Into the Garden of the Gods

Green Tree Near Rocky Mountains
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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.

Trekking The National Parks: The Family Board Game (Second Edition)

Trekking the National Parks Family Board Game

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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.

Looking for Games:

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PARKS

Hike & Go Seek – Indiana Dunes

Desert
 
Love sand and hiking on packed sandy paths?  Indiana Dunes National Park, designated as the nation’s 61st national park is located in Northwestern Indiana along the southern shores of Lake Michigan.  The park runs for nearly 25 miles alongside of Lake Michigan containing approximately 15,000 acres where you will find sand dunes, wetland, river, prairie and forest ecosystems.  The Park is host to a wide variety of wildlife including white-tailed deer, red fox, raccoons, opossums, cottontail rabbits, various rodents, Canada geese, gulls, squirrels, hawks, turkey vultures , mallards, great blue herons, songbirds and garter snakes.
 
There are nine different diverse trails to explore!
 
    *  Paul H. Douglas Trail
    *  Tolleston Dune Trail
    *  Succession Trail.
    *  Bailly-Chellberg Trail.
    *  Little Calumet River Trail.
    *  Cowles Bog Trail.
    *  Calumet Dune Trail
    *  Glenwood Dune Horse and Hiking Trail
 
The Indiana Dunes has over 369 species of flowering plants of which thirteen are considered threatened or in danger of extinction.  In addition, there are four invasive flowering plants on the list.  Some of the more common spring flowers you will find include the May apple, 6 varieties of buttercups, and violets (14 types).  During the Summer months orchids( 5 types) and lots of goldenrods (11 types) can be found.
 
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For your first visit to the park, it is highly recommended that you visit the Dorothy Buell Memorial Visitor Center located at U.S. Route 20 and Indiana Route 49 near Porter, Indiana.  The center offers standard visitor-center amenities including a video, brochures, hands-on exhibits and a gift shop.  It is free to the general public.
 
If you like to camp…..check out the Dunewood Campground located on U.S. Route 12 which includes two loops of trailer accessible sites and a RV dump station.  All sites have grills, a picnic table and access to restrooms with running water and showers.  There are also a limited number of camp sites at the neighboring Douglas Loop. The park provides for 45 miles of hiking, fishing, swimming, horseback riding and cross-country skiing.  Cycling is available on the Calumet Trail which is a crushed limestone multi-use trail that runs through the eastern section of the park.  With all the things to see and do here, the park will draw over 2 million visitors each year.
Wiki
 
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Hike & Go Seek – Voyageur Hiking Trail

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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. 

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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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Iowa – Geology and places to visit

Iowa is a state in the Midwestern region of the United States, bordered by the Mississippi River to the east and the Missouri River and Big Sioux River to the west. It is bordered by six states: Wisconsin to the northeast, Illinois to the east and southeast, Missouri to the south, Nebraska to the west, South Dakota to the northwest, and Minnesota to the north.

Iowa’s bedrock geology generally decreases in age from east to west. In northwest Iowa, Cretaceous bedrock can be 74 million years old; in eastern Iowa Cambrian bedrock dates to c. 500 million years ago.

Iowa is generally not flat; most of the state consists of rolling hills. Iowa can be divided into eight landforms based on glaciation, soils, topography, and river drainage.  Loess hills lie along the western border of the state, some of which are several hundred feet thick.  Northeast Iowa along the Upper Mississippi River is part of the Driftless Area, consisting of steep hills and valleys which appear almost mountainous.

To the east lies Clear Lake. Man-made lakes include Lake Odessa,  Saylorville Lake, Lake Red Rock, Coralville Lake, Lake MacBride, and Rathbun Lake. Before European settlement, 4 to 6 million acres of the state was covered with wetlands, about 95% of these wetlands have been drained,

Desoto Lake at Desoto National State Park

Places to visit:

Empty Road Surrounded With Green Trees
FORT DEFIANCE STATE PARK
Clive Greenbelt Trail: Iowa Tourism Map, Travel Guide, Things to Do: Travel  Iowa

THE CLIVE GREENBELT TRAIL

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THE HARTMANT NATURE PRESERVE



The Blue Water River Walk

The Blue Water River Walk is a one mile stretch of land that runs along the St. Clair River in Port Huron, Michigan.  It has it’s own unique naturalized shoreline that is made up from natural rocks, pebbles and boulders while also consisting of many native plants, flowers, trees and shrubs that grow in their own natural landscape and habitat onshore.  The River Walk provides for a place where the natural habitat can thrive and visitors can take a walk along the shoreline and enjoy looking for turtles, watch the freighters or enjoy a nice outdoor picnic.

Pedestrian Trial


A very unique and noticeably different feature of the new St. Clair river shoreline along the Blue Water River Walk is the huge boulder and stone structures sticking up from the water just offshore.  These are huge offshore reefs that extend downwards almost 15 feet into the river bottom.  These large boulders weigh as much as 4,000 pounds and are resting on two other layers…recycled slabs of cement on the very bottom and a middle layer of smaller boulders.  All together over 8,000 tons of rock, stone, cement and boulders were used to build these reefs.


