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Archive for the ‘Conservation’ Category

Did I start a fire without matches on television in only 30 seconds? Gotta watch the video to find out!

I hope you enjoy my KHQA Morning Show appearance. Huge thanks to host Kristen Aguirre and cameraman Mark Schneider! Also huge thanks to my husband who was kind enough to camp on a Tuesday night and get up at 4 am so I could be “TV ready!”

Note to self: I should do video blogs more often! It’s so much less typing!!

 

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Paddle Agate Lake!

Paddle Agate Lake!

So…

I’ve been reading blogs about blogging.  Don’t laugh at me.  You’re reading blogs about me reading blogs about blogging… so really, who is crazier here?!

The blogging about blogging crowd suggests that readers love lists… and I know that I fall for the flashy list headlines all the time.  It’s nice to think that life can be “3 Simple Steps” or “Top 10 reasons.”   Lists rarely have much depth though, and can’t do their subjects a whole lot of justice.  That lack of details annoyed me… until I had an epiphany!  My whole blog is like a Top 10 list!!  It’s supposed to be one big spring board for you to go and have an adventure!  I don’t have to tell you how every hill on my last bike ride felt (tough going up, amazing coasting down) or how the water temperature was at the lake last weekend (brisk, but refreshing).  I just have to give you ideas and then you can go fill in the details for yourself!

So today, I’m embracing the list and presenting the

Top 7 Ways to Follow Your Adventure Foot This Weekend!

  1. Paddle Agate Lake!  Wyconda State Park near LaGrange, Missouri just added a fleet of 12 sit-on-top kayaks last year, and my husband and I had the opportunity to go try them out last weekend.   For only $5 an hour (or $20 for the day), you get access to a boat, a life jacket, and a paddle.  There are 2 kayak boat houses at the park; each holds 6 boats right at the waterline of Agate and Wyconda lakes.  We paddled a couple of hours, chased some geese around, saw some deer and even spotted a thirsty raccoon at the water’s edge.  The boats are super easy to paddle, are very stable, and even have a nice little storage bin to toss some snacks and your car keys into.  Kids are welcome with parents along and it’s a great way to spend an afternoon.
  2. Last year's Running Raider Classic

    Last year’s Running Raider Classic

    Running Raider Classic!   A Quincy tradition is THIS WEEKEND!  Saturday, June 22.  You can still sign up the day of the event.  The RRC is A 5K run/walk & 10K combination road race/cross country race that begins and ends at Quincy Notre Dame High School.  The races will take you through one or two of Quincy’s most beautiful and historic river bluff parks.  Participants will enjoy the challenges presented by either course.  There are several beautiful views of the Mississippi River Valley along this route.  The 5K course has rolling hills and is suitable for all.  The long hills throughout the 10K course will challenge you! The Raider Classic is a great follow-up event for those who have competed in the Bridge the Gap and is a perfect companion event leading to the Hannibal Cannibal. There is also have a 1 mile FUN run for youth under the age of 13 who aren’t quite ready for the 5 or 10K events.  This is an event for the entire family

  3. Hike!   It’s a short drive to get to some beautiful hikes; throw on your favorite old tennis shoes and get out there!  If I were planning a hike this weekend, I’d head to Siloam Springs State Park or maybe up to Argyle Lake State Park (near Colchester, IL).   If you’ve got kids in tow and want something a little more low-key, there are lovely short trails at Quincy’s Gardener Park.
  4. Photo Safari!  Photo Safari is one of my favorite pastimes in Quincy.  The riverfront is chock full of birds, amphibians, flowers and more that are perfect for the
    Great Blue Heron on Photo Safari

    Great Blue Heron on Photo Safari

    budding or seasoned photographer.  Make this idea even more fun by going to the Quincy Public Library and checking out a bird or flower ID guide to bring along.  Also, click here to find my FREE PRINTABLE BIRDING CHECKLIST for ILLINOIS. 

