Outdoor Adventures on Snowshoes & Skis

As a Minnesotan, I find you get the most out living in this state if you come to embrace all four of our very distinct and wonderful seasons. Most people have the hardest time embracing winter – the cold temps, the snow, the often difficult travels, and the extended periods inside with your children on polar vortex and snow days take a toll on a person! Personally, I love winter. I probably spend more time outside in winter than I do in any other season. The secret is to find outdoor activities that let you marvel in nature, while also keeping you warm!

Both cross-country skiing and snowshoeing have a wealth of health benefits, plus these types of “workouts” will keep you warm in even the most frigid of temps! These outdoor recreation options are good cardio exercise, allowing you to build strength, endurance, and balance while providing a full-body workout! Not to mention, the time outdoors in nature helps reduce stress and anxiety, and who doesn’t need that!? Whether your flying solo or with friends and family, this time in nature can be rejuvenating. Plus, did I mention they’re fun? Both snowshoes and cross-country skis come in a variety of sizes, meaning this can be fun for the whole family!

 

 

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Introduction to Camping: Wilderness Camping

“In order to assure that an increasing population, accompanied by expanding settlement and growing mechanization, does not occupy and modify all areas within the United States and its possessions, leaving no lands designated for preservation and protection in their natural condition, it is hereby declared to be the policy of the Congress to secure for the American people of present and future generations the benefits of an enduring resource of wilderness.” -Excerpt from The Wilderness Act of 1964

Wilderness camping is what camping is meant to be all about. You’re powered by the work of your own body; your luxuries are limited to what you’re able to carry yourself; you’re away from the hustle and bustle of society and large crowds; you rely on your own resourcefulness to get past bumps in your journey. This type of camping takes a bit more prep work – planning a route, planning your meals, packing the right equipment, and making sure you have a plan in case something goes wrong. Often, wilderness camping takes you out of cell service range, which can be a curse and a blessing all at one time. That inability to connect with the world at the touch of a button can give you a true “unplugged” vacation, allowing you to reach a whole new level of relaxation. At the same time, you need to be aware that if something did go wrong, you may not easily be able to get help. So planning for this type of trip is key to your success. That being said, this is in no way a comprehensive guide. If you’re new to wilderness camping, do some serious research about any trip you plan on taking. Think of this as a jumping off point.

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Introduction To Camping: Car Camping

In my opinion, this is definitely the place to start. It can be done with relatively little investment (so you can decide if camping is for you before you go all in) and it can be done with relatively little risk (which can increase with wilderness camping). When I say car camping, I don’t mean sleeping in your car, although that is an option some people choose. I mean you drive your car and park it at your campsite, cabin, yurt, or other camp lodging option, allowing you to bring some luxuries along that wilderness camping does not.

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Not exactly packing “light”

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An Introduction to Camping: The Why & The Where

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We’re talking about camping all this month here at HDT. It’s a great time to squeeze in that last minute camping trip with the family before the school year starts, a trip with your best pals, or a solo trip all by yourself! Whoever is involved, it’s one last time to relax in your hammock, lounge at the beach, get your heart beating on a hike, or hang around the campfire while enjoying the summer weather. Time in nature has a multitude of mental, physical and emotional health benefits. You can read all about them in our previous blog. But to sum it up, time in nature helps us hit the reset. It’s a chance to relax, unplug from our screens, clear our minds, analyze life’s challenges with a different perspective, and to appreciate all the natural beauty in the world around us.

“Wilderness to the people of America is a spiritual necessity, an antidote to the high pressure of modern life, a means of regaining serenity and equilibrium.”

– Sigurd Olson

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For folks who are relatively new to the world of camping, it can be a little overwhelming as there are endless ways to camp! There are public campgrounds and private campgrounds; state parks, national parks, and regional parks; you could camp in a tent, RV, yurt, or cabin; you can get to your campsite by car, boat, bikes, horses, feet, and probably a few other ways I haven’t been creative enough to think of. Even once you decide what type of camping is for you, you have to decide where to go, what to bring, how to select your site, what safety precautions to consider, what you’re going to eat and how to keep yourself entertained once you’ve arrived. It’s all a lot to consider, but we’re going to try our best to walk you through it in this month’s blog posts! The first thing you have to decide is where you’re going to go. Continue reading

Take Time To Recharge (In The Great Outdoors!)

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During the first week of June, I left for a 10 day adventure in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA). This was the third annual trip I’ve taken with a friend of mine, Bry. Although traveling is one of my favorite pastimes and I am always careful to carve time out of my busy schedule for trips, the annual Boundary Waters Trip holds a special place in my heart. From the moment my paddle hits the water, I’m enchanted by the mesmerizing colors and reflections in the endless waters. The dark water against the bright blue sky, with the light green of the new leaves of the deciduous trees blending with the dark greens of the conifers, and the sunlight making it all sparkle just so – it captivates my attention, letting all my worries from the “real world” slip away.

