Iowa’s participating again this year in a national effort to get people to visit state parks and start 2014 off with a hike. Tim Gedler is the manager of Walnut Woods State Park near Des Moines. “We’re trying to just encourage people to start out the new year being active, get out into nature, spend some time in the state parks,” Gedler says. He says the state has participated in the event the last three years.
Campgrounds fill up quickly in the summer months and people flock to the lakes and woods too — but Gedler says not as many people think about getting out this time of year. There is still plenty to do. “Granted it is the offseason — but here at Walnut Woods we have our hiking trails and when we get snow they are very popular for cross country skiing and snow shoeing type activities,” according to Gedler.
The leaves create a huge canopy over the woods in the warm months and Gedler says the winter offers a whole new perspective on things. He says with all the foliage off it’s a great time if you are interest in trees and identifying trees. Gedler says you are often more likely to see deer and other animals during the winter months too. Watching nature is something you can do to get outside that he says doesn’t take a lot of investment. “Bird watching is a very inexpensive hobby — you’ve just got to get out the door with a pair of binoculars and do some walking,” Gedler says. He says he started bird watching when he was younger after buying a used pair of binoculars at a garage sale.
Erin Ford with the Webster County Conservation Department says they are holding events too. “Last year we had a lot of snow, so it was fun kind of trekking up and down the hills in the snow,” Ford says. “And then the year before that we had it at Dolliver (Memorial State Park) and there was no snow. So it was kind of fun going up under the bluff and hiking through the forest there.”
The various locations are offering hot chocolate, coffee and other refreshments after the hike. Gedler says the hike qualifies for Healthy and Happy Outdoors campaign. You can go online to: www.iowadnr.gov/h2o and register and log activities to be automatically be entered for prize drawings. You can also find a list of hikes across the state at www.iowadnr.gov.