Hike & Go Seek – Fort Defiance State Park

Empty Road Surrounded With Green Trees

Fort Defiance State Park is a 191 acre park located in Emmet County and sits at an elevation of 1,453 feet.  Built by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression, the park was opened in 1930 and is open year-round for picknicking, hiking and camping.  
Fort Defiance State Park is named for the former Fort Defiance which was built to protect a gristmil and sawmill during the Dakota War of 1862.
A lodge built to resemble a frontier army outpost is available to rent to large groups for meetings and reunions.  There is a picnic pavillion that is open to all visitors on a first come first served basis.  The park has a rustic camping area with sixteen camping sites.  The trails of the park are open to hiking, horseback riding and cross country skiing.  Two of the trails, White Tail Ridge Trail and Spring Trail have recently undergone extensive improvements.  The work was completed by students from the Iowa Lakes Community College environmental studies program which included covering the trails with wood chips to make the trails more “hiker friendly.”  White Tail Ridge Trail passes through a wooded area where visitors may encounter some white-tailed deer.  The Spring Trails passes through a patch of prairie.  (wiki)

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The Hartman Reserve 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.
The Hartman Reserve 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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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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  • 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 is a great resource if you like birding:  

  National Geographic Birds

Hike & Go Seek – Boneback State Park

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Dedicated in 1919, Backbone State park is Iowa’s oldest state park.  It is named for a narrow and steep ridge of bedrock carved by a loop of the Maquoketa River originally known as the Devil’s Backbone.  It is approximately three miles long and was built back in the 1930’s by the Civilian Conservation Corps who constructed a majority of the trails and buildings which make up the park.
There are three distinct areas to the park:  Area A is called the Cabin-Bathing Area; Area B is the Picknicking, Hiking and Camping Area; and Area C is Richmond Springs.      *  Area A is located at the southern end of the park and runs around the 125 acre Backbone Lake on the Makoqueta River.  Its historic buildings and structures include 17 cabins, pump house, two sets of trail steps, soil erosion dams, six parking areas, paved road, the site of CCC Camp 1756, bathhouse, boathouse, a wall, the beach, a sundial and bench, dam, and the sand filter bed.  The lake was created by the dam and spillways back in 1933.    *  Area B is located near the center of the park and its historic buildings and structures include a picnic/shelter concession, two more picnic shelters, the site of CCC Camp 781, the east entrance entryways and gate, two trailside benches, six parking lots, a vehicle bridge, trail steps and the Backbone trail.  
    *  Area C, Richmond Springs is located on the north end of the park and its historic structures include the springs which are a natural feature enclosed by the CCC back in June of 1934.  It created a new channel from the area to prevent overflow into the springs. 
Twenty-one miles of multi-use trails support year-round recreational activities including hiking, cross-country skiing and snowmobiling in winter.  The lake is noted for its swimming, boating and fishing.  Backbone Creek is known to support a good stock of Rainbow and Brown Trout and is regularly stocked by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.  Campsites and rental cabins are available along with shower buildings and a playground for the children. Local wildlife such as fox, turkey and deer can be seen in the park and surrounding area and the Backbone State Forest is immediately adjacent to the park.  The forest consists of 186 acres of pine forest. (wiki)

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Hike & Go Seek – Katy Trail

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Which U.S. state contains the country’s longest recreational rail trail?  It is the state of Missouri and the trail’s name is the Katy Trail which is approximately 240 miles long and runs along the northern bank of the Missouri River in the right-of-way of the former Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad.  Open year-round from sunrise to sunset it serves hikers, joggers and cyclists on it’s hard, flat surface comprised mostly of crushed limestone (aka: limestone pug.)  The nickname “Katy” comes from the phonetic pronunciation of “KT” which is a short form of the railroad’s abbreviated name, MKT.  Sections of the Katy are also part of the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail and the American Discovery Trail.’
The Katy Trail currently begins in the town of Machens(mile marker 27) on the Missouri River and runs along the northern bank for most of the trail’s length.  The next major city along the trail is Jefferson City, the state capital.  At mile-marker 169.9 (McBaine) the trail intersects the MKT Trail which leads into downtown Columbia, the largest city along the trail.The Katy then deviates from its original path and crosses the Missouri River at Boonville on the Boonslick Bridge instead of the original MKT Bridge.  From here the trail runs to its terminus in Clinton at mile-marker 264.6
Plans are underway to add another 144-mile unused section of the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific to Rock Island Trail State Park, which with the Katy would create a 450-mile trail network.  The extension would run from Windsor to Beaufort, near Washington.  Preliminary plans are to then extend the trail into Washington from where it could cross the Missouri River to connect to the Katy Trail again, completing a cross-state loop.  A “quad state” proposal would connect the Katy and other existing trails in Missouri, Kansas, Iowa and Nebraska. (wiki_

