems that enhance your quality of life.”

Weight Loss and Other Benefits

The lymphatic system consists of a network of vessels that help the body cleanse itself. Immersing yourself in cold water causes these vessels to contract and, consequently, flush out waste, microbes, and bacteria from cells. This also has benefits for the immune system, which prompts white blood cells to destroy unwanted substances.

Coldwater therapy can also help boost metabolism and aid in weight loss as it forces the body to burn calories to keep warm. Moreover, a 2009 study found that cryotherapy promotes healthy brown fat and helps eliminate white fat, which is generally found around our thighs and waistlines.

Paleo Association

Advocates of the paleo diet, which harkens back to the Paleolithic era and largely involves the consumption of foods that could be garnered through hunting and gathering, are also typically proponents of cold plunge pool therapy. Paleo practitioners believe in living non-sedentary lifestyles and following practices once popular among our ancestors. Coldwater baths, they contend, bring about benefits such as increased self-discipline, energy, and alertness.

What You Need to Know About These WELL v2 Concepts

Building a healthier world isn’t just about improving environmental conditions. It’s also about advancing wellness by improving the buildings in which people spend much of their time. Recognizing this, a team of passionate wellness advocates at the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI) launched the WELL Building Standard in October 2014.

IWBI Logo

This program incorporates scientific and medical research on behavioral factors, health outcomes, and environmental health in the design and construction of buildings to promote human health and wellness. Nearly 4,500 projects in 63 countries have applied WELL building components since the program’s inception.

Expanding upon the WELL Building Standard, IWBI officially launched the WELL v2 on September 15, 2020. The pilot version of the program has been market tested across more than 3,300 projects since 2018. It features several enhancements and additional features designed to improve health and wellness of those occupying WELL-certified buildings. In the post-COVID-19 era, this is even more vital.

Below are features incorporated across four concepts in WELL-certified buildings:

1. Air

Understanding that humans spend, on average, 90 percent of their time indoors, the IWBI incorporates several design components into the WELL v2 to ensure excellent indoor air quality. These features work in conjunction to help eliminate indoor air pollutants that contribute to adverse health consequences, such as carbon monoxide poisoning, headaches, and eye irritation.

The WELL v2 air quality concept encompasses 14 different features, each of which have multiple components, that contribute to a pollutant-free indoor environment. For example, all spaces must meet fundamental air quality thresholds for particulate matter, organic gases, inorganic gases, and radon.

Buildings must have adequate ventilation and air filtration systems and be developed with pollution management solutions in mind to reduce construction-related pollutants. Building tenants can also play a role in ensuring optimal indoor air quality by not smoking indoors and frequently opening windows when outdoor air quality is at acceptable levels.

2. Water

While drinking water quality has improved drastically over the past 100 years, there are still additives that can increase risk factors for various diseases. Chlorine and chloramine, for instance, are often added to water sources to destroy pathogenic organisms but can help create disinfectant byproducts that increase risk for cancer when individuals are exposed at elevated levels.

The WELL v2 water concept makes use of features and design elements that improve drinking water quality and enhance distribution throughout the building to avoid potential water damage and adverse environmental conditions.

All water in WELL v2 buildings must meet sediment and microorganism thresholds as confirmed through on-site testing. This means any water used for human consumption must have a turbidity equal to or less than 1.0 NTU with 0 CFU/100 mL total coliforms.

Drinking water must also be within acceptable parameters for dissolved metal, organic pollutants, disinfectant byproducts, herbicide and pesticides, and fertilizer. Finally, building owners must employ a management program to control Legionella bacteria exposure and implement a water conservation system, among other actions.

3. Light

High levels of light exposure have been shown to have positive health effects, while reduced exposure to sunlight has been associated with depression. A 2006 study published by The Center for Health Design states, “By controlling the body’s circadian system, light impacts outcomes in healthcare settings by reducing depression among patients, decreasing length of stay in hospitals, improving sleep and circadian rhythm, lessening agitation among dementia patients, easing pain, and improving adjustment to night-shift work among staff.” The study also highlights the impact of windows and access to daylight on employee satisfaction in the workplace.

With that in mind, the WELL v2 standard seeks to develop spaces with lighting environments that contribute to improved sleep patterns, positively impact mood, and reduce disruption to circadian rhythms. This can be achieved by meeting illuminance recommendations in one of four lighting reference guidelines and utilizing electric lighting to meet light levels of at least 240 EML between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m., among other actions. Building tenants should also be able to customize lighting based on their individual requirements.

