Hike & Go Seek – Gandy Dancer Trial

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The Gandy Dancer State Trail is a 98 mile recreational trail spanning through Wisconsin and Minnesota. The trail is managed by Polk, Burnett, and Douglas County in Wisconsin and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources in Minnesota.

The trail follows the old Minneapolis, St. Paul and Sault Ste. Marie railroad grade from St. Croix Falls to Superior. The trail is divided up into a north and south segment with the southern segment accounting for 47 miles all in Wisconsin and the northern segment accounting for 51 miles in both Minnesota and Wisconsin.  The Ice Age Trail follows the Gandy Dancer State Trail for 19 miles from St. Croix Falls past the town of Luck.

 

 

History

A gandy dancer was a slang term used for American railroad workers that would build and maintain tracks by hand. The term likely originated from the Gandy Manufacturing Company based in Chicago which produced railroad tools. These workers were known to sing and keep their voices and feet in unison which led to them being described as dancers. In 1990 a naming contest was held for the naming of the trail. The name Gandy Dancer was chosen to honor the railroad workers who built the tracks. (wiki)

 

 

Trekking The National Parks: The Family Board Game (Second Edition)

Trekking the National Parks Family Board Game.

Midwest Birding

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Beautiful Birds of the Midwest 

The every popular Western Meadowlark.  The western meadowlark has distinctive calls described as watery or flute-like, which distinguish it from the closely related eastern meadowlark. The western meadowlark is the state bird of six states: Montana, Kansas, NebraskaNorth Dakota, Oregon, and Wyoming.

 

Female Mergus merganser americanus at Las Gallinas Wildlife Ponds.jpg

The Hooded and Common Merganser.  In most places, the common merganser is as much a frequenter of salt water as fresh water. In larger streams and rivers, they float down with the stream for a few miles, and either fly back again or more commonly fish their way back, diving incessantly the whole way. In smaller streams, they are present in pairs or smaller groups, and they float down, twisting round and round in the rapids, or fishing vigorously in a deep pool near the foot of a waterfall or rapid. When floating leisurely, they position themselves in water similar to ducks, but they also swim deep in water like cormorants, especially when swimming upstream. They often sit on a rock in the middle of the water, similar to cormorants, often half-opening their wings to the sun. To rise from water, they flap along the surface for many yards. Once they are airborne, the flight is strong and rapid. They often fish in a group forming a semicircle and driving the fish into shallow water, where they are captured easily. Their ordinary voice is a low, harsh croak, but during the breeding season, they (including the young) make a plaintive, soft whistle. Generally, they are wary, and one or more birds stay on sentry duty to warn the flock of approaching danger. When disturbed, they often disgorge food before moving. Though they move clumsily on land, they resort to running when pressed, assuming a very upright position similar to penguins, and falling and stumbling frequently.

 

B06XKNDJHP

High Power Monocular Smartphone Holder 

 

 

The Ruffed Grouse.  Ruffed grouse have two distinct morphs: grey and brown. In the grey morph, the head, neck and back are grey-brown; the breast is light with barring. There is much white on the underside and flanks, and overall the birds have a variegated appearance; the throat is often distinctly lighter. The tail is essentially the same brownish grey, with regular barring and a broad black band near the end (“subterminal”). Brown-morph birds have tails of the same color and pattern, but the rest of the plumage is much more brown, giving the appearance of a more uniform bird with less light plumage below and a conspicuously grey tail. There are all sorts of intergrades between the most typical morphs; warmer and more humid conditions favor browner birds in general.

Displaying male

The ruffs are on the sides of the neck in both sexes. They also have a crest on top of their head, which sometimes lies flat. Both genders are similarly marked and sized, making them difficult to tell apart, even in hand. The female often has a broken subterminal tail band, while males tend to have unbroken tail bands, though the opposite of either can occur. Females may also do a display similar to the male. Another fairly accurate sign is that rump feathers with a single white dot indicate a female; rump feathers with more than one white dot indicate a male.

Grèbejougrisparade.jpg

The red-necked grebe is a migratory aquatic bird found in the temperate regions of the northern hemisphere. Its wintering habitat is largely restricted to calm waters just beyond the waves around ocean coasts, although some birds may winter on large lakes. Grebes prefer shallow bodies of fresh water such as lakes, marshes or fish-ponds as breeding sites.

