TWL Hiking Club: Top Hikes of 2018

On this first #TWLHikingClub Tuesday of 2019, Devon and Chelsea Bowker look back on their top hikes of 2018, from the best overall hike, to the most conflicting, and most Instagram worthy.

Best Hike: Devil’s Lake State Park

Chelsea (@teacherwhohikes): I actually wrote an in depth review and rationale of why this park was a strong contender for my all-time favorite after a trip there in July (which you can read here). There are only 77 so called “Last Great Places” in the world, according to the Nature Conservancy. One of them is Devils Lake State Park in the land of cheese and Packers fans. All of the enjoyment would not have been possible without the invitation from my family who lives in Wisconsin. Their presence made it all that much better. In the words of Chris McCandless, “Happiness is only real when shared.”

Devon (@devonthenatureguy): This was easily my favorite hike of the year. Better yet, we were there to spend time with family of ours from Wisconsin who we don’t get to see all that often. Over the weekend, we hiked 13 miles and climbed the equivalent of 283 flights of stairs. I wore our toddler on my back a majority of that time, which meant for an added 40 lbs and more strenuous experience. Nevertheless, I loved every moment. The views were spectacular, the variety of trail difficulty is greatly accommodating, the beach was fantastic, and the nature and wildlife were absolutely mesmerizing.

Devils Lake State Park has over 29 miles of hiking trails, portions of which are positioned on the scenic National Ice Age Trail.

More information on this location can be found here

Most Interesting: Turner Falls

Chelsea (@teacherwhohikes): I saw this place like a year ago in a magazine I subscribe to, and I knew I really wanted to go. On our way down to Texas, on the actual route, it came up! Naturally we had to go. The first thing I will say is that this place is kind of a commitment because it costs a lot. It isn’t like go look and then drive, no. It is also incredibly touristy. If you can get past that, like we did, you can walk along the river/creek that runs down a sandy in appearance and swimmable incline to the falls- which yes, you can swim in. I thought it was really pretty, and I have never seen a place like this. Tourism is combined with nature. I just kind of was quiet as I took this place in.

Devon (@devonthenatureguy): Okay, this place was so, so strange. Imagine a combination of the small town on Big Fish, castles, a water park, Gatlinburg, and the place they dug for fossils on that one episode of Arthur. It felt like we had entered some sort of alternate reality, but a really cool one. Evidently, Turner Falls is the largest in Oklahoma, and the oldest park. There is basically a natural lazy river and several spots like the one directly above which allows cars to drive over—or rather, through—the river without interrupting the flow. There is a castle on the grounds which was built in the 1930’s that you can explore freely, 3 caves, and loads of people swimming and floating anywhere there is water. Hands down one of the most bizarre, interesting parks I have ever been to.

More information on this location can be found here

Most Isolated: Savanna Portage State Park

Chelsea (@teacherwhohikes): Okay, so like I am a people person, but I am also not. I like being alone in nature. This park was exactly what I needed. It is super North Shore without the people. There is even some unique campsites there that I excited to try soon. In this park, we canoed a lot. We also saw wildlife. I am not super obsessed with predators (outside of owls) like most Minnesotans, for I appreciate birds, rodents, deer, etc almost more. This is the place to see these animals! We saw beavers every single time we hiked. The bog was also breathtaking in that it is scientifically the most interesting type of ecosystem. Like bro, carnivorous plants everywhere! The water had bryozones, which again, bro, yes. And again, there weren’t annoying touristy campers with loud music and dogs there. It is not like “the park” to go to, so it is often overlooked.

Devon (@devonthenatureguy): Everything Chelsea said. Plus, we were there at a time when a lot of wildfires were going on elsewhere, so that made for some breathtaking sunsets and sunrises. We watched a beaver devour, like, 40 lily pads before it smacked its tail at us, saw a bunch of carnivorous plants in the bog which is my all time favorite habitat type, and overall had an experience I wouldn’t change or alter for the world. This park is legit the closest state park to the BWCA that I have ever been to and I am stoked to get out there again, probably summer after next, to try out one of their canoe in camp sites!

Savanna Portage has over 30 miles of hiking trails situated on the Continental Divide and the historic Savanna Portage in McGregor, Minnesota.

