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.
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)
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)
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.
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.
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)
The Superior Hiking Trail in Minnesota follows the rocky ridges overlooking Lake Superior for a total of 310 miles of pure adventure. This unique trail takes you through forests of birch, pine, aspen, fir and cedar trees so hikers will enjoy views of boreal forests, babbling brooks, rushing waterfalls, abundant wildlife and the Sawtooth Mountains. The lowest point in the patch is 602 ft above sea level and the highest point reaches 1,829 ft above sea level. This footpath is intended for hiking only and motorized vehicles, mountain bikes and horses are not allowed on the trail. Many avid hikers use this trail for long-distance hiking and there are 94 fee free campsites available for the attending hikers to use.
There are two primary sections to the Superior Hiking Trail. The Duluth section of the trail is 50 miles long and starts southwest of the city of Duluth at the Minnesota-Wisconsin border. This section is best suited for day hiking and there is only one backcountry campground located near the Minnesota-Wisconsin border. The other section is called the North Shore section and it is approximately 260 miles long and begins at the Martin Road Trailhead on the northern boundary of the city of Duluth.
The Superior Hiking Trail Association builds, promotes and maintains the trail. It is a Minnesota based non-profit corporation with more than 3,200 members. The association produces a quarterly newsletter called “The Ridgeline” for its members which contains news of the trail, trail volunteer bios and association financial info. The trail was mostly built y crews of people that ere hired from local towns by the Minnesota Conservation Corps. In December 2000, accolades were offered by “BackPacker Magazine” where they named the Superior Hiking Trail with the “Best Trail/Camp Shelter conditions; the trail with the “Best Signage” in the country and one of the most scenic trails in the nation.
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. 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.
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.
The River Walk has a 10′ wide asphalt Pedestrian trail that runs the entire length of the Blue Water River Walk. Posts have been placed along the west edge of the trail for increased safety for walkers and to keep vehicles off the trail.
As many of us have learnt throughout our lives, there are a great number of physical and psychological benefits from being in the great outdoors. During the restrictions of COVID-19 there have been a lot more people going for walks daily and getting out into nature as much as they can. Below are just some of the many benefits you can receive from getting back to nature and enjoying a bit of fresh air and greenery: