Hike & Go Seek – Wauponsee Glacial Trail

Image result for wauponsee glacial trail in winter

“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…

Image result for wauponsee glacial trail

Image result for wauponsee glacial trail

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

Hike & Go Seek – Shawnee National Trail

 

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.

During the Illinoian Stage (between 352,000 and 132,000 years ago), the Laurentide Ice Sheet covered up to 85 percent of Illinois. The southern margin of this ice sheet was located within what is now the area of the Shawnee National Forest. There are many points of interest marking the southern edge of the glacier. Some are located within the Forest boundary, others are on public land in proximity.

Little Grand Canyon is located within the Shawnee National Forest. This is accessible off Illinois Route 127 south of Murphysboro, Illinois. A small creek with a tiny watershed has carved an impressive rock canyon, more than 200 feet deep, leading down to the Big Muddy River. The southern edge of the ice sheet was just to the north of Little Grand Canyon. Blocks of ice slid off the face of the glacier, carried by enormous volumes of meltwater, to carve this tiny canyon. In the deep shade of the canyon are relict species of Arctic plants left over from its ancient origin.

Cedar Lake is an artificial lake formed by damming Cedar Creek.   The glacier blocked the waterways flowing north down the hills. This drainage formed a creek running northwest along the face of the glacier. This became Cedar Creek, the watershed of which is extremely asymmetrical. While the watershed extends only a few thousand feet to the south, up the face of the terminal moraine, the creek is also fed by waterways extending miles to the south.

Wiki

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

 

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Theodore Roosevelt National Park – North Dakota

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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.

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

 

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Hike & Go Seek! The Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie & Bison

 Hike the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie

Prairie Creek Woods

With over over 34 miles of trails on a prairie of over 18,225 acres, the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie about is an ideal spot for a day hike.

And the Tallgrasses are no all to see.  In 2015, the prairie approved the use of 1,200 acres to establish a conservation herd of American Bison. The 20-year plan will study the relationship between the historic large grazing animal, which almost became extinct, and prairie restoration and health.  The National Forest Foundation and USDA Forest Service installed a web cam for visitors to check-in on the bison herd throughout the day.  

big bison in a field

While you’re there, don’t forget to check out the seedbeds, another on-going project at Midewin to restore the prairie with native Illinois plants.

The tallgrass prairie reserve is in the central forest-grasslands transition ecoregion of the temperate grasslands, savannas and shrublands biome.

Midewin remains the only federal tallgrass prairie preserve east of the Mississippi River, where surviving areas of that habitat are extremely rare. With the adjacent Des Plaines Fish and Wildlife Area and a number of other state and county protected areas in the immediate area, Midewin forms the heart of a conservation macrosite totaling more than 40,000 acres of protected land.

The pre-European settlement vegetation map of Midewin shows most of the site was prairie prior to the arrival of European settlers.[3] The northwestern corner of the site along Jackson Creek was forest. Another small, forested area existed in the extreme southwest corner of Midewin along the Kankakee River and Prairie Creek.

Photo of tallgrass prairie and woodlands at Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie

https://www.fs.usda.gov/main/midewin/home

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Route 66 State Park – Missouri

In the woods

 

 The once Historic Route 66, of the most famous roads in the United States that ran from Chicago, Illinois, through Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona and ended  in Santa Monica in Los Angeles County, California, covered a total of 2,448 miles.  It has always been iconic for roadside stops….dinners…antiquing…and many historical sites.  Although it longer exists, you can still “get your kicks” on the path it took through the United States on other highways and roads.  In this series, I will highlight the many places you can stop to explore nature along this route….focusing on spots in the Midwest.  Looking for more stops….check out this guide

Travel through history on the mother road at Route 66 State Park.  Route 66 captured Americans’ imagination and exposed millions of citizens to small towns across the county.  Sample a slice of that at the visitor center, which has displays showcasing the road and is the former Bridgehead Inn, a 1935 roadhouse that sat on the original Route 66.  The park has more than 40 types of birds and encompasses 419 acres abounding with field of wild grass and brush.  Trails are sprinkled throughout the park. It sits on the Meramec River at the site of the former town of Times Beach, Missouri.  The Meramec River is one of the longest free-flowing waterways in the U.S. state of Missouri.

 https://mostateparks.com/park/route-66-state-park

Flower Field

Meramec River

Meramec-river.jpg

 

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Hike & Go Seek – Gaylord Donnelley Trail

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Gaylord Donnelley Trail

 Part of the I&M Canal National Heritage Area, the Gaylord Donnelley Trail will take you from Lockport to Joliet.  Lockport and Joliet were two of the most influential Illinois cities of the 19th and 20th centuries.  On this eleven mile trail you will explore canal ruins, a closed amusement park, the old Joliet prison and the ruins of the Joliet Iron Works.

A Bit of History

On its completion, the I&M Canal created a new transportation corridor.  By connecting the waters of the Illinois River with those of Lake Michigan, a vast all-water route connected widely scattered sections of the United States, specifically the Northwest, South and East.  Travelers from the eastern U.S. took the Erie Canal to Buffalo, New York, where steamboats brought them through the Great Lakes to Chicago.  Transferring to canal boats, a 96-mile trip on the I&M Canal brought them to LaSalle/Peru.  Here people boarded river steamers bound for St. Louis and New Orleans.  The canal opened the floodgates to an influx of new commodities, new people and new ideas.

The I&M Canal, and the railroad and highway connections that soon paralleled its path between Chicago and LaSalle/Peru, became the great passageway to the American West. The opening of the Illinois and Michigan Canal in 1848 made Chicago and northern Illinois the key crossroads of the American mid-continent. The opening of the canal heralded a new era in trade and travel for the entire nation. The I&M Canal allowed travelers the option of taking an all-water route from New York Harbor to Chicago, Illinois, to St. Louis, Missouri and even to New Orleans, Louisiana. This water highway provided a mud and dust-free alternative to overland travel. Passengers increasingly chose the all water route to the West, bypassing the Ohio River route. Freight could go from St. Louis to New York in 12 days via the I&M Canal and the Great Lakes, while the Ohio River route might take 30-40 days.

https://iandmcanal.org/about-this-place-history/

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Petrified Forest National Park

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.

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.

 

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