  5. Bike Somewhere  If you’re a frequent reader, you know there’s nothing I like more than getting on my bike and
    Riding with the Quincy Bike Club near Hull, IL

    Riding with the Quincy Bike Club near Hull, IL

    going for a ride.  If you’re looking for a little ride about town, you might check out the “Looking for Lincoln” trail that begins in Quincy’s Washington Park and visits historic sites throughout Quincy.  For those more experienced, check out any of the scheduled rides for the Quincy Bike Club.  There’s a group for everyone from beginner to advanced, and the weekly rides and events are now on the new Quincy Bike Club website www.quincybikeclub.org

  6. Swim! And I’m not talking about going for a swim at the public pool.  That’s not an adventure so much as it’s a headache.  Check out public swim areas at Cuivre River State Park in Troy, Missouri (1.5 hours from Quincy… this park also has great hiking trails and camping areas!)  You won’t miss the pool chemicals at all.
  7. Get Some Herbs: You know what I’m talking about.  This weekend is the Four Winds Farm Herb Festival!  The event features herbs, locally grown food, vendors, educational demos, garden tours, herb theme gardens, children’s activities, music and more.  Admission is free.  Event is presented by the Western Illinois Sustainable Agricultural Society (WISAS) and will be held Friday, June 21 from 5-9 and Saturday, June 22 from 9-4 at Four Winds Farm, 3729 North 36th Street, Quincy.  For more info, email dlee@adams.net.
Herb Festival this weekend!

Herb Festival this weekend!

So there you are. No excuses! Go follow your Adventure Foot!

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Earth Day 2012! On far right is Ashley, who organizes this event each year!

Earth Day 2012! On far right is Ashley, who organizes this event each year!

Save the planet, one park at a time!

Quincy’s Harrison Street HyVee store is once again hosting an Earth Day Park Clean up at South Park (12th and Harrison) this Sunday, April 21st starting at 3pm.  Last year, I was fortunate enough to be able to help with the clean up at Quincy’s Gardner Park.  The event was fun and we all felt like we had made a real difference at the end of the day.

This year, organizer Ashley Hibbard, has planned an extra special event.  HyVee will be providing food, bags and dumpsters for both trash and recycling.  Local musicians Esther Moore, Beau Becraft and Cheeks McGee will be providing music.  All you need to provide is yourself, your friends, a pair of work gloves and a great attitude!   This event is a positive way to impact our community and celebrate Earth Day- and it’s a lot of fun too!  I hope to see lots of Adventure Foot readers at the park!  Happy Earth Day!

earthday

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Doug and I take in the view from the top of Monk's Mound at Cahokia Mounds World Heritage Site.

Doug and I take in the view from the top of Monk’s Mound at Cahokia Mounds World Heritage Site. You can see the St. Louis Arch in the background.

Have you ever dreamed of visiting something iconic, inspirational, and culturally significant to the history of humanity?  The Pyramids of Giza. Persepolis in Iran.  The archeological remains of Pompeii in Italy. The Temple of Apollo Epicurus in Greece.  The Taj Mahal in India. Stonehenge in Northern Ireland.

In 1994 the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) launched an initiative to compile a list and work on the preservation of the most important cultural and natural sites in the world.  This list of World Heritage Sites is awash with one jaw-dropping wonder of the world after another.  It includes all of the sites I listed in the paragraph above and more.

Stone artifacts/axe heads found in various burial pits near Cahokia.

Stone artifacts/axe heads found in various burial pits near Cahokia.

Now to visit the amazing sites I listed above would take a whole lot of time and a whole lot of money.  But what if a true wonder of the world, a record of the technological achievements of man, a significant stage in human history preserved in the archaeological record, and an exceptional example of a civilization that has disappeared was located just two hours from where you’re sitting now?  Don’t you think you owe it to yourself to go and check it out?

Ladies and gentleman, I give you: Cahokia Mounds in Collinsville, Illinois.

Recreated village scene at the visitor's center museum

Recreated village scene at the visitor’s center museum

My own trip to Cahokia (pronounced Ka-Hoke-ee-ah) came from one simple truth: we were tired of being in the car.  My friend Doug and I had just run the Run the Bluegrass Half Marathon in Lexington, Kentucky and were headed home.  Over 5 hours into our trip home, I spotted a brown historic site marker on the highway and exclaimed, “We’re right by Cahokia Mounds! I’ve always wanted to see it!”  Doug made an impressively quick decision and an equally quick lane-change with the car, and just a few miles down the road, we arrived at the park.

