Here’s something special for you as the holidays wind down, a brand new year is launched, and – in places like Wisconsin – winter really takes hold. Frigid temperatures may have you wishing for “hot chocolate and down comforters” (a remedy the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin has acknowledged) but I’ve found the perfect inspiration to make you want to get outside anyway. Here are 10 Reasons Why You Feel So Good in Nature – from EcoWatch, a favorite website of mine for “green” news and lifestyle stories.
We need nature “for our psychological well-being, because it’s in our DNA,” writes psychotherapist Kris Abrams. But that wasn’t enough of an explanation, she said, to fully understand what it is “about nature and our relationship to it, that brings us so much joy?” Over time she’s developed her own fairly elaborate theories to explain why nature “makes us feel good and helps us heal.”
Nature reminds us that we belong to the Earth, and are connected to a community of all living things, Kris writes. It connects us to the spiritual world, too, and “brings you closer to your own spirit.”
And in nature, our minds calm down and time itself slows down – two very powerful reasons right there to motivate you to schedule more outdoor time. Here are just a few examples of places to spend winter time outdoors close to home in the Badger state.
Our State Natural Areas in Winter
Wisconsin’s abundant – 673 of them – state natural areas are everywhere and a few of them offer unique wintertime experiences whether they have designated trails, or not. The Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin (NRF) has posted an interview with Conservation Biologist Thomas Meyer about winter aspects of his job with the DNR State Natural Areas Program.
The NRF post draws some attention to the following State Natural Areas (SNA’s): Rush Creek Bluffs and Battle Bluff Prairie in southwestern Wisconsin; North Bay and the Bailey’s Harbor Boreal Forest and Wetlands in Door County; Mecan Springs in Central Wisconsin, and in the northeast, Van Vliet Hemlocks in Vilas County.
Winter Workdays in the State Natural Areas
And here’s another way to enjoy and get active in the State Natural Areas: the Wisconsin DNR sponsors Workdays at different SNA’s throughout the year. All levels of participation – from someone with no experience to others who qualify to become stewards of all the volunteer activities in a particular SNA.
Six SNA Workdays are scheduled in January and February of 2015 – all dedicated to brush cutting. Here are the properties, the counties where they can be found, and the dates for brush cutting: York Prairies in Green County, Jan. 10; Kettle Moraine Oak Opening in Jefferson and Walworth Counties, Jan. 10; Rocky Run, Columbia County, Jan. 24; Muralt Bluff Prairie in Green County, Jan 29 and 31; Bluff Creek in Walworth County, Feb. 14; and Magnolia Bluff in Rock County, Feb. 28. For more information contact Jared Urban, volunteer coordinator, 608-267-0797.
Finally, here is information about two venues that cater to anyone interested in watching the eagles that are wintering in the area.
Eagle Watching !
The little Wisconsin River towns of Prairie du Sac and Sauk City – known together as the Sauk Prairie area – have made themselves into the eagle watching capital of the state. Located a bit northwest of Madison and directly south of Devils Lake State Park, the area is home to the Ferry Bluff Eagle Council a local grassroots organization working to protect bald eagle habitat in the area since 1988.
You can observe eagles anytime from a public Overlook adjacent to the municipal parking lot on Water Street in Prairie du Sac. A permanent spotting scope is always available for people to view eagles on nearby Eagle Island, and those perching in trees along the river. Saturday mornings during January and February the Ferry Bluff Eagle Council staffs the Overlook with volunteers who can answer questions and direct visitors to additional watching locations.
Bald Eagle Watching Days, a special gathering with exhibits and presentations added to the usual eagle-gazing activities are scheduled this year for Friday night, Jan. 16, and Saturday, Jan. 17.
If you just can’t get enough of the beautiful bald eagle, and you’re curious, too, about its elusive “cousins” the golden eagles – they use the bluff lands of the upper Mississippi River Valley as their wintering territory – head on over to the National Eagle Center in Wabasha, MN. This is right on the Mississippi River, about an hour’s drive southwest of Eau Claire.
With a staff of presenters and five eagles in residence, public programs are given every day at 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. Field trips, via bus, to view golden eagles in the wild, are scheduled for Jan. 24 and Feb. 7; bald eagle viewing field trips are scheduled for Feb. 28, and April 18.
Some of the best things to see and do in Wisconsin in early 2015 are right outside. Make some plans now to get outdoors; resolve to add more nature activities to your life in the new year. You’ll feel good!