Hike & Go Seek – Garden of the Gods – Illinois

Green Tree Near Rocky Mountains

Looking for spectacular views with a short hike among some of the most unique rock formations in the United States? Look no further than Garden of the Gods in Southern Illinois. The most popular hike in the Shawnee National Forest, Garden of the Gods gives tourists amazing insight into the geologic structure of Southern Illinois and a view that stretches for miles high over the pristine hills of Shawnee Forest.

More than 320 million years ago, the wind and rain patiently started to chisel away at large deposits of sedimentary rock located in what is now, Shawnee National Forest . Over the years, the elements have sculpted some of the most stunning and extraordinary rock formations known to man. There are also plenty of trails for backpacking and horseback riding, allowing nature lovers a welcome tour of what the lively environment has to offer.

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

Trekking the National Parks Family Board Game

There are many miles of diverse hiking and backpacking trails in the Shawnee National Forest including the 160-mile River to River Trail.

One of the most photographed locations in the state, Garden of the Gods’ scenic beauty is extraordinary. In the recreation area you can hike, camp, nature watch or picnic.

The Observation Trail features unique sandstone rock formations and panoramic views of the surrounding Garden of the God Wilderness. Interpretive signs explain the geological history. The 1/4-mile trail is made of natural sandstone and takes about an hour to walk. It contains short, steep grades and steps; benches are located along the trail and as a whole the trail is not tiring. Caution should be used due to the high cliffs in the area.

https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/shawnee/recreation/hiking/recarea/?recid=10685&actid=50

https://www.shawneeforest.com/garden-of-the-gods/

 

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

What it’s like to be a Bird

This bird book for birders and nonbirders alike that will excite and inspire by providing a new and deeper understanding of what common, mostly backyard, birds are doing–and why.

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What it’s like to be a bird

“Can birds smell?” “Is this the same cardinal that was at my feeder last year?” “Do robins ‘hear’ worms?” In What It’s Like to Be a Bird, David Sibley answers the most frequently asked questions about the birds we see most often. This special, large-format volume is geared as much to nonbirders as it is to the out-and-out obsessed, covering more than two hundred species and including more than 330 new illustrations by the author. While its focus is on familiar backyard birds–blue jays, nuthatches, chickadees–it also examines certain species that can be fairly easily observed, such as the seashore-dwelling Atlantic puffin. David Sibley’s exacting artwork and wide-ranging expertise bring observed behaviors vividly to life. (For most species, the primary illustration is reproduced life-sized.) And while the text is aimed at adults–including fascinating new scientific research on the myriad ways birds have adapted to environmental changes–it is nontechnical, making it the perfect occasion for parents and grandparents to share their love of birds with young children, who will delight in the big, full-color illustrations of birds in action. Unlike any other book he has written, What It’s Like to Be a Bird is poised to bring a whole new audience to David Sibley’s world of birds.

Order at What it’s like to be a bird

Beat the Bite!

Blue Green and Black Dragonfly on Green Grass

With Summer upon us, the bugs, ticks, mosquitoes, black flies and other nasty pests try to invade out space.

Protect yourself from literally  head to toe with the latest.

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Insect Shield Sport Crew Sock

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  • Durable, cushioned sole for comfort

 

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ExOfficio womens Bugsaway Lumen Full Zip Hoody

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ExOfficio mens Bugsaway Sandfly Jacket

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  • This lightweight hooded men’s jacket is great for buggy travels, off-trail hikes, or anywhere repelling insects like ticks and mosquitoes is one of your top concernsB07VPRM2CW

    Medella Naturals Insect & Mosquito Repellent, DEET-Free All-Natural Formula, Safe for Kids and Pets, Made in The USA, Travel 3-Pack, 2 oz, 4 oz, and 8 oz. Bottles

    • PURE PROTECTION: Medella Naturals Insect Repellent provides a safe and effective way to keep mosquitoes, gnats, and other flying insects away while prevent irritating bites, all without leaving a greasy or oily residue.
    • NATURAL INGREDIENTS: Made in the USA from skin-loving ingredients like lemongrass oil, Vitamin E, purified water, glycerin, castor oil, and a hint of vanilla, which gives this spray its pleasant smell.
    • CHEMICAL FREE: The DEET-free formula is made without synthetic fragrances, dyes, phthalates, pesticides, alcohol, formaldehyde, preservatives, or petrochemicals.
    • FAMILY FRIENDLY: This easy-to-spray pump makes application a breeze and provides protection for adults, kids, and even pets. It has lasting power and is suitable for year-round usage.
    • STAY OUTDOORS WITH CONFIDENCE: Get back to doing what you love in the great outdoors without having to be bothered by bugs. This spray stands up to sweat and keeps you protected no matter the activity.

