A marked route stretching between the Eastern United States and into Maine, the Appalachian Trail offers hikers the chance to experience the longest hiking-only trail on the planet. As a one-of-a-kind destination, the Appalachian Trail brings in more than 2 million visitors every single year. Reaching heights of 6,643 feet and extending for more than 2,200 total miles, the Appalachian Trail is as challenging as it is inviting, a testament both to nature and those willing to overcome it.
Due to the intensity of the trail and its large coverage area, Trail Angels have begun to leave behind little gifts to help others follow in their path. Michele Staudenmaier had been hiking on the Appalachian Trail (A.T.) in March alongside her son, Zach. While walking the trail, Zach and Michele got to talking about gifts left behind for the hikers. Apparently, the hiking community has always appreciated donated gifts and drinks alongside trail markers, lovingly referring to these individuals as Trail Angels.
Understanding how important food and drink can be to a wilderness hike that ranges from easy to strenuous, Michel decided that she would become a Trail Angel herself alongside her husband, Dave.
Becoming a Trail Angel
When Michel and Zach had their discussion regarding trail angels, they were in the middle of a fun family trip. Michel’s husband, Dave, had already booked several Airbnb’s along their route through the A.T., with booked stops in Georgia, Tennessee, Vermont, Maine, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania. The trip was scheduled to take roughly six months, crossing through many significantly remote and rural places. Some of these rural areas end up featuring a small oasis of hikers, and finding these areas is known as stumbling upon Trail Magic.
Michel and her family ran into a group of Trail Angels during their work. Michele said, “I realized there was a massive community of volunteers that spend their time and money to support A.T. hikers.” Michele went on to say, “I had no idea!”
While an average hike will knock out nearly 600 calories per hour, it can be hard to normalize this average. Many hikers will carry packs weighing upwards of 30 to 50lbs, adding a tremendous amount of stress to their physical efforts. To help keep these folks fed and energized, Michele would cook and pack foods like hot dogs, chips, sweet treats, Gatorade, and even sodas. One such Trail Magic event saw Michele arrive with several buckets of Kentucky Fried Chicken, leading to more than 30 hikers eating well and sharing their stories.
One event showed Michele the true stakes pertaining to Trail Angels as well as the importance of her own work. Michele had fueled a trail marker with food when a hiker arrived. After talking to the weakened hiker, he revealed that he had run out of food completely. Had he not found Michele and her food, there is no telling what could have happened.
According to Michele and many of the hiking enthusiasts that she has met, it is rare to have any food leftover after a long hike. For that reason, unexpected hot meals waiting in the middle of the A.T. will always be seen and enjoyed as a magical moment!
Dog Trainer and Dog Groomer Get Married Accompanied By Their Best Friends
Weddings Are for Sharing With Loved Ones
When people get married, they spend one perfect day with their most loved friends and family. While many people only think about their human friends and family, there are a lot of people who could never imagine starting this important new chapter in their lives without their beloved pets. In fact, many people might have to admit, if they were being honest, that they loved their pets more than some of the relatives who came to the wedding, especially if they felt obligated to invite some relatives they rarely see and barely know.
Some People Already Spend Their Lives With Pets
Anyone who works full-time as a dog trainer or groomer already spends most of their working days with animals. They see dogs all day long, and they make the choice to do so because of many reasons. Working with pets is rewarding on many levels. Especially if you see the same dogs again and again, you form a close bond. Communicating with pets is therapeutic and generally far less stressful than dealing with humans. The people who work with dogs don’t get sick of dogs and try to go home to a quiet house; they tend to have larger pet families than average.
A Dog Trainer and a Dog Groomer Tie the Knot
Paul and Annette Anthony are typical in that they work with dogs as a profession, and they have a large pet family. On the day they got married, their family consisted of 2 humans and 9 canines. Both Paul and Annette admitted that their pets were more to them than just fun — their beloved dogs also helped them get through rough times in their lives, including personal tragedies. Annette’s German Shepherd Pesci is even an emotional support animal, helping her to deal with severe anxiety and depression. There was no way that their pets were going to be left out of the most important day of their lives going forward.
Canine Best Man
Paul’s service dog Finn has earned his retirement. Finn has competed in over 40 events, earning titles and even setting records. He was also there for Paul when Paul developed PTSD after being at the scene of the deadliest plane crash in Pennsylvania’s history. Finn was the one who helped with the proposal, giving Annette the ring with a note asking her to marry his dad. It was only fitting that Finn ended up being one of the best men at the wedding too.
