Hike & Go Seek – Maquoketa Caves State Park

Maquoketa Caves 02.jpg

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.


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)



Amazing Frozen Waterfalls of the Midwest


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.

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.

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!





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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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Birding in the Midwest

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Beautiful Birds of the Midwest 

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.

Female Mergus merganser americanus at Las Gallinas Wildlife Ponds.jpg

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.

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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.


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.

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.

 National Geographic Birds


                 Birds of the Midwest

The barred owl, also known as northern barred owl or hoot owl, is a true owl native to eastern North America. Adults are large, and are brown to grey with barring on the chest. Barred owls have expanded their range to the west coast of North America, where they are considered invasive.

The common loon or great northern diver is a large member of the loon, or diver, family of birds. Breeding adults have a plumage that includes a broad black head and neck with a greenish, purplish, or bluish sheen, blackish or blackish-grey upperparts, and pure white underparts except some black on the undertail coverts and vent. Non-breeding adults are brownish with a dark neck and head marked with dark grey-brown. Their upperparts are dark brownish-grey with an unclear pattern of squares on the shoulders, and the underparts, lower face, chin, and throat are whitish. The sexes look alike, though males are significantly heavier than females.

Lightweight Energy Food for Hiking

When it comes to hiking, it’s important to pack lightweight and non-perishable food items that will provide you with the necessary energy to keep going. Here are some ideas for food for hiking:

  1. Trail mix: Mix together your favorite nuts, seeds, and dried fruits to create a healthy and delicious snack. Add in some chocolate chips or other treats for a little indulgence.
  2. Jerky: Beef, turkey, or even vegetarian jerky is a great source of protein and easy to pack. Plus, it’s a tasty and savory treat to enjoy on the trail.
  3. Cheese and crackers: Choose hard, aged cheese varieties that won’t spoil quickly, and pair them with some whole grain crackers. This will give you a nice balance of carbs and protein.
  4. Peanut butter and jelly sandwich: This classic sandwich is perfect for hiking. Choose a bread that’s dense and hearty, and pack the peanut butter and jelly in separate containers to keep them fresh.
  5. Tuna or salmon pouches: These protein-packed pouches are easy to pack and come in a variety of flavors. Eat them plain or mix them with some crackers for a more substantial meal.
  6. Instant oatmeal: If you’re camping overnight, a hot bowl of oatmeal is a great way to start the day. Choose instant oatmeal packets that you can simply add hot water to.
  7. Energy bars: There are a wide variety of energy bars on the market these days, so choose one that you enjoy and that provides a good balance of carbs, protein, and fat.
  8. Instant coffee or tea: If you need a caffeine boost, bring some instant coffee or tea bags along. Simply add hot water and enjoy.

Remember to always pack out what you pack in and follow Leave No Trace principles.




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Nature’s Silent Message 

Hike & Go Seek – Konza Prairie Biological Station

The Konza in Winter

Kansas is known for its prairies, rolling hills, and scenic vistas, making it a great destination for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers.

The Konza Prairie Biological Station is a unique nature reserve located in the Flint Hills of Kansas. This 8,600-acre preserve is dedicated to the study of tallgrass prairie ecology and is home to a diverse array of plants and animals. The Konza Prairie offers several miles of hiking trails that provide visitors with the opportunity to experience this unique ecosystem up close and personal.

This bridge crosses Kings Creek

The prairie trails at Konza are well-maintained and offer a variety of hiking experiences, from easy walks along flat prairie paths to strenuous hikes up hills and through rugged terrain. Along the way, visitors can observe a wide variety of wildlife, including prairie chickens, deer, and coyotes, as well as a diverse array of prairie wildflowers and grasses.

The Konza Prairie is also a popular destination for birdwatchers, as the prairie is home to over 300 species of birds. In the spring and summer, visitors can hear the calls of prairie chickens and see a variety of songbirds flitting through the prairie grasses.

Overall, the Konza Prairie Biological Station is a must-visit destination for anyone interested in nature and outdoor recreation in Kansas. Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or just looking for a peaceful walk in the countryside, the Konza Prairie offers something for everyone.

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Nature’s Silent Message


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Hike & Go Seek – The Carlson Lakes Trail

View from Eagle Mountain

The Carlson Lakes Trail is a popular hiking trail located in the Superior National Forest in Minnesota. It is a relatively short trail, but can be challenging due to its steep inclines and rocky terrain.

The trail takes hikers through a series of interconnected lakes, each with its own unique beauty and character. The trail provides access to scenic views of the lakes and the surrounding forest, and is a great choice for birdwatching, fishing, and other outdoor activities.

In addition to its natural beauty, the Carlson Lakes Trail is also popular for its historic significance. The trail follows an old logging road that was used to transport logs from the surrounding forest to the nearby town of Ely. Today, the trail is a popular destination for hikers and outdoor enthusiasts, and provides a glimpse into the area’s rich logging history.

Before heading out on the Carlson Lakes Trail, be sure to check trail conditions, bring appropriate gear and supplies, and follow Leave No Trace principles to help protect the natural beauty of the area.

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Fun Facts – Common Animals of the Midwest

Bison: Bison were once native to the Midwest and were a vital part of many indigenous cultures. They were hunted nearly to extinction in the 19th century but have since made a comeback and can now be found in many parks and preserves in the region.

