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Parents of 4th graders: Here’s how to get free entry to any national park this month

Trekking through some of the country’s most beautiful terrain just got cheaper. 

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Thanks to the Department of the Interior’s Every Kid in a Park program, fourth-grade students can enter any of more than 2,000 of the nation’s national parks and other federally managed lands and waters for free for one year. 

Fourth-grade students can sign up for the free pass, valid until Aug. 31, at everykidinapark.gov.  

The first three members in a group with a visiting fourth-grader will be granted free entry as well at sites that charge per person. For those that grant payment and entry by car, any accompanying passengers in a private, non-commercial vehicle with a fourth-grader will be allowed to enter at no charge. 

>> Related: Most moms work equivalent of 2 full-time jobs, study says

Educators can also obtain free passes. 

>> Related: Seniors: Get your $10 lifetime pass for National Parks now before price hike

The Every Kid in a Park program encourages children to be active and explore nature at a time when more than 80 percent of American families live in urban areas and young people are more tethered to electronic devices than ever.

According to the program, the goal of the promotion is to “inspire fourth graders nationwide to visit our federal lands and waters, whether it is a backyard city park or a national forest, seashore, or marine sanctuary. By targeting fourth graders year after year, the program works to ensure every child in the U.S. has the opportunity to visit and enjoy their federal lands and waters by the time he or she is 11 years old.”

Learn more and get a pass at everykidinapark.gov

Editor’s note: A previous version of this story reported that the pass was valid from Sept. 1 to Aug. 31, 2018. It is valid Sept. 1, 2016 to Aug. 31, 2017.

Seniors: Get your $10 lifetime pass for National Parks now before price hike

If you’re over 62 years old and love the great outdoors, the time is now to get the deal of a lifetime.

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Right now, senior citizens can get a lifetime pass to visit national parks for $10. But that’s going to change on Aug. 28 – with the price rising to $80.

An annual pass will cost them $20, which they can apply to the cost of a lifetime pass at a later point if they decide they want one. Follow this link for the application.

Money raised from the price increase will go to the enhancement of the national parks. There are more than 400 national parks across the country

Here's a Q&A from the National Parks Service on the price increase:

Why is the price of the Senior Pass increasing?The price of the America the Beautiful – The National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Senior Pass is increasing as result of the Centennial Legislation P.L. 114-289 passed by the US Congress on Dec. 16, 2016.When was the last time the price increased for the Senior Pass? The Senior Pass has been $10 since 1994.How much is it increasing?The lifetime Senior Pass will increase from $10 to $80.Why $80?The legislation states that the cost of the lifetime Senior Pass be equal to the cost of the annual America the Beautiful – The National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass, which is currently $80.

What if a senior citizen is on a fixed budget?

The legislation also establishes an annual Senior Pass for $20. That pass is valid for one year from the date of issuance. Four annual Senior Passes purchased in prior years can be traded in for a lifetime pass. Additionally, access to the majority of National Park Service sites remains free—only 118 of 417 National Park Service sites have an entrance fee.What if I have a current Senior Pass?The current passes are lifetime passes and will remain valid.Will the benefits of my Senior Pass change?No. All benefits of the current Senior Pass stay the same.What if my current Senior Pass is lost or stolen?Passes are non-refundable and non-transferable and cannot be replaced if lost or stolen.If lost or stolen, a new pass will need to be purchased.Who is eligible for a Senior Pass?US citizens or permanent residents 62 years or older are eligible for the Senior Pass.  

Click here to read more.

SEE: Most accurate map of the Great American Eclipse’s path of totality to date

The Great American Eclipse on Monday, Aug. 21 is the first total solar eclipse to cross the continental United States from coast to coast in nearly 100 years.

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NASA data visualizer Ernie Wright recently published the most accurate map to date of the eclipse’s path of totality using data from NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, elevation data on Earth and information on the sun’s angles.

Whether or not you’re inside the path of totality will determine what you see in the sky. If you’re outside the path, you’ll likely see a partial (not total) eclipse.

To determine the most accurate eclipse path, according to Wright, you have to figure out where the moon’s shadow will fall on the Earth’s surface, which requires taking into account the elevation differences on both the moon and Earth’s surfaces, he told Space.com.