The red-necked grebe is a nondescript dusky-grey bird in winter. During the breeding season, it acquires the distinctive red neck plumage, black cap and contrasting pale grey face from which its name was derived. It also has an elaborate courtship display and a variety of loud mating calls. Once paired, it builds a nest from water plants on top of floating vegetation in a shallow lake or bog.

 

         1591934060

   National Geographic Birds               Birds of the Midwest

Image result for quotes about birds

Beautiful Birds of the Midwest 

The every popular Western Meadowlark.  The western meadowlark has distinctive calls described as watery or flute-like, which distinguish it from the closely related eastern meadowlark. The western meadowlark is the state bird of six states: Montana, Kansas, NebraskaNorth Dakota, Oregon, and Wyoming.

 

Female Mergus merganser americanus at Las Gallinas Wildlife Ponds.jpg

The Hooded and Common Merganser.  In most places, the common merganser is as much a frequenter of salt water as fresh water. In larger streams and rivers, they float down with the stream for a few miles, and either fly back again or more commonly fish their way back, diving incessantly the whole way. In smaller streams, they are present in pairs or smaller groups, and they float down, twisting round and round in the rapids, or fishing vigorously in a deep pool near the foot of a waterfall or rapid. When floating leisurely, they position themselves in water similar to ducks, but they also swim deep in water like cormorants, especially when swimming upstream. They often sit on a rock in the middle of the water, similar to cormorants, often half-opening their wings to the sun. To rise from water, they flap along the surface for many yards. Once they are airborne, the flight is strong and rapid. They often fish in a group forming a semicircle and driving the fish into shallow water, where they are captured easily. Their ordinary voice is a low, harsh croak, but during the breeding season, they (including the young) make a plaintive, soft whistle. Generally, they are wary, and one or more birds stay on sentry duty to warn the flock of approaching danger. When disturbed, they often disgorge food before moving. Though they move clumsily on land, they resort to running when pressed, assuming a very upright position similar to penguins, and falling and stumbling frequently.

 

B06XKNDJHP

High Power Monocular Smartphone Holder 

 

 

The Ruffed Grouse.  Ruffed grouse have two distinct morphs: grey and brown. In the grey morph, the head, neck and back are grey-brown; the breast is light with barring. There is much white on the underside and flanks, and overall the birds have a variegated appearance; the throat is often distinctly lighter. The tail is essentially the same brownish grey, with regular barring and a broad black band near the end (“subterminal”). Brown-morph birds have tails of the same color and pattern, but the rest of the plumage is much more brown, giving the appearance of a more uniform bird with less light plumage below and a conspicuously grey tail. There are all sorts of intergrades between the most typical morphs; warmer and more humid conditions favor browner birds in general.

Displaying male

The ruffs are on the sides of the neck in both sexes. They also have a crest on top of their head, which sometimes lies flat. Both genders are similarly marked and sized, making them difficult to tell apart, even in hand. The female often has a broken subterminal tail band, while males tend to have unbroken tail bands, though the opposite of either can occur. Females may also do a display similar to the male. Another fairly accurate sign is that rump feathers with a single white dot indicate a female; rump feathers with more than one white dot indicate a male.

Grèbejougrisparade.jpg

The red-necked grebe is a migratory aquatic bird found in the temperate regions of the northern hemisphere. Its wintering habitat is largely restricted to calm waters just beyond the waves around ocean coasts, although some birds may winter on large lakes. Grebes prefer shallow bodies of fresh water such as lakes, marshes or fish-ponds as breeding sites.

The red-necked grebe is a nondescript dusky-grey bird in winter. During the breeding season, it acquires the distinctive red neck plumage, black cap and contrasting pale grey face from which its name was derived. It also has an elaborate courtship display and a variety of loud mating calls. Once paired, it builds a nest from water plants on top of floating vegetation in a shallow lake or bog.

 

         1591934060

   National Geographic Birds               Birds of the Midwest

Hike & Go Seek – Maquoketa Caves State Park

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This park contains more caves than any other state park in Iowa. A trail system links the caves, formations, and overlooks while providing a scenic hiking experience. Many areas on these trails have seen new construction, making the journey to the caves safer. Most of the caves may be entered by persons of average physical ability, but some are more advanced. However the park’s caves were closed to humans between 2010 and April 2012 in the hopes of protecting the resident bats from white nose syndrome.   

The park is in the Driftless Area of Iowa. This region escaped being glaciated in the last ice age, while regions to the east and west were not spared. The park has been subjected to hundreds of thousands of years of natural non-glacial erosion. 