     

 

Hike & Go Seek – Theodore Roosevelt National Park

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Theodore Roosevelt National Park is an American national park comprising three geographically separated areas of badlands in western North Dakota. The park was named for U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt.  It has three sections: the North Unit, the South Unit, and the Elkhorn Ranch Unit.

The park’s larger South Unit lies alongside Interstate 94 near Medora, North Dakota. The smaller North Unit is situated about 80 mi (130 km) north of the South Unit, on U.S. Route 85, just south of Watford City, North Dakota. Roosevelt’s Elkhorn Ranch is located between the North and South units, approximately 20 mi (32 km) west of US 85 and Fairfield, North Dakota. The Little Missouri River flows through all three units of the park. The Maah Daah Hey Trail connects all three units.

History

Roosevelt first came to the North Dakota badlands to hunt bison in September 1883. During that first short trip, he got his bison and fell in love with the rugged lifestyle and the “perfect freedom” of the West. He invested $14,000 in the Maltese Cross Ranch, which was already being managed by Sylvane Ferris and Bill Merrifield seven miles south of Medora. That winter, Ferris and Merrifield built the Maltese Cross Cabin. After the death of both his wife and his mother on February 14, 1884, Teddy Roosevelt returned to his North Dakota ranch seeking solitude and time to heal. That summer, he started his second ranch, the Elkhorn Ranch, 35 miles north of Medora, which he hired two Maine woodsmen, Bill Sewall and Wilmot Dow, to operate. Teddy Roosevelt took great interest in his ranches and in hunting in the West, detailing his experiences in pieces published in eastern newspapers and magazines. He wrote three major works on his life in the West: Ranch Life and the Hunting Trail, Hunting Trips of a Ranchman and The Wilderness Hunter. His adventures in “the strenuous life” outdoors and the loss of his cattle in the starvation winter in 1886–1887 were influential in Theodore Roosevelt’s pursuit of conservation policies as President of the United States (1901–1909).

Both main units of the park have scenic drives, approximately 100 miles of foot and horse trails, wildlife viewing, and opportunities for back country hiking and camping. There are three developed campgrounds: Juniper Campground in the North Unit, Cottonwood Campground in the South Unit, and the Roundup Group Horse Campground in the South Unit.

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

Trekking the National Parks Family Board Game

One of the most popular attractions is wildlife viewing. The park is home to a wide variety of Great Plains wildlife including bison, coyotes, cougars, feral horses, badgers, elk, bighorn sheep, white-tailed deer and mule deer, prairie dogs, and at least 186 species of birds including golden eagles, sharp-tailed grouse, and wild turkeys. Bison may be dangerous and visitors are advised to view them from a distance. Bison, elk, and bighorn sheep have been successfully reintroduced to the park.

The scenery changes constantly in relationship with the seasons. The brown, dormant grass dominates from late summer through the winter, but explodes into green color in the early summer along with hundreds of species of flowering plants. Winter can be a beautiful scene as snow covers the sharp terrain of the badlands and locks the park into what Theodore Roosevelt called “an abode of iron desolation.

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

 

For some great resources:

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

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TrailBuddy Lightweight Trekking Poles 

Social Distancing Road Trip

We had been working from home for two months due to COVID-19 and had to cancel five trips including one to Spain and Portugal. With that, the stress of work, and everything else going on, we decided we need a change of scenery.  If we had to work from home, why not work from somebody else’s home?

Deciding where to go took a little bit. We had to find an area drivable to Texas within a week that was dog friendly and had a lot of outdoor activities since many typical tourist destinations were closed (including many national and state parks). After quite a bit of research, we ended up picking Colorado as our destination as parks had just opened up and it wasn’t too far. Memorial Day weened just happened to be very next weekend so we decided to use the long weekend, meaning we only had five days to plan!

