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Posts Tagged ‘nature’

Ice skating on Quincy’s riverfront. I know what you’re thinking: I’m very graceful. 🙂

It was 60 degrees.

We were ice skating.

Outside.

And it was AMAZING!!

This past weekend, my husband and I had the opportunity to check out Quincy’s newest outdoor attraction, “River Skate.”  The business, owned by Quincy natives Chris and Marion Dye, opened last week on the Quincy Riverfront.

Romantic skate-date!

River Skate is much what you’d expect from an outdoor ice rink.  Patrons are greeted by a friendly staff at a cute wooden warming hut where they can rent hockey-style skates in all sizes and pick up Pepsi, hot chocolate or snacks.  The staff is happy to help you find the right size skates and even help the kids get laced up and moving on the rink.  There are benches to change into your skates and to tuck your shoes underneath.

There’s just one major difference between River Skate and your average outdoor rink- it’s that River Skate has no ice!

River Skate employs a unique synthetic ice surface called Super-Glide.  According to the press release, Super-Glide is, “A specially engineered polymer and lubricant, with precise production methods and an innovative assembly method; which come together to make Super-Glide® an almost magical synthetic ice surface.”

But the real question was: how would the synthetic ice feel to skate on?

The answer: it was great!

Justin was the best skater there… until a 7 year kid old showed up… 🙂

Justin and I laced up some freshly-sharpened skates and stepped tentatively out onto the surface, and after the first ten feet I could tell that River Skate was really on to something great.  The surface felt smooth and unbroken and just like regular ice.  The synthetic surface even peels up a little around your skates and creates a sort of synthetic ‘snow’ that clings to the outside of the blades.  To this untrained skater, there was no noticeable difference between this surface and an ice rink.

Well, that’s not true. There was one noticeable difference: I wasn’t cold!  It was gorgeous outside and we were skating in t-shirts!   Quincy’s climate just isn’t consistently cold enough to freeze an outdoor rink, and refrigeration that’s required of regular ice is both loud and expensive (besides, where would you get a Zamboni in Central Illinois??) so synthetic ice is a great fit for this area.

Justin Gangnam Style Skating

Justin and I really enjoyed our afternoon on the ice.  It’s an innovative use of Quincy’s riverfront area and the Bayview Bridge makes a photogenic backdrop for all the fun.  I loved that the rink pipes fun music out while you skate- you should have seen Justin skate Gangnam Style…!

There were maybe 15 other skaters on the rink when we were there- a good mix of kids and adults- and more arriving when I was finally worn out and ready for some lunch.  Owner Chris Dye explained that there are going to be some great theme-night skates coming up, and that the regular hours will also be expanded while kids are out on winter break.

I hope everyone gets the chance to go down to the river and experience this new Quincy adventure!  It’s inspiring to see a pair of local entrepreneurs bringing a unique activity to this area and to help develop Quincy’s riverfront.  If you’re going, give me a call… you know, I gotta go work on my double axel…  😉

Owner Chris Dye shows off the great new hockey style skates. Patrons are also allowed to bring their own skates (any style) provided the staff checks them for safety first.

WHAT: River Skate, Quincy’s First Outdoor Synthetic Ice Rink

WHERE: Clat Adams Park (Quincy Riverfront between the bridges, or kind of in front of Kutter’s Bar and Grill)

COST: Only $3 for kids and $5 for adults.  Includes skate rental and admission. Concessions available at additional cost.  River Skate accepts cash and major credit cards.  Punch cards are also available.

WHEN: Normal hours of operation are Wednesday through Friday from 4:00 pm until 9:00 pm, and Saturday and Sunday from 12:00 pm until 9:00 pm. River Skate WILL be open for Thanksgiving from 4-9 pm.  For complete hours visit http://www.riverskateqcy.com/events/

PRESENTED BY: Title presenter is Refreshment Services Pepsi.  Also presented by Rokusek Design, ABNG CPAs, First Banker’s Trust, Quincy Medical Group, Town and Country Bank, Heetco, Quincy Area Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, Rupp Rental, Mercantile Bank and Blessing Hospital.

