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.

The Black Hills of South Dakota

 

 

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Starved Rock in Illinois

 

Shawnee National Forest

 

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

Memorial Day Mountains (Great Smoky Mountains) — Treat Yourself to Travel

Thinking about the upcoming Memorial Day weekend during quarantine, I figured I would reminisce on our road trip from last year. We made our way through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park from the Asheville side (NC) by Cherokee to the Gatlinburg side (TN). It was a perfect long weekend getaway from the DC area. We were able to do some hiking, see some beautiful scenery and explore downtown Asheville.

The Smokies | TeamTravelsBaby

via Memorial Day Mountains (Great Smoky Mountains) — Treat Yourself to Travel

 

Just released last month by Scott Stillman…Nature’s Silent Message

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Nature’s Silent Message 

Wild Bird Wednesday – Backyard Birds —

 

Hi everyone! It’s Cindy here. Last week I showed you our Bluebirds so this week I want to show you some of the other birds around our yard. Let’s start with the largest.

There is no difference between male and female Blue Jays but the next pair has subtle difference between genders.

The only gender difference between the Downy Woodpeckers is that the male has a red spot on the back of his head. The next two birds are about the same size and are some of the smallest birds we have around our yard.

via Wild Bird Wednesday – Backyard Birds — Bird Brains & Dog Tales

 

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Birds of North America 

Birding in the Midwest, USA

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Birding is the opposite of being at the movies—you’re outside, not sitting in a windowless box; you’re stalking wild animals, not looking at pictures of them. You’re dependent on weather, geography, time of day—if you miss the prothonotary warbler, there isn’t a midnight showing. – The New Yorker

 

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.

 

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  • Made From Fir
  • Cute, Dutch Style Roof & Rope For Easy Hanging
  • Stands 6.5” Tall With 1.5” Hole For Bird Entry
  • Hanging Rope Included With This Wooden Bird House

Bird House

 

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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.

 

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.

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500 Piece Bird Puzzle

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.

Here are some good resources if you like birding:

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National Geographic Birds               Birds of the Midwest

Everglades National Park: Mangrove Forest — National Parks With T

Welcome back to National Parks and other public lands with T!

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Everglades National Park has a number of videos on their website for the housebound to explore during the Covid-19 shutdown, including this video with Ranger Ally of the mangrove forest.

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In 2016, we took the Mangrove Wilderness tour with the only company licensed to do boat excursions inside the National Park boundaries. You can find them by clicking here.

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The tour was very similar to what is shown in the video, without the corny acting.  If you have 10 minutes to spare, I encourage you to watch the video. I enjoyed re-living this lovely journey through the Everglades.

via Everglades National Park: Mangrove Forest — National Parks With T

 

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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Nikon Complete Kit

 

 

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

 

For some great resources:

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

Winter at Starved Rock

600 million years ago Northern Illinois was part of a broad upland that was undergoing extensive erosion. The erosion wore
the land down to near sea level. Erosion that forms a near sea
level surface is called a peneplain. This peneplain was submerged several times by sea water and several layers of sediment were laid on the surface.
Starved Rock State Park was once covered with 3000-5000
feet of glacial ice on and off over a course of 700,000 years.
Glacial ice can move forwards never backwards. When a glacier is said to be retreating, it is actually melting faster than it is
moving forward. As glacial ice can only move forward, it picks
up rocks and carries them in the ice. When the ice melts, these
rock particles are dropped at the point of melting. All dropped
rock material is called drift. Drift found at the point of melting is
called till. Till is unsorted glacial drift. When the glacier is stagnant, the drift accumulates into a pile called an end moraine.
After the glacier has retreated, it leaves a range of irregular hills
which are the end moraine. The melt waters of the glacier were
so great that they would accumulate behind the moraines and
form vast lakes. The streams that drain these lakes were gigantic compared to today’s streams. The Illinois Valley was
formed by one of these streams.
15,000 years ago during the Wisconsinan Glacial Age, the glacial meltwater of a large lake overtopped the Marseilles Moraine and formed Lake Ottawa behind the Farm Ridge Moraine
that ran north to south along what we call Starved Rock State
Park today. This lake drained when it overtopped the Farm
Ridge Moraine cutting a channel that became the Illinois River.
Repeated meltwater floods of the Kankakee Torrent poured
through the channels cut through the Marseilles and Farm
Ridge Moraines establishing the drainage for the Illinois, Fox,
and Vermillion Rivers. This repeated drainage also cut the outcrops , overlooks, and 18 canyons that you see today.

http://starvedrock.org/plan-your-visit/trail-maps-and-hikes/st-louis-canyon/

An Interview of The Ravens on the AT — The Ravens

Just a week or so into our AT hike we were approached by a Trail Angel named Jimmy. He interviews hikers along the AT. He really liked that our whole family was out thru-hiking the AT and he asked if he could interview us. Of course we agreed. Here is a link to that interview. […]

via An Interview of The Ravens on the AT — The Ravens