Stable Falls Trail, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Directions

Today we take a short hike in the sandy woods with beautiful views of Stable Falls and Lake Superior. Stable Falls is located in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, MI. This park is massive. The normal method of exploring this park is starting in a town called Munising. However, I’m not normal so I woke up in Grand Marais, MI. This is a peaceful town with two hotels, a gas station, and a couple of restaurants. We headed North on M-77 which is essentially main street through Grand Marais. There is a sign for the park that directs you left on H-58 (Carlson St.). Take this road for a short distance up a hill heading West. The area is well marked and look for Stable Falls Road on right hand side. Find a place to park and enjoy nature! More information and maps can be found at the National Forest Parks website: NPS Pictured Rocks

The Trail

During the summer I’d imagine this half mile trail to be an easy hike. I hiked this trail the first week of May. Left over ice and snow from the harsh winters still remained scattered about the trail. Occasional jumps onto ice blocks was a bit exhilarating and well worth the risk. The above video was taken at the end of the falls but the trail will continue out towards the lake. The falls itself is fairly long and you wouldn’t want to end up in Stable Creek for sure. Mother nature provides conveniently located wooden stairs, railings and platforms for your safety. How those park engineers managed to build such platforms and stairs is beyond my comprehension! The soil is sandy with lose dirt, with the snow melt water this was perfect conditions to create landslides. Yet the trail was unaffected and in good condition aside from the ice and snow.

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Sunrise at Lake Superior and Stable Creek

Combine stops for pictures, jumping over ice, pulling boots out of snow we made it to the shore in 25 minutes. Just in time to snag this beautiful picture of the sun rising over Lake Superior. It was a peaceful, brisk morning on the lake. Offering my first glance down the shore of Pictured Rocks, making for a memorable experience. The mouth of Stable Creek connecting the falls and lake blends with a beautiful beach, edged with huge sand dunes that tower the entire shore.

Ratings

  • 4/5 Amenities: Many amenities such as bathrooms, trail information and more exist in the parking lot area. I did not come here during tourist season, but it looks as it was built for a higher capacity of people and buses that come through during the summer. This trail lost one point because the trash cans were locked!
  • 5/5 Trail: The trail was perfect. Designed and engineered to give the best vantage points of the falls and lake shore. It’s a straight to the point kind of trail. It isn’t meant for a long challenging hike, rather just a quick view of the falls and shore. If starting the park from Grand Marais, this is a great introduction to Pictured rocks.
  • 0/5 Backpacking: This trail is not designed/intended for backpacking.
  • 5/5 Maps: There is information at the trail head. This is an out and back trial well marked and easily visible. Map for this trail isn’t a necessity.
  • 3/5 Wilderness: While this is in the north woods, civilization is always at the trail head. It is a short hike and you are never far from help and amenities. You can also easily walk to Grand Marais along the shore.
  • 4/5 Enjoyment: I very much enjoyed this trail especially within my time frame. I visited before tourist season and we had the trial to ourselves. The falls were gorgeous and the shoreline was beautiful.

Sam Campbell Memorial Trail, Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest

Directions

Let’s take an adventure to see a portion of Wisconsin’s beautiful forests. I started my day in Rhinelander, WI, which is the largest city in the area. Start your day early and take a beautiful drive up route 17 North out of Rhinelander. Take County road A to the East over to the city of Three Lakes. Drive past town and take a left onto route 32. Drive down 32 and keep your eyes open for Military road (Forest road 2178). Drive slow and watch out for wildlife running out. In about 4 miles you will need to pay close attention where Old Military road (Forest road 2207) branches from Military road, it’s easy to miss. Not to far North you will pass Sam Campbell road and just over the hill on the left is a small turn off to park at the trail head. More details can be found at the Forest Service website by clicking here.

The Trail

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Trail map near trail head.