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A sky that is hard to describe (from Andrew’s Bald in the Smoky Mountains)

My favorite kind of sky is the kind which, if I were to paint it on canvas, people would remark that it was just too colorful to be realistic.

I follow my Adventure Foot out the door for lots of reasons, some of which are easy to put in to words.  I like to get healthy, make friends, stay busy, visit new places, and be part of an active community.  Other reasons I follow my Adventure Foot are harder to describe.

After being caught in a storm, which is hard to describe. (Near Hull, IL)

There’s something hard to describe about kayaking quietly enough in the backwaters of the Mississippi River to get up close to a Great Blue Heron.

There’s something hard to describe about putting your head down and running through sleet when most people skipped the run and are warm and dry in their houses.

There’s something hard to describe about viewing the stars hung in a clear sky on a crisp night while standing on the flanks of a far flung mountain.

A day on the Mississippi, which is hard to describe.

There’s something hard to describe about the ornery way a friend smiles when he deliberately paddles a canoe the opposite way in which you’re paddling the same canoe!

There’s something hard to describe about cruising my bicycle down a hill where the golden evening sun has lit the tall corn through the summertime haze.

I guess what I’m saying is, if you’re a follower of my blog, you’ve read about a lot of the things I’ve done in the last year or two, and I’m frequently asked why I am so busy all the time and why I feel the need to write about it.  All of those easy to describe reasons are true- health, friends, community- and they’re all great benefits of a life of activity.  The better reasons though, are all of these millions of tiny moments where the everyday turns spectacular and that the only way to describe them is, “I guess you had to be there.”

My husband and I on a hike in the mountains… which is hard to describe.

I write about these places because I feel like it’s really important to help other people find their own moments that are hard to describe.  It doesn’t have to be some huge expedition- it can be (and often is) just a regular day.  If you’re out exploring the world, you’re sure to see an amazing sunrise or two, to spot a bear or a beautiful bird, to share a laugh on a lake or make a story about being lost in the woods or caught in a storm.  Adventure Foot is about inspiration to find inspiration.  Ironically, it’s about giving you ideas about how to get away from your computer and explore the Midwest and beyond.

Do you spend a lot of time daydreaming about going on a vacation and seeing the sunset over the ocean?  I’d put it to you that a sunset over a Mississippi levee is no less awe-inspiring.  Get out and explore the Midwest.  It’s great… though it can be hard to describe.

PS- Have you had an adventure trying something you learned about on Adventure Foot?  I’d really, really like to hear about it!  There’s this wonderful “Comments” section below… I’m just sayin.

PSS-  Enjoy this great cartoon by Adventure Foot contributor Jamie Green!

Cartoon by Jamie Green for Adventure Foot!

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Photo by Brandon Glasgow of humming birds at Siloam Springs State Park. There are feeders in the parking lot by the boat launch area with many hummingbirds always around!

This Saturday is National Trails day, and I’ve got good news if you’ve a mind to get out on local trails: the weather is going to be beautiful!  Sunny, highs in the 70s- a perfect day to follow your Adventure Foot!

Deer Run Trail runs near open prairie lands and is great for birdwatching!

There are many, many good trails at every state park in the area, but I wanted to take a minute to highlight Siloam Springs State Park.

The 3,323 acre park was purchased in the 30s and designated a state recreation area in 1940, but underwent major improvement in the late 1990s.  The park provides ample ideas for fun- there are great shelter houses, a playground, around 12 miles of hiking trails, campsites with restrooms, showers and electricity or primitive campsites, 23 miles of equestrian trails, and a large lake which is stocked with largemouth bass, bluegill, sunfish, rainbow trout and more (you need to purchase an Illinois fishing license with trout stamp before fishing at the park.)  At the lakehouse, you can rent canoes and row boats very affordably.  There is also bait and tackle for rent.  The park is only about a 30 minute drive from Quincy or a couple of hours by bicycle if you’re in the mood for a nice long (65 mile round trip) ride!