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2018 T-Shirt Design Contest

During the summer, Happy Dancing Turtle offers four weeks of Eco Camp, week-long environmental day camps, for Pre-K through 6th grade students. The theme of Eco Camp changes each year, which offers continued excitement and learning to our long-returning campers. For the past few years, it has become a tradition that we spend part of the first day tie-dying our camp t-shirts, which depict the current year’s theme. A few years ago, we thought, “Hey, why not have the kids draw the t-shirts?!”

 

 

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This year marked the third annual Eco Camp T-shirt Design Contest.  We ask students from across the state in grades K-12 to participate by submitting a black and white design that fits the upcoming theme. The 2018 Eco Camp theme is Birds of a Feather. Each age group in this summer’s camps will be represented by an environmentally-focused bird: Recycling Robins (Pre-K & K), Nature Nuthatches (Grades 1 & 2), Sustainable Sparrows (Grades 3 & 4), and Conserving Chickadees (Grades 5 & 6).

 

Happy Dancing Turtle would like to give a huge shout out to everyone who submitted a design! We received 412 total designs, all from our K-5 students! We reformatted our age brackets to fit our contestants, enabling us to still give out all three prize packages. The new brackets were Grades K&1, Grades 2&3, and Grades 4&5. We were absolutely blown away by the artwork submitted by these students! It was insanely difficult to pick just three from each age bracket to go on to the finals, but after long deliberation, we selected the designs in the slideshow below to go on to be judged by Audubon Minnesota.

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2018 T-shirt Contest Results – Guest Judges from Audubon Minnesota

A huge thank you to our guest judges from the Audubon Minnesota – Katie, Kristin, & Ashley! They relayed how difficult it was to choose between these wonderful designs!

Winning Design of the K-1 Grade Bracket:

Addie K Madison
Addie – Kindergarten – Winona

Winning Design of the 2-3 Grade Bracket:

Marina 3 Madison
Marina – 3rd Grade – Winona

Winning Design of the 4-5 Grade Bracket:

Nina 4 Madison

Nina – 4th Grade – Winona

Each of these winners will receive an HDT prize item, a $20 Gift Certificate to a local movie theater, and a $20 Gift Certificate to the Minnesota State Parks.

Overall Grand Prize Winner:

Marina 3 Madison

Marina – 3rd Grade – Winona

In addition, this winner will receive an honorary Eco Camp T-shirt with their design printed on it!

Again, thank you to everyone who participated! 

Nature Notes: Birding Bonanza in the Driftless Region

20180508_173530Last Thursday, Michelle and Quinn traveled down to visit me in Trempealeau, Wisconsin, home of the new Happy Dancing Turtle – Driftless Region! They’ve heard me talking about the area for months and finally came down to check it out for themselves. Although, I must say I think I accidentally misled them. I’ve been talking about blue skies and 70s/80s temps for the last few weeks, but naturally, temps dropped to the 40s/50s and we received a lot of rain. Despite the rather unfortunate weather, there was still much to enjoy! When they arrived, I toured them through Perrot State Park on our way into Trempealeau. We enjoyed dinner at The Trempealeau Hotel, a quintessential restaurant of the Driftless Region located in a historic building from the 1880s. It is one of many restaurants featuring sustainably-sourced, locally grown ingredients on the menu. It also highlights the variety of live music events in the area, complete with an outdoor porch, beautiful gardens, and a bandstand overlooking the Mississippi and riverside bluffs.

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Screen Free Week

Are you up for a challenge? We are challenging you to join us for a week as we set aside our devices and refocus on relaxing, reading, daydreaming, creating, playing, exploring, and building our connections to family, friends, and places! From April 30th to May 6th, millions of people from around the world will unplug during non-work/school time to find joy in a wide variety of screen-free activities.

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Nature Notes: Territorial Tunes

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I spent the first “spring heat wave” of March exploring the backwaters of the Mississippi River in the Trempealeau Wildlife Refuge. Down here in bluff country, the Mississippi flows between the breathtaking bluffs of Minnesota and Wisconsin. The marshland and backwaters provide critical habitat for many animals, especially migrating birds. Temps soared to 53 degrees on Sunday, March 4th (before crashing back down and bringing 6 inches of snow on Monday). The river was a welcome rest stop for weary travelers.  Recently, I’ve been walking a lot on the wonderful trails through this park and I’ve found my own refuge in the silent, peaceful winter paths. I wasn’t long into my walk on Saturday before I realized it would be anything but silent… Continue reading

Back to Basics 2018 Seeking Exhibitors & Presenters

We are now accepting Vendor/Exhibitor proposals for our January 2018 event!  Vendor/exhibitors must have their proposal in by Saturday, November 4th to be included in our event promotion. Proposals will be accepted up until the event, as space allows. Note: we typically fill our vendor area well in advance of the event, so submit your proposal early!! For more details, feel free to check out our Vendor/Exhibitor Guidelines. Vendors will need to fill out an ST-19 form, which can be returned to us by email, mail, or at check-in the day of.

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We are very lucky to have quality presenters every year. Do you have what it takes?

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