Perhaps the most striking different aspect of the new St. Clair River shoreline along the Blue Water River Walk is the huge stone and boulder structures sticking up from the water just offshore. These huge offshore reefs extend down almost 15 feet into the river bottom. The large boulders seen on the surface weigh as much as 4,000 pounds. They are resting on two other layers; recycled slabs of cement on the very bottom and a middle layer of smaller boulders. All together, over 8,000 tons of rock, stone, cement and boulders were used to build these reefs.

These offshore reefs are a critical element to the overall naturalization of the St. Clair River shoreline.  The reefs are there to serve two purposes:  first, they help to knock down the incredibly strong wave energy caused by passing boats and if left unchecked those waves can create serious damage and erosion to the new shoreline.  Secondly, they create new shallow water habitats between the reefs and the shoreline which is critical to the growth and development of small fish, reptiles and amphibians.  

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Moon Michigan: Lakeside Getaways, Scenic Drives, Outdoor Recreation (Travel Guide)

Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve

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All around, you’ll find nothing but grassy prairie to the edge of the sky at the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve is a United States National Preserve located in the Flint Hills region of Kansas, north of Strong City. The preserve protects a nationally significant example of the once vast tallgrass prairie ecosystem. Of the 400,000 square miles of tallgrass prairie that once covered the North American continent, less than 4% remains, primarily in the Flint Hills. Since 2009, the preserve has been home to the growing Tallgrass Prairie bison herd.

Photo by Katie Burandt

The Nature Conservancy work toward preservation of the tallgrass prairie, while sharing the story of ranching legacy, American Indian history, and the diverse tallgrass prairie ecosystem in the heart of the scenic Flint Hills of Kansas.

Here you will find nature everywhere, from little fawns to a myriad of bird varieties from the Kentucky Wabler to the Bald Eagle.

The beautiful view here is horizon to horizon.

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Traveling Tuesday – White Pines Forest State Park

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White Pines Forest State Park is an Illinois state park in Ogle County, Illinois, which is a 385 acre park that contains the southernmost remaining stand of native white pine trees in the state of Illinois designated an Illinois Nature preserve in 2001.  The park contains two freshwater streams, dolomite rock formations and a variety of activities generally associated with Illinois state parks.
Among the park’s most distinctive and well known features are the vehicular river crossings.  At three places, crossing Pine Creek, fords were constructed instead of bridges.  The fords offer visitors a chance to actually drive through the creek, though high water frequently closes the crossings.  Hikers are relegated to pedestrian bridges or stepping stones in the creek to cross the stream.  Floods are frequent enough on Pine Creek, a large watershed to the north of the park, that there is an emergency exit from the campground.  When high water closes the fords, the campground is cut off and the emergency exit is the only way out.
The banks of Pine Creek and Spring Creek are lined with large rock and cliff formations that provide habitat to plants ranging from large trees to moss to hanging vines.  The forest undergrowth provides small mammal habitats and among the mammals that can be seen include red squirrels, raccoons, deer and chipmunks.  The creeks are populated with smallmouth bass, rock bass, channel catfish and , when they are stocked by the IDNR, rainbow trout.
The park is Illinois’ third oldest and has become one of the state’s most visited parks hosting over 350,000 visitors each year.  During the warmer months picknicking, camping, lodging, hiking and fishing are available.  The lodge and cabins are listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.

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MORE GREAT PLACES TO VISIT

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Theodore Rooselvelt National Park

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Superior Hiking Trail

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Maquoketa Cave State Park

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Hike & Go Seek – Starved Rock

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All year round, plan to be surprised and awed at the spectacular natural features found here at Starved Rock in Illinois.

Surrounded by the flat, seemingly endless fields of Illinois farm country, a totally different topography is found within the park. Starved Rock was formed thousands of years ago by the melting of glaciers releasing torrents of water. As the water rushed downstream it eroded and stripped away everything in its path except the resistant St. Peter sandstone. It is that sandstone that formed the steep rock walls and the cool dark valleys of the eighteen canyons. When conditions are right cascades of falling water spill down into these gorges, creating the waterfalls so many come here to enjoy.

WATERFALLS
Although you can technically see waterfalls in 14 of the 18 canyons, some of the most scenic waterfalls are found in St. Louis, French, Wildcat, Tonty, Ottawa and Kaskaskia canyons. The best times to see waterfalls are in the spring when the snow and ice melt or after a heavy rainfall.

ICEFALLS
Winter brings a whole new life to the canyons. The freezing and melting that happens during this time of year creates amazing ice sculptures in the canyons. Make sure you come back in the winter to see an icefall – they are spectacular!

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.

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America’s Best Day Hikes     

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OTHER PLACES TO VISIT!!

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Theodore Rooselvelt National Park

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Superior Hiking Trail

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Maquoketa Cave State Park

Hike & Go Seek – Duck Creek Trail

White and Brown Wild Duck on Water

 A place to be in awe.  The Duck Creek Trail in Wisconsin is a crushed limestone trail in Outagamie and Brown Counties in northeast Wisconsin. The Duck Creek Trail spans seven miles (11 km), beginning at the eastern end of the Newton Blackmour State Trail, just east of Vanderheuvel Road in Seymour. The trail continues east through the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin in northern Outagamie County paralleling State Route 54, and continues to the Village of Oneida.  The Duck Creek Trail will eventually extend to Pamperin Park in Green Bay.    

With the connection to the Newton Blackmour State Trail, the combined trails are over 30 miles (48 km) long. The combined trails extend from Village of Oneida to New London. (wiki)

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