4. Movement

Physical activity is another critical focus in WELL v2 building design. Physical inactivity is a major global health concern among adults. It contributes to chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and dementia, among others. The WELL v2 movement concept strives to promote active living and physical activity by discouraging sedentary behaviors via programs and policies as well as design strategies.

Features supporting this effort include the implementation of ergonomic workstation furnishings and workspaces strategically designed to promote movement. Desktop computer-based workstations, for instance, should include height-adjustable stands and mounted, adjustable arms.

Physical activity outside of the workspace should also be promoted for a building to earn additional credentials. This includes the encouragement of active commuting such as walking or cycling and providing exterior site amenities. Education is also a crucial component of the movement concept as all occupants of the building should be informed of the importance of physical activity.

**Disclaimer:

International WELL Building Institute, IWBI, the WELL Building Standard, WELL v2, WELL Certified, WELL AP, WELL Portfolio, WELL Portfolio Score, The WELL Conference, We Are WELL, the WELL Community Standard, WELL Health-Safety Rating, WELL Health-Safety Rated, WELL Workforce, WELL and others, and their related logos are trademarks or certification marks of International WELL Building Institute pbc in the United States and other countries.

Plant Spirit Medicine: Healing via a Spiritual Relationship with Plants

Plants have likely been used as a healing agent by humans for as long as we have existed. This notion is supported by the remains of medicinal plants like ephedra and cannabis, believed to be in excess of 60,000 years old, discovered in archaeological excavations. Shamanism, which is still practiced in some parts of the world but was more prevalent among earlier cultures, employed plants to heal all sorts of ailments. Even with advances in modern medicine, many people in many cultures still use plants like lavender and echinacea to alleviate stress and anxiety and boost their immune system.

These plants, among others, have natural healing properties and can be used in teas, essential oil diffusers, or ingested in tablet or capsule form. The practice of plant spirit medicine, however, takes the healing properties of plants a step further. This practice centers on a greater spiritual relationship with plants to complement their holistic healing benefits.

Spiritual Relationship with Plants

Plant spirit medicine is an alternative, holistic healing technique that was popularized by writers and practitioners such as Eliot Cowan. Cowan is versed in the tradition of healing practiced by the indigenous Huichol people of Mexico, and is the author of Plant Spirit Medicine: A Journey into the Healing Wisdom of Plants (1996). In the book, he explores the use of ancient herbal healing practices used by Huichol shaman Don Guadalupe Gonzales Rios, among other healers.

For Cowan, the key difference between plant spirit medicine and plant medicine is in its application. Plant medicine generally refers to the chemistry of plants that have the capability to alter the human body’s biochemistry. In essence, they are viewed as non-living beings and regarded solely for their chemical properties. Conversely, plant spirit medicine looks at plants as intelligent living beings that can facilitate healing through spiritual relationships.

Developing These Relationships

small plants

In order to receive desired results from plant spirit medicine, both the healer and the person to whom the treatment is being applied need to be in tune with the plant as a highly aware being deserving of respect. To that end, the healer must ask the plant for permission to use it for his or her intended purpose. According to Cowan, this common respectful exchange has become limited to human-to-human interaction in the modern world. Ancient wisdom, he contends, suggests it should also be applied to other elements of the earth.

“All the aspects of nature, certainly including plants, are spiritual beings who are aware, have intelligence and feelings,” he said during a 2017 interview. “If you’re asking them for something and receiving something from them, you’re blessed to give something back to stay on good terms. It’s a matter of good manners.”

Cowan, who has also taught the practice of plant spirit medicine, would often spend time with students developing and nurturing relationships with plants to understand their respective healing capabilities and medicinal qualities. Many plant species have existed longer than human beings, and approaching them with interest and respect might allow individuals to glean valuable information for healing and other applications.

How It’s Applied to Healing

Rather than being applied to treat specific illnesses or symptoms, plant spirit medicine targets and seeks to correct underlying imbalances in an individual. Practitioners treat patients based on the notion that their symptoms are messengers for these imbalances and, upon determining the source of this imbalance, call upon the spirit of the plants for their healing properties. Plant spirit medicine, then, doesn’t diagnose or treat symptoms, but alleviation of symptoms is often a byproduct of its application to restore imbalances.

The process of applying plant spirit medicine begins with an in-depth intake procedure through which the practitioner gathers information about the patient’s health and personal history. During this judgement-free procedure, which can take upwards of two hours, the practitioner seeks to obtain all relevant information that might be in part contributing to the underlying imbalance. Upon selecting the plant the healer feels is appropriate for their patient, they call upon its healing presence and press the plant with their hands onto the body of the patient.

