Mainstream Adventures

When You Constantly Push Your Limits You Will Never Reach Them

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14 Trails In Illinois That Lead To Amazing Places!

If you ever need a little motivation to lace up your boots and go for a hike, here are 14 trails in Illinois that will provide all the motivation you need.  All these paths take you to unexpected wonders that will blow your mind

Devil’s Prop Nature Preserve:  Located near Mount Vernon, this hike leads to a cave that is very unique.  Hikers take an easy 1.8-mile trek through Devil’s Prop Nature Preserve to see this natural formation.

Devils Prop Nature Preserve Photo owned by John Irvin

Hawk’s Cave Trails: This trail is just .7 miles and is one of the easiest trails to hike at Ferne Clyffe near Goreville. Along the way, you’ll pass wild flowers and wildlife as well as an impressive rock formation you won’t want to miss.

Hawks Cave Trail Photo owned by John Irvin

Panther Den Loop:  A 3.1-mile path through Panther Den Wilderness will take you past some amazing  rock formations riddled with caverns and canyons. As far as cave trails go, this is one of the best loop hikes in the state.

Panther Den Loop Photo owned by John Irvin

Salt Lick Point Trail:Part of the 600-acre Salt Lick Point Land and Water Reserve, this is one of the coolest cave trails in Illinois. You’ll find the cave along a 2.9-mile loop path near Valmeyer. Be sure to allow for extra time on this hike, there is so much to explore you could stay all day.

Salt Lick Point Trail Photo owned by John Irvin

Sentinel, Sunset, and Pine Trail:  Part of the Mississippi Palisades, this gorgeous  area is located near Savanna, and is one of the most photographed areas in the entire state.  The 3.2-mile loop trail takes hikers by the river, rock formations, and other scenic natural wonders that are all sure to stir your imagination.

Mississippi Palisades State Park Photo owned by Beth Dykman

Rock Cave Nature Preserve:  The trail at this preserve is 1.3 miles long and leads to a tiny little-known cave. Located near Altamont, the paths here are not well-marked and can often be muddy and overgrown. Bring good hiking shoes.

Rock Cave Nature Preserve Photo owned by John Irvin

Sand Cave:  Located near Ozark, this short hike is just 1.2 miles and is easily accessible for hikers of all ages. You can even have dogs and horses on this path of mind-blowing rock formations.

Sand Cave Photo owned by John Irvin

Saint Louis Canyon Trail: This trail system leads you to a waterfall, inside a beautiful canyon that is like something out of a fairy tale. It is located near  Utica and covers 2.1 miles of Starved Rock State Park.

St Louis Canyon Photo owned by Beth Dykman

Rim Rock Recreational Trail:  This is a  moderately difficult, 1.7-mile hike on this loop trail through the Shawnee National Forest leads around a huge rock formation and then descends to the valley floor. This is where hikers squeeze through “Fat Man’s Misery,” a steep decline past an old Indian wall that is very narrow but fun to see amongst the trees and bushes.

Rim Rock Trail Photo owned by John Irvin

Bork Falls:  Tucked away in the Shawnee National Forest, there is a trail leading to what might be the most beautiful waterfall in Illinois. It is part of the Illinois Ozarks and is a year round waterfall that pools into a swimming hole. Near the Ohio River, visitors can also enjoy the many  rock formations, towering trees, caves, and other seasonal waterfalls in the area.

Bork Falls Photo owned by John Irvin

Jackson Falls:  You wouldn’t expect Illinois to have so many, but waterfalls are a big part of what make it great. Nestled in the Shawnee National Forest, a five-mile trail with easy terrain leads to this beautifulwaterfall. Visitors are blown away by the stunning rock formations which water travels through and are also great for climbing.

Jackson Falls Photo owned by John Irvin

Cave-in-Rock State Park:  One of the most interesting attractions in Illinois is along the Ohio River. This cave was once used by bandits and pirates but is today enjoyed by nature lovers from all over the Midwest. The rock formation opens 55 feet at its widest, and visitors can explore all over the cave.

Cave In Rock State Park Photo owned by John Irvin

Ferne Clyffe State Park:  Southern Illinois is full of amazing  wonders and this park is no exception. The waterfall here doubles as a water slide due to the way the rocks lay as well as due to water smoothing them over many years. Rushing water falls down a hillside, and you just jump right in. Beware, though, that it can be very dangerous, but many do it anyway.

