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.

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Starved Rock in Illinois

Shawnee National Forest

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The Hartman Nature Center

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Shirey Lake in Hartman Reserve Nature Center

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.

Shallow Focus on Blond Haired Woman in White Long Sleeve Shirt Carrying a Baby on Her Back


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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Songbird Sunday – Connecting with Nature through Birding

White and Black Birds Piercing on Tree Branch

“In order to see birds, it is necessary to become park of the silence” – Robert Lund

A rewilding, brought about first through neglect and now through intentional human effort, is occurring on all over the world and certainly here in the Midwest. Over the years, I have discovered unique beauties on ambling adventures along the Wisconsin and Michigan Shoreline, and even in the heart the city…downtown Chicago. A rewilding, brought about first through neglect and now through intentional human effort, is occurring on all over the world and certainly here in the Midwest. Over the years, I have discovered unique beauties on ambling adventures along the Wisconsin and Michigan Shoreline, and even in the heart the city…downtown Chicago.

Shallow Focus Photography of Gray and Orange Bird

The early interest in observing birds for their aesthetic rather than utilitarian (mainly food) value is traced to the late 18th century in the works of Gilbert White, Thomas Bewick, George Montagu and John Clare   The study of birds and natural history in general became increasingly prevalent in Britain during the Victorian Era, often associated with collection, eggs and later skins being the artifacts of interest. Wealthy collectors made use of their contacts in the colonies to obtain specimens from around the world. It was only in the late 19th century that the call for bird protection began leading to the rising popularity of observations on living birds. The Audubon Society was started to protect birds from the growing trade in feathers in the United States while the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds began in Britain.

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BENEFITS OF 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.
Bird Quotes - Quotations about Birds - Famous Quotes - Funny Cartoons

“I realized that if I had to choose, I would rather have birds than airplanes” – Charles Lindbergh

Birding in North America was focused in the early and mid-20th century in the eastern seaboard region, and was influenced by the works of Ludlow Griscom and later Roger Tory Peterson. Bird Neighbors (1897) by Neltje Blanchan was an early birding book which sold over 250,000 copies. It was illustrated with color photographs of stuffed birds.

Here are some great resources if you like birding:  

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What it’s Like to be a Bird

  National Geographic Birds

Hike and 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.

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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).

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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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On Location – Glacier Park in Illinois

Although a bit barren in January, Glacial Park Conservation Area offers 3,432 acres of recreation including a wide array of prairies, wetlands and savannas.  There are over eight miles of hiking trails with a beautiful backdrop of hickory trees, oak trees. and wildflowers. It is the home for over 41 species of state endangered animals and plants. And a great spot for birding.

Trekking the Interpretive Nature Trail On this 2 mile trek, call  the edge, you will search for owls, deer, wood ducks and blue birds.  This “edge” offers the perfect combination of of both woodland and grassland which is exactly what these animals need.  Many types of berries, nuts and seeds are available.

Trekking the  Plant Community Interpretive Trial

This open woodland is a savanna, hosting plant both native and non native to the area.  Some of the plants include bottlebrush grass, joe pye weed, and mayapple.   The green plants here produce their own food by trapping the energy of the sun.  They then support a wide array of organisms throughout the savanna. Here there is a very healthy ecosystem and therefore a vast biodiversity.

Midwestern Birds: Backyard Guide - Watching - Feeding - Landscaping - Nurturing - Indiana, Ohio, Iowa, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, ... Dakota (Bird Watcher's Digest Backyard Guide)

Midwestern Birds 

National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America, 7th Edition

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Geology of Glacial Park

12,000 years ago glaciers were in this park.  After leaving they left the land shaped into unique land forms and bringing rocks and till from Canada.   Because of so much till, the bedrock was buried and after breaking down, plants were able to grow in this new fertile soil.  This area then became of the top regions for agriculture.

Here are a few other great resources.

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Hike & Go Seek – Castle Rock State Park

 Located in the Rock River Hills region of Illinois you will find 2000 acres of rolling topography. Awesome rock formations and ravines abound as well as unique northern plant associations.

Enjoy six miles of trials and you will encounter woodland animals and birds inhabiting the park. Bring your camera!

How did it get it’s name? A sandstone bluff along the river. Castle Rock is a bluff of exposed St. Peter Sandstone from the Middle Ordovician period. Newly exposed sections are white quartz, while older areas have browner tints from the formation of limonite. The bluff is along the axis of the Sandwich Fault Zone, separating Ordovician exposures from those of the Cambrian period.

Castle Rock State Park was one of eleven state parks slated to close indefinitely on November 1, 2008 due to budget cuts by former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich. After delay, which restored funding for some of the parks, a proposal to close seven state parks and a dozen state historic sites, including Castle Rock, went ahead on November 30, 2008. After the impeachment of Illinois Governor Blagojevich, new governor Pat Quinn reopened the closed state parks in February.  In March 2009 Quinn announced he is committed to reopening the state historic sites by June 30, 2009.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Castle_Rock_State_Park_(Illinois)

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Hike & Go Seek – Kankakee River State Park

Kankakee River State Park, a treasured and historical area for centuries, is an Illinois state park on 4,000 acres. Originally, 35 acres (14 ha) of land was donated by Ethel Sturges Dummer for the creation of the state park in 1938. Another 1,715 acres (694 ha) was donated by Commonwealth Edison in 1956, which again donated more land in 1989. The area includes three amazing river islands.