Cahokia Mounds is the largest prehistoric Indian site north of Mexico.  At its height, the chiefton-based civilization covered 4000 acres, included numerous villages around the main city structure, and was home to nearly 20,000 people.  These Mississippian people flourished from 800 AD to approximately 1200 AD and had highly structured communities with a complex social system which included art, agriculture, community, trade networks, and many scientific and engineering achievements.  In AD 1200, Cahokia was larger than London.

The Cahokia Mounds site today, as it was in AD 800, is organized around a central Grand Plaza and the largest earthen pyramid in the US, Monk’s Mound.  Monk’s Mound and the 100+ surrounding mounds are made of earth and wood using stone and wood tools.  The earth was transported primarily on people’s backs in woven baskets.  It is estimated that Monk’s Mound- with a base that covers 14 acres and a height of 100 feet- is comprised of over 22,000 cubic feet of earth.  Anyone else’s back sore thinking about moving that much dirt?

Monk’s Mound was a cultural focal point and once was topped with a massive building where the most important chief would run the government and conduct ceremonies. Other mounds were built for other purposes.  Most contained burials, and some may have just been built to elevate the residence of important figures in the society.  Today some of the mounds have been excavated and amazing artifacts have been recovered and preserved.

Infographic at the main plaza. Monk's Mound can be seen to the left in the distance.

Infographic at the main plaza. Monk’s Mound can be seen to the left in the distance.

All of the mounds have been cataloged and numbered.  Of particular interest is Mound #72.  The excavation of this small mound found over 300 ceremonial burials, mostly of young women in mass graves.  Atop of this, an elite male, estimated to be 45 years old was buried on a platform of flat beads made out of shells.   The shells were arranged around the body to resemble an eagle or hawk.  There is a recreation of this chief’s burial inside of the park’s interpretative center which is truly amazing.

The interpretive center of the park is very nice and the displays are engaging for kids and adults alike.  There is no admission to the center, though there is a suggested donation of $4 for adults, $2 for kids and $10 for families.  Along with many wonderful artifacts like tools, beads and pottery, there is an auditorium which shows a film every hour as well as a recreated village to explore.

Since Doug and I had stopped on the way home from an exhausting weekend, we did not have the time to explore the true breadth of the park, however we did take the opportunity to climb to the top of Monk’s Mound.  Under cloud dotted skies, the view from the top of the mound was vast and gorgeous.  The St. Louis Gateway Arch and skyline, 7 miles away as the crow flies, was clearly visible to the southwest. Farm fields and lakes spread out to the north.  And all around, you could see tops of the mounds which made up this ancient city.  It was easy to imagine how inspiring this vantage point would have been to the people who lived here.

"Ancient America’s Great City on the Mississippi" by Timothy R. Pauketat is available at the Quincy Public Library.

“Ancient America’s Great City on the Mississippi” by Timothy R. Pauketat is available at the Quincy Public Library.

The top of Monk’s Mound is made even more significant by its placement in relation to the rest of the structures in the society.  Its crest falls at the point at which the sun rises during the equinox, making a strong connection between the chief and the life-giving sun.  Another unique structure at Cahokia is a sun-calendar known as “Woodhenge.”  This site, discovered in the 1960’s, was built of concentric circles of enormous cedar posts that aligned with the sun at the equinox, and would have probably been important as both markers in the calendar and for ceremonial gatherings.  One of the rings of “Woodhenge” has been recreated at the park and can be viewed both up close and from the crest of Monk’s Mound.

Now listen, AF readers… I don’t normally get bossy with my advice, but I’m telling you:  Go to Cahokia. 2 hours from Quincy lies a site of significance to the whole world, and you shouldn’t miss it.  I’m glad I finally had the chance to visit, and I plan on returning to walk more of the grounds and explore.  For further reading on Cahokia, visit:

http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/198

http://www.cahokiamounds.org

And check out this book (also available at the Quincy Public Library): http://www.amazon.com/Cahokia-Ancient-Americas-Mississippi-American/dp/0143117475

PLEASE CLICK HERE TO ENTER MY ADVENTURE FOOT PHOTO CONTEST! WIN AMAZING PRIZES FROM NUUN HYDRATION AND V FUEL ENDURANCE 

Also, a special hello to Amanda… who we met on the top of the pyramid.  🙂  Hope your adventure was fun and educational!