Ferne Clyffe Photo owned by John Irvin

Pomona Natural Bridge:  Found in the Shawnee National Forest, along a .3-mile trail is a bridge formed  from rock and natural erosion. At eight feet wide, it is safe to walk on, and the surrounding terrain is easy to explore. An additional attraction is a tiny cave located beneath the 90-foot bridge that is fun for the imagination of young and old alike.

Pomona Natural Bridge Photo owned by John Irvin

8 of America’s Best Ziplines

As humans we are constantly pushing the limits and testing ourselves.  As a result societal  norms are changing.  Once considered an extreme sport, done by adrenaline junkies,  Zip-lining is quietly becoming a popular  family activity.  This article will be a list of my top  8  favorite Zip Lining locations around the United States.

Louisville Mega Caverns, Kentucky:  Located deep underground the city of Louisville Kentucky, is the Louisville Mega Caverns.  This underground zip lining experience is consistently rated as the top tourist attraction in Kentucky.  Tours consist of a  2 ½ hour guided Adventure, that takes you into never before seen sections of the Cavern. This tour features six underground zip lines, which includes a dual racing line which is over 900 feet long,a bunny zip, a Zip to Hell, the Cross Canyon Zip, and the Lake Canyon Zip, as well as two amazing challenge bridges.  For more information call (877) 614-6342

Northwoods Zipline, Wisconsin:  Northwoods Zip Line Adventure Tours is your one-stop-shop for eco-adventure tourism.  You can expect a zip lining experience like no other! This 2 and a half hour guided tour has nine different zip lines ranging in height and difficulty as well as five awesome adventure bridges.  The course includes a zip line which flies 1000 feet over the stunning wilderness lake, as well as an epic side-by-side dual zip race and incredible viewing platforms. For more information call 844-947-7464

Hocking Hills Canopy Tours, Ohio:  Listed as the “Best Zipline in America” by USA Today.  Hocking Hills Canopy Tours has been offering a world class zip experience for over 10 years.   Fast, fun, and exhilarating, this 2 1/2 to 3 hour spectacular adventure offers nature lovers and thrill seekers alike, ages 10 and up, the unique opportunity to zip through the treetops on a network of cables and adventure sky-bridges suspended high above the forest floor, overlooking a cave, rock cliffs, the Hocking River, and other flora and fauna!  For even more fun, try the Moonshine Tour which is only available on select full moons.  For more information call 740 385 9477

Zipquest Waterfall and Treetop Adventure, North Carolina:   ZipQuest is a world-class zipline tour and nature adventure in Fayetteville, North Carolina!  The waterfall expedition is the ultimate experience! You’ll explore nature like never before with 8 tree-to-tree ziplines, 3 suspension bridges, 3 spiral staircases and a spectacular view of Carver’s Falls. Zippers will experience the exhilaration of flying through the treetops of the most pristine forest in the area and viewing beautiful Carver’s Falls from many awe inspiring perspectives.   For more information call 910 488 8787

Shawnee Bluffs Canopy Tours, Illinois:  Is  an entirely tree-based, eco-friendly zip line canopy tour, located on 83 wooded acres surrounded by the Shawnee National Forest .Shawnee Bluffs Canopy Tour consists of eight zip lines, the longest stretching more than 1,100 feet, which will zig-zag across the property’s bluffs and through the valley. The tour also includes 11 platforms high in the trees, three aerial suspension bridges, the longest stretching 180 feet, and two short ground hikes.A canopy tour is an exciting way to experience the flora, fauna, geology and history of the outdoors by safely traversing an established route of ziplines and aerial bridges between platforms built in the trees.  If your ready to have the time of your life.  Call: 1-855-386-9477

Zip Isle, Hawaii: With Zip Isle, guests can have incomparable family fun and adventures. You will experience the thrill of a lifetime but still have time to see the other unique features of the Big Island including views of the volcano, waterfalls, whales (in winter), the rain forest and other nearby wonders that await you.   They are open every day of the week, every week of the year for your enjoyment!  Non-zipping family members can stroll through the Rain forest Trail and watch you zip while they experience the beauty of the tropical landscape.  For more information call: 808 963 5427

 