Great Blue Heron at Siloam Springs State Park

I had the opportunity to visit Siloam last weekend, and was once again reminded how wonderful outdoor recreation close to home can be.  My husband, my friend Clint and I headed to the park in the very hot weather to spend some time on the lake.  We brought along a kayak (important note: if you bring your own kayak/canoe/boat you must have a current IL sticker to use the lake) and also rented a 2-person canoe.  The canoe cost $8 per hour and included lifejacket rental.   We had a nice time paddling around the lake and exploring each shoreline.  I especially enjoyed seeing wildlife including several great blue herons and lots of turtles!

After our paddle, we headed out to Crabapple Trail. This trail traverses 1. 5 miles of woodland, crosses a creek, and has neat outcroppings of limestone every so often.  It’s also one of my favorite trails in the springtime for mushroom hunting.   If you’re looking for a nice easy hike that you could do with a family, Crabapple trail is a good one to try.  It starts and ends in the parking area by the lakehouse, so its location is ideal.

Emerald Jewel Wings are common around the lake shore.

Mmm marshmallows! There are great campgrounds at Siloam Springs!

Another good route to try, especially for groups of adults or those with older kids along, is a combination of the Deer Run, Hoot Owl and Old Village Trails.  Deer Run Trail picks up at the Ranger Station and heads past some open prairie and down a moderate hill to the main Springs area. The prarie area is a great place for bird watchers- there are purple martin boxes and I’ve spotted indigo blue buntings, many types of finch and woodpeckers and even Baltimore Oriels in this area.  When you get to the end of this trail you’re at a great little creek.  I highly recommend fossil hunting in that area!  There are lots of shells, snails and crinoid fossils to be found in the creek bed.  After fossil hunting, you cross the park area and pick up the 1.5 mile Hoot Owl Trail.  This trail goes steeply uphill for a few hundred yards but is fairly easy after that.  I like it because it’s got the best view of the valley in the park, and also a dense stand of pine trees where I always spot deer or red tail hawks.    When you exit Hoot Owl, cross the county line and the bridge and, maybe after a stop for a picnic lunch at the shelter house, go find the Old Village Trail.  This short trail will take you up the bluff and back toward the Ranger Station where you started.  The whole loop ends up being 3-3.5 miles and will give you a great tour of the entire park.

I hope you get out and enjoy some trails this weekend.  Remember to keep our parks clean and leave no trash behind.   If you’d like to read more about another close-to-home State Park- check out this blog from last year about Cuivre River State Park in Troy, MO (1.5 hours from Quincy).   For more info on Siloam Springs including campsite fees, hunting regulations and other amenities, click here!

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David holds up a partially started honeycomb.

I had a lot of potential titles for this blog:

The Bee’s Knees

What’s the Buzz

Long Live the Queen

Bee Happy

The Eye of the Bee-holder

None of your Beeswax

To Bee or Not To Bee

Oh, Bee-have!

…There were many more puns where these came from.

Just 2 weeks ago, before my big Vermont race, I had a closer-to-home adventure.  My husband and I were headed to Peoria, IL to visit my brother’s family and his new baby (aww, Carson’s so cute!) and I figured as long as we were in the area, we should stop in and see my friends David and Jessica.   They invited us out to cycle on the Peoria River Trail, but David asked if first we’d like to come check out his backyard beehives!

David has 2 hives at the location I visited, and I don’t know what I imagined before I got there, but it certainly wasn’t as scary as I expected.  We walked up through a pasture where a couple of paint horses stood grazing, and back in a corner near some blackberry bushes were 2 small white boxes surrounded by a little fence (presumably to keep the horses from accidently getting too close.)  I imagined we’d have to put on full bee-suits to be anywhere near the hives, but that wasn’t really the case.

David adds a few puffs of smoke to the hive.

We walked up in our regular clothes to just outside the fence, maybe 3 feet from the hives.  The bees were visibly buzzing about, but didn’t seem real worried about what we were doing.  David gave me the top half of a bee-keeping suit and donned just a mask himself.  He took out a small bee smoker and explained how it worked.  There is basically a little can on one side of the smoker in which you put a bit of tinder.  David favors using some newspaper and dryer lint.  The tinder is lit, the lid is closed, and a couple of little pumps of the bellows is enough to let out a couple of gentle puffs of smoke.   The smoke simulates a forest fire and the bees are distracted into tasks like sucking up honey to move as they would have to if a real forest fire was in progress.  This task becomes more important than whatever the beekeeper is doing, so it basically keeps the bees occupied.