A Family Affair
All 9 dogs walked down the aisle and stayed throughout the ceremony. Annette’s dog Pesci even came to comfort her during the ceremony when she started to cry from happiness because he wanted to make sure his momma was all right. Whether you want to use your dogs in the ceremony as ring bearers, best men, or flower girls, or if you just want them to be present, it makes sense to have your pets help you celebrate such an important day in your life.
An Alligator Comfort Pet…Wait Wait What?
Joie Henney is the first to admit he has issues. Suffering from repeated deep depression, he has regularly had to seek out help to get out of deep funks that could become seriously negative. However, while many folks use counseling, pharmaceuticals or support groups, Henney has an odd comfort pet for emotional support. He has an alligator.
Personal pets are well-known for their mental health benefits, especially for people who otherwise suffer significantly from loneliness and isolation. And that emotional bond is not restricted to ordinary pets like dogs or cats. Many farm animals have been known to provide emotional support as well, like horses, ducks and even pigs. Some even had fictional made about the same. However, no one until Henney has specifically identified an alligator as a comfort pet.
Alligators are normally treated and placed in the category of dangerous predators. They are typically cold-blooded, no pun intended, killers that will snap at anything they consider food, including people. As it turns out though, Henney is also an alligator expert. So he knows a bit more about big lizards than the average person.
Dubbed, “Wally,” Henney’s comfort pet is a wayward fellow who first crossed paths with Henney when Wally mistakenly parked himself in a pond at the local Florida Disney World. Obviously, Wally and Disney visitors were not a good mix, so Henney was brought in to remove the confused alligator. Under state law, relocated alligators can’t just be dumped in the wild again once they’ve been exposed to developed human areas, so Henney adopted the fellow instead. Wally can’t complain much; he gets a steady diet of raw chicken legs and Cheetos at Henney’s home in Pennsylvania.
Henney isn’t an idiot about alligators either. From his own training and experience, Henney knows alligators will snap at anything near their face or head. Wally, for some reason, was not a snapper. In fact, Wally doesn’t like to close his mouth. The odd behavior might explain why the alligator ended up at Disney World, unable to function normally in the wild. So, Henney figured out that Wally was very different and treated him accordingly. In his own words, Henney would describe their friendship and bond as very unique and special.
Henney himself has been through a lot. Having lost a number of close friends and relatives, he’s been through the ringer with depression and many times would feel very down day to day. For some reason, Wally picked up on this and clearly made it evident he was there to help and comfort Henney. How was that signaled? Well, Henney would be sleeping on the couch and, since Wally was never kept in a cage, the alligator would find a way to get up on the couch and park himself on Henney. At least he didn’t bite.
Some could argue the alligator just wanted to warm up on Henney since cold-blooded animals can’t regulate their body heat well, but Henney has decided it’s something more. These days, Henney brings Wally with him wherever he goes, whether it’s on a walk or a visit to the doctor. Of course, they do have to keep their distance from folks, and the duo use the drive-through option a lot. Henney did get married as well, and Wally was the ringbearer. That said, no one was quick to grab the ring from the big lizard.
And for Henney, Wally has been a lifesaver, keeping the alligator expert out of depression and looking forward to tomorrow.
Population of Endangered Lemurs Is Growing At New Zealand Zoo
On October 11th, Wellington Zoo’s primate manager announced that their population of endangered ring-tailed lemurs had more than doubled after their four females gave birth to two sets of twins.
Endangered ring-tailed lemurs, found in Madagascar, have been at Wellington Zoo for less than two years. They obtained Zeus, a male lemur, early this year with the goal of increasing their population.
Lisa Ridley, the primate manager, said that they were not 100% confident whether they’d succeed in breeding the four adult female lemurs since they were all first-time mothers.
“We’re ecstatic that we’ve had four sets of twins, and they are all very healthy,” she said.
The first set of twins was born in August and the second, smaller set was born last week.
The number of ring-tailed lemurs in the wild is decreasing. A contributing factor to this decline is that female ring-tailed lemurs are only interested in mating a couple of days per year.
Ridley said that the window for breeding is very small, usually only 24 to 36 hours. She added that Zeus is a relaxed and respectful male who understands his role within the group.
Ridley said that the zoo was unsure what sex the young lemurs were; they try not to disrupt them until they are older, in order to find out what their sex is.
Once they reach maturity, it is likely the new males and Zeus will be divided to create a bachelor group, which occurs in nature.
