A photo essay………… (and yes, it is below 0 here in Illinois)
“The Earth is trying to teach us to live better. To lead richer, happier lives.” Nature’s Silent Message. Released last year by Scott Stillman.
Will we continue down the limited path of the mechanical mind?
Or will we tune into ultimate intelligence? The same intelligence that allows blood to flow through our veins, bees to pollinate flowers, birds to fly south, salmon to spawn, whales to migrate, caterpillars to become butterflies, the Earth to rotate, the moon to orbit, and the rest of nature to function perfectly of its own accord?
We have access to nature’s silent message—if we take the time to listen.
In this spellbinding collection, Stillman guides us from the lush forests of the North Cascades, through the sandstone slot canyons of Utah, and into the border country of extreme southern Arizona. In this classroom, we learn not from books, nor words, nor lectures. Wilderness is the school of life, where we learn not from that which thinks—but that which knows.
Nature’s Silent Message suggests the existence of something far greater than what we see on the surface. It’s about breaking through old patterns so that new ones may emerge.
The message is simple and pure, but when you try to define it, it vanishes into thin air. And in that vanishing, you find it again. Like a beautiful butterfly that can never be caught. Try and catch her and she’ll drive you mad, eluding you forever. But learn to fly with her, and all the wonders of the world will be shown, and all the answers to your questions be known.
Read it now. Nature’s Silent Message
The American White Pelican – An American white pelican is able to hold in its bill 3 gallons of water. The pelican’s beak is the most spacious out of all the birds in the world, being able to hold 3 buckets of fish. Pelicans do not have nostrils. They have to breathe through their beaks.
They nest in colonies of several hundred pairs on islands in remote brackish and freshwater lakes of inland North America.
Unlike the brown pelican, the American white pelican does not dive for its food. Instead it catches its prey while swimming. Each bird eats more than 4 pounds of food a day.
The American Bison – Bison are the largest mammal in North America. Male bison, also called bulls weigh up to 2,000 pounds and stand 6 feet tall, while females, also called cows weigh up to 1,000 pounds and reach a height of 4-5 feet.
Eagles – Not only are they majestic creatures but they’re also expert hunters, have excellent vision and their wingspan is seriously impressive. Did you know…Eagles, because of their ability to find thermals (warm columns of air), are able to stay aloft indefinitely, often without moving their massive wings.
Beavers – Beavers slap their tails on the water to indicate danger.. Beavers slap their tails on the water to indicate danger. Beavers communicate using scents, vocalizations and posturing, but one of their most important signals is the tail slap. Typically performed by an adult, this loud alarm signal alerts others to seek refuge in deep water and may even frighten a potential predator away.
The Cottontail Rabbit – Did you know they have almost 360-degree vision?
Eastern cottontails have eyes that protrude a bit from their heads, giving them almost 360-degree vision. This really helps them detect predators in the barren landscape of the Midwest winter. However, they have a blind spot directly in front of them that is about 10 degrees wide.
As snow and ice cover hiking trails in wintertime, sometimes a hike along a river walk so long as it’s not too winter, is an ideal option.
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.
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.
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.
WINTER COMPLETELY CHANGES THE LANDSCAPE IN THE MIDWEST, OFFERING MILES AND MILES OF NEW PERSPECTIVE
INDIANA – MCCORMICK’S CREEK STATE PARK EXPLORE THE SPECTACULAR LIMESTONE CANYON, FLOWING CREEK, AND SCENIC WATERFALLS
IOWA – DAWN ON THE LANDSCAPE OF THE MISSISSIPPI RIVER AT PIKES PEAK STATE PARK, IOWA
KANSAS – DEEP CREEK WATERFALL AT PILLSBURY CROSSING WILDLIFE AREA
MICHIGAN’S UPPER PENNISULA AVERAGES 200 INCHES OF SNOWFALL EACH YEAR AND BOASTS PLENTY OF FROZEN WATERFALLS FOR CLIMBING
MINNESOTA – THE ITASCA STATE PARK IS A BEAUTIFUL PLACE TO EXPLORE IN THE WINTER. MINNESOTA DNR
MISSOURI – ONONDAGA CAVE STATE PARK – LEASBURG
Photo Credit: MHarrisW/TripAdvisor
NEBRASKA – FROZEN WATERFALL ALONG THE STONE CREEK HIKING TRAIL AT PLATTE RIVER STATE PARK
NORTH DAKOTA – THE WINDING TRAIL THROUGH PART OF THE 200 ACRE NATURE PRESERVE IN THIS STATE PARK WILL TAKE YOU THROUGH SOME ABSOLUTELY AMAZING SIGHTS. THERE ARE PLENTY OF PLANTS AND ANIMALS TO BE FOUND HERE
OHIO – OLD MAN’S CAVE LOOP (HOCKING HILLS STATE PARK)
SOUTH DAKOTA – WINTER IN THE BLACKHILLS
WISCONSIN – LAKE SUPERIOR ICE CAVES
These super adorable Prairie dogs are herbivorous burrowing rodents native to the grasslands of North America. The five species are: black-tailed, white-tailed, Gunnison’s, Utah, and Mexican prairie dogs. They are a type of ground squirrel, found in North America. In Mexico, prairie dogs are found primarily in the northern states, which lie at the southern end of the Great Plains: northeastern Sonora, north and northeastern Chihuahua, northern Coahuila, northern Nuevo León, and northern Tamaulipas. In the United States, they range primarily to the west of the Mississippi River, though they have also been introduced in a few eastern locales. They are also found in the Canadian Prairies. Despite the name, they are not actually canines. These two that I took a picture of are from South Dakota.