This trail is well marked and they provide a very nice wooden map frequently along the trail. The screw indicates where you are located. Unless you are hiking with snow cover, hiking this trail without a map is fine. At various locations are signs that describe the forest and notes from Sam Campbell. They are worth the read. Allow 2 hours to take in this gorgeous forest trail. Some of the trees along this trail are matured, tall, and left for us to enjoy. I suggest starting off by taking a right on the first trail split (which is just a loop).

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Tall red oak trees.

You will read, and discover the fauna and flora of the area. This trail does skirt along some swampy areas, although hiking after a slew of storms ended we did not encounter any issues with the trail being difficult or too muddy. Now I did this hike in early may however, any later I would imagine mosquitoes being an issue here. As with any North Woods trail, bring deep woods bug spray just in case. The informative signs are only along the first portion and within the main trail loop. However, it is worth following the signs to Four Mile Lake.

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Four Mile Lake

Very quite, such a peaceful lake. A log cabin here would put you in your own world. Once you have reached the end of the trail sit down and watch the world go by. No media or distractions, just you and nature. Perhaps a couple of ducks, and hopefully not a bear. After you have soaked in the view, you can head back and continue through the trail loop, taking the portion that was not taken when you diverted to Four Mile Lake. If you followed my original suggestion to start on the right side of the loop, stay on the right hand branching trail.

Ratings

  • 3/5 Amenities: There are no bathrooms or shelters at the trail. However given the length of the trail it’s not really needed. If you need to use the bathroom, I’m sure the grass can use some watering.
  • 5/5 Trails: Trail takes you to the great features of the area. They are well marked, and many informative signs are along the path.
  • 1/5 Backpacking: This would not be the trail to backpack. However near Four Mile lake it appears some people have camped by a clearing. This trail is meant for a short day hike.
  • 5/5 Maps: The map provided from the Forest Service online and on the trail is sufficient and frequent enough. It would be difficult to get lost.
  • 3/5 Wilderness: With the well marked trail, informative signs, and nearby cabins on Four Mile Lake this isn’t exactly wilderness. However it is far enough from the masses that the woods are very quiet and pristine.
  • 4/5 Enjoyment: This hike has a lot to offer. Plenty of information and beauty to it. If I’m ever in the area again I would come back to this trail. It’s a great, shorter day hike.

Waubonsie State Park, Iowa

Directions

Today I took an adventure to Waubonsie State Park, Iowa. I took Highway 2 East as I started from Lincoln Nebraska. Just as you pass the last farm and head into the Loess hills passing Bluff Road, about a mile you can turn right onto Waubonsie Park Road. Drive slow because you will most definitely encounter a handful of deer, if you arrive at dawn. At the fork take a right, then head on down if you want to stop by the park office, or turn next left to head towards Sunset Ridge Trail. Drive all the way to the end (Don’t veer left, stay to the right) and park in the lot right by the loop.

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Park Map with Annotations

You can view the full version of park map and other details by clicking here. The red “X” is where I came in from off Highway 2. Parking is the circled red spot, by Sunset Ridge Trail head. The blue line from the parking spot, is my suggested starting point/trail.

Sunset Ridge Trail

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Sunset Ridge Trail Head

The trail head was very easy to find. Just walk towards the loop from parking and you will find the sign near a bench to the right. Now if you see as much snow as you do in that picture be very, very careful. Starting off is a steep hill and guarded by wild turkey. This is a great hike with moderate difficulty more so because of the snow conditions in this case. A scenic overlook of the Valley is along the way and a great place to observe. All of my wild turkey spotting occurred along this trail, and I didn’t see any deer. If you do encounter wild turkey do not approach. They can be very dangerous. Once they flap there wings and gobble at you steadily walk back. If they are startled, skirt around if safe or just go on the other side of the loop. If you didn’t startle it and the Turkey isn’t bothered by you within a safe distance, they usually just keep walking and eating. In total I would estimate taking the trail head from my suggested starting point, over to Overlook trail (our next one) it is about 1.5 miles.