The park’s caves, limestone formations and rugged bluffs represent a step back in geological time of thousands of years. Stalactites once hung from the ceilings and stalagmites rose from the floor. Souvenir hunters have robbed the caves of this rare beauty, but many formations remain. The park’s limestone caves, arches and chimneys including Dancehall Cave, Hernado’s Hideaway, Shinbone Cave, Wye Cave, and an unmarked cave within the Dancehall Cavern locally known as Steelgate Cave.

 

A bit of history

Artifacts such as pottery, as well as tools and projectile points made of stone have been found in the caves and surrounding area. These discoveries indicate that the Maquoketa Caves area has been of interest to humans for hundreds, perhaps thousands, of years. Early recorded history tells that the Native Americans in the area were likely visitors to the Raccoon Creek valleys. The first Euro-American explorers first visited the caves as late as the mid-1830s. The area was originally known as Morehead Caves or Burt’s Cave. It had become a popular place for exploration, picnics, parties, and dances by the 1860s. A dance floor was constructed north of Natural Bridge in 1868, and a pavilion, which was used until the 1920s, was built sometime later. By the turn of the 20th century the area had become seriously degraded, and its popularity declined. (wiki)

And for some of the Best of the Midwest:

South Dakota's Black Hills.

The Black Hills of South Dakota

 

 

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Starved Rock in Illinois

 

Shawnee National Forest

 

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America’s Best Day Hikes       Great Hiking Trails of the World

Hike & Go Seek – Petrified Forest

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Although a bit west of what is considered the tradition Midwest, Petrified Forest National Park is an American national park in Navajo and Apache counties in northeastern Arizona. Named for its large deposits of petrified wood, park covers about 230 square miles, encompassing semi-desert shrub steppe as well as highly eroded and colorful badlands.

 

220px-Blue_Mesa_Painted_Desert

The Petrified Forest is known for its fossils, especially fallen trees that lived in the Late Triassic Epoch.  The sediments containing the fossil logs are part of the widespread and colorful Chinle Formation, from which the Painted Desert gets its name.

The park’s seven maintained hiking trails, some paved, vary in length from less than 0.5 miles (0.8 km) to nearly 3 miles.  These named trails are Painted Desert Rim, Puerco Pueblo, Blue Mesa, Crystal Forest, Giant Logs, Long Logs, and Agate House.  Hikers and backpackers may also visit the park’s wilderness areas.

1000px-Shortgrass_pano_Petrified_Forest_NPPanorama of shortgrass prairie near Dry Wash in the southern section of the park.

Some of the larger animals roaming the grasslands include pronghorns, black-tailed jackrabbits (hares), Gunnison’s prairie dogs, coyotes, bobcats and foxes. Bobcats and bullsnakes hunt smaller animals, such as deer mice and white-tailed antelope squirrels in the park’s riparian zones.  More than 16 kinds of lizards and snakes live in various habitats in the park.

 

Here are a few great hiking resources

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America’s Best Day Hikes       Great Hiking Trails of the World

 

Hiking Garden Of The Gods in Colorado USA – Between England and Iowa

The Garden of the Gods, a registered National Natural Landmark, is located in Colorado Springs CO and is completely free to visit.  Set at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, the main draw of the park is to marvel at the red sandstone rock formations scattered throughout.  There are 17 different formations altogether and many different hiking trails totalling 21 miles.  The Visitor Centre is a good place to start, you can pick up a free map which is helpful as there isn’t a huge amount of signage out on the trails.

Garden of the Gods Hiking

The Visitor Centre also has one of my favourite views in the park.  You can see North Gateway Rock, South Gateway Rock and Gray Rock in front of the Rocky Mountains.  I like the contrast of colours, from the orange/brown in the front to the green of the lower mountains and then the white of the snow capped Pikes Peak.

Garden of the Gods Colorado USA

via Hiking Garden Of The Gods in Colorado USA — Between England & Iowa

Trekking The National Parks: The Family Board Game (Second Edition)

Trekking the National Parks Family Board Game

 

 

National Parks Badges Puzzle 

 

B073JYVKNX

Ultra Sim Card 

 

Wild Light

Wild Light

Wild Light

Wild Light is a gorgeous hardcover coffee table book celebrating Rocky Mountain National Park. It represents a decade of effort exploring and photographing this unique wilderness. The result is a work of stunning beauty that will capture your heart and make you feel at one with the mountains.

