Archive for November 2008

Nature Documentary Junkies

November 30, 2008

H and I are fans of nature documentaries. Apparently we’re not the only ones. In the Nature Stories Podcast, armchair naturalists are featured in an episode called Nature Junkies (MP3).

We’re currently working our way through the Planet Earth series, which I recorded on DVR. We are so fortunate to have the Animal Planet, Discovery and National Geographic channels.

My all-time favorite nature documentary is MicroCosmos, by Jacques Perrin. The amazing videography gives you a close-up look at the life of insects, without making you feel queasy. I don’t want to give away any of the surprises, so I will just describe this video as fascinating, beautiful, and hilarious. I highly recommend you purchase this video because adults and kids alike will enjoy watching it over and over again. It is a real hoot to watch MicroCosmos with a group of people.

Wild & Scenic Environmental Film Festival

November 25, 2008

Midwest Mountaineering is hosting the Wild & Scenic Environmental Film Festival on Saturday, December 6, 2008 at 7 pm. Order your tickets here. I went to this fest last year and found it to be a thought-provoking mix of short films. Here’s a summary of the lineup for this year:

  • Carpa Diem – Kids and a fish in the aquarium could mean tragedy…
  • Climate: A Crisis Averted – Looks back from the year 2056…
  • For the Price of a Cup of Coffee – Follow the life cycle of a paper cup…
  • Fridays at the Farm – A family joins a community-supported organic farm…
  • Gimme Green – A humorous look at the American obsession with lawn…
  • Hybrid Pedal – Biking to draw attention to the endangered wildlands in the West…
  • Oil and Water Project – A trip from Alaska to Argentina without a single drop of oil…
  • The Good Fight – At 90, Martin Litton continues his efforts of preserving nature…
  • Water Loving Doggies – Looks like we’ll end the evening on a lighter note.

Black & White in the Everglades

November 24, 2008

We were surrounded by dozens of prehistoric creatures. I was struck by their color—black. They were well camouflaged, swimming through the dark waters of the canal. Then the boat sped forward and an enormous white creature appeared from nowhere. It spread its wings and took to the air in front of us. The most beautiful creature in the Everglades—the Great White Heron—shares its home with the alligator.

Simple Pleasures

November 23, 2008
  • Walking around the neighborhood with my dog
  • Lying in a hammock in the backyard looking up at the leaves
  • Seeing how the garden goes from nothing to something during the season
  • Enjoying a drink in the porch while watching the snow fall
  • Waking to birds singing in the springtime

A New Job for Old Shoes

November 21, 2008

If your old shoes are not nice enough to donate to a second-hand clothing store, they can be recycled into a material that soaks up oil spills! Shoes of any type and old clothing can be dropped off at Wipers Recycling in Maplewood, MN. Another option is Nike Grind, which accepts athletic shoes to make sport and playground surfaces.

Mixing Science, Nature, and Art

November 20, 2008

I love the Bell Museum of Natural History at the University of Minnesota because it mixes science, nature, and art to teach us about the flora and fauna of Minnesota. The museum does a fabulous job of entertaining both adults and children. I recently took my niece to the Bell.

Highlights of Our Visit

  • In the Touch & See Room my bug-loving niece was happy to correctly identify the live centipedes and cockroaches.
  • We were both stumped on identifying most of the fur pelts, except the beaver (because its tail was still attached).
  • Looking at the large habitat dioramas, my niece would focus in on the smallest of details, such as a snail on the ground.
  • She was very curious about what was real and what was fake in the dioramas.
  • When we got to the room of framed artwork, a kind employee asked whether my niece would like to do a puzzle, allowing me to look at the paintings and photographs.
  • The squishy, lumpy carpet that represents a peat bog served as a trampoline for my niece, while providing a comfy catnap for me.

Plastic Bags Are Evil

November 19, 2008

Get a canvas bag when you support MPR

Ever since I heard of the continent-sized area of plastic trash floating in the ocean (Wikipedia), I have been disgusted by plastic bags. Plastic trash is killing our birds and marine wildlife because these animals mistake the plastic pieces for food.

I started bringing reusable cloth bags to the grocery store. The hard part is remembering to do so, but it is becoming habit. And as I reach for those cloth bags I also grab my stash of plastic for recycling. Did you know that Cub and Rainbow accept plastic film and bags for recycling?

