Monday, December 29, 2014

15 Nature Study Goals for 2015

Inspired by Barb at The Handbook of Nature Study who set nature study goals for the past year, I wanted to do the same for 2015.

Sophia and Olivia exploring a creek at Banning State Park 
which was the site of an old quarry.
June 3, 2013.

As I looked back on pictures that I took of places that Sophia, Olivia, and I have explored throughout the past six years, I realized what beautifully rich memories I have of these experiences together in nature.

Olivia and Sophia at Jay Cooke State Park on June 4, 2013.
The water was very high and had flooded some areas.
The bridge at the park also was destroyed and later rebuilt.

We have had fun hiking and exploring so many different areas not only in Minnesota, but in different states; and have met obstacles and challenges along the way that we have faced and accomplished.

Sophia crossing the suspension bridge at 
Tettegouche State Park on June 4, 2013.
The bridge moved quite a bit with each step that you took, and 
no more than two people could be on it at the same time.

The reward of pushing ourselves at times was well worth it. We saw places that others may not ever see or know about because they just drive or walk by parks and other natural areas.

The girls by the highest waterfall entirely in the state on Minnesota 
at Tettegouche State Park on June 4, 2013. 
(There's another waterfall that is higher, 
but it is in both Minnesota and Canada.)

As I look at 2015, I want to continue to do what we have been doing - hiking, exploring, and having fun in nature. Equally as important is documenting our experiences and what we learn either in journals or online.

In addition, I have an opportunity to take a trip in March to Louisiana, Mississippi, and Arkansas (three states I have never visited) so I've been focusing on the national wildlife refuges and historic parks; and state parks in each of those states as I thought about what I wanted to do in 2015.

Also, I wanted to continue to explore Minnesota's state parks and wildlife refuges. So far I've been to 17 of the state parks (there are 67) and only 1 of the wildlife refuges (there are 13 - not including the wildlife districts).

So, my goals for 2015 include:

1. Visit three new national wildlife refuges in Louisiana, Mississippi, and/or Arkansas.

It's interesting to explore the wildlife and natural landscapes of different states.

Nature Walk at State Park
Olivia and Sophia on the Ridge View Trail on the 
St. Croix National Scenic Riverway in Osceola, Wisconsin,
on September 24, 2012.

All three of these states that I will be traveling to have a variety of refuges that have such diverse features and elements that are significantly different than what I would see in Minnesota.

2. Visit three new national historic parks in Louisiana, Mississippi, and/or Arkansas.

I was pleasantly surprised to see quite a few national historic parks. Each one has different elements that make a visit worthwhile.

Olivia by a Dinosaur Track
Olivia near dinosaur prints at the visitor center at 
Dinosaur State Park in Rocky Hill, Connecticut,
on September 4, 2011.

There are several national historic parks on my list of places to visit when I travel in a few months.

3. Visit six new state parks in Minnesota as a family, and take the dogs with us as we explore new trails (St. Croix, Afton, Fort Snelling, Minnesota Valley, Frontenac, and Forestville/Mystery Cave).

Eventually I would like to visit all of the state parks in Minnesota. It seems like there a few that we keep returning to because of their beauty (like Gooseberry Falls) and proximity to home (like William O'Brien and Interstate).

Mom Dad Sophia Olivia at Gooseberry Falls
At Gooseberry Falls State Park with Sophia, Olivia, and my parents 
on September 7, 2010.

The parks we visit have all been with family - so memories are made there each time we take a walk, go on a hike, or do a program.

Going on a Nature Walk
The girls with Gretel and Montague at 
William O'Brien State Park on December 9, 2011.

4. Visit two new national wildlife refuges in Minnesota (Sherburne and Upper Mississippi) as a family, and take the dogs with us as we explore new trails.

The wildlife refuges are further away from our home so it will be necessary to take them so that we can spend more time exploring each one.

Olivia Looking at Hawk in Tree
Olivia watching either a Cooper's Hawk or Sharp-shinned Hawk at 
the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge on March 16, 2009.

I'm excited to see what two more of the refuges look like, and what type of wildlife we'll see at each one.

5. Identify and journal three new birds.

Rarely do I see new birds in Minnesota. It is when I travel that I have the opportunity to see birds that I have never seen before.

Roadrunner at Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge 
on May 1, 2010.

I'm hoping that in March there will be quite a few birds before they completely migrate north. If nothing else, I'm hoping to see birds that are native to the southern states that we don't see in Minnesota.

6. Identify and journal three new types of wildlife.

As I've been reading about wildlife in the southern state and national parks, and wildlife refuges there's been quite a few mentions about alligators, poisonous snakes, and the Louisiana black bear that is active year round. Reading about this type of wildlife makes me a bit nervous.

An alligator at the Estuarium on 
Dauphin Island on August 31, 2009.

I suppose, though, it has been no different than some of the hikes I've taken in northern Minnesota where black bears, moose, coyotes, and wolves are common. I recall, the time that the fisher (the animal) was stalking Sophia, Olivia, and me on Ridge View Trail on the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway in Osceola, Wisconsin, as we were walking the dogs. We're thinking that Aspen - who was a mere 7 weeks at the time - might have looked like a good meal.