You can tell I’m still nervous here because my hands are tucked in the shirt!

I was still a little nervous walking up to the hive, so I tucked my hands inside the beekeeper’s suit and kept my arms down to my side (I worried that one would land on my side and then get crushed when I put my arms down and I’d get stung in the armpit… lol. Maybe I have an overactive imagination!)  Anyway, David puffed two or three little doses of smoke over the first hive and proceeded to take off the lid.

He explained that these hives were fairly new and contained a combination of frames that had starter material for the bees and blank frames that the bees would start building on themselves.   The starter frames are designed to encourage the bees to build vertical comb that can be easily lifted out for harvesting honey.   One of the maintence tasks David was there to do was to knock down any of the horizontal bridges the bees may have built between frames in order to keep the frames from being stuck together with comb.

He lifted the first frame out and I was surprised to see it heavy with bees.  I figured the whole hive suddenly going airborne would, ya know, startle them, but they kept right on working like nothing strange was going on.   David pointed out the structures they were making- some of the honeycomb was already filling up with honey and had “capped cells” on it, others were cells designed for bee larvae or pollen storage.  I got a little braver as he was pointing out structures and came close to watch what all of the bees were doing.

Bee box!

The hive was really fascinating.  The worker bees are all infertile females, and they were busy doing different jobs.  Some had large pouches of pollen collected on their legs, some were guarding the entrance to the hive, some were building honeycomb and some were headed out to the blackberry bushes.  We only spotted a few male drone bees in the hive; drones are identified by their larger eyes and somewhat stout appearance compared to the workers.  Did you know that male drones do not have stingers and are pretty much around just to mate with the Queen?  Then they die.  It’s a tough life.

David lifted out a few more frames, and finally we found the queen bee.  She was being followed around by a little cadre of workers that presumably took care of all her needs.  She was pretty easy to spot in this hive- she’d been marked with a little white dot on her back.  Besides, she was twice the size of any other bees there.

One of the neatest things I learned about the hive is that the bees maintain it at a pretty constant temperature around 85 degrees Fahrenheit (28 degrees C.)  In hot weather, like the day we were there, the bees spread out and can even beat their wings to serve as a fan to cool the hive.  In the winter, the bees will gather to the center of the hive and form what’s called a “winter cluster” where they are basically bundled for heat conservation.  I also learned that a full frame covered in bees is quite heavy- when I finally worked up the nerve to hold one I was really shocked at the weight!

You can see the Queen in the lower left!

Anyway, because I couldn’t resist, I asked David if there was any honey ready to try.  He pointed some out and, like Winnie the Pooh, I stuck my paw in the comb and got out a little taste of honey.  The honey was aromatic, sweet and just plain delicious. I noticed that it had a sort of citrusy smell and David explained that this particular hive was ordered from an apiary (apiary= group of kept beehives) in Florida and was raised on orange blossoms!  The new honey the bees would be making might take on the flavor and aroma of the nearby blackberry bushes.

Beginner’s Bee Keeping Kit from Dadant and Sons

The take away from all of this is that honeybees are not as scary as I thought they were, that honey fresh from the comb is just plain awesome, and that backyard beekeeping is a really interesting hobby.  Honeybees are especially important in agricultural areas like Illinois and backyard beekeepers like David are helping to monitor for Colony Collapse Disorder and other diseases affecting these important pollinators.

There are many resources you can consult to learn more about backyard bee keeping, but I’d recommend checking out Dadant and Sons Company.  They’re based just 30 miles from Quincy in Hamilton, IL and are the oldest (since 1861!) and largest beekeeping supply company in the US.

And- because how many songs really talk about apiaries- I *had* to share my friend Pres Maxon’s song: Apiary in an Orange Grove (it’s the first track on his Vol. 1 album).  All his tunes are great and worth the download!

For lots more great pictures from David’s hives, click here!

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