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Hike & Go Seek – Clive Greenbelt Trail

The Clive Greenbelt Trail is an 11.3 mile urban recreational trail that is located in Clive, Iowa and forms part of the Central Iowa Trails network.  It is a very busy, curvy, concrete and p

Clive Greenbelt Trail: Iowa Tourism Map, Travel Guide, Things to Do: Travel  Iowa
Photo from traveliowa.com

Paved asphalt trail that runs through Polk and Dallas counties in Iowa.  
The trail begins at 73rd Street and Walnut Creek at the Walmart in Windsor Heights.  Hikers are able to access many of the parks, libraries and the aquatic center by way of the many trails which also have mile markers and route directions to help you on your way.  
The trail meanders along the north bank of Walnut Creek for 5.5 miles to Country Club Blvd.  Between the Lake Country Club dam and 142nd Street, the trail is on the street near the northshore of Lake Country Club for 0.75 miles.  For the next 1.7 miles the trail travels between 1900 142nd Street and Lions Park which is near Eason Elementary School in Waukee.  In western Clive, more trails are being developed north of Hickman Road.  Additional links and branches bring the total trail mileage to 11.3 miles.
A ll trail hikers are welcome to the many beautiful parks located throughout the city of Clive.  You can visit the Greenbelt Park and Trail from neighborhood connection points or from the several trail heads accessible with parking sites for your car.  You are welcome to take a stroll, jog, ride your bike or rollerblade and enjoy all the natural scenery that is abundant in the 297 acres of this premier park in the city of Clive.

Wiki and http://www.cityofclive.com/departments/parks-recreation/parks/

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Hike & Go Seek – The Voyageur Hiking Trial

Voyageurs means “runners of the woods”

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.

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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)

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Wildlife of the Midwest

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Did you know Red Foxes’ forepaws have five toes, while their hind feet only have four?

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.

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Did you know their entire mating season is only an hour long?

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.

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Did you know bobcats are crepuscular- meaning they are most active during twilight (dawn and dusk)?

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.

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Did you know The name, hummingbird, comes from the humming noise their wings make as they beat so fast? Hmmmmmmmm

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.

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Did you know a male duck is called a drake and female duck a hen?

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.

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Did you know male deer grow new antlers every year?

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)\

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Hike & Go Seek – Gandy Dancer Trail

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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)  

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Hike & Go Seek – Orchard Beach State Park

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 Located on the beautiful shores of Lake Michigan in Manistee Township, Manistee County, Michigan……Orchard Beach State Park is a public recreation area covering 201 acres just north of the city Manistee which has a beach, campground and hiking trails.   The park dates back to 1892 when it first opened and was developed by the Manistee, Filer City and Eastlake Railway  Company.  The site was purchased by the Manistee Board of Commerce after the company stopped trolley service to the park and then became part of the Michigan state park system in 1921.   The Civilian Conservation Corps was active in the park during the 1930’s and Corps efforts included the construction of several limestone structures including a pump house, pavilion, line house and toilet.  In 2009 the park was listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places having been cited as “one of the most intact examples of a Michigan state park developed in the 1930’s and 1940’s under National Park Service guidelines.   In 2019 it was reported that erosion caused by high water levels on Lake Michigan threatened the park’s historic pavilion with destruction.  The pavilion stands only 50 feet from the edge of the bluff.  High water had covered the sandy beach at the base of the bluff below the pavilion since 2017 and the stairway built to access the beach from the pavilion led straight into the high waters of Lake Michigan.   As for activities and amenities the park offers swimming, fishing, three miles of hiking trails, picknicking facilities and a 166 site campground.   (wiki)  

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