Thursday, February 11, 2010

How to Kill Cabin Fever on a Sunny Winter Day

Facebook is a cool thing. Last week I posted a status update that asked if anyone knew of a good winter hiking spot in central Iowa. I got a few really great responses. One of them gave us information about a snowshoe hike out at a wildlife refuge about 40 minutes away.

Because we have been suffering from the worst case of cabin fever I can remember, I really wanted to get outside and enjoy the fresh air. Saturday was a beautiful day - it was almost 30 degrees out and sunny. Ok, so below freezing temps don't usually count as 'beautiful' days in my world, but... we've had sub zero temps and a shitload of snow this winter, so a sunny day above 20 is as welcome as finding a $20 bill in your jeans pocket this winter.

Brother Z and his girlfriend (M) came along with us. We had such a great time!

When we were telling Bumblebee about what we'd be doing, we described snowshoes as things that look like tennis rackets. I guess they've improved them since the olden days, because they look nothing like tennis rackets now:
*photo of The Boy with his snow shoes.

The hike was led by a naturalist who works for the wildlife refuge. This refuge is amazing - it's the largest reconstruction of tallgrass prairie in the U.S. and there's an enclosure that houses buffalo and elk, things you don't get to see very often. The cool thing about a snowshoe hike is that because it's winter, we could walk all over the place and not stick to the trails. In the summer you have to stay on the trails so that you don't hurt the grass, but since it's winter and the grass is dormant, we could trample all over it.

The snow was a few feet deep in places, and having snowshoes made it much easier to walk. But they were hard to get the hang of:
*photo of The Boy and Bumblebee on the ground after falling in the snow:
Snowshoes are tricky

In fact, Bumblebee fell face first into the snow about a dozen times. But she seemed to enjoy it:
*photo of Bumblebee face first in the snow:
Bumblebee falls in the snow

Brother Z took some notes while we were out hiking - he's a grad student at Iowa State, studying forestry, so this was right up his alley (even though there were very few trees to be seen.)
*Photo of Z taking notes on the hike:
Z Snowshoe hike

Tallgrass prairies are gorgeous in the winter - and this is something I never would have known. As far as the eye could see, there were sloping hills and tallgrass covered by snow.
*Photo of Hollywood with the prairie landscape behind her:
Hollywood snowshoe hike

We were lucky because the bison were up close to the fences and we were able to see them quite well. It was interesting to see the bison and elk hanging out in close proximity:
*Photo of bison:

*Photo of elk:

*Photo of an elk bull:
Snowshoe hike wildlife refuge

*Photo of Z and M in front of the bison:
Z and M with the Bison

*Photo of me and the kids in front of the bison:
Snowshoe hike

The hike was really a lot of fun. After it was finished, we went into the learning center and things got really crazy:
*Photo of the kids, Z, and M making goofy gestures with bison bones:
Bison Bones

We really had fun with this stuffed buffalo and the surrounding bones and artifacts that were on display:
*Photo of Hollywood putting Elk antlers on her head by the giant stuffed bison:
Hollywood Antlers

I tried to look intimidating to this bison, but it wasn't afraid:
*photo of me holding the bison by the horns and giving it an 'intimidating' look:
Monnik Bison

Bumblebee took a different approach:
*photo of Bumblebee sticking her finger in the bison's nose and making a grossed out face:
Bumblebee Bison Nose

Here we are sort of acting normal:
*photo of me and the kids in front of the bison
Family Bison

And then the kids decided to get under the buffalo skins and pretend to be animals:
*photo of the the kids under the bison skins:
Bison Coats

I'm not sure if we'll be allowed back in to the learning center. But we didn't just goof around. The Boy enjoyed this display on how an ecosystem is like a song:
*photo of The Boy in front of the display.
The Boy Wildlife Learning Center

And Bumblebee loved the activity they had for kids - it was a scavenger hunt worksheet where they had to walk aorund and find things in the displays:
*photo of Bumblebee with her clipboard in front of a prairie diorama:
Bumblebee Scavenger Hunt

All in all, it was a really fun day. Something that I never would have thought of, and we all enjoyed it. The best part? It didn't cost a dime. (Well, until we got to the gift shop at the learning center...)


Sincerely, Jenni said...

This looks so fun! Where was this at? We might have to give it a try if it's not too far of a drive!

Monnik said...

Jenni - it was at the Neal Smith Wildlife Refuge near Prairie City. You can call down there to arrange the snowshoe tours. I highly recommend it!

Travis Erwin said...

Great pics. I love the new look of your blog.