More information on this location can be found here

Most Conflicting: Blue Mounds State Park

Chelsea (@teacherwhohikes): I booked this camping trip with excitement because I was going to camp in a tipi! I have always wanted to do this since I was a kid, and I found the opportunity, so I went for it! As the time came closer, I was excited, and being a little bit more woke than some, I looked forward to the education that the DNR would probably have provided on signage and more around the area. I personally know they have been working on actually educating the public about the land they acquired and the land the Native Americans occupied before any of my relatives came here. There was nothing. At least, there was not anything that I saw outside of a couple signs. I hiked the hike, and I read the signs, but I slept in a tee pee that appropriated another culture, and every second I spent in there felt completely wrong. I didn’t even sleep. I legit felt that white guilt and thought about how wrong what I was doing was. Did anyone even see one picture of my campsite? Nope. I still feel like I shouldn’t have slept in that Tipi.  The park is beautiful. The hike is as well. I feel like the parks that I love so dearly have made great strides, but there a million more that need to be made.

Devon (@devonthenatureguy): Honestly, I second Chelsea said about our experience there and the discomfort, both physical and mental, I experienced during our brief nights stay. I say brief because we gave up on sleeping around 3 am, packed up, and continued on our way to our final destination—Texas. On top of all of that, the heat index was over 110. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not necessarily complaining about the heat. It made for an incredibly memorable hike where every cloud felt like a blessing and every breeze a welcomed friend. We got to see bison far closer than I expected, see some fascinating geology, prickly pear cacti, and got to observe turkey vultures from a unique perspective—from above, looking down on their backs as they soared near the edges of the Blue Mounds. The place has some fascinating history, myth, and is some of the best quality remnant prairie I have seen in a long time. One neat thing that is easy to miss if you’re not looking is the 1,250 foot line of rocks believed to have been placed their by Native Americans which apparently is lined up with the sunrises and sunsets of the spring and fall equinoxes. Also, there is a nice boulder (It’s not just a boulder, though. It’s a rock.–Spongebob Squarepants) that if stood upon allows you to gain the highest elevation in the county with a view of Iowa to the south and South Dakota to the west.

Blue Mounds State Park has 13 miles of hiking trails and is located in town of Luverne in southwest Minnesota.

More information on this location can be found here

Most Instagram Worthy Views: Cascade River State Park

Chelsea (@teacherwhohikes): I’m just going to talk about the hill. THE HILL. I hated going up it. It was raining. I was tired. And then we reached an overlook at the top. I sat back as I watched a dad and his two teenage sons sit at the overlook and eat their donuts and sandwiches. It will be that moment that the three of them remember forever, and I think it is so important for our kids that they experience nature like this with the people they love. After they left, I watched over the same look, and I was swarmed by bees, but they never got me. It was too pretty to explain. Go there yourself. And, make sure you take someone you love with you. 🙂

Devon (@devonthenatureguy): We did this hike on Labor Day weekend where we hit up 4 or 5 state parks and hiked their Hiking Club trails in less than 48 hours. This one had us walking almost entirely up hill or the first half. It was sort of between cold and warm, raining, and absolutely draining. But the views were stunning, especially the overlook you are blessed with midway through the hike where you could see an ocean of fog moving like waves over and through the trees below.

Cascade River has over 18 miles of hiking trails and is situated on the Superior Hiking Trail just outside Grand Marais, Minnesota.

More information about this location can be found here

If you have a story about or from hiking please do not hesitate to share. We will totally feature your story and pictures. To contact us with your story, message us on Instagram, @teacherwhohikes. You can also message The Wild Life on Facebook.

Interested in joining the TWLHikingClub? Learn more here and join our Facebook group here.


Best of The Wild Life 2018

As 2018 comes to a close, here are some of the most read, most popular, and other top moments from The Wild Life throughout the year.

Before that though, I was reminded of a passage from my all-time favorite book, Into the Wild, recently that had and has always struck a deep chord within me: “The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun.”

Here’s to a 2019 full of changing horizons, different suns, and new experiences. And for all of you who have followed us from the beginning, or who have just recently began following, thank you—truly—and best wishes in the coming year.