Using elevation data from NASA’s Shuttle Radar Topography Mission, the locations of the Earth, moon and sun at each line of latitude or longitude and how long it takes sunlight to travel to the moon and down to Earth, Wright was able to compute where exactly the eclipse will cross and for how long.

More Great American Eclipse 2017 news:

1 in 3 people can't see the Milky Way

When you look up at the night sky and wonder where the stars of the Milky Way have gone, there's a reason.

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Science Advances published a paper last week that detailed how one in three people worldwide are unable to see the Milky Way -- and 83 percent of the world’s population live under light-polluted skies, the Los Angeles Times reported.

According to the data, the United States and Europe have 99 percent of their population living under light-polluted skies -- keeping the Milky Way out of view for 80 percent of North Americans and 60 percent of Europeans.

“Humanity has enveloped our planet in a luminous fog that prevents most of the Earth’s population from having the opportunity to observe our galaxy,” wrote the research team led by Fabio Falchi of the Light Pollution Science and Technology Institute in Thiene, Italy, according to the Times.

"We've lost some of our view into the cosmos," Chris Elvidge, a physical scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration who was part of the team that created the new atlas, published by the journal Science Advances, told NPR. "There are still people that can remember when they used to be able to see the Milky Way when they would walk outside at night, but those are becoming fewer and fewer."

Singapore suffers from the most light pollution and its skies never go dark, the study found. According to the Times, scientists discovered that populations in Chad, Central African Republic and Madagascar are not as affected by light pollution and still retain the ability to see the Milky Way.

Read more at the Los Angeles Times.

The Milky Way and the moon dazzle over Twin Lakes in Mammoth Lakes, Calif., in September. #SpaceSunday More amazing night-sky photos from readers: http://usat.ly/1K2mwvu(Photo by Eric Houck, Your Take)Posted by USA TODAY on Sunday, October 11, 2015

A 30-second exposure shows the Milky Way on June 8 near Strawberry, Calif.More spectacular photos from people like you: http://usat.ly/1Hpp6Mw(Photo by Eric Houck, Your Take)Posted by USA TODAY on Tuesday, June 16, 2015

There are circumstances where staying up all night are acceptable (and also highly encouraged). One is waiting until 3...Posted by U.S. Department of the Interior on Tuesday, May 24, 2016

7-Eleven worker becomes first woman to climb Mount Everest seven times

A 42- year-old Connecticut woman climbed Mount Everest for the seventh time on Friday, breaking her own record for the most amount of times any woman has climbed the world's highest mountain, a hiking official said.

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Lhakpa Sherpa reached the 29,035-foot peak from the Tibetan side, said Rajiv Shrestha of the 7 Summits Adventure company, which organized her expedition. She was accompanied to the top by a Nepali guide.

"She has broken her own record," Shrestha told Reuters.

Sherpa first climbed Everest in 2000. She took a breaking from climbing after her sixth completed summit in 2006.

Sherpa, who was born in Nepal, is one of 11 children. One of her brothers has climbed Everest eight times, and one of her sisters was once the youngest female Everest climber, Yahoo reported.

Sherpa works as a part-time housekeeper in Hartford, Connecticut, and as a worker at a 7-Eleven convenience store in the state, the New York Post reported.

Rhode Island tourism video accidentally features Iceland

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Rhode Island officials released a promotional video Monday in an effort to encourage people everywhere to choose the state for their next vacation destination. 

The only problem? There was a shot in the video that wasn't even filmed in Rhode Island. An intro scene shows a portion of Harpa, a concert hall and conference center in Reykjavik, Iceland.

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‘‘Imagine a place that feels like home but holds enough uniqueness that you’re never bored,’’ the video's narrator says as a skateboarder rides past a glass building.

But Internet users commented saying, "Hey, that’s not Rhode Island -- that’s the Harpa concert hall and conference center in Reykjavik."

Greg Nemes, a professor at the Rhode Island School of Design, visited Iceland in October and said he recognized the building, which has a distinct steel framework and an exterior of different colored glass panels.

‘‘It was pretty unmistakable to me, so I did some digging around and posted on Facebook about it,’’ Nemes told the Associated Press.

Other people agreed with him, posting side-by-side photos of the building in the Rhode Island ad and Harpa.

The Rhode Island Commerce Corporation, the state’s economic development agency, acknowledged the mistake, saying an editing company used the wrong footage.

The video was removed from YouTube Tuesday. 