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Photo credit Iowa DNR

I know, I know- I already posted a blog today, but I just got an email from Scott Dykstra, a park ranger I’ve been in touch with at Maquoketa Caves State Park and I was so excited I just had to post it for you to read.  (Maquoketa, IA 3.5 hours north of Quincy. Click here for a Google Map)

As many of you know, dozens of states from the east coast to the Rockies closed all public caves since 2006 to contain the spread of a disease that kills bats.  In the past few years though, it’s become clear that the primary way the White Nose Bat Fungus is spread is among the bats themselves, and that if cavers are clean and responsible with their equipment, caving can resume without further endangering bats.  You can read my entire blog about the bats by clicking here.

I applaud Iowa for taking the first steps in restoring cave access so that visitors can explore this unique and important ecosystem.  My hope is that other states (ahem, Illinois and Missouri) follow suit to educate the public and reopen caves.  There’s no better way to protect an ecosystem than helping people learn about it and experience it first hand.

Email from Iowa DNR:

Laura,

This summer visitor’s to Maquoketa Caves State Park will once again have the opportunity to explore the many caves there.  The caves have been closed since 2009 to slow the spread of a fungus, called White Nose Syndrome (WNS) which is deadly to bats.

Since first detected in 2006, WNS has contributed to the deaths of over 5.5 million bats across the eastern North America.  It is known to spread from bat to bat. Officials are also concerned that it might inadvertently be spread from footwear and clothing worn by cave explorers moving from one location to another.

The DNR is still very concerned about the risk of spreading WNS from cave to cave by persons carrying the fungus so visitors will be asked to attend a short program informing them of the risks of WNS.  This program will also help visitors identify what would put them at risk of transmitting the fungus.  Once visitors have attended this program, they will receive a wristband that functions as a permit for cave exploration.

Maquoketa Caves is hiring extra summer help to provide this program as well as guided tours of Dance Hall Cave and other natural features of the park.  We are very excited about having interpretive programs available at Maquoketa Caves again.  Feedback has demonstrated the high value to visitor experience that a professional guide offers.  There is so much to experience and learn at Maquoketa Caves and we are very happy to be helping people get the most out of their experience there.

In cooperation with the Friends of Maquoketa Caves, we will be hosting a grand opening on Saturday April 14.  We are calling it “Pancakes in the Park” and will be serving pancakes and fresh home-made maple syrup harvested from the park trees themselves.  There will be several educational programs available as well as cave tours.  The open house is from 9 AM – 12 PM.  The programs and tours will continue until 2 PM.

Starting May 26 staff will be providing the WNS Awareness Program for cave access from 9AM to 7:30 PM.  From April 14 to May 26 we will be providing programs as often as possible and visitors may stop at the park office to contact staff about getting a permit for cave access.  If you have a group that would like to visit the caves, please contact the park prior to coming to make arrangements for a guided tour and the WNS Awareness Program.

Respectfully,

Scott Dykstra

Park Ranger

Iowa Department Natural Resources

Maquoketa Cave State Park

563-652-5833

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Adventure Foot coming to you with breaking news! It is confirmed that there is an alien invasion going on in your community right now!  Authorities are advising

“Welcome to Earth.” Will Smith always saves us from Aliens.

readers not to panic but to join in the battle and take some important steps to stem the tide of the attackers… Where is Will Smith when I need him?!

This week (Feb. 26th- March 3rd) is National Invasive Species Awareness Week, and as outdoors people, there is a lot we can do to prevent the spread of alien species in our own backyards.  You see, there are animals, plants, and pathogens that are not native to our area, and, left unchecked, the invading horde can out-compete our native species and occupy their natural niches.

I’ve written before about Asian Carp and White Nosed Bat syndrome, and thanks to an aggressive advertising campaign by the National Forrest Service, many people are already aware of the threats of invasive beetle species.  No matter which potential plague we’re talking about though, there are some simple steps outdoorspeople can take to protect our native species.

