Get Outdoors

Spring blossoms are showy, warblers are migrating through the area, and it’s finally time to get out the garden spade to move dirt and add a splash of color to the landscape.  Earth Day celebrations are in full swing and efforts to beautify public parks are underway.  Everyone is anxious to be in the warmer fresh air and absorb healthy doses of vitamin D after a long winter.

Here are 10 ways to kick-start your long-awaited outdoor getaway:

  1. Become an ecotraveler this spring.  According to the Nature Conservancy, ecotourism is “environmentally responsible travel to natural areas in order to enjoy and appreciate nature and accompanying cultural features (both past and present) that promote conservation, have a low visitor impact, and provide for beneficially active socio-economic involvement of local peoples.”  The spring edition of Prairie Fire has an excellent article about ecotourism in Nebraska and the Great Plains.
  2. Pick up free copies of Kansas Outdoors and the official Kansas Travel Guide at the library.  Find out about lodging, hiking, camping, horseback riding, and where to take kids fishing.   While you’re in the library, check out a copy of Marci Penner’s 8 Wonders of Kansas Guidebook or the Kansas travel bag (both are in the Travel Neighborhood) and you’ll be set for your weekend getaway.
  3. Go to Travel Kansas to find out when weekend festivals start.  Plan ahead–check for a Saturday morning farmer’s market in the area and arrive early.
  4. Visit Kansas Cyclist to see a calendar of upcoming bike rides in the state.
  5. Pack a picnic lunch and explore a state park or a National Wildlife Refuge you’ve not visited before.  Near Great Bend is the Quivira Wildlife Refuge and the Kansas Wetlands Education Center, which is across the highway from Cheyenne Bottoms.  KWEC offers educational programs and has a quality gift shop.  Take a detour on the way home and hike the Horsethief Canyon trails in Kanopolis State Park.  Across the border, Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge near Mound City, Missouri, and Weston Bend State Park are two superb wildlife viewing areas with hiking trails.
  6. Enter the Kansas Birding Big Year competition hosted by the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism.  Take photos of your excursions (the towns you visited along the way, restaurants you liked) to share with friends and consider recording your wildlife observations in a journal.
  7. Ask a friend to participate with you in one of the many 5K walk/run events happening in the region.
  8. Stroll through the Overland Park Arboretum, Powell Gardens in Kansas City, or Wichita’s Botanica Gardens to get inspired to transform your own garden.   Arbor Day in Kansas is April 26, a reminder to plant a tree or donate toward ensuring a tree is planted where others will enjoy it.
  9. How long has it been since you’ve seen the Kansas City Zoo or Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo?  Extend your zoological experience and check out the nature books in the library’s adult and youth sections (577-599), and mark your calendar for Zoo Animals Live, a fun, educational, and animal-focused event presented by Topeka Zoo staff the first Thursday of every month at 3:45 p.m. in the library.
  10.  Challenge yourself to learn more about Great Plains ecology.  Visit the Flint Hills Discovery Center in Manhattan or the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve near Strong City and acquire a renewed appreciation of the unique and complex landscapes in our scenic state.

Enjoy the outdoors this spring, make an effort to travel with the environment in mind, and experience something new!

(photo credit:  bumblebee on buttonbush flower taken by author)