“As the Commerce Corporation put this presentation video together, explicit instructions were given to the local firm that helped with editing to use only Rhode Island footage," said Betsy Wall, the Commerce Corporation's chief marketing officer. "A mistake was made."

The editing company, IndieWhip, has promised to update the video at no extra cost to the state or the Commerce Corporation, which paid $20,000 for the original video.

"The footage in question is of a Rhode Island skateboarder, filmed by a Rhode Islander skateboarder," the agency said in statement reported by the Providence Journal. IndieWhip said they've create "a new version to go live soon, ensuring all shots are located in the state."

Another mistake was later revealed when people starting pointing out that Rhode Island's tourism website claimed that state, which is the smallest in the United States, boasts 20 percent of the country's historic landmarks.

"Little Rhody is packed with 400 miles of coastline and 20 percent of the country's historic landmarks," the site says.

Rhode Island has 45, or less than 2 percent, of the country's historic landmarks, and no state -- not even the biggest -- has 20 percent, according to Mashable. 

The tourism site reportedly shows archived versions of the page with the incorrect statistic listed as early as 2008.

90-year-old woman ditches cancer treatment, goes on trip of a lifetime

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When doctors told 90-year-old Norma that she had a large, cancerous mass on her uterus just two days after her husband of 67 years had died, she decided she could either be down in the dumps or take the high road and choose happiness and adventure -- and hit the road is just what she did.

Instead of choosing one of the cancer-battling options doctors proposed, like surgery, radiation and chemotherapy, Norma told them, "I’m 90 years old. I’m hitting the road."

So Norma, her son, her daughter-in-law and the couple's poodle, Ringo, embarked on an RV trip across the U.S.

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Her doctor was supportive of the decision.

"As doctors we see what cancer treatment looks like every day," the doctor told Norma's family. "ICU, nursing homes, awful side effects and honestly, there is no guarantee she will survive the initial surgery to remove the mass. You are doing exactly what I would want to do in this situation." 

So far, Norma has been on the road for six months and has traveled to Florida, Mississippi, South Dakota, Louisiana, New Mexico and Arizona. She's visited popular spots like Disney World, the Grand Canyon, Mt. Rushmore and Yellowstone National Park.

"She continues to surprise us on this trip," Norma's daughter-in-law, Ramie, told ABC News. "She’s getting healthier, I think, from eating well and being outside a lot. She’s breathing fresh air and getting to see new things all the time."

Norma, Ramie and Norma's son, Tim, already lived full-time in the RV before they invited Norma to live with them and travel around the country. 

The family documents their adventures on a Facebook page called Driving Miss Norma, where they post photos of Norma crossing things off her bucket list. The page, which has nearly 95,000 followers, lists the 90-year-olds interests as "rock hounding, basket making, knitting, reading, jigsaw puzzles, Sudoku, tea, beer, sweet wine and traveling." 

“I’m pleased to know that I can be an inspiration to so many," Norma said.

According to Mashable, she has already made new friends, driven a boat, explored the beach and fulfilled her lifelong dream of riding in a hot air balloon.

For many years Norma and Leo would listen to Paul Harvey's "The Rest of the Story" at lunch time in their humble home in...Posted by Driving Miss Norma on Monday, September 21, 2015

Home is where we park.Posted by Driving Miss Norma on Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Love the face and the photo bomb!Posted by Driving Miss Norma on Monday, February 22, 2016

You get the idea!Posted by Driving Miss Norma on Wednesday, January 27, 2016

One with the chairPosted by Driving Miss Norma on Thursday, January 7, 2016

The end of a lovely day!Posted by Driving Miss Norma on Friday, February 12, 2016

Hesitant captain. I'm sure we are in good hands!Posted by Driving Miss Norma on Wednesday, December 23, 2015

She just couldn't decide and when you are old you LOVE cake!Posted by Driving Miss Norma on Monday, February 22, 2016

Norma's first IMAX movie was in 3D! Cool!Posted by Driving Miss Norma on Friday, February 12, 2016

Posted by Driving Miss Norma on Friday, August 28, 2015

'Mermaids' swim with sharks in South Carolina Aquarium

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Most people have been to an aquarium by the time they're in middle school.

But you've probably never seen an attraction like the one that's soon to be at the South Carolina Aquarium in Charleston.

The World-Famous Weeki Wachee Mermaids will entertain guests at the aquarium March 28 through April 3.