There are plenty of hiking trails throughout the park that go through different ecosystems and different park features. While some go along the Kankakee River, with places to sit along the river, others go into the forests or along Rock Creek, a tributary of the Kankakee River that cuts through the ground, creating a gorge with cliffs. The trails are very diverse. The site is very good for mushroom hunting.

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The park’s trails stretch along both sides of the river. Hiking, biking and cross-country ski trails are on the river’s north side. Horse and snowmobile trails can be found on the south. A 3-mile route along Rock Creek lets hikers take in the beauty of limestone canyons and a waterfall. A bicycle trail begins at Davis Creek Area and travels 10.5 miles of trails in the form of a linear trail along the river and a loop in the west end of the park.

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

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Hike & Go Seek – Wauponsee Glacial Trail

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“Of all the paths you take in life, make sure one of them is dirt”  – John Muir (Essential Muir – A collection of Muir’s Writings)

The Wauponsee Glacial Trail of Illinois

Trail History

The 275-acre Wauponsee Glacial Trail was acquired between 2004 and 2016.

Prior to the District’s acquisition of the land, it was two abandoned railroads: Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific from Joliet to Manhattan and the Wabash/Norfolk Southern from Manhattan to Custer Park.

The Trail

The Wauponsee Glacial Trail is a 22.42-mile paved/crushed limestone linear trail consisting of two segments.

The northern segment of the trail travels 2.80 miles from Sugar Creek Preserve north to Rowell Avenue in Joliet. This flat, paved segment of the trail travels through woodland, prairie and wetland.

The southern segment of the trail extends an additional 19.62 miles from Sugar Creek Preserve south to the Kankakee River. This flat, crushed limestone segment of the trail travels through prairie. It is ideal for the following activities:

You will cross bridges and  you might even see some wild turkeys…

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https://www.reconnectwithnature.org/preserves-trails/trails/wauponsee-glacial-trail

For some great resources:

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America’s Best Day Hikes 

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Wilderness Wednesday

See the source image

COVERING FIVE STATES (IL, IA, NE, UT, WY)

Explore the Mormon Pioneer National Historic Trail across five states to see the 1,300-mile route traveled by Mormons who fled Nauvoo, Illinois, to the Great Salt Lake Valley in 1846-1847

Martins Cove, Wyoming

A Brief History

The story of the Mormon Trail is rooted in the beginnings of a unique American religion. In 1827, 21-year-old Joseph Smith announced that he had unearthed a set of golden plates, inscribed with the tenants of God’s true church. Smith said that he had been directed to the plates by an angel named Moroni, who also had given him divine tools for translating the ancient inscriptions into English. Smith used these to produce new Scripture called the Book of Mormon. In 1830, in western New York, he organized a legal entity that would become The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. His followers, who regarded Smith as a prophet, became known as Mormons.

Important differences between mainstream Christianity and Mormon doctrine quickly emerged, but it was primarily hostilities over land, business, and politics that caused Smith repeatedly to move church headquarters. Driven out of Missouri in 1838, the Mormons finally settled along a bend of the Mississippi River in Illinois. There they established a community they called Nauvoo, a Hebrew word meaning “beautiful place.” It was at Nauvoo that Smith cautiously began introducing the Old Testament practice of “plural marriage,” or polygamy, among select church leaders.

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Thousands of converts flocked to Nauvoo, soon making it the largest town in Illinois. Neighbors initially welcomed the orderly, industrious settlers despite their religious differences. But relations gradually soured, with complaints centering on Mormons’ clannish business practices, accusations of theft, their electoral sway, and Smith’s political aspirations. Meanwhile, dissent emerged within the church as rumors leaked of secret plural marriages. After an opposition newspaper publicly accused the prophet and other leaders of polygamy, Nauvoo’s city council and Smith declared the paper a public nuisance and Smith ordered destruction of its press. For that he and others were arrested and jailed at Carthage, Illinois. On June 27, 1844, a mob broke into the jail and murdered Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum. Other vigilantes attacked Mormon farms around Nauvoo in an attempt to expel them.

Brigham Young stepped up as Smith’s successor and began planning an orderly, spring 1846 evacuation of some 15,000 faithful to the Great Basin, Mexican-held territory beyond the Rocky Mountains. However, as anti-Mormon violence heated, Young decided to organize a vanguard of church leaders to depart in late winter, hoping that would pacify the vigilantes until the main body of Mormons could start west in April. On February 4, 1846, the first wagons ferried across the Mississippi to Iowa. This group halted after five miles and set up camp at Sugar Creek for a lengthy wait as Young and his associates concluded business at Nauvoo. Meanwhile others, anxious not to be left behind, drifted over to join the Sugar Creek camp. Young’s vanguard company unexpectedly swelled from his intended 1,800 emigrants to around 3,000—many without their own wagons and provisions.

https://www.nps.gov/mopi/index.htm

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Whispers in the Wilderness

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Wilderness Wednesday

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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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Nature’s Silent Message