Highly social, prairie dogs live in large colonies or “towns” and collections of prairie dog families that can span hundreds of acres. The prairie dog family groups are the most basic units of its society. Members of a family group inhabit the same territory. Family groups of black-tailed and Mexican prairie dogs are called “coteries”, while “clans” are used to describe family groups of white-tailed, Gunnison’s, and Utah prairie dogs. Although these two family groups are similar, coteries tend to be more closely knit than clans. Members of a family group interact through oral contact or “kissing” and grooming one another. They do not perform these behaviors with prairie dogs from other family groups.
You can’t find a more tranquil place than here. 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.
This amazing 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. (wiki)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)\
Looking for premier hiking in the Midwest. Look no furture….The Ice Age Trail is a National Scenic Trail located in Wisconsin. The trail is also one of 42 designated Wisconsin state trails and the only one specifically designated as a “State Scenic Trail.” From Interstate State Park on the Minnesota border to Potawatomi State Park on Lake Michigan, the Ice Age Trail winds for more than 1,000 miles, following the edge of the last continental glacier in Wisconsin.
One of only 11 National Scenic Trails, the Ice Age Trail is intended to be a premier hiking trail and conservation resource for silent sport and outdoor enthusiasts. The trail traverses some of Wisconsin’s most scenic landscapes and helps tell the story of the last Ice Age by highlighting Wisconsin’s unique glacial features.
Primary attractions include topography left by glaciation in the Last Ice Age. Glacial features along the trail include kettles, potholes, eskers, and glacial erratics. Many of the best examples of glacial features in Wisconsin are exhibited in units of the Ice Age National Scientific Reserve, most of which lie along the trail.
The Ice Age Trail is primarily an off-road hiking and backpacking trail that provides excellent opportunities for sightseeing, wildlife viewing and bird watching. In winter, some sections of the trail are open for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.
Opportunities are available for camping along the Ice Age Trail in national, state and county forests and in many state and county parks, including some private campgrounds. Campgrounds can vary from primitive walk-in campsites to facilities complete with electric hookups. When planning a trip, it is best to check ahead of time for camping locations and availability. The Ice Age Trail Atlas and Guidebook, which are available for sale from the Ice Age Trail Alliance, provide camping and lodging details for all segments of the trail.
The Ice Age Trail travels through 30 counties on state, federal, county and private lands, connecting dozens of communities. There are hundreds of trailheads and access points located along the trail route. More than 600 miles of trail are open. The completed sections of the trail are connected by less-traveled roadways and other temporary routes.
Stone steps lead the way up the bluff trails at Devil’s Lake State Park.
The Ice Age Trail goes through several state and federal lands in Wisconsin, including traveling many miles through county and private lands. In addition to the state parks and forests listed below (from west to east along the trail), the Ice Age Trail travels through many state wildlife and fishery areas and some state natural areas.
- Interstate State Park, Saint Croix Falls
- Straight Lake State Park, near Frederic
- Chippewa Moraine State Recreation Area, near New Auburn
- Brunet Island State Park, Cornell
- Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest
- Hartman Creek State Park, near Waupaca
- Devil’s Lake State Park, near Baraboo
- Kettle Moraine State Forest
- Southern Unit, Eagle
- Lapham Peak Unit, near Delafield
- Loew Lake Unit, near Monches
- Pike Lake Unit, near Hartford
- Northern Unit, near Campbellsport
- Point Beach State Forest, near Two Rivers
- Potawatomi State Park, near Sturgeon Bay
The Ice Age Trail includes parts of other Wisconsin state trails.
- Gandy Dancer, St. Croix Falls to Frederic
- Tuscobia, Rice Lake to Birchwood
- Mountain-Bay, near Hatley
- Military Ridge, near Verona
- Badger, near Fitchburg
- Sugar River, Monticello to Albany
- Glacial Drumlin, near Wales
- Eisenbahn, near Kewaskum
- Ahnapee, Casco Junction to Sturgeon Bay
Other Great Destinations in the Midwest