On Trails: An Exploration book review

On Trails: An Exploration book review

When hiking it’s easy to appreciate the scenery, but how often do we stop and think about the trail itself? In his book On Trails, Robert Moor draws from his own experience on the Appalachian Trail to contemplate the nature of trails.

He reflects on the intricacies and origins of all types of paths that serve to connect places.  Moor delves deeply into the process of trail creation by organisms ranging from ants to elephants and connects this process to the trail experience of modern hikers.

The book has weighty thoughts on trail origins and it is indeed interesting to consider the natural development process that creates trails and paths.

The foray into the intersection of ecology and trail-building can be somewhat fascinating, but a hiker may gravitate more towards the chapters on modern trails including an insightful glimpse into the development the International Appalachian Trail which spans continents and exists as a ‘trail’ that is not physically connected or continuous.

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International Appalachian Trail Marker

Moor also tells tales from the trail itself, recounting AT hiking trips and tagging along with the ultimate long-distance hiker, Nimblewill Nomad (whose mind-boggling walks have followed all the major trails and recently included a sweep across Kansas along the route of the old Pony Express Trail).

For trail buffs, this book will be a thorough guide to trails of all kinds and a reflection on how trails are ultimately shaped by travelers.

Kansas Day is on its way

Kansas was founded on January 29, 1861. It was the 34th state to join the Union, and it joined the Union as a free state. Slave owning was not acceptable in Kansas when it joined the Union. While not disparaging other states, the pride of always having been a state where all men and women are created equal can’t be denied. Kansas joined the Union as a free state, and it fought ferociously to defend that. Including one of the first battles of the Civil War – at Black Jack Battlefield. In trying times, it is reassuring to know that Kansas’s history shows it as a freedom loving state.

Trail Profile: South Mound Trails

Trail Profile: South Mound Trails

“And when in the great future of the matchless State, farm shall be added to farm, and town to town, and the great cities of the future shall have come, the mounds shall still stand and still keep silent watch over the noble landscape forever beneath their feet.” -William G. Cutler 1883

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View from South Mound

One of the most striking natural landmarks in Wilson County are the Twin Mounds which rise up to an elevation of over 1,000 feet to tower over the surrounding plains.  Noted by William G. Cutler in his 1883 “History of Kansas”, early hikers were said to take a “well-worn path” to the summit and upon reaching the pinnacle can see “unrolled before him one of the finest sights of the new world. Southward runs the somber timber lines which mark the course of Fall River. Westward lies the second mound and between the fertile fields to the far north can be seen the fringe of the Verdigris”

The mounds still keep watch over Fredonia and present a sweeping view of the Fall River valley. The South Mound is now graced by a picnic area, playground, observation tower, and what appears to be the largest American flag west of the Verdigris. Through the work of the Kansas Trails Council and the Cultivate Fredonia Healthy Living Action Team, the South Mound also regained a short trail network that allows hiker and bikers to explore the rocky wooded areas along the rim and steep slopes of the mound.

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Flag & playground on the South Mound

In a patriotic spirit, the trail network is christened the “Old Glory Trail” and trail segments include the 0.34 mile Liberty Trail which traverses the rim of the mound, and a slightly longer loop trail lower on the hillside known as the Freedom Trail.  Both trails have a natural surface and the upper trail offers sweeping views off the side of the mound and some fun rocks and boulders for a little off-trail scrambling. Check out the map below for the trail location and route options.

Where to see bald eagles in Kansas

Where to see bald eagles in Kansas

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Bald eagle pair in Kansas. Photo by Bo Rader.

The return of the bald eagle has been a remarkable success story.  After being pushed towards extinction, the eagle steadily recovered under the protection of the Endangered Species Act.  In Kansas, nesting eagles made a return to the state in 1989 at Clinton Reservoir and have been increasing in numbers ever since.

As the winter cold sets in, eagles push south in search of open water.  In Kansas, mid-January is typically the ideal time to search for eagles along secluded coves of major reservoirs in the eastern half of the state.

For a good hike with a chance to see bald eagles, we recommend the Eagle Ridge Trail at Milford State Park or the Chaplin Nature Center trails by the Arkansas River.  Throughout the month of January there are events throughout the state that celebrate the recovery of this iconic species. Each of the following events offer educational programs and guided viewing tours for the public.

January 7th: The first opportunity for guided eagle viewing is at Tuttle Creek Reservoir with a program and vehicle tour starting at the Manhattan Fire Station (Kimball & Denison Ave) from 9:00 – 12:30.

January 14th: Eagle Days at Milford Lake. The nature center at Milford Lake hosts an annual eagle day event that includes programs and guided bus tours running from 9:00 – 2:00 to view eagles along the lake. Admission to the state park is free for the event and there’s also hot chocolate and popcorn for all!

January 21st: Kaw Valley Eagles day celebrates the natural history and recovery of the bald eagle in Kansas with a family-friendly event at Free State High School in Lawrence. There will be presentations, activities for the kids and viewing expeditions.

