And recently realeased by Scott Stillman…Nature’s Silent Message
The Voyageur Hiking Trail runs between Sudbury and Thunder Bay in Northern Ontario, Canada. It is a public hiking trail whose name honors the European fur traders of the region who travelled the area mostly by canoe and were known as “voyageurs” (runners of the woods). Used by all ages and levels of experience, the trail is used by day hikers to the serious hardy backpackers.
The hiking trail crosses the vast privately and publicly owned forests of this rugged wilderness. Over half of the linear trail has been completed plus numerous side trails. Sault Ste. Marie is the largest city on the completed trail and is located between two of the Great Lakes………….Lake Superior and Lake Huron. The route runs alongside these two great bodies of water frequently touching the shoreline. Many other communities through which the trail passes include Elliot Lake, Iron Bridge, Wawa, Marathon, Terrace Bay, Schreiber, Rossport and Nipigon.
You can refer to a trail guidebook that provides trail users with all of the up-to-date maps and descriptions of the available trails. In addition, digital maps can be downloaded to GPS units for on-trail navigation. Many trail users participate in Geocaching and the number of geocaches that can be found along the trail is continually increasing.
The Voyageur Trail is a pedestrian trail only….meaning that it is made for hiking, backpacking, snowshoeing and bushwhack skiing. In most places, the trail is too rough for other uses. You will find fallen trees that lie across the path where your only choice is to climb over them. You will cross streams on beaver dams, rocks or logs. And the trail is advertised as a “true wilderness trail” because there are no facilities along the Voyageur Trail. Regardless of your physical condition you can expect to do approximately two kilometers per hour on the trail so plan your outing taking this into account. Some hikers have described it as “bushwhacking with blazes” and in some areas of the trail this description is true. (wiki)
The great plains of the Midwest are home to some of the United States’ most amazing wildlife.
In the American prairie your will mostly find animals adapted for living in grasslands. Indigenous mammals include the American bison, eastern cottontail, black-tailed jackrabbit, plains coyote, black-tailed prairie dog, muskrat, opossum, raccoon, prairie chicken, wild turkey, white-tailed deer, swift foxes, pronghorn antelope, the Franklin’s ground squirrel and several other species of ground squirrels.
Rabbits live throughout and neighboring areas; the black-tailed jackrabbit is found in Texas, Oklahoma, Nebraska and Kansas, the white-tailed jackrabbit in the Dakotas, Minnesota and Wisconsin, the swamp rabbit in swampland in Texas, and the eastern cottontail is found in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, the Dakotas, and every state in the Eastern U.S.The groundhog is a common species in Iowa, Missouri, and eastern portions of Kansas, Nebraska and Oklahoma.
The groundhog is widespread throughout Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, and Minnesota. Virginia opossum is found is states such as Missouri, Indiana, Iowa, Oklahoma, Nebraska and Kansas.
The nine-banded armadillo is found throughout the South and states such as Missouri, Kansas and Oklahoma. The muskrat is found throughout the Central U.S., excluding Texas, while the American beaver is found in every central state.The American bison is the heaviest land animal in North America and can be as tall as 6.5 feet (2.0 m) and weigh over a ton.
Maybe the most iconic animal of the American prairie, the American buffalo, once roamed throughout the central plains. Bison once covered the Great Plains and were critically important to Native-American societies in the Central U.S. They became nearly extinct in the 19th century, but have made a recent resurgence in the Great Plains. Today, bison numbers have rebounded to about 200,000; these bison live on preserves and ranches.
Some of the species that occupy every central state include the red fox, bobcat, white-tailed deer, raccoon, eastern spotted skunk, striped skunk, long-tailed weasel, and the American badger and beaver. The wild boar is common in the South, while the American mink lives in every central state with the exception of Texas. The least weasel is found around the Great Lakes as well as states such as Nebraska, the Dakotas, Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin.
The gray fox is found in Iowa, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas and also around the Great Lakes region. The ring-tailed cat is found in the southern region, including in Texas, Missouri, and Oklahoma. There are many species of squirrels in the central parts of the U.S., including the fox squirrel, eastern gray squirrel, Franklin’s ground squirrel, southern flying squirrel, and the thirteen-lined ground squirrel. Voles include the prairie vole, woodland vole and the meadow vole. The plains pocket gopher lives throughout the Great Plains. Shrews include the cinereus shrew, southeastern shrew, North American least shrew, and the Elliot’s short-tailed shrew. (wiki)\
Looking for premier hiking in the Midwest. Look no furture….The Ice Age Trail is a National Scenic Trail located entirely within Wisconsin. The trail is also one of 42 designated Wisconsin state trails and the only one specifically designated as a “State Scenic Trail.” From Interstate State Park on the Minnesota border to Potawatomi State Park on Lake Michigan, the Ice Age Trail winds for more than 1,000 miles, following the edge of the last continental glacier in Wisconsin.
One of only 11 National Scenic Trails, the Ice Age Trail is intended to be a premier hiking trail and conservation resource for silent sport and outdoor enthusiasts. The trail traverses some of Wisconsin’s most scenic landscapes and helps tell the story of the last Ice Age by highlighting Wisconsin’s unique glacial features.
Primary attractions include topography left by glaciation in the Last Ice Age. Glacial features along the trail include kettles, potholes, eskers, and glacial erratics. Many of the best examples of glacial features in Wisconsin are exhibited in units of the Ice Age National Scientific Reserve, most of which lie along the trail.
The Ice Age Trail is primarily an off-road hiking and backpacking trail that provides excellent opportunities for sightseeing, wildlife viewing and bird watching. In winter, some sections of the trail are open for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.