Icy Strait Point, Alaska:  Alaska has some of the best mountain and glacier views in the world, what better way to take in these views then by zip line? The Icy Strait Point Zip Rider sends up to six riders at a time (side-by-side) across the length of 18 football fields for an unforgettable view of Icy Strait Point.  Exceeding speeds of 60 mph as you soar 300 feet above the rain forest below.   This hour and a half adventure takes place on top of  Hoonah Mountain.  For more information call 907 945 3141

Soaring Treetop Adventures, Colorado:  Located in beautiful Durango Colorado, Soaring Treetop Adventures has 24 unique zip lines spanning Alpine Forest and Animas River.   This all day adventure includes a  gourmet lunch served in the trees, an eco-tour, and transportation to and from the property via historic railroad, making for many adventures in one day!  Trip Advisor rates Soaring Treetop Adventures as the number 1 attraction in Colorado.  For more information call  970-769-2357

 

6 Great Hikes in Missouri You Don’t Want To Miss

Discovering new places is one of the best things about hiking.  See  Missouri’s magnificent wilderness by exploring one of the state’s many beautiful hiking trails. You can bring the kids along, too! Many hiking trails across the Show-Me State are easily accessible for small children and less-experienced hikers. From the Ozarks to beautiful bluffs, check out these six great hiking trails for families in Missouri!

1. OZARK GREEN WAY TRAILS

The Ozark Greenways are actually an award-winning network of trails, that are open to both hiking,  and biking.  This trail system covers over 70 miles with several access points along the way. Hikers can enjoy short easy nature walks, or enter the system in a more rugged or isolated area. Either way it’s a great way to spend some  time exploring the scenic foothills of the Ozarks.

2.  Hawn State Park

Hawn State Park is an exquisite park to explore, offering breathtaking views of glistening streams and blooming wildflowers. While there are several trail options available, the Overlook Trail serves as a great, short trek for children. The trail is paved and only 300 feet in length—taking about 10 minutes to explore. But it’s a great primer to the park.  If your looking for a more challenging hike,  consider exploring the moderately-rated, 3.75-mile long White Oaks Trail.

3. HAMBURG TRAIL AT WELDON SPRING CONSERVATION AREA

The Weldon Spring Conservation Area outside of St. Louis has four fantastic trails, and two of them, including the Hamburg, are suitable for both hiking and biking. Of the four, only the Hamburg, which runs parallel to the Missouri River in places, is rated as an easy hike. At just six miles in length, this trek is perfect for those just starting out hiking..

4. TRAIL THROUGH TIME AT PICKLE SPRINGS NATURAL AREA

The Pickle Springs Natural Area is not only one of Missouri’s hidden gems, its  also a designated  National Natural Landmark. The Trail Through Time is a two-mile walk that leads through geological, botanical, and zoological areas, showcasing the development of this landscape over centuries, even millennia, of time. This is an easy hike, but be sure to allow yourself plenty of time as its easy to get caught up looking at all the trails features!

5. MOSSY HILL TRAIL AT CUIVRE RIVER STATE PARK

While there aren’t any “easy” trails at Cuivre River State Park, the Mossy Hill Trail is something everyone in the family can enjoy. The loop trail is designated as moderate, and is just under a mile in length. Adventurer’s will walk through woodlands, with beautiful mosses, lichen, and wildflowers.Use caution on this trail when you’re walking, the area has roots that can be tripped over, some shifting rocks, and occasional slippery areas.

 

6. HA HA TONKA STATE PARK

Ha Ha Tonka is where nature and history come together to create one state park that should not be missed. Ha Ha Tonka State Park features a combination of trails and boardwalks that make it easy for visitors to experience this historic and geologic wonderland. In addition to the wooded areas and open rocky glades, you’re sure to enjoy the ruins of the turn of the century stone castle, the huge natural bridge, and a beautiful fresh water spring.   If you only take one hike this year, make sure its Ha Ha Tonka!

Midwest’s Best Adventures

The Midwest is a hot spot for adventure, so i compiled a state by state listing of some of my favorite locations/activities!  This is a great list to get started on and it only really starts to scratch the surface.  In the comments let me know what your favorite adventures are.

Iowa:  Canoeing the Upper Iowa River,  listed as one of the top 100 adventures in North America by National Geographic Magazine.  The river is lined with 300 foot tall towering bluffs, creating a majestic corridor for your down river float. From breathtaking views to, beautiful waterfalls, this is one float trip that you will never forget.  Honorable Mention:  Hike Maquoketa Caves State Park.