January 28th & February 4th: Chaplin Nature Center will offer a short educational program and guided hike along the nature center trails to view eagles.  Meet at the visitors center at 10:00 to join the fun.

DRINKMaple – maple water review

Refreshing.

Crisp.

A touch of the flavor from licking the back of a fork after you’ve had pancakes.

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These were some of the responses I got after having various family members try out pure maple water by DRINKMaple. (I do realize that both crisp and refreshing are listed as tag lines on the bottle itself – but I did a blind taste test!)

Overall, the first thought was that it would be too sugary – that it would taste like maple syrup.

But once everyone tried it, the consensus was that it was unexpectedly light and tasty, and that it tastes best after it’s been in the refrigerator.

The water is pure maple sap, sustainably tapped from maple trees in Vermont – no concentrate and no connection to maple syrup production.

It’s closest comparison, in terms of flavored, slightly hipster seeming drinks, would be coconut water. But the advantage the maple water has is about half as much sugar as coconut water – maple water has 7 grams per serving (one 12 fl oz bottle).

It’s got manganese, calcium, and potassium — all helpful minerals. And it’s certified organic by Quality Assurance International (a USDA-accredited agency). To top it all off, part of the proceeds for every bottle sold goes to supporting MORE Than Sport – an organization that supplies clean drinking water to “individuals in developing nations beset by drought and disaster.”

Why not simply drink regular water? Maple water seems to stand in a sweet spot between water and sports drinks. For most of us, we aren’t exercising enough to really warrant needing the amount of electrolytes and sugars that are in sports drinks like Gatorade. But it does give you more fuel than plain water.

The website has some fun recipes you can try from the healthy to the indulgent (with far fewer additives and processed sugars) – wellness shots to pumpkin protein smoothie to watermelon mint maple water cooler.

Overall – tasty and good for you (as far as I can tell – I’m not a doctor!), better for you than sports drinks or coconut water, and great for drinking by itself or using as a recipe ingredient.

Product provided free of charge for review purposes, but opinions are all my own.

Celebrate 2017 with a First Day Hike

America’s State Parks is sponsoring guided New Year’s Day hikes around the country. And there are quite a few in Kansas. For more information, you can go here, and below we’ve included the when and where for the trails in Kansas.screen-shot-2016-12-30-at-9-52-10-am

Most look to be fairly easy to moderate and around 1-2 miles. For most, it looks like you can just show up. We’ll make a note if reservations are needed.  Many are also on leash pet friendly. And some include hot chocolate and snacks!

Cedar Bluff State Park at 9:00am – Agave Trail. Meet at trailhead.

Clinton State Park at 1:00pm – North Shores Trail. Meet at the Swim Beach Parking Lot.

Crawford State Park at 11:00am – Multiple trails. Meet at the Beach Shelter. Register at 620-362-3671.

Cross Timbers State Park at 2:00pm – Ancient Tree Trail. Meet at the trailhead in Toronto Point. **Hot chocolate provided!**

Eisenhower State Park at 10:00am – Archery/Bike Trail & Scooter Trail. Archery – meet at the Five Star Trailhead. Scooter Trail meet at West Point. **Hot chocolate and coffee provided following the hike**

El Dorado State Park at 1:00pm – Walnut Ridge Trail. Meet at the Walnut River Cabins.

Fall River State Park at 2:00pm – Post Oak Trail. Meet at the trailhead in Quarry Bay.

Hillsdale State Park at 10:30am – Hidden Springs Nature Trail. Meet at State Park Office. **Hot chocolate and cider provided after the hike**

Kanopolis State Park at 9:00am – Buffalo Track Canyon Nature Trail. Meet at State Park Office.

Meade State Park at 2:00pm – West Trail. Meet at trailhead.

Perry State Park at 9am – Skyline/Mad Mile/Daisy Point. Meet at trailhead.

Pomona State Park at 12:30pm – Multiple trails. Meet at State Park Office.

Prairie Dog State Park at 9:00am – Steve Mathes North Trail. Meet at trailhead.

Prairie Spirit Trail at 2:00pm – Meet at Garnett Depot Trailhead.

Sand Hills State Park at 10:00am – Dune Trail/Prairie Trail. Meet at the State Park Office.

Tuttle Creek State Park at 4:00pm – Western Heritage Trail. Meet at the State Park Office. **Hot chocolate and snacks provided!**

Wilson State Park at 1:30pm – Cedar Trail. Meet at the trailhead.

Superheroes New Year’s Eve at Flint Hills Discovery Center

One of our favorite places in Kansas is the Flint Hills, and one of our favorite places that celebrates the Flint Hills is the Flint Hills Discovery Center in Manhattan.

And they’re throwing a Superheroes themed, family New Year’s Eve party. From 6:30-9:30pm, you and your family can enjoy “dancing, music, superhero mask and cape crafts, superpower food, a costume contest and much more!” And at 9pm, there will be a balloon drop! And who doesn’t love a good balloon drop?

Register here by December 29.

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