Most Played Episode of ‘The Wild Life’ Podcast

Taste For Blood: Nature’s Vampires

This episode, we shared a story that took 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 explored nature’s Vampires

Our guest for the episode was Dr. Marie Lisandra Zepeda Mendoza, who had recently finished her post doc in Copenhagen, Denmark and whose recently published research on vampire bats and how they survive on such a peculiar diet was at the center of this story.

Most Played SHORT (Podcast)

Attack of the Bryozoans

While we work on Season 2, I decided to begin a sub-series of shorts in which we take some of our most popular blog post and create audio versions. Now, somethings you may have read on the website ( will be available to listen to on the go! This was the first of that series.

If you’ve ever seen a gelatinous blob of ick floating in the water and wondered what type of alien life you were seeing, it was probably a Bryozoan, and they’re honestly pretty neat. Listen to learn more!

Most Read Blog Post

Attack of the Bryozoans

On that note, the most read blog post in the one which the previous lister was based on. You can read it here.


Most Popular #SundayFishSketch

The Penpoint Gunnel

This Penpoint Gunnel was sketched out by the endlessly talented Rene Martin (evolutionary fish biologist, artist on the side whose work can be purchased and admired on her InPrint shopher InPrint shop) may be made by pen-point, but that’s not the origin of its namesake, rather the fist large spine of the anal fin is grooved and shaped like a fountain pen tip. This sketch and associated blog post were a reader favorite.


Most Read #TWLHikingClub Blog Post

New to Hiking? We’ve Got You

This year, we kicked off the TWL Hiking Club led by Chelsea Bowker (@teacherwhohikes) and TWLHikingClub Tuesday blog post. One of those posts was advice for those new to hiking. You can read it here.

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Most Liked Instagram Post (@devonthenatureguy)

Image may contain: sky, plant, outdoor, nature and water

Out of all of the spectacular sights we experienced while canoeing at Savanna Portage State Park, this was hands (paddles?) down the most mesmerizing. If only you could have seen it in motion! My wife later said it looked super ‘Van Gogh’. I couldn’t agree more 😊 🛶 I’m not sure what the plant is called? Have any of you ever seen it or know the name?

#SundayFishSketch Lipogramma idabeli

This #SundayFishSketch comes from Ichthyologist, Rene Martin. Visit her shop on InPrint to see more of her artwork or to order prints!

Meet the Lipogramma idabeli

a newly discovered deepwater basslet

Tornabene L, Robertson DR, Baldwin CC (2018) A new species of Lipogramma (Teleostei: Grammatidae) from deep reefs of Roatan, Honduras. 

This gorgeous fish was only recently first described after being found and collected at depths of 122 to 165 meters off the coast of Roatan, Honduras. The video at the bottom of this post shows the first collection of this vibrant, iridescent species.

At just about 1 inch in length, this fish is quite small, but its discovery has helped to make the genus more robust—its addition brings the total to 13. L. idabeli is distinguished from other members of its genus by “its bright blue coloration on the head, nape, and dorsal portion of the trunk beneath the spinous dorsal fin, a prominent round black blotch below the origin of the spinous dorsal fin, and a high number of gill rakers.” (Tornabene, Robertson, & Baldwin, 2018)

The habitat the specimens were discovered in, including those which were used as the basis for initial description of the species (aka, the holotype) were found in “or around small rock crevices, rock piles, or caves situated on steep limestone walls covered with coarse sediment and fine rubble composed of dead sections of the green macroalga Halimeda.” (Tornabene, Robertson, & Baldwin, 2018)



Tornabene, L., Robertson, D. R., & Baldwin, C. C. (2018). A new species of Lipogramma from deep reefs of Roatan, Honduras (Teleostei, Grammatidae). ZooKeys, 809, 79-95. doi:10.3897/zookeys.809.29280

Podcast SHORT: Plant or Fungi?

A random find while hiking that lead to a life history story that was unexpectedly fascinating.

Read the blog this is based on and see more images of the find here


Video: The Wild Life

Ahead of our Season 2 releases, we wanted to put together a video to tell you who we are, what we do, where we are going, and to say #ThankYouPatrons to our supporters on

The Wild Life is viewer, reader, and listener supported. If you believe in what we are doing, you can become a patron at

Be on the lookout for new podcast episodes on SoundCloud and iTunes, and other new content!