Illinois:  Hike the River to River trail in Shawnee National Forest.  From the Missouri River to the Ohio River, this 189 mile hike will take you past some of the most beautiful scenery the Midwest has to offer. Honorable Mention:  Starved Rock State Park, Garden of the Gods, or the views from atop the Mississippi Palisades State Park.

Kentucky:  Jump off a bridge with Vertigo Bungee.  One of only four locations to bungee jump in the entire country.   Vertigo Bungee is the most sought after bungee jump company in the country today.  At Vertigo Bungee they have jumpers  ranging in age  from 7 years old to 92 years old.   With an amazing staff and state of the art equipment, you are sure to have an amazing Adventure. Honorable Mention:  SUP Kentucky, Louisville Mega Caverns, or Cumberland Falls.

Missouri: In 2013 Marsan Canoe and Kayak Tours began offering one of the most amazing float trips available today. This experience is so rare, that I could not find any comparable trip in the entire United States. All tours are run by expert guides of great personality, who do an outstanding job both guiding the tour and providing an interesting/entertaining history of the mine.

Talking Rocks Cavern has been referred to as Missouri’s Most Beautiful Cave! Which is quite an honor considering there are over 7,300 known caves in the state.  However just one peek inside and its easy to see why it has earned this prestigious nickname.  Cave tours consists of an hour long walk taking visitors on a breathtaking vertical decent into a subterranean wonderland.

Branson Treehouse Adventures:  This is one of only a few places in America, where you can experience the great outdoors , and still be only minutes away from all the family entertainment and attractions of Branson Missouri.  One weekend here, and you will never want to leave.  These charming log cabins very in size and style, so weather your looking for a great location for your next family reunion,  an amazing vacation destination , or just a romantic get away with that special someone you’re sure to find exactly what your looking for at Branson Treehouse Adventures.

Wisconsin:  Kayak the Nameakon River,  with Jacks Canoe Rental.  Jack’s offers several trip options including a 250 mile float trip that will take you places very few have seen before. Honorable Mention:  Cave of the Mounds, Governor Dodge State Park, or ride on a Duck at Wisconsin Dells.

Indiana: Explore the  Marengo Cave,   Located in Marengo Indiana, this lesser known of the Midwest show caves sure packs a mighty punch with 6 different cave tours available.  Regardless of which tour you choose your sure to have an amazing experience.  This cave features several different types of mineral formations  from Helictites  to soda straws, from Stalactites, to  Cave Popcorn.  This cave really has it all.  Discovered in 1883, by children using only candles to navigate all the underground twists and turns.  Since that time Marengo Cave has had more then 3 million visitors explore its passageways.  Honorable Mention:  Hike Turkey Run State Park.

Ohio: Take a  nighttime zip-line tour at  Hocking Hills Zip-line Canopy Tours.  This world class zip-line is over a 1/4 mile in length and reaches speeds of 50 mph.  Founded in 2007, Hocking Hills Zip-line has been the winner of numerous awards and has been called the Best Zip-line in America by USA Today.  With several different adventures to choose from, they truly have something for everyone.

Tennessee:  For the best white water rafting experience in the Midwest, visit Ocoee Rafting in Ducktown Tennessee.  The Ocoee River is one of the most popular white water rafting destinations in America, and Ocoee Rafting has been providing legendary rafting trips for over 69 years.  Offering both a 5 mile and 10 mile float trip, this stretch of river boasts rapids rated at class III and IV, which make for an unforgettable rafting experience.

So here it is, my list of the Midwest’s Best Adventures!  Is there any place i left off?  What is your favorite Midwest Adventure?

How to Choose a Great Pocket Knife

This article was submitted by Lauren Thomas of reviews.com

Finding a great pocket knife

There’s no argument: a great pocket knife is an essential item on the packing list for camping trips, hiking excursions, and every adventure in between. But how can you find the best option for you when so many knife companies claim to have the sharpest blade and the comfiest grip? As it turns out, pocket knives are an extremely personal purchase, but the team at Reviews.com works to make it a little easier.

Pocket knives are tools, not weapons. Knives are highly specific to the job they’re assigned, meaning that a weapon-type knife is structured in a vastly different way than a pocket knife. Similarly, a pocket knife is very different from a multitool. It’s important to determine what function you’re hoping for first, as it will guide your search.