Join photographer Erik Stensland on a journey into the heart of Rocky Mountain National Park and experience its wild beauty.

It’s hard to say which I enjoyed more – the beautiful photography or the wonderful text. This book is much more than just a collection of pretty pictures. It’s informational and yet highly personal at the same time. Stensland’s love for the park is clear on every page. Not only does he present an insider’s view on the park but also how the park has changed him. The book is organized around the park’s regions, ecosystems, seasons, wildlife and human history of the park (and the changing role of the NPS). Stensland touches on more than just the beauty of the park, but also on deeper themes such as why we should care about – and why we need – places of beauty and wilderness and how they speak to our humanity. His goal is not so much to provide a documentary of the park but to allow us share in the wonder and magic of his experiences. Whether you’re a regular visitor to RMNP or reading about the park from a distance, this book draws you into the heart and essence of this special place. (amazon)

There are lots of beautiful places on this planet–so many, in fact, that no one will ever be able to see them all. Wild Light brings the best of Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park into your home and makes you wish it could do the opposite instead and transport you into the wilderness. Mr. Stensland, who resides near the park, spends hundreds of days and thousands of hours every year hiking to remote destinations in RMNP in an effort to be present when all the ideal conditions come together to create moments of magic. Sometimes that means hiking ten miles to the same spot over and over again until everything is just right. Those moments, which he solemnly captures, are presented in this magnificent book. The quality of the photography, from lighting to composition to imagination, is outstanding. The book itself is divided into sections based upon park geography. For those who have visited, this approach makes sense because different regions of the park do actually vary considerably. Each section contains dozens of magnificent scenes. Mountains, streams, waterfalls, wildflowers, forests, trees, and wildlife all make appearances and combine to offer something for every reader — (amazon)

Wild Light

 

Hike & Go Seek – Oak Leaf Trail

Brown Leaves on Brown Tree Branch

Just outside the busteling city of Milwaukee, Wisconsin you will find the Oak Leaf Trail (formerly 76 Bike Trail).  It is a paved 108-mile multi-use recreational trail.   Clearly marked trail segments connect all of the major parks in the Milwaukee County Park System with a “ribbon of green.”

Early bicycling advocate Harold “Zip” Morgan first conceived and laid out a 64-mile trail in 1939. The route made its way around the edge of the county and through natural resource corridors found along the rivers and lakefront.  Three decades later the trail was officially established by the Milwaukee County Park Commission, and in 1966 construction of the parkland trails began.  It became known as the 76 Bike Trail for the 76 miles  it spanned.
East side of the Oak Leaf Trail 
The present system of inter-connecting trails consists of 48 miles of asphalt paths and 31 miles of parkway, along with 27 miles of municipal streets that have designated bicycle lanes and sidewalks.   An outer loop of 64.5 miles (103.8 km) joins together the 5.4-mile (8.7 km) Lake Loop, 1.6-mile (2.6 km) Lincoln Creek Spur, 2.6-mile  Whitnall Loop and 13.7-mile East-West Connector.   The 2.1-mile (3.4 km) Root River Trail Extension was added in 2006.   Another 31 miles (50 km) are currently in the planning stages, including trail linkages with the newer Hank Aaron State Trail in the Menomonee Valley and Lakeshore State Park. A new trail segment under Bluemound Road along Underwood Creek was completed in 2011 in the City of Wauwatosa.
Scenery along the Oak Leaf Trail varies from woodland parks, nature reserves, and a wildlife corridor along the lakefront, to urban industrial settings in Milwaukee’s downtown area.

Hike & Go Seek – Starved Rock

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Plan to be surprised and awed at the spectacular natural features found here at Starved Rock in Illinois.

Surrounded by the flat, seemingly endless fields of Illinois farm country, a totally different topography is found within the park. Starved Rock was formed thousands of years ago by the melting of glaciers releasing torrents of water. As the water rushed downstream it eroded and stripped away everything in its path except the resistant St. Peter sandstone. It is that sandstone that formed the steep rock walls and the cool dark valleys of the eighteen canyons. When conditions are right cascades of falling water spill down into these gorges, creating the waterfalls so many come here to enjoy.

WATERFALLS
Although you can technically see waterfalls in 14 of the 18 canyons, some of the most scenic waterfalls are found in St. Louis, French, Wildcat, Tonty, Ottawa and Kaskaskia canyons. The best times to see waterfalls are in the spring when the snow and ice melt or after a heavy rainfall.

