New to Hiking? We’ve Got You!

For most of my life, I have practiced the art of “sauntering”. I first discovered this term when studying Thoreau’s essay, “Walking”. It is essentially being present with yourself in nature and allowing the nature to guide you. As a child, I just did that, and as I grew up I learned to follow the trail. I am not asserting that one is better than the other, but today I am talking about hiking. Hiking is unique because it most usually follows a trail. For the sake of keeping the surrounding ecosystem pristine, it is not recommended that you leave a trail unless it is actually necessary. This is one of the many things you should know as you begin to add miles to your hiking experiences.

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Me at Interstate State Park on the border of MN and WI in 2017.

I have created this list to assist you in starting to hike. So often, I am asked questions about hiking, and the following list contains these answers. Now, these answers are my opinion, and there will always be people that disagree. I will say that I learn from talking to people and asking questions all the time. So start here, and this brings us to our first item:

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Mid-Season Finale S1E4 Taste For Blood: Nature’s Vampires

In our mid-season finale, we have a story that takes us all the way from Copenhagen, to the rain forest of South America— from the belly of the beast, to it’s excrement—as we explore nature’s Vampires

Our guest is Dr. Marie Lisandra Zepeda Mendoza, whose recently published research on vampire bats and how they survive on such a peculiar diet is at the center of this story.

Blood is a challenging food source for a variety of reasons—a lack of nutrients, access, and potential for disease, to name a few. Vampire Bats, of which there are only 3 species, are the only mammals that manage to do this. Scientists have long wondered about how they are able to sustain themselves on such a bizarre diet—until now! To hear the full story and learn about some of nature’s other natural vampires, listen below:

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S1E3 Myth-Understood: Busting Bat Myths

Belief…belief is an interesting thing. Some of our beliefs are very close to our hearts, untouchable, unchangeable. Some of our beliefs are more flexible, changing if you have some kind of evidence or experience that can convince you otherwise. Belief can be harmless and belief can be harmful. Belief can be truth and it can be myth.

This week, we are going off format in the first of an intermittent series we are calling Myth-Understood in which we explore commonly believed myths about different misunderstood animals and examine the truth behind the legends. This week we focus on an animal that has been the victim of superstition and fear for thousands of years.

Despite what many believe, these creatures are extremely important to our everyday lives. Dollar for dollar, they are worth more than Elon Musk, they hold secrets of aging, rejuvenate the rainforest, and they’re the most essential ingredient… of a Margarita.

As promised, here is a resource where you can find out everything you need to know about White-Nose Syndrome

And here are a few links to organizations you can either donate your money or time (or both!) to:

Organization for Bat Conservation #SaveTheBats

and here is some information on Citizen Science opportunities they have put out.

Bat Conservation International

Hoarfrost: How this fern-like frost forms

There is something to be said about Minnesotan grit—or at least the motivation that a good donut and a bold cup of coffee can provide. Half a foot of snow fell on Central Minnesota this past Saturday, bringing the weekend total to just under 11 inches. The roads were slick, visibility was low, and the roads were indistinguishable from the not-roads. Nevertheless, the long awaited Tim Horton’s had finally opened that day and my wife and I weren’t going to be deterred by a mere dusting. The next day, the roads were clear-ish and, while the sky was residually overcast, it was a perfect day for a family sledding trip.

It was the snow we have been waiting for all winter. After the holidays, a winter with no snow is just plain depressing, but a fluffy-fresh blanket of snow goes a long way to sugarcoat the cold and Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Monday morning, after struggling to make up my mind over the last 24 hours about whether or not physical activity and a mental break would be good for my health, I decided to finally use the snowshoes I have been waiting 3 years to break-in. So I headed down to the river for a much-needed walk in the woods.

I stepped out of my car, strapped on my snowshoes, and put my camera around my neck—and then, after angst sighing at the sky, frustratingly back in my bag.

(Side note: Always check to be sure you have A) your memory card and B) your battery. There is nothing like getting amped to take some cool pics and then realizing that you left one of the aforementioned behind.)

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The fog was rising from the Mississippi, the air was calm, and the sun was beaming through the glistening rock candy branches. Every surface was covered in a shimmering glaze, but this was not your standard frosting—this frost was something special. Here’s a closer look.

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For Being Called the Least Weasel, it is so Extra

A few weekends ago, my family and I went hiking at one of our favorite spots in Central Minnesota, Quarry Park and Nature Reserve, an old granite quarry turned park in 1998. It truly is a wonderful place for day hikes and birding—boasting woodlands, wetlands, prairie, exposed bedrock, a Scientific Nature Area, and a surprising amount of prickly pear cactus within its 650+ acres. Of course, its most popular attractions are the two swimming quarries and rock climbing opportunities.

On spring and summer evenings, a constant amphibial chorus carries in the wind, wild turkey maneuver through the thick understory, deer dart across paths, and the drumming of Pileated Woodpeckers (aka, Minnesota Monkeys [here’s why]) echoes throughout the trees. The winter (as would be expected) isn’t nearly as lively.

On this day, we didn’t anticipate seeing much or being out for long—just a quick 3/4 mile loop. There is a spot near the prairie with a bunch of peculiarly round rocks covered in moss all piled near one another. Normally we walk right by them, but we have a toddler now which means those rocks are “trolls” and passing them is a sin. If you don’t understand how these rocks have suddenly become trolls, you clearly haven’t seen Frozen as many times as I now have—for that, I envy you.

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