A traditional pocket knife will have a folding blade as opposed to a fixed blade, which serves a different purpose. The blade typically falls between 2.75 and 3.25 inches: smaller than that, and the knife is more of a glorified box-cutter. Larger than 3.25 inches, and it may be hard to conceal in your pocket for everyday carry.

Steel quality is important but personal. There is a lot of information out there about steel types, and which perform the best. Again, many companies claim to offer the sharpest, most durable blade, but these characteristics often have a tradeoff. Harder steel may hold an edge for longer, but this typically makes it harder to sharpen. A less hard steel may dull more quickly, but you can likely sharpen it at home. The “best” pocket knife will have a steel type that matches what you’re willing to contribute in terms of maintenance.

The handle should fit YOUR hand specifically. Before purchasing a knife, you should always test it in your hand for comfort and ease of opening and closing. Hand size and strength vary greatly person-to-person, so what’s best for someone else isn’t necessarily best for you. You can always visit your local knife specialty shop for more questions and to check out popular styles in person.

Extra features may or may not be helpful. As mentioned before, a true pocket knife is meant as a small blade, not a multitool. That’s not to say that knives with extra features are ineffective, rather you want to ensure that the other features don’t minimize the function of the blade. Sometimes adding other features means a smaller blade or a different shape that may not work as well.

You’ll also want to imagine what it will be like to carry your next potential knife. If you plan for everyday carry, are there any features of the handle that will be uncomfortable? Some find that knife grip clips dig into their legs while in a pocket, or even wear holes in their pants — so beware!

For more information about finding a great pocket knife, and to see which models Reviews.com recommends, check out their original article here: https://www.reviews.com/pocket-knife/

An Adventure Like No Other

Looking for an unforgettable Adventure, that is fun for the whole family? (ages 12 and up only) Look no further!  Marsan Canoe and Kayak Tours, has just what your looking for.  Weather your an adventure junkie like me, or its your first time in a  kayak( like was the case for my 12 year old daughter).  This is one Adventure you won’t want to miss!

Located deep in the heart of the Midwest, lies a one of a kind kayaking experience that you will never forget.   Operated by Marsan Canoe and Kayak Tours, this amazing Adventure takes you into the depths of the long forgotten PPG no.9 glass mine.

In 2013 Marsan Canoe and Kayak Tours began offering one of the most amazing float trips available today. This experience is so rare, that I could not find any comparable trip in the entire United States.

The 3 hour tour takes you up to 400 feet below ground, as you navigate your kayak through the flooded former sand mine.  On your tour you will pass such sights as the “Birth Canal,” “Gilligan’s Island,” “The Squeeze,” ” The Car Wash” and the “Townsend Center”which is the largest opening in the mine.

All tours are run by expert guides of great personality, who do an outstanding job both guiding the tour and providing an interesting/entertaining history of the mine.

As an experienced adventurer who has done and seen it all.  I have to say, my tour with Marsan through the Crystal City Underground is one that will stand out in my mind for years to come.

At Marsan Canoe and Kayak Tours, kayak season never ends.   They are open year round with a constant inside temperature of 61 degrees.

 Some dates will fill up fast, so make your reservation soon, this is one Adventure you wont want to miss!  To reserve your spot call (636) 208-5026  to find out more about this amazing kayak tour visit https://www.facebook.com/MarsanCanoeKayakTours/

I usually don’t do this, but on a personal note: It should be stated, no matter how much I write or how many pictures i share of this trip.  I just can’t do it justice.  Often I find myself awake at night thinking back on my time in the mine.  In my never ending world of Adventure, I try to make it a habit to never visit the same place twice.  With that said I feel I need to further explore the vast Crystal City Underground, and I’m sure sooner rather then later, my path will lead me back.

Talking Rocks Cavern

Make Your Visit To Branson, Extraordinary With A Trip To Talking Rocks Cavern

Every year millions of visitors flock to Branson to take in the majestic beauty this area has to offer.  From Table Rock State Park, to Lost Canyon Nature Trail, to Dogwood Canyon, the area is packed with natural beauty.  With so much to see and do you may not realize that one of the most beautiful attractions near Branson is actually underground.

Talking Rocks Cavern was discovered in 1883,  by local rabbit hunters.  With the hunters deciding to leave the cave alone, it sat unexplored until 1896, when Truman Powell finally descended100 feet down into the cave.  Initially  the cave was known as Fairy Cave, because Truman said the beautiful formations in the cave made it look like a fairy land.  In 1921 the cave was opened to the public and became an instant hit with tourists, and remains so to this day attracting more than 40,000 visitors annually.