Overlook Trail

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Overlook Trail View Point

After exiting Sunset Ridge Trail, you’ll be next to the road. Just take a left and walk up on the Overlook trail, stay left. This trail is an easy difficulty. On our map we are still on the blue line heading to the point of interest. You will start to see amazing views but keep going by the stone terraces to the benches and information signs. I personally like the view better than the Sunset Ridge. A fantastic spot to stop for some water, food, and looking over the Missouri Valley with the Loess hills in sight. Once you are done here, keep going North onto the Ridge/Bridge trail head.

Ridge & Bridge Trail

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Access Trail to Ridge & Bridge Trail

Ridge Trail provides more scenic views of the Missouri Valley. To veer off onto Ridge trail you will take your first left from Overlook trail. If you were coming from our scenic overlook spot keep left heading North. Ridge trail is moderate difficulty due to the steep inclines and when covered in snow can be very slippery. Once you get to the end of Ridge trail we are now on the yellow line in the above map. We will just back track and continue on the access trail to Bridge trail. Bridge trail was probably my least favorite as you can hear a lot of road noise from the highway the closer you get. This one for the most part stays by a ridge. I did see a large group of deer running away once they noticed me. This would be the only reason I suggest this section of the park for the chance of finding deer due to the road noise.

Nearing the green line in our map, turn around by the highway. When we head back you can opt to take the Valley Trail which will have signs directing you. This will lead you down the ridge where I saw a large group of about 5-7 deer. Eventually it will loop by the Park Office and back through Overlook Trail for one last look of the view.

Mincer & Picnic Area Trail

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Deer on Waubonsie Park Rd.

On my way into the park I had to stop my truck for some deer to move. This occurred on the road between Mincer and Picnic Area trail. Very easy, short, and flat trails. Both trails run North/South along the road. Mincer is to the West whereas Picnic Area is on the East. I ended up going along both trails because the deer went to the West side of the road. On our map the green line is going through Mincer since it conveniently ends just shy of the parking lot. You can cross the street for a bathroom break or further explore this gym of a park.

Ratings

  • 5/5 Amenities: Plenty of amenities for this park. It includes but not limited to a park office, cabins, shelters, campgrounds, water wells, modern bathrooms, boat ramp, and even equestrian amenities for those enjoy such activities.
  • 4/5 Trails: Trails definitely take you to the scenic areas on the park. I do wish they could extend the trail system in the Southern and Eastern sections. Bridge Trail has to much road noise for my liking.
  • 2/5 Backpacking: While it can be done here, you would end up walking the same trails continuously. However if someone has made there own paths here I’d like to read about it in the comments.
  • 4/5 Maps: The provided map from Iowa DNR was enough to understand where the trail options were. It provides details on all the important amenities. However the section around Overlook trail and the point of interest is a little ambiguous. Some parts are not to scale.
  • 2/5 Wilderness: It’s not the most popular park around the region. Although having so many amenities and always being by civilization this park does not feel very close to wilderness.
  • 4/5 Enjoyment: Overall this park has a lot to offer and enjoyed hiking here. Being from Lincoln, NE this is a regional place that I can easily access. There is lots of wildlife and the views are fantastic. The geographical attributes are truly unique to this region.

5 Convenient Water Saving Techniques

In developed countries water isn’t much of an issue, it’s something everyone just has. It’s cheap and conveniently transported directly into our homes! Here are 5 tips on how you can conveniently conserve your water usage.

Tip: Keep track of your past water bills, and every dollar you save can be used to reward yourself!

1. Fill up your dishwasher!

Dishwashers use  lots of water. Try waiting until your dishwasher is completely full before running it. This is very convenient since you’ll save time and moey in hassling with dishes!

2. Set a timer when you shower.

If you take long hot showers in the winter, sometimes you just don’t want to get out. It takes only a couple seconds to set a timer on your smart phone. Place your phone just out of reach from the shower so you will have to get out and stop your shower. Start with 15 minutes and work your way down by one minute every week.

3. Paste, Brush, Rinse.

We should brush our teeth twice a day. Common water saving technique is to only run the water when you rinse your toothbrush. This can save on average 3-6 gallons of water per brush by turning it off!