White-tailed deer: White-tailed deer are the most common large mammal in the Midwest and are often seen in fields and forests. They have excellent senses of hearing, smell, and sight, which helps them avoid predators and find food.

Eastern Gray Squirrel: Eastern Gray Squirrels are one of the most common species of squirrels in the Midwest. They are known for their agility and intelligence, and are often seen as pests by homeowners due to their habit of raiding bird feeders.

Red Fox: Red Foxes are common in the Midwest and are known for their distinctive red fur and bushy tails. They are omnivores, meaning they eat both plants and animals, and are known for their cunning and adaptability.

Eastern Cottontail Rabbit: Eastern Cottontail Rabbits are common in the Midwest and are a favorite food source for many predators, including hawks, foxes, and coyotes. Despite this, they have a high reproductive rate and can often be seen in fields and along roadsides.

Raccoon: Raccoons are common in the Midwest and are known for their masked faces and playful personalities. They are omnivores and are skilled climbers, which allows them to access food in trees and human-made structures.

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Six Great Hiking Trails of the Midwest

The Midwest region of the United States has some fantastic hiking trails for outdoor enthusiasts. Here are a few popular ones:

1. The North Country Trail (or simply know as the NCT) – This long-distance trail stretches from New York to North Dakota, passing through several states in the Midwest, including Ohio, Michigan, and Minnesota, thus stretching over 4,800 miles. The NCT connects more than 160 public land units, including parks, forests, scenic attractions, wildlife refuges, game areas, and historic sites.

The trail passes by Wren Falls in Iron County, Wisconsin
The North Country Trail in the Manistee National Forest, Michigan

2. The Ozark Trail – This trail system in Missouri offers over 350 miles of scenic hiking, with diverse landscapes ranging from rocky bluffs to rolling hills. The trail is currently composed of thirteen sections, most of which are joined to other sections, though some gaps exist. 

View of the Taum Sauk section of the trail on Goggins Mountain

3. The Ice Age National Scenic Trail – This trail in Wisconsin follows the terminal moraine of the last ice age and offers stunning views of glacial landscapes. Stretching 1,200 miles, the trail passes through 30 of Wisconsin’s 72 counties, from the northwestern part of the state to the Lake Michigan shoreline in the east. The western end of the trail is at Interstate State Park along the St. Croix River, which is the border between northwestern Wisconsin and eastern Minnesota. The eastern terminus of the Ice Age Trail lies at Potawatomi State Park, along Wisconsin’s Door Peninsula off of Sturgeon Bay.

The Ice Age Trail’s Wood Lake segment in Taylor County

4. The Superior Hiking Trail (also know as the SHT) – This trail in Minnesota runs along the ridgeline of the Sawtooth Mountains, offering panoramic views of Lake Superior and the surrounding wilderness. This 310 miles trail travels through forests of birch, aspen, pine, fir, and cedar. Hikers enjoy views of boreal forests, the Sawtooth Mountains, babbling brooks, rushing waterfalls, and abundant wildlife.

Temperance River State Park Bridge

5. The Shawnee National Forest – This forest in southern Illinois has several hiking trails, including the River to River Trail, Garden of the Gods, and the Pine Hills Nature Trail. It consists of approximately 280,000 acres with seven designated wilderness areas.

Rock formations near hiking trail
Scenic view

6. The Badlands National Park – South Dakota’s Badlands National Park offers several hiking trails with unique geological formations and abundant wildlife. located in southwestern South Dakota. The park protects 242,756 acres  of sharply eroded buttes and pinnacles, along with the largest undisturbed mixed grass prairie in the United States. 

The Badlands National Park

These are just a few of the many wonderful hiking trails available in the Midwest region of the United States. Whether you’re looking for a leisurely walk or a challenging hike, there’s something for everyone!

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Hike & Go Seek – Copper Harbor

Aerial view of Copper Harbor

Looking for some of the funest and most scenic trails around Michigan. Copper Harbor is your spot. It is an all-season resort town in northeastern Keweenaw County, Michigan located on the Keweenaw Peninsula which juts out from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan into Lake Superior. Due to its natural environment and surroundings it is a popular tourist destination within the Great Lakes region.

One popular spot for visitors is Hunter’s Island which is the name of a non-hilly point running out from the west into Lake Superior.  It was named for an early settler of the area named Mr. Hunter who owned a tract of land on what is now Hunter’s Point or Hunter’s Island.   Situated at the opening of the harbor itself is the historic Copper Harbor Lighthouse built in 1866, replacing an earlier lighthouse made in 1849.  It is only accessible via a short ride in a compact open vessel from the Copper Harbor marina.  Exhibits inside the lighthouse museum cover both the lighthouse history along with the local shipwreck culture of the area.

Copper Harbor is located in Michigan

 Another popular site known as “the most beautiful road in Michigan” is the Brockway Mountain Drive that is an 8.8 mile route that follows the backbone of a 753-foot-high ridge between the towns of Copper Harbor and Eagle Harbor and is the highest paved road between the Rocky Mountains to the west and the Allegheny Mountains to the east.  Constructed during the 30’s, this very picturesque road offers stunning views of Lake Superior and Keweenaw Penisula as well as the archipelago of Isle Royale. (wiki)


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