7. Take 12 hikes throughout the year.

Although I'll be doing quite a bit of hiking at state parks and wildlife refuges this year, I'm hoping that perhaps some of the hikes will take place in other areas as well.

Sophia in Gnome House in Tree\
Sophia tucked in the "gnome tree" at 
William O'Brien State Park on June 1, 2008.

There are many natural areas that have pathways and walkways that would make for a nice hike.

Another Section of the Trail
A wooden pathway through a bog and forested area at 
Lake Itasca State Park on September 4, 2012.

If I need ideas, there's a website that has hiking suggestions in Minnesota.

Dogs in St. Croix River
Montague and Gretel in the St. Croix River on May 27, 2008.

Maybe even driving around I'll come across some local, county, or regional parks that have good hiking trails.

8. Visit 6 nature centers at the state parks and wildlife refuges.

I enjoy visiting nature centers and looking at the displays - especially when there's a hands-on element.

Olivia - Arm and Wing Span Comparison
Olivia checking out how her arm span compares to 
that of different birds at the 
William O'Brien State Park Visitor Center on May 26, 2012.

Reading the information gives a much deeper and better understanding of the area I'm visiting.

9. Post a nature photo each week based on the Nature Photo of the Week Prompt List.

There's a great list of ideas of what to photograph in nature.

Fossils at Dinosaur State Park in Connecticut 
on September 4, 2011.

Two years ago I did a weekly photography challenge and enjoyed it. Last year, the format changed so I found another one. I did the challenge for about four months and stopped. The prompts weren't ones that I found inspiring. Having nature prompts, on the other hand...well, that's something I would enjoy.

10. Do nature studies at least three out of four weeks of each month (36 entries) both online and in my journal.

This may be the most challenging goal for me this year. I enjoy taking photographs and documenting what I see outdoors. However, I wasn't as diligent as I have been in the past in terms of keeping a nature journal and/or posting a record of what we've done.

An alligator sunning itself on an island at 
South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center on April 30, 2010.

I'm hoping that in 2015 I can get re-focused and re-committed to nature journaling again. It's something that I truly enjoy looking back's just the effort of written and visual documentation that can be overwhelming at times.

11. Try 2 new outdoor sports.

As I look back on the past several years, we have experienced many fun and memorable outdoor sports. One of our favorite ones was dog sledding. We did this twice - once in Duluth and once in Ely.

Sophia, Olivia, and I dog sledding near 
Duluth, Minnesota on February 25, 2014.

We also went ice climbing which was a new experience. Although it wasn't a favorite of Olivia's (because of the heavy equipment), I certainly enjoyed the challenge and would do it again.

Getting a firm hold
Olivia and I went ice climbing at Gooseberry Falls 
on February 26, 2014, while Sophia watched.

We have tried some outdoor sports - like canoeing - through the state park's "I Can!" program.

Learning How to Paddle
The girls learning how to paddle a canoe 
on June 24, 2012.

The park provides all the equipment for free or either a very low cost in order for people to learn new skills and enjoy the outdoors.

Sophia and Olivia in the Canoe
Putting their new skills to work by canoeing on Lake Alice 
at William O'Brien State Park on June 24, 2012.

We have learned how to do rock climbing - first at Taylors Falls a couple of times.

Sophia and Olivia Rock Climbing
Olivia and Sophia rock climbing 
at Interstate State Park on June 23, 2012.

And then Olivia and I moved onto rock climbing on the North Shore which was far more challenging since you start from the top of the cliff, are lowered down to a point, and then climb your way back up. There is no ground beneath you - only Lake Superior.

Olivia making her way back up the cliff at Tettegouche State Park 
on July 12, 2014.

By trying new sports, we have learned ones that we prefer. For example, we have done both canoeing and kayaking now. Without hesitation, we all agree that kayaking (using sea kayaks with rudders) is much more enjoyable and something we would like to do more regularly.

Sea kayaking on Lake Superior at 
Split Rock Lighthouse State Park on July 12, 2014.
The lake was so calm we were able to explore a shipwreck 
that was easily visible from our kayaks.

Doing sports that we had not done before has given us opportunities to see places that we would never have seen otherwise.

Sophia (in front) in the kayak exploring a cave along the shores of Lake Superior.
This was below and to the northeast of Split Rock Lighthouse. 
The only way to access it is by kayak or canoe.
We did this on July 12, 2014.

One of the favorite activities of the girls is swimming.

Playing in Lake Shetek
The girls having fun swimming in Lake Shetek 
at Lake Shetek State Park on June 9, 2012.

One of the things I need to remember is that not all our outdoor activities have to take place at a state park.

Sophia, Olivia, and I back from canoeing on Gunflint Lake in
Grand Marais, Minnesota, on June 5, 2013.

There are so many places to explore and do outdoor sports throughout the state.

Olivia kayaking in a tandem sea kayak and 
Sophia paddling her sea kayak far ahead and to the right
on Gunflint Lake in Grand Marais, Minnesota, 
on June 5, 2013.