  1. Clean your boots when moving between areas!  All kinds of hitchhikers from plant seeds to fungus can grab on to muddy boots.  If you’ve been tromping around a Florida swamp and you bring your muddy gear back to Illinois, you may be spreading more than just some sunshine state soil.  You should clean your boots before leaving the alien planet… I mean… state… by knocking all the loose mud off of them and wiping them down with a bleach and water solution.
  2. Don’t move plants or firewood…ever!   I know.  You’ve got a nice stack of firewood behind your house and you think maybe you should just take it with you when you go camping this weekend.  What could it hurt?  I mean you’re going to burn it anyway, right?  WRONG!  That wood could harbor

    Photo credit framinghamma.gov.

    insect eggs, larva or adults, and they can hitch a ride across the state line in the back of your truck and escape into a new environment.  In the Midwest, we particularly need to be aware of a little bug called the Asian Long-horned Beetle. This 1 inch long tunneling beetle has destroyed over 72,000 American hardwood trees east of the Mississippi since its discovery in 1992.  The river has acted as a natural barrier for the beastly little bug, but it only takes one infested log to cross the river for a camping weekend and poof!  It begins to destroy trees all the way to the Rockies. There is a very informative interactive map located here where you can see the spread of this and other wood borne pests.

  3. Clean your other gear!  Whatever outdoor activities you are participating in, you’re potentially contaminating your gear with a foreign invader.  Clean everything! It’s our best defense.  Take extra care with items you’ve had in a body of water like wading boots or fishing gear, or items you’ve used in unusual environments like caves or beaches.  Fishermen should never dump anything from one body of water into another and boaters should clean and dry their trailers when moving between different lakes and rivers.  It’s all pretty common sense advice, but it’s worth reviewing!
  4. Be aware of the invasive species threatening your area and report signs of any infestations.  There are many websites where you can look at the invasive species in your area. I particularly like these two: http://www.invasivespeciesinfo.gov and  www.nisaw.org
  5. Landscape with native plants!  http://www.beplantwise.org/ is a great resource for all gardeners.  According to this site, over 1.7 million acres a year are threatened by invasive species of plants.  These plants cost over $35 billion a year in economic damage, and they’re also the largest threat to biodiversity in the country.  Use plants native to your area when you landscape and you’ll be helping to prevent non-native invasions.  To learn more, look for seminars in your area like this one in Columbia, Missouri on March 9th and 10th. http://mdc.mo.gov/newsroom/attend-workshops-columbia-landscaping-native-plants
  6. Never release non-native animals into the wild.  Did your kid get a snake/mouse/hamster/fish/bird/reptile they were unprepared to take care of? Do not- under any circumstances- release the unwanted pet into the wild!  Find a rescue group and put the pet up for adoption.  Or better yet, be responsible pet owners and never purchase a pet you can’t keep for its entire lifespan.

Adventure Foot: Your first line of defense against the worst scum of the universe- invasive species!  Saw something strange?  Watch your back, ‘cause you never quite know where Adventure Foot is at 🙂

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Two important seasons are already well underway in Illinois: the holiday donation season and deer hunting season.  In October, I wrote about the Illinois Department of Natural Resources’ effort to fight hunger through the Target Hunger Now Program.  That program takes invasive species of Asian Carp out of our river and helps to feed the hungry in our state.  The state is fortunate enough to have another well-established campaign that helps feed hungry families: The Illinois Sportsmen Against Hunger Program.

The Sportsmen Against Hunger Program is designed to encourage area hunters to donate their tagged deer to feed families in Illinois.  This program was started in 1989, and since then has provided an estimated 1.8 million meals to needy families.

There are 50 meat processors in the state that accept donations, including two facilities in our area.  The Golden Locker in Golden, Illinois (217-696-4456) and The Butcher Block in Quincy, Illinois ((217) 222-6248) both can accept donations of tagged deer through the end of the season in mid-January.  Through donations and sponsorship dollars, these two local processors are able to process donated meat free of charge.  The donated venison is then distributed primarily through the Salvation Army.

Major local sponsors of the program include Rotary International, Key Outdoor Inc., Quincy Industrial Painting Company, Mays, Walden and Anastas PC, Farm and Home Supply, Independent’s Service Company, Gully Transportation, JH Concrete, Western Catholic Union, Autoshine Car Wash, Game Masters, Hilbing Autobody, and Peters Body Shop and Towing.

Originally Published November 2011

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