Talking Rocks Cavern has been referred to as Missouri’s Most Beautiful Cave! Which is quite an honor considering there are over 7,300 known caves in the state.  However just one peek inside and its easy to see why it has earned this prestigious nickname.

Cave tours consists of an hour long walk taking visitors on a breathtaking vertical decent into a subterranean wonderland.  Your tour guide will lead you past several world class formations, you will see soda straws, stalactites, stalagmites, flowstone, rimstone, columns,helictites draperies and The Cathedral (the largest formation in the cave) which is over 90 feet long and 50 foot in diameter.

Sometimes its easy to think if you’ve seen one cave you’ve seen them all.  However this logic of thinking does not apply here.  Natural beauty like this is a sight to behold inTalking Rocks Cavern.

Its easy to spend a whole day at Talking Rocks Cavern, as there are plenty of fun activities above ground  as well.  After the tour families can enjoy a game of   miniature-golf,  or hike one of the scenic nature trails, there is also a lookout tower, gemstone mining, and a picnic area and playground.

Looking for a unique gift for that hard to buy for someone on your list?  The rock and gift shop has an extensive collection of natural minerals, gemstones and fossils from all over the world.

Cave tours are available year round and are a great opportunity for a fun, educational adventure.    With a constant temperature of 63 degrees, the cave offers a refreshing break from the summer heat, and is a nice retreat from the cold winter wind.

For more information on Talking Rocks Cavern visit:

http://www.talkingrockscavern.com/

or call

417-272-3366

or stop in at

423 Fairy Cave Ln.
Branson West, MO 65737

5 Iowa Hikes You Have Never Done

I don’t know what it is about the outdoors, but to me there are few things better then a great hike, if you are looking for a little pick-me-up  in Iowa, you don’t have to look very far for a great hiking trail to navigate. Spread out across the state, from the rolling Loess Hills in the west to the rocky bluffs over the Mississippi River in the East, an exciting hike in Iowa is easy to find.  Here is a list of 5 Iowa hikes you may have never done.

1.  The West and East Lake Trails at Backbone State Park

Located in the beautiful northeast region of Iowa, and with over 20 miles of trail to explore, Backbone State Park is an Iowa hiker’s dream come true. There are several great hiking options at Backbone State Park, but for the best bang for your buck,  check out the West and East Lake Trails! Stretching out for three and 2.42-miles respectively, the West and East Lake Trails follow the shore of Backbone Lake, navigating through the dense Iowa ecosystem and some of the most beautiful landscape in the Iowa State Park system. The East Lake Trail also connects to the state-famous Backbone Trail, which is my favorite trail in Iowa.

2. The Sylvan Runkel State Preserve Trail at the Loess Hills

Photo is property of Mark Karrer

Located in the rolling Loess Hills of western Iowa!To really get a feel of the unbelievably beautiful Iowa environment, I suggest the Sylvan-Runkel State Preserve.  This 12.4 mile out and back hike takes you past some magnificent landscape. This scenic trail is lined with wildflowers and will have you convinced that Iowa might be the most beautiful state in the country.

3. The Calcite Trail at the Mines of Spain Recreation Area

There are plenty of great  hiking options at the Mines of Spain Recreation Area, but if you want to find the one that will get your quads burning, the Calcite Trail is right for you.  At just over two miles, the Calcite Trail exposes the native rock that defines much of the recreation area. The steepest section of the Calcite Trail comes right out of the parking lot, which then leads to breathtaking views of the Mississippi River. To continue the adventure from the Calcite Trail, you can connect to the Mesquakie or Horseshoe Bluff Trail, which can lead to many full days of adventure.

4. The Squire Point and Woodpecker Trail Systems

There are a few trails in Iowa containing so much beauty that it’s easy to forget what state you’re exploring. A great example of that can be found with the Squire Point and Woodpecker Trail Systems near the Coralville Lake. While navigating around the rocky banks of the Coralville Lake, trail users experience slight elevation changes, scenic stopping points, and a full dose of the natural Iowa scene. Whether you run, walk, or hike, the Squire Point and Woodpecker Trail Systems are a great place to enjoy the outdoors.