ICEFALLS
Winter brings a whole new life to the canyons. The freezing and melting that happens during this time of year creates amazing ice sculptures in the canyons. Make sure you come back in the winter to see an icefall – they are spectacular!

600 million years ago Northern Illinois was part of a broad upland that was undergoing extensive erosion. The erosion wore
the land down to near sea level. Erosion that forms a near sea
level surface is called a peneplain. This peneplain was submerged several times by sea water and several layers of sediment were laid on the surface.
Starved Rock State Park was once covered with 3000-5000
feet of glacial ice on and off over a course of 700,000 years.
Glacial ice can move forwards never backwards. When a glacier is said to be retreating, it is actually melting faster than it is
moving forward. As glacial ice can only move forward, it picks
up rocks and carries them in the ice. When the ice melts, these
rock particles are dropped at the point of melting. All dropped
rock material is called drift. Drift found at the point of melting is
called till. Till is unsorted glacial drift. When the glacier is stagnant, the drift accumulates into a pile called an end moraine.
After the glacier has retreated, it leaves a range of irregular hills
which are the end moraine. The melt waters of the glacier were
so great that they would accumulate behind the moraines and
form vast lakes. The streams that drain these lakes were gigantic compared to today’s streams. The Illinois Valley was
formed by one of these streams.
15,000 years ago during the Wisconsinan Glacial Age, the glacial meltwater of a large lake overtopped the Marseilles Moraine and formed Lake Ottawa behind the Farm Ridge Moraine
that ran north to south along what we call Starved Rock State
Park today. This lake drained when it overtopped the Farm
Ridge Moraine cutting a channel that became the Illinois River.
Repeated meltwater floods of the Kankakee Torrent poured
through the channels cut through the Marseilles and Farm
Ridge Moraines establishing the drainage for the Illinois, Fox,
and Vermillion Rivers. This repeated drainage also cut the outcrops , overlooks, and 18 canyons that you see today.

Starved Rock State Park

 

And here are a few other great resources.

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America’s Best Day Hikes       Great Hiking Trails of the World

Wilderness Wednesday

Pose lake Minnesota.jpg

Think there is not much wilderness left in the United States…think again.   And while much of it is in such states as California, Arizona, Washington and Alaska, we have a gem right here in the Midwest – Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in Minnesota!

Bordering the Arrowhead Region of the Canadian Board, the combined region of the BWCAW, Superior National Forest, Voyageurs National Park, and Ontario’s Quetico and La Verendrye Provincial Parks make up a large area of contiguous wilderness lakes and forests called the “Quetico-Superior country”, or simply the Boundary Waters. Lake Superior lies to the south and east of the Boundary Waters.

190,000 acres, nearly 20% of the BWCAW’s total area is water. Within the borders of the area are over 1,100 lakes and hundreds of miles of rivers and streams. Much of the other 80% of the area is forest. The BWCAW contains the largest remaining area of uncut forest in the eastern portion of the United States.

The Boundary Waters area is within the Laurentian Mixed Forest Province (commonly called the “North Woods”), a transitional zone between the boreal forest to the north and the temperate hardwood forest to the south that contains characteristics of each. Trees found within the wilderness area include conifers such as red pine, eastern white pine, birch, ash and even raspberries can be found in cleared areas. 

Green Pine Trees

The BWCAW contains a variety of hiking trails. Shorter hikes include the trail to Eagle Mountain (7 miles) Loop trails include the Pow Wow Trail, the Snowbank Trail, and the Sioux-Hustler Trail. The Border Route Trail and Kekekabic Trail are the two longest trails running through the BWCAW. The Border Route Trail runs east-west for over 65 miles through the eastern BWCAW, beginning at the northern end of the Superior Hiking Trail and following ridges and cliffs west until it connects with the Kekekabic Trail. The Kekekabic Trail continues for another 41 miles (66 km), beginning near the Gunflint Trail and passing through the center of the BWCAW before exiting it near Snowbank Lake. Both the Border Route and the Kekekabic Trail are part of the longer North Country National Scenic Trail.

 

Junction of the Eagle Mountain and Brule Lake Trails

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boundary_Waters_Canoe_Area_Wilderness

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Whispers in the Wilderness

 

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Wild: From Lost to Found

 

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Nature’s Silent Message