Sunday, July 27, 2014

Fun with First Timers

My family loves a good hike. We are self-proclaimed "nature nerds" and often time get caught up on our trail excursions trying to identify bird class, getting excited about seeing fungi,  marveling at all the mammals we can see and observe, and of course, singing silly "nature" songs we spontaneously create. I can talk about those on a future post.

However, one of the best things about going out on the trails is sharing that experience with others, especially those not as familiar with hiking, specifically trekking the Ice Age Trail. Over the past few months, as the Saunters program I am heading up in the summer of 2015 has been approved and as I've jumped right in to coordinate an exciting new Tyke Hikes program, I have had the joy of being able to share my excitement and love of the trail with others. Today was no exception.

We took out a very enthusiastic couple (and their 4-legged friend) we've been friends with for a while.  We enjoyed the Monches segment with all sorts of critters.  Birds, toads, monarchs, and of course a million (literally ) mosquitoes. Though the pace was quickened as the bugs became less and less tolerable, we still had a blast on the trail and are especially excited for our future adventures in fall. . . .with many more beautiful colors and many less vile skeeters.

If you read this post, I encourage and challenge you do take someone new out on the trail.  better yet, meet me at one of our future Tyke Hikes and let's all work together to share this wonderful Ice Age Trail with someone new!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Inaugural Tyke Hike

Over the last fifteen months, hiking has taken on a different part of my life.  What was a leisurely hobby has now become more of a passion.  More importantly, it has become woven into the fabric of my life as a n educator.  I take every opportunity to learn about the trials I trek in order to eventually teach others.  I can credit my daughter Embry for this newfound goal.  She has been a consistent hiking partner for the last year. Her excitement for her observations is my main motivation in my latest adventures of beginning a Saunters summer program through my school district and for the body of this entry, Tyke Hikes.

Tyke Hikes came to me when she was getting a bit ornery in her hiking carrier and I took her out and let her roam the trail with me.  Though our pace dramatically slowed, her fascination and intrigue in her environment skyrocketed, which also positively impacted my enjoyment of the hike.  It was definitely a quality over quantity moment.  I wanted to share her thrill of discovery an my joy of observing her happiness with other people, especially the formative younger generation. Alas, Tyke Hikes was born.

Though I am in no way considered an expert on nature, the Ice Age Trail, or pretty much anything, I know I have passion and energy, and hopefully that will shine.  Last night was the first of eight hikes I have planned and am promoting for the rest of the calendar year.  Each hike is open-ended in discussion, though I try to focus on a theme per hike.

The inaugural hike was at Lapham Peak, and I wanted to focus on a couple special things I saw in my pre-hike scout. Being the first hike, I wanted to discuss glaciers in general before zooming in closer on things like trees, the Ice Age Trail, and Increase Lapham.  Being a teacher AKA lifelong learner, I thoroughly enjoyed leaning tidbits about these topics and sharing them with the hikers who joined me, though I did try to quiz the kids along the way.

At ten minutes before the hike was set to begin, no one had shown up.  I already felt bad karma as a young family who was leaving had an unfortunate incident where the youngest child fell and got a nice goose egg on her forehead.  lacking any ice, I offered up an ice pack I had brought to keep my daughter's snack cold. Very grateful for my help, the mother of the family noticed my Tyke Hike set up and requested information on future hikes. I guess good deeds do pay off.

However, after that little adventure, 6:00 had arrived with only one family present.  However, much to my delight, I hadn't noticed other families scale the tower while I was acting as a medic.  By 6:05, a total of 19 hikers were ready to rock and roll.

And rock and roll we did.  I was actually quite nervous and I sure I rambled and walked too fast and made mistakes and missed on some great teaching points, but as the hike ended, a very inquisitive young boy who was my sidekick for the majority of the hike let me know he would "definitely be back."  So will I.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Night Hiking

Pike Lake has always been one of my "go to" places to explore the outdoors, not only because of it's relative close location, but because of its variety.  On the 4th of July, my wife, daughter, and I climbed the Powder Hill tower to take in some of the fireworks form around the area.  Absolutely gorgeous!  However, driving in to the lot that night, I noticed the park and all of its trails were open until 11pm. Night hiking was never really something I had considered as I usually hike with my daughter in the morning hours and the wee hours of the morning if I am doing a longer trek. However, that night I was beginning t understand the reasoning my wife bought snazzy headlamps a few years back.

Tonight, we busted out those head lamps and headed back to Pike Lake. We explored a variety of the trails this wonderful state forest has to offer. After venturing off of the Ice Age Trail, we found ourselves on the Astronomy Trail, a very unique trail I encountered last summer on a trail run.  Basically, this trail is very much like any other trail except that it is marked by placards along the path that provide information about the solar system.  One very cool tidbit about it is that the different planet information posts are spread out as they are in outer space.  As you start the trial, Mercury, Venus,. earth, and Mars are practically right next to each other.  However, once you pass Neptune, you feel as if they must have taken the Pluto sigh away since astronomers now designate it as a dwarf planet.  However, it shows up sooner than later.

After our tour of the universe, we took one of the park's trails until we came across a sign for the Black Forest Nature Trail. This was a trial that went through a mesic forest, once quite common to Wisconsin.  Want to know what that means?  You'll have to come check it out as there are information posts throughout this quaint and unique trail.  Though light was fading, my wife and I noticed some very exquisite trees, a variety of ferns, and a plentiful amount of fireflies.  We also heard the screams of what sounded like a hawk and felt the sting of Wisconsin's friendly mosquitoes.  Having bug spray seem almost ineffective and having our baby girl with us, we cut this hike a bit shorter than we would have liked and found the nearest yellow blaze, hopped back on the Ice Age Trail and hiked back to the car.

I look forward to checking out more of this specific Black Forest Nature Trail along with many of the other surprises Pike Lake has to offer in future visits.  I encourage you to do the same. 

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Cloudy Day Hiking

The gray skies couldn't keep my daughter and I away from the trails.  Today, we were lucky enough to be accompanied by a fellow teacher and her absolutely adorable baby girl.  Maybe my little lady has found a hiking buddy? :)

Though the trail was a bit sloppy and the mosquitoes extra hungry, the trek though Monches was still a wonderful way to avoid the gloom and doom of an overcast day and get back to nature.

I actually enjoy hiking on some of these type of cloudy days (minus the skeeters of course).  The sun isn't blinding, the sweat isn't dropping, and the sunscreen melting off your face doesn't sting the eyes.  There's a different smell, a different feel, and although the mud is dirty, who doesn't love slopping in the mud?

I look forward to more summer hikes on cloudy days and who knows, maybe my daughter and I will find even more hiking buddies to hit the trails.