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Hailing from Spring Hill, Florida, the mermaids swim among hundreds of animals, including fish, manatees and 8-foot-long sharks.

During each show, the mermaids delight guests with a highly technical and choreographed routine to musical numbers.

The mermaids travel nationwide, but they usually perform at Weeki Wachee Springs State Park in Florida.

At the upcoming exhibit at the South Carolina Aquarium, a limited number of guests will be able to experience a special date night event, Mermaids & Me, designed for all ages and featuring an exclusive mermaid performance in the aquarium's Great Ocean Tank. Each attendee will have the opportunity to meet and take a photo with a friendly mermaid on the land.

A mermaid kiss. #mermaniaPosted by South Carolina Aquarium on Friday, March 27, 2015

Posted by Weeki Wachee Springs on Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Rare 'super bloom' could sprout millions of flowers in Death Valley

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A rare flower bloom could happen in one of the hottest places on Earth, where 2 inches of rain a year is common.

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Temperatures in Death Valley can exceed 120 degrees.

If the valley, which spans across California and Nevada, gets a little more rain, it could create a "super bloom," a phenomenon in which millions of flowers grow in the normally barren area. It happens about once a decade. The last one was in 2005.

It's not uncommon to see some flowers there, but a super bloom is different.

Park ranger Alan Van Valkenburg advises sightseers to visit the area during the super bloom at least once.

"It could be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," Valkenburn said in a U.S. National Park Service video. "These areas that are normally just rock, just soil, just barren, not even shrubs, they're filled with life. So Death Valley really does go from being a valley of death to being a valley of life."

The National Park Service said in January that it spotted "fields of flowers on the black volcanic rocks."

Currently, there are about 20 wildflower species in bloom, according to park spokeswoman Abby Wines.

The park said above-average autumn rains caused the early bloom. If El Nino rains start falling, it'll be even more spectacular.

Wines recommends interested parkgoers visit Death Valley to witness the super bloom sooner rather than later. She said the flowers will start to wilt in early April, and they'll die when temperatures reach over 100 degrees or when strong winds hit the valley and dry them out. She also suggests visiting the park during the early morning or afternoon, when lighting is brighter and better and the flowers show their most vibrant colors.

Flowers that bloom include the desert gold, a yellow daisy-like flower that has covered large areas of the park, and the desert five-spot, a pink or purple cup flower that can have up to three dozen buds on just one plant.

"One of my favorite flowers is the gravel ghost," Wines said. "It's not a very showy flower. It's just plain white, but what makes it amazing (is) the leaves are flat and blend into the ground and the stalk is very thin so it looks like it's floating 2 feet off the ground."

Read more here.

Repairs could force Niagara Falls portion to run dry

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Niagara Falls, a distinct collective of three waterfalls that straddle the border of the U.S. and Canada, will go dry in the next two or three years.

But it will only happen on the American side of the falls in New York.

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For some, this will be the second time in their lifetime that the falls have dried.

In 1969 researchers stopped the flow of water to study the effects of erosion and buildup of rock at the base of the falls. That year, people traveled from all over the world to see the landmark de-watered

According to The Buffalo News, the New York State parks system wants to halt the water on the American side of the falls to replace two 115-year-old stone arch bridges that allow pedestrians, park vehicles and utilities access to Goat Island. Officials have said the concrete bridges, built in 1901, are deteriorating. A renovation would improve safety and the overall look of the popular site.

In 2004, the concrete arch bridges were closed and temporary truss bridges were put in place for parkgoers to cross over the rapids. Ten years later, the temporary bridges, which block views of the falls and are aesthetically unappealing for visitors, are still in place. 

Officials now want to replace the two stone arch bridges, a project that could take five to nine months and would cost between $21.6 million and $37.3 million, The Buffalo News reported. 

"The biggest problem is coming up with the money to do this," said Niagara Falls historian Tom Yots. "These beautiful bridge designs go back to the beginning of the 20th century."

The park system's proposal will be presented at a public hearing Wednesday at the Niagara Falls Conference Center. 

If approved, a cofferdam would be imposed to stop water from flowing on the American side and redirect it to flow down the Canadian side. About 85 percent of the Niagara River flows over Horseshoe Falls in Ontario, and 15 percent flows over the American Falls in New York. 

Read more here. 

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