4. Check the weather.

Simple solution is to check the weather daily, besides you need to be prepared for what mother nature brings. Checking the weather allows to turn off automated sprinkler systems, or not do manual watering. If you know rain is coming you don’t need to water your yard! Install a weather application on your phone and enable weather alerts for rain.

5. Drink what you need.

Many of us might fill an entire glass of water up, but dump half of it down the drain. Overtime, this can add up to hundreds of gallons of water per year. Try paying attention during each cup fill. If you find your self dumping some of your water down the drain, next time only fill up 75% or even 50% of the cup with water.

Water & Energy Paradox

In order for us to produce energy, we need to use massive amounts of water. But to use water, we need a great deal of energy to process the water. Let’s take a look at how much water is used to supply power to America.

According to the United States Geological Survey, over 45% of water water-withdrawl-category-pie-2010consumed per day is used to power America. Water is the main component in the ability to cool a thermoelectric power plant. Typically these plants are found along medium to large sized rivers, or lakes. 99% of the water is drawn from surface water. While some of the consumed water can be reused, less than half of the plants use such technology. According to the department of energy 41.9% use recirculating systems. However, on average 3,891 gallons per minute evaporate in such systems. This means the current implementation has a significant loss of water rather than reintroduced in it’s original source.

Unfortunately, to use water requires a great deal of energy. We can identify three areas in which energy is spent in the water process. The first one being the transportation of water. Pumping 17,000ft³ at the height of 330ft requires about 200kWh of electricity. This is a significant amount of energy considering the vast distances that water must be transported in every American municipality. The second area is in water heating. This is typically about 15% of the energy bill in a home. Finally, we need to transport wastewater and treat it. In California it can be between 475-1400kWh of energy to treat 300,000 gallons of water.

In a world of constrained resources, and increase demand we cannot look past this paradox. A great example of this problem is the concern of desalination plants in California. It would cost about 14kWh per 0.3 Million Gallons per day just to convert sea water into drinkable water. After that, the other three areas of energy consumption for the water process mentioned earlier gets applied.

As we can see from this analysis, energy and water complement each other. We cannot have one without another. This calls for close cooperation between water and energy organizations.

 

Sources

Total Water Use. USGS, 9 Dec. 2016, water.usgs.gov/watuse/wuto.html.
Thermoelectric Power Water Use. USGS, 9 Dec. 2016, water.usgs.gov/watuse/wupt.html.
Water Usage in Coal to Power Applications. National Energy Technology Laboratory, www.netl.doe.gov/research/Coal/energy-systems/gasification/gasifipedia/water-usage.
Water and Energy Relationship. Alliance for Water Efficiency, www.home-water-works.org/energy-water.
Seawater Desalination Power Consumption. Water Reuse Association, Nov. 2011, watereuse.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/Power_consumption_white_paper.pdf.

Introduction

Yet another blog appears online. What else could there possibly be to add on the Internet? What does live quality even mean? Who is this nerd in the mass effect jacket? Wait a second, is he outside?

Welcome to my blog. My name is Jacob Charles from Lincoln, Nebraska. I work full-time as a software developer. I’m a part-time  student at the University of  Nebraska, near completion of a bachelors in geography and a minor in computer science. As you can tell from my featured photo, I’m a huge fan of mass effect and exploring the outdoors. But this blog isn’t about  me.

WilsonLake

Wilson Lake, KS

This blog is about the quality of our environment, and why that benefits all of us. That said I’m not an extremist. I am a realist and will look at things from a practical standpoint. Such as building a road around an oak tree is not practical.

Our quality of environment is perspective based. The above image is why I care about our quality. Wilson  Lake is a beautiful oasis in the Great Plains. Along posting about living with quality,  I will occasionally post about my hiking expeditions. The quality of natural lands is important to me. Whereas some individuals may not see it that way, which is perfectly fine. My posts will hopefully be educating and inspiring individuals to live with the quality that they perceive.

Please feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions, or want to suggest a blog post. I’m excited to start this blog and look forward to hearing other people’s perspectives.