Opportunities are available for camping along the Ice Age Trail in national, state and county forests and in many state and county parks, including some private campgrounds. Campgrounds can vary from primitive walk-in campsites to facilities complete with electric hookups. When planning a trip, it is best to check ahead of time for camping locations and availability. The Ice Age Trail Atlas and Guidebook, which are available for sale from the Ice Age Trail Alliance, provide camping and lodging details for all segments of the trail.
The Ice Age Trail travels through 30 counties on state, federal, county and private lands, connecting dozens of communities. There are hundreds of trailheads and access points located along the trail route. More than 600 miles of trail are open. The completed sections of the trail are connected by less-traveled roadways and other temporary routes.
Stone steps lead the way up the bluff trails at Devil’s Lake State Park.
The Ice Age Trail goes through several state and federal lands in Wisconsin, including traveling many miles through county and private lands. In addition to the state parks and forests listed below (from west to east along the trail), the Ice Age Trail travels through many state wildlife and fishery areas and some state natural areas.
- Interstate State Park, Saint Croix Falls
- Straight Lake State Park, near Frederic
- Chippewa Moraine State Recreation Area, near New Auburn
- Brunet Island State Park, Cornell
- Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest
- Hartman Creek State Park, near Waupaca
- Devil’s Lake State Park, near Baraboo
- Kettle Moraine State Forest
- Southern Unit, Eagle
- Lapham Peak Unit, near Delafield
- Loew Lake Unit, near Monches
- Pike Lake Unit, near Hartford
- Northern Unit, near Campbellsport
- Point Beach State Forest, near Two Rivers
- Potawatomi State Park, near Sturgeon Bay
The Ice Age Trail includes parts of other Wisconsin state trails.
- Gandy Dancer, St. Croix Falls to Frederic
- Tuscobia, Rice Lake to Birchwood
- Mountain-Bay, near Hatley
- Military Ridge, near Verona
- Badger, near Fitchburg
- Sugar River, Monticello to Albany
- Glacial Drumlin, near Wales
- Eisenbahn, near Kewaskum
- Ahnapee, Casco Junction to Sturgeon Bay
Interstate State Park, Chippewa Moraine State Recreation Area and the Northern Unit of the Kettle Moraine Forest – all units of the Ice Age Scientific Reserve – have Ice Age Educational and Interpretive Centers with major displays in glacial history and geology.https://dnr.wi.gov/topic/parks/name/iceagetrail/
When nature paints…..
As many of us have learned 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
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.
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.
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Oh, the many (often unrealized) benefits to birding. Did you know birding:
- Bird watching develops patience. …
- Bird watching will get your children to go outside. …
- Bird watching allows for introspection and contemplation. …
- Bird watching can improve cardiovascular health. …
- Bird watching gives you an excuse to travel. …
- Bird watching builds a sense of community. …
- Bird watching quickens reflexes.
One of my favorites, The mourning dove is a member of the dove family, Columbidae. The bird is also known as the American mourning dove or the rain dove, and erroneously as the turtle dove, and was once known as the Carolina pigeon or Carolina turtledove.
It is one of the most abundant and widespread of all North American birds. It is also a leading gamebird, with more than 20 million birds (up to 70 million in some years) shot annually in the U.S., both for sport and for meat. Its ability to sustain its population under such pressure is due to its prolific breeding; in warm areas, one pair may raise up to six broods of two young each in a single year. The wings make an unusual whistling sound upon take-off and landing, a form of sonation. The bird is a strong flier, capable of speeds up to 88 km/h (55 mph). It is the national bird of the British Virgin Islands.
Mourning doves are light grey and brown and generally muted in color. Males and females are similar in appearance. The species is generally monogamous, with two squabs (young) per brood. Both parents incubate and care for the young. Mourning doves eat almost exclusively seeds, but the young are fed crop milk by their parents.
Yellow rail adults have brown upperparts streaked with black, a yellowish-brown breast, a light belly and barred flanks. The short thick dark bill turns yellow in males during the breeding season. The feathers on the back are edged with white. There is a yellow-brown band over the eye and the legs are greenish-yellow.
Love the Sandhill Crane! A species of large cranes of North America and extreme northeastern Siberia. The common name of this bird refers to habitat like that at the Platte River, on the edge of Nebraska’s Sandhills on the American Plains. This is the most important stopover area for the nominotypical subspecies, the lesser sandhill crane (Antigone canadensis canadensis), with up to 450,000 of these birds migrating through annually. (wiki)
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:
The Hartman Reserve Nature Center is located in Cedar Falls, Iowa and is approximately 309 acres large. It is the largest undisturbed wooded area in Black Hawk County, Iowa and is home to three distinct habitats including wetland, forest and prairie. The reserve is dedicated to teaching youth about nature through hands on experiences and preservation.
Hartman Reserve was named after John C. Hartman who was the editor for the Waterloo Daily Courier who also was a nature enthusiast and amateur archaeologist.
When the YMCA could not raise the money to buy the property, Hartman donated a sizable amount towards the purchase which was enough to have the property bear his name.
Hartman Reserve is home to many trails which include paved, unpaved and water trails. There are over 6 miles worth of walking trails with the most notorious of these trails being the American Discovery Trail. All of the water trails lead into the Cedar River, the George With Memorial State Park and the many lakes on the reserve. The walking trails are dispersed throughout the reserve with varying levels of difficulty. During the Winter, snowshoe trails are available that replace the regular walking trails that can be used anyday between sunrise and sunset.
This amazing trail connects to the larger and more well known American Discovery Trail which is a system of recreational trails and roads that collectively form a coast-to-coast hiking and biking trail across the mid-tier of the United States. Horses can also be riddenon most of this trail which starts on the Delmarva Peninsula on the Atlantic Ocean and ends on the northern California coast on the Pacific Ocean making it a total length of 6,804 miles long.
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