Ridley said that Zeus would be used for breeding for several more years before being replaced in order to stop the genetic pool from shrinking.
A Funny-Named Bat Gets Australian Top Honors
When winning an election, it helps be popular. That was the case for one particular mammal. Over the period of a month and a half, or six weeks, a massive voting event occurred. Some 50,000 animals were included on the ballot. And only one of them was going to be the winner. If selected, the particular animal would be voted as the Australian Mammal of the Year, and the 2022 selection would be the first one of the event in history, a pretty hefty title even if that particular mammal had no clue about its significance.
As it turned out, with a whole lot of voting and wondering and finally a selection, the winner turned out to be, hold tight, the Southern Bent-Wing Bat. Yes, a flying animal won the honors for being the inaugural mammal chosen for the title above.
The dingo was assumed to be a favorite, but that contender fell by the wayside pretty quickly in the early weeks. Day after day, week after week, the Bat just kept climbing the ranks and holding on, almost as if playing out a voting version of what it’s been doing in nature, surviving as a microbat and an endangered species.
In real life, the Southern Bent-wing Bat doesn’t live in such a glamorous hallway or venue as the voting podium online. Instead, it’s a cave-dweller, making a home in the stretch between the southeast part of South Australia as well as Victoria. Sizewise, the Bat is extremely small too, only measuring some 5 centimeters in terms of body length. It’s practically a feather in terms of weight.
Like other bats, the Southern Bent-wing Bat uses its ears and echo-location to find its way while flying, as well as to hunt. The Bat can definitely see, but all of its primary sensory work happens with ears and listening. It’s also a long-distance flyer, usually traveling well over 70 kilometers at night to find insects for dinner.
While they are extremely proficient at using body heat and consolidation of numbers to create the perfect breeding and maternity environments in caves, easily boosting the humidity and heat for new pups, the Bat species in general has been significantly harmed by encroachment of development and the loss of viable cave systems for homes. The population is at serious risk of decline, with a 97 percent collapse expected over the next two or three decades without serious protection.
The goal of the contest is to boost awareness of the most endangered animals worldwide, an Australia has a significant share of them, found nowhere else and in short number where they are. As a result, by boosting people’s awareness through the contest, the hope is that it will also increase conservation efforts for the species that are endangered, ideally reversing the trend if possible.
Baby Giraffe Surprise for Zoo Visitors
When you go to the zoo, you expect to see animals from the other side of the world, get a bit sunburned, eat some overly expensive park food, and feed some peanuts to the farm animals. You don’t expect to get a front row seat to nature at work. That’s exactly what happened to visitors who happened to be watching the giraffes at Milwaukee County Zoo and who got the odd but amazing miracle of seeing a new giraffe come into the world.
The mother to be until the special day was a giraffe named Ziggy. She was expected to have her baby soon, but the exact day was still a surprise and hard to predict. As it turned out, Ziggy’s new baby decided to arrive just before lunch at 11:40am. The staff were alerted the giraffe mother was in labor, and everything went into operation to prepare for the arrival. Less than an hour later, a new baby giraffe was born. And, amazingly, by 1:40pm that same baby giraffe was up and walking around. It is amazing how fast animals start fending for themselves versus humans, who take years before they can even move properly. The Milwaukee County Zoo got the announcements out online within minutes of the arrival.
Even for the Zoo staff, the giraffe’s sudden arrival still caught folks a bit off guard. Mainly, the speed of the birth caused folks to scramble. The last time a giraffe was born in the Zoo was somewhere in the 1990s. Lots of other animals have had births, but giraffe newborns are extremely rare, maybe a once in a generation event.
As for a name for the new giraffe, the Zoo staff will get the privilege. Some hoped it might be a contest, but the staff who worked so hard to make everything run smoothly with little warning earned the right.
As for new arrivals in 2022, the new giraffe was not alone. Spring heralded a big wave of new animal arrivals at the Zoo. That list included a new baby seal, two jungle birds and a second giraffe baby that ultimately was named Poppy.
For some Zoo visitors, the birth was a bit of an abnormal experience. Most times, animal births are kept out of sight. The newborn animal just appears one day after it’s been cleaned up and is able to walk. In this case, however, Ziggy’s baby was born in front of everyone. Some of the visitors weren’t used to seeing nature play out in raw display. As for the mother, Ziggy could have cared less about privacy. She was in her home, and her baby was going to happen regardless of the Zoo staff’s wants or schedule.
And as for the giraffe baby, he’s healthy and doing just fine, nursing with Ziggy and growing every day.
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