Plants with Natural Healing Properties

Beyond the spiritual element, many plants have natural healing properties and can be used to complement a health and wellness routine. Plants like gingko, turmeric, and flax seed have all undergone extensive research and have been proven to be safe and effective in controlling various health risks.

Studies have shown that gingko, for example, may improve overall brain health and reduce the rate of cognitive decline for individuals with Alzheimer’s and dementia. It has also been suggested as beneficial for bone and eye health as well as depression and anxiety. Flax seed, meanwhile, may help regulate blood pressure, prevent colon cancer, and reduce obesity. Other plants proven to have health benefits include tea tree (used as oil), grapeseed, chamomile, kava, and ashwagandha.

Here Are 5 Valuable Tips to Help You Achieve Your Goals

Developing personal life goals, whether intrinsic or extrinsic, can be an effective technique to inspire motivation to achieve the things you want in life. These goals might focus on personal growth, emotional intimacy, and mental wellbeing, or involve outward desires such as social standing, wealth, and career. Not only is goal setting an effective way to get what you want out of life, it can also promote happiness, clarify behaviors, and provide a sense of purpose or long-term direction.

Regardless of your goals, it’s important to establish a plan and consider factors that can help you achieve them—or impair your progress. Doing so will help you keep yourself accountable and direct your actions and behaviors to ensure they are aligned with your goals. Below are six tips and strategies to help you achieve any goal you set:

Make SMART Goals

SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, timed) is a mnemonic that can be used to develop clear and achievable goals with precise timelines. For instance, rather than simply aspiring to work in the banking industry, you might instead set a goal of becoming a financial analyst for a major firm within five years.

As this example suggests, it’s important to define your goals as specifically as possible. The more details you consider when setting goals, the better chance you have to achieve them. Goals should also be measurable, so you have a way to gauge progress and see how far you’ve come. While it’s OK to dream big, goals should also be realistic and attainable. More ambitious goals should, at the very least, have attainable sub-goals to keep you motivated. These sub-goals should be relevant to your overall life aspirations and carry deadlines to help you avoid procrastination and stay focused on the task at hand.

Think about Pathways to Success

career path

After clearly and concisely setting a goal, think about all the avenues you can take to achieve it. Take some time to brainstorm all the different pathways you can imagine, and even ask others for suggestions. Carefully consider these pathways, even those that might seem outlandish or inaccessible. This might involve thinking about different schools to attend or certifications you can obtain in pursuit of a specific career goal. Maybe your goal will require moving to a new city or quitting your current job. In pondering these pathways, try to identify any resources that might make progress easier and the goal more attainable.

Backward Planning

When charting pathways for ultimate goal attainment, it’s common to think about sub-goals chronologically. For example, in order to become a doctor you might first need to complete your undergraduate degree, following which you’ll need to apply to medical schools, earn your MD, complete a medical internship and residency, and so on. While this is an effective approach for many people, others might benefit from backward planning, also known as backward design.

This process involves writing down your specific goal and the date by which you want to achieve it. Then, think about the necessary milestone you have to accomplish before attaining your ultimate goal and work backwards from there, setting dates for each sub-goal. This technique prompts you to adopt an entirely different approach to tackling your goal, and it might even help you think of things you ignored during the pathway generation process.

Tell Others Your Goals

Telling others about your goals can be difficult, but it’s an important consideration for accountability. Whether it’s friends or family, those who know your goals can hold you accountable and motivate you during times when you find yourself faltering. Moreover, your friends and family can also lend advice and provide resources that might help you on your journey.

It can be particularly helpful to tell your goals to someone who is successful and whose opinion you value. This notion was validated through a 2019 study at The Ohio State University.

“If you don’t care about the opinion of whom you tell, it doesn’t affect your desire to persist — which is really what goal commitment is all about,” notes Howard Klein, lead author of the study. “You want to be dedicated and unwilling to give up on your goal, which is more likely when you share that goal with someone you look up to.”

Evaluate and Reflect

Take time to evaluate progress and reflect upon your accomplishments on the path toward your ultimate goal. This can help set a firm foundation for success and keep you steadfast in pursuit of that goal. It will also help validate the work you’ve put in throughout your journey.

Goal evaluation and reflection should be performed at regular intervals, whether it’s once per week, month, or quarter, in a quiet place free from distraction. Doing so in nature can have added benefits. During these sessions, look back and ahead as you contemplate your successes and the obstacles you need to overcome. Write all relevant thoughts and information down so you can evaluate how far you’ve come during the next session.