5. The Crow’s Nest Trail at Ledges State Park

Located  in one of Iowa’s most popular state parks, the Crow’s Nest Trail in Ledges State Park is one hike you will not want to miss. The entire state park is lined with rocky bluffs and deep pockets of forest that define Ledges, and many of the trails take you up  steep steps and to fantastic overlooks, including most notably, the Crow’s Nest Trail. Make it to the top of this short, steep trail, and not only will you feel a sense of accomplishment, but you’ll get a great view as well. While you are there, be sure to take advantage of all the trails and views at Ledges, and you’ll leave feeling refreshed and renewed.

Safety Tips for Winter Hiking

At Mainstream Adventures we love hiking, camping, basically anything outdoors.  In fact we spend almost all our time on a trail, or in a canoe, or on a bike, or a ski slope, however during the winter months we have to take a few precautions before we head out.  Here is a few pointers to get you started hiking in the freezing cold.

 Proper  Planning

Like any outdoor adventure,  winter hiking takes planning. First, you need to know your limitations and those of others in your party. A 10 mile hike  might be fine for some, but not everyone will be able to handle that. Carefully study maps of the trail in which you plan to hike so that you are familiar with the area. Carry a day pack containing essential items, such as snacks, and extra clothing.  Always let others know where you will be going and when you plan to return. If you are hiking  off-trail, this becomes even more important. In such a case, it is important that you also leave an itinerary with a friend or family member that includes your destination and when you are scheduled to return.

 Maps, GPS and Compass

When hiking, use your GPS (Global Positioning System) and compass. If there is snow on the trail, it may become hard to follow, so trust these instruments to keep you on track. Because it operates off  of satellites, GPS can be affected by tree cover and weather conditions, but a compass is almost always reliable if you know how to use it. In addition to other navigation aids, you will need good maps of the area. Even if you don’t plan to rely on them for navigation, they can add enjoyment on your hike, because they will show important features and sites that you might otherwise miss. Maps can also show you the most practical route out of an area in an emergency.

 Dangers of Hypothermia

The main thing you will want to protect yourself against while hiking or pursuing any cold weather activity is hypothermia. Hypothermia is a condition where your core temperature drops below 95 degrees. On a wet, windy day, hypothermia can strike if you don’t have enough clothing, even in air temperatures as high as 50 degrees. It can also happen if you are in water that is 60-70 degrees. The obvious solution to prevent or reverse hypothermia is to make sure you have warm, dry clothing when the weather gets cold. Always be prepared for wet weather conditions.

 Layering

Proper layering of clothing prevents excess sweat and moisture build up, which can chill you under winter conditions. Start with a moisture wickening base layer against your skin. Modern undergarments made of breathable synthetic fabric fit the bill. These can be had in long or short versions. If you prefer undergarments made from natural fabrics, silk is a great choice, but it is expensive.

Next come your pants and shirt. In cold weather, wool works great for both, but it is heavy and some people don’t like the feel of wool on their skin. In this case, you can again opt for synthetics. I personally like wool pants over synthetic long underwear for warmth. Wear a light breathable long sleeve shirt on top.

Keep your feet warm and prevent blisters. Include synthetic socks with wool hiking socks on top. Make sure your footwear is broken in before a long hike.

If conditions call for outerwear, you can wear a wool or fleece sweater. If it warms up, remove it and place it in your pack, so that you don’t sweat too much. Depending upon conditions, your outer garment could be a wind and water-resistant outer shell from Gore-Tex or a lightweight goose down vest or jacket. Mix the top garments as needed. You may want to also bring along gloves or a scarf. Choose a material like silk, synthetic or cashmere that won’t irritate the neck. Top it all off with a wool or synthetic watch cap.

 Proper Hydration

You may not crave water as much when hiking in winter, but your body loses a significant amount through breathing, sweating and urination, and it has to be replenished. Be sure and drink plenty of water.  I recommend carrying a hydration pack.  There is no easier way to transport drinking water on the trail.

 Snacks

Carry some snacks to keep your energy levels high. High carbohydrates , high fat combinations, especially those that contain dried fruit, nuts, and peanut butter, are popular, but tailor these to your specific dietary requirements. Always bring along a little more than you think you’ll need. If you don’t eat them, you can just save them for your next outing.

 Contingency Plan

As with any outing, you must expect the unexpected. You will most likely be hiking in a remote area. In such areas, cell phone service may be spotty at best, and in the event of an emergency, you could be on your own until help arrives. A charged cell phone with an extra power source is important, but also carry a day pack containing items to help you survive the elements.  A solar sleeping bag, a wool blanket, a poncho, and Hammock are just a few of the items i suggest.