Find out where and what to recycle at It’s in the Bag. A few things the drop-off locations accept are:

  • Plastic retail bags (remove string ties and rigid handles)
  • Plastic newspaper bags
  • Plastic bread and cereal bags (remove food residue)
  • Plastic wrap from paper towels
  • Plastic zipper-type bags (remove rigid closing mechanism)
  • and the list goes on…

I am amazed at the amount of plastic packaging we go through.

Outdoor Adventure Expo

November 17, 2008

Here’s an event for my fellow outdoorsy-type wannabes. Midwest Mountaineering in Minneapolis is hosting its annual Outdoor Adventure Expo November 21-23, 2008.


  • Everything on sale
  • Lots of exhibitors, such as outdoor clubs
  • Free presentations and demonstrations about outdoor activities and travel
  • Interesting speakers
  • Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour (you need tickets)

Hope to see you there!

Tidbits of Minnesota State Parks

November 16, 2008

Some of the best things about each of the Minnesota State Parks that I have visited…


Get a workout hiking the rolling hills of this nearby state park.


Seeing remnants of the sandstone quarries makes hiking through this park especially interesting, as if the wild and crazy Kettle River wasn’t enough.

Beaver Creek Valley

This lush, green park in bluff country has fly fishing opportunities.

Picnic area at Cascade River State Park

Picnic area at Cascade River State Park

Cascade River

I love the isolated picnic area nestled among the cedar trees on the shores of Lake Superior. It’s a great place to relax for hours, gazing at this ocean-like lake.

Fort Snelling

The Mississippi and Minnesota rivers meet in this metro area nature retreat.

Bird blind at Glendalough State Park

Observation blind at Glendalough


Although I didn’t spot any wildlife, I think it’s cool that the park has observation blinds.

Gooseberry Falls

Walking amidst the waterfalls is great fun!


This is the place to see potholes galore and learn about glaciers. It’s worth a trip over to the Wisconsin side too.

Lake Itasca

Lake Itasca


I love canoeing with the loons on peaceful Lake Itasca. My favorite kind of lake is long and narrow, so Lake Itasca fits the bill with three separate “arms”. The giant red and white pines are the signature of this park.

The massive, rugged rocks of the St. Louis River in Jay Cooke State Park

Jay Cooke State Park

Jay Cooke

The massive, rugged rocks in the St. Louis River are a memorable site from the swinging bridge.


The double waterfall is the draw to this park, but I really enjoyed walking through the oak savanna littered with big boulders.

St. Croix

This is an all-around great park with 2 rivers and lots of trails.

Sakatah Singing Trail

Sakatah Singing Hills Trail

Sakatah Lake

Biking or walking the tunnel of trees of the Sakatah Singing Hills Trail is very pleasant. We also saw wild turkeys in the park.

Red pines at Scenic State Park

Red pines at Scenic State Park


This park has the beauty of Itasca without the crowds. Hiking the Chase Point Trail along the high narrow peninsula is awesome if you love red pine and cedar, like me.

Split Rock Lighthouse

The lighthouse in the distance with birch trees in the foreground is a picture-perfect scene.

Temperance River

If you’re visiting the North Shore it’s worth stopping to hike along the river gorge and enjoy the many waterfalls.

Tettagouche State Park

Tettegouche State Park


This park offers beautiful trails high on the rocky cliffs overlooking Lake Superior. I can’t imagine any better vistas of Lake Superior.


Believe it or not, there are no mosquitoes here in the middle of summer!

Wild River

Cross-country skiing is lots of fun here.

William O’Brien

On a hot summer day there’s nothing better than canoeing the St. Croix and stopping at a sandbar on or near Greenberg Island. My dog thought that running and jumping through the ankle-deep, warm water was pure joy, and I would have to agree!

Where to Go?

November 13, 2008

Have you ever wondered where to go camping or hiking? I figure you can’t go wrong with any of the Minnesota State Parks! I joined the Passport Club and look forward to getting a stamp from each of the 70+ state parks and recreation areas. (I have 6 so far. Too bad I can’t count the parks I’ve been to before getting my passport. I guess I’ll have to go again!) It also sounds fun to complete the list of selected hikes in their Hiking Club. Support our parks by joining one of these clubs for $14.95 each. Learn more about the Hiking and Passport Clubs.