We quickly picked some Airbnb’s and got ready for our trip. It was very easy to pack because I was only going to wear activewear for the full week. With that, my hiking boots, and our dog’s stuff, we hopped into my Jeep on Thursday night after work and took off to Amarillo. We broke up the 11 hour drive to Colorado Springs with a 5-6 hour overnight in Amarillo and then a Friday morning to Colorado Springs. The drive to Amarillo is pretty boring we got some Chick-fil-A for dinner and arrived in one piece around 11 PM. We stayed at the Hilton Home2 Suites hotel on the way back from New Mexico one New Years Eve after driving through a blizzard. We knew the Home2 Suites was brand new, clean, cheap, and dog friendly, so we felt comfortable staying there one night. It was so weird seeing so many people at the hotel after not seeing very many at all for quite a while. We wore masks, dumped our stuff in the room, and passed out.

via Social Distancing Road Trip — The Impatient Traveler

 

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

Trekking the National Parks Family Board Game

 

 

National Parks Badges Puzzle 

 

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Medella Naturals Insect & Mosquito Repellent, DEET-Free All-Natural Formula, Safe for Kids and Pets, Made in The USA, Travel 3-Pack, 2 oz, 4 oz, and 8 oz. Bottles

 

Rewilding

To my left-brained
Scientifically-inclined
Critically-trained
Eye and mind

These fields should now
Be an abomination;
No discipline by plough
Or corrective cultivation.

A shameful parade
Of gleeful weeds appears;
Led by a brigade
Of over-eager volunteers.

But as I look around
All that I can see
Is my native ground
As it’s meant to be.

The fields close to our home have been left uncultivated this year and the weeds – and we – are making the most of it. As well as wheat plants seeded from the previous crop (known as volunteers) there’s an amazing profusion and diversity of wild plants that would normally be sprayed out of existence. We’ve followed the rewilding process right through the lockdown period (we’ve been allowed to go out for exercise) and it’s been fascinating and inspiring to watch

via Rewilding — Gonecycling (again)

 

A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson

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

Trekking the National Parks Family Board Game

 

Getting Back to Nature

As many of us have learnt throughout our lives, there are a great number of physical and psychological benefits from being in the great outdoors. During the restrictions of COVID-19 there have been a lot more people going for walks daily and getting out into nature as much as they can. Below are just some of the many benefits you can receive from getting back to nature and enjoying a bit of fresh air and greenery:

  • Improved memory function
  • Less Fatigue
  • Significant mood improvement
  • Reduces stress
  • Increases problem solving skills
  • Reduces blood pressure
  • Reduced headaches
  • Better eyesight
  • Boosts immune system
  • Improves attention and focus
  • Spiritual enhancement
  • More mindful
  • Increased mortality
  • Reduces fear

via Getting Back to Nature — Blossom Interiors

 

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Whispers in the Wilderness

 

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Nature’s Silent Message 

 

 

The Earth is trying to teach us

Natures Silent Secret

“The Earth is trying to teach us to live better. To lead richer, happier lives.” Nature’s Silent Message.       Just released by Scott Stillman.

Nature’s Silent Message

Will we continue down the limited path of the mechanical mind?

Or will we tune into ultimate intelligence? The same intelligence that allows blood to flow through our veins, bees to pollinate flowers, birds to fly south, salmon to spawn, whales to migrate, caterpillars to become butterflies, the Earth to rotate, the moon to orbit, and the rest of nature to function perfectly of its own accord?

We have access to nature’s silent message—if we take the time to listen.

In this spellbinding collection, Stillman guides us from the lush forests of the North Cascades, through the sandstone slot canyons of Utah, and into the border country of extreme southern Arizona. In this classroom, we learn not from books, nor words, nor lectures. Wilderness is the school of life, where we learn not from that which thinks—but that which knows.

Nature’s Silent Message suggests the existence of something far greater than what we see on the surface. It’s about breaking through old patterns so that new ones may emerge.

The message is simple and pure, but when you try to define it, it vanishes into thin air. And in that vanishing, you find it again. Like a beautiful butterfly that can never be caught. Try and catch her and she’ll drive you mad, eluding you forever. But learn to fly with her, and all the wonders of the world will be shown, and all the answers to your questions be known.

Get it now.    Nature’s Silent Message

Birding in the Midwest

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

 

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   National Geographic Birds               Birds of the Midwest

 

The barred owl, also known as northern barred owl or hoot owl, is a true owl native to eastern North America. Adults are large, and are brown to grey with barring on the chest. Barred owls have expanded their range to the west coast of North America, where they are considered invasive.

The common loon or great northern diver is a large member of the loon, or diver, family of birds. Breeding adults have a plumage that includes a broad black head and neck with a greenish, purplish, or bluish sheen, blackish or blackish-grey upperparts, and pure white underparts except some black on the undertail coverts and vent. Non-breeding adults are brownish with a dark neck and head marked with dark grey-brown. Their upperparts are dark brownish-grey with an unclear pattern of squares on the shoulders, and the underparts, lower face, chin, and throat are whitish. The sexes look alike, though males are significantly heavier than females.