. At the very least,  carry a jacket, some windproof/ waterproof matches and a sharp knife to make kindling and perform other tasks as needed.

Winter Hiking can be very rewarding and offer new views on your favorite trails.  But it can also be a devastating experience if you are not properly prepared. Happy trails!!

The Best Gifts for Outdoor Enthusiasts

The Best Gifts for Outdoor Enthusiasts

By Neil Stawski

Image result for christmas pictures

 

Finding the perfect present for everyone on your list is a fun challenge, but it can be a little overwhelming.  With the inundation of commercials, printed material and emails, you may feel that wading through catalogues and websites is getting to be a little too much.  If shopping for the outdoor enthusiast on your list feels like more of an adventure than you bargained for, these great suggestions will help.   

 

Lighting

 

Decent lighting means not only more comfortable outings but also better safety.  These suggestions give your loved one better visibility and lower risk.

 

  • Backpack lantern.  Recommended by the experts at Field and Stream, the Snow Peak Mini Hozuki Backpack Lantern is a compact LED with intuitive controls and magnetic fastener.  Useful on the trails, on the campground or even at home, users enjoy a candle-like glow that is convenient and versatile.  Available in a few different colors from Snowpeak.com.   
  • Headlamp.  An LED Headlamp allows users hands-free action when lighting is poor.  The Northbound Train LED Headlamp Flashlight and Case is waterproof and includes white, red, and strobe options along with a dimmer.  Available from Amazon.com.
  • Flashlight.  No outdoor enthusiast’s toolkit is complete without a good flashlight or two.  The Pioneer Woman recommends Surefire LED Flashlights, which are available in a wide variety of sizes and shapes from Surefire.com.  

 

Matches

 

The ability to light a fire can mean life or death in some circumstances.  Whether your loved one is caught in an unexpected storm, suffers an accident or just likes to enjoy a campfire, the UCO Titan Stormproof Match Kit can be a vital addition to the adventure tool chest.  Kit includes a waterproof case, a dozen matches, three strikers and a carry cord.  Available from Amazon.com.  

 

Sleeves

 

A long-sleeved shirt protects wearers from sun, wind, bugs and branches.  Some experts prefer the Patagonia Cayo Lago Shirt, available in men’s sizing and three colors.  It’s breathable and offers pockets for toting other essentials.  Available from Patagonia.com.  

 

Stove

 

Not just any stove, the Etekcity Ultralight Portable Outdoor Backpacking Camping Stoves with Piezo Ignition is tiny, sturdy, versatile and convenient.  Experts note the stove’s tiny flame is powerful enough to boil water in just three and a half minutes.  The stove fits in your backpack, runs off butane and adheres to “Leave No Trace” principles.  Available from Amazon.com.  

 

Dog first aid kit

 

If your loved one’s furry friend joins in explorations, a first aid kit for Fido is a thoughtful way to show your love and support.  The experts at Redfin note you can assemble your own; add an attractive case for an attractive presentation.  Include essentials such as first-aid gel or spray for pets, buffered aspirin, butterfly bandages and gauze, and tweezers or scissors for removing ticks.  

 

Tech equipment

 

In this day and age, even the most rugged, outdoorsy enthusiasts can appreciate the safety and convenience technology offers.  

 

  • Speaker.  A portable speaker can be handy for camping, cookouts or tailgate parties, so almost anyone would enjoy a Bose Soundlink Mini Bluetooth Speaker.  It’s compact but packs a wallop, generating quality sound from any Bluetooth device but small enough to fit in the palm of your hand.  Available from Nordstrom.com.    
  • Charger.  For those who are out long enough to need a recharge on smartphones, tablets or speakers, the Kodiak Portable Power Bank allows powering up without outlets.  Available from Nordstrom.com.    
  • GoPro Camera.  Whether your outdoor enthusiast wants to record wildlife in its natural habitat or antics of the kids at camp, the GoPro Hero4 Silver offers built-in touch display, built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth capability, and has improved camera control with video trimming.  Available from Amazon.com.  

 

At this time of year we’re all flooded with ideas, thoughts and suggestions everywhere we turn.  Use these great gift options to simplify shopping for the outdoor enthusiast in your life.  You’re sure to find the perfect present to make a fun and exciting addition to their gear!

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