It's just a matter of searching for them and being open to new experiences.

12. Have 6 picnics when the weather is pleasant and we aren't battling with mosquitoes.

I remember growing up how we would go on picnics. I think it was a way for my parents to save money rather than going to restaurants.

At any rate, my mom and dad would pack well-balanced lunches and even include a free treats - like chips and - if we were lucky - pop. They found parks that had playgrounds so we could play for a bit.

Picnic on the Way to Pella
Having a picnic in Albert Lea, Minnesota, on April 29, 2009. 
We were on the way to Pella, Iowa, to see the tulips in bloom.
It was a bit chilly that day - as evidenced by 
Olivia wrapping herself in a blanket and 
my mom wearing the hood on her coat.

Sometimes just having a picnic under a tree on the nature trail or on the deck in the backyard is equally as special.

Sophia and Olivia on Picnic
Having a picnic on our nature trail on August 27, 2010.
We brought Gretel and Montague out to join us 
after we ate the food.

I've introduced doing picnics when we travel with mixed results. When the weather is nice and there's playground equipment...and no bees or mosquitoes...we have a great time.

Picnic in Lindbergh State Park
Having a picnic at Lindbergh State Park on September 4, 2012.
We went on a short hike and the girls played on the swings
before we continued on our driving trip.

Perhaps one of my goals - in addition to doing picnics - is to make sure that we have all the equipment we need (like forks, knives, and spoons) and that there is enough food and beverages for everyone. I've been known to forget some of these items which has made the picnic rather challenging.

Stopping for a Picnic
Having a picnic on the way back from the trip to 
Lake Itasca State Park on September 6, 2012.

There are a lot of inspiring images on Pinterest and recipes I'd like to try that would make good picnic fare.

13. Go camping twice during the year at new state parks.

We have been camping at several state parks in camper cabins and a tent. For me, the camper cabins feel safer and are more comfortable than tent camping.

Inside the Cabin
In a camper cabin at Lake Shetek State Park on June 9, 2012.
What this doesn't show is that the temperature and
humidity were both very high...and there was no air conditioning.
It was rather stifling inside the cabin, but 
we were thankful to have brought fans with us.

We can concentrate on other things besides setting up a tent and making sure everything in it stays dry - especially if it's raining.

That being said, the girls enjoyed camping in a tent in June 2014, so perhaps purchasing a tent and doing some tent camping may be something we explore in 2015.

The Girls and I  at William O'Brien Camping
Olivia, Sophia, and me making dinner over a campfire 
while we were camping at William O'Brien State Park 
on August 24, 2008.

One thing that we want to do is improve our skills and the diversity of what we prepare for meals while we are camping.

Olivia making dinner while camping 
at Wild River State Park on June 7, 2014.

We need to learn how to cook more complicated meals over a fire, and to cook meals (or parts of it) on a portable stove.

14. Learn 3 new outdoor skills and/or hobbies.

In addition to camping, cooking over an open fire, and outdoor sports, it would be good to add to our list of skills and hobbies that we can do.

Last year we learned how to fish.

Sophia learning to fish at 
Wild River State Park on June 7, 2014.

The year before that we learned how to operate a motor on a fishing boat. We had better luck with operating the motor in 2013 than we did in 2014.

Sophia learning to operate a motor on a fishing boat 
on Gunflint Lake on June 4, 2013.

Our ride back to Gunflint Lodge after our (rather: my) mishap with the motor was a quiet one as we reflected on how our ride with death could have had a rather unfortunate outcome had the safety bracelet not come undone from the motor and we had not had a paddle to get us to a dock that (thankfully) had a year-round resident who assisted us. 

But I digress. Let's focus on the positive. We learned a new skill.

For 2015, I'm thinking along the lines of things that can be done around our home and farm. Skills that would be practical - like new types of gardening, learning to build raised beds, making an outdoor oven in which we can bake pizza or bread. All of these things would be done outdoors - and surrounded by birds, wildlife, and a beautiful landscape.

15. Attend 4 workshops, classes, or activities at state parks.

Adding Seaweed
Olivia doing a fish painting at a program offered at
Interstate State Park on June 5, 2012.

Building a bluebird house
Sophia learning how to build a bluebird house on
March 16, 2013, at William O'Brien State Park.

And so there it is: 15 goals for 2015. I'm looking forward to doing them.


Barb McCoy said...

That is quite an ambitious list of goals! I know you are a good planner so I will be eager to see how all of your ideas pan out over the the 2015 year.

Camping! I hope you have a great time with your girls...some of our best family memories are from camping trips.

cleopatra said...

This looks like so much fun! I wish I was one of your kids! ;-)

Rita said...

You guys have been so many places and done so many things--including getting stranded on a lake (that's real survival skills there). I love seeing where you go, what you find there, and the new things you experience. Looks like a wonderful year ahead!! :)

PeeJumpty said...

I was inspired by your list. Thanks for sharing. We are in North LA - no worries about the bears and gators! They aren't everywhere. I hope you get to see them, though. Enjoy your trip!