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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Touch of Nature to host summer adventure camps

CARBONDALE -- Are you looking for something out of the ordinary for the kids this summer? Something memorable, exciting and fun?

“There is only one word for fun this summer and that is W.O.W.!” said Travis Geske, outdoor program leader for Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s Touch of Nature Environmental Center. “If swinging on ropes, climbing rocks, canoeing, hiking and caving sounds appealing to you, then Wild Outdoor Week, or W.O.W., as we call it, is definitely the place for you to be this summer.”

W.O.W. is an experiential adventure camp with the emphasis on learning and individual growth through outdoor activities and adventure. The first session July 6-10 is for youth entering grades 5-7, while the second session, July 27-31, is for those entering grades 7-9. The day camp starts at 8:30 a.m. and wraps up at 4 p.m. each day at the center’s main office.

Campers can also ride a free shuttle bus from the SIU Arena to and from the camp. The bus departs the arena at 8 a.m. and campers return there about 4:30 p.m. each day.

Participants will enjoy the teams course and canoeing, rock climbing at Giant City State Park, caving at the Illinois Caverns, hiking at Panthers Den, lots of swimming and tackling the famous Touch of Nature high ropes course. W.O.W. is a component of the Underway Adventure Program, host since the mid-1970s to thousands of people participating in exciting outdoor activities.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Boys and Girls Club’s Summer Adventure signups under way

The Boys and Girls Club of Lower Merrimack Valley has announced its Summer Adventure Program registration is now open. The program runs the entire summer, starting Monday, June 22 through Friday, Aug. 28, 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. Ages 6-16 are welcome.

There are five two week sessions: Session I — June 22-July 3; Session II — July 6- 17; Session III July 20-31 and Session IV — Aug. 3-12; and Session V — Aug. 17-28. Each session costs $240. There is a one-time registration fee of $40 and includes a T-shirt plus. Membership is required; cost is $15 annually. Financial assistance is available for those who qualify.

The Boys and Girls Club is offering special activities throughout the summer, including field trips, sports, arts & crafts, nature hikes, indoor and outdoor activities, a talent show, computer games and sailing and woodworking. One of the special treats that kids enjoy is Ice Cream Day, which every Wednesday and every other Friday.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Large turnout for Arbor Day Celebration

MT. VERNON — Families celebrated the importance of trees and learned ways to care for the environment during the second annual Arbor Day Celebration Saturday at Veterans Park.

Presented by the Mt. Vernon Parks and Recreation Department and sponsored by AmerenIP, local organizations provided youth-centered activities and food while participants experienced nature firsthand.

“I hope that [the children] know that it’s more fun to be playing outdoors than on a video game inside,” George Bryant, director of the Parks and Recreation Department said. “This is part of our Family Adventure Series that is all about experiencing new and different things outdoors with your family. These programs bring the family together.”

Bryant, who is also a certified arborist with the International Society of Arborculture, demonstrated how to plant a tree and discussed some problems people may experience once it is settled.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Nature Report: Spring fishing in Laguna Madre

If you want to keep up with Captain Todd Casey, then you will have to get up early and stay out late.

Whether it’s fishing for big trout or oversized reds, spring fishing on the Lower Laguna Madre is at its peak right now.

This time of year every year is my favorite time to fish,” Casey said. “The water is starting to warm up, everything is starting to spawn, the bait fish are moving in, the tides are getting high, it’s just kind of a magical time to be on the water.”

Casey has a knack for picking the right spots to park his boat and make a wade.

And whether it’s a late afternoon adventure or an early morning session, the fishing is usually very productive.

The quest for a big trout is always a challenge, and when Todd catches one he invariably turns it loose….to spawn and hopefully grow even larger.

Monday, May 11, 2009

WWF-Canada Announces Earth Hour Contest Winner

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - April 28, 2009) - Today, one month after Earth Hour, WWF-Canada announced Wanda Hall as the winner of the Earth Hour Contest to win a trip for two to Churchill, Manitoba to see first-hand the effects of climate change.

On March 28, more than 4,000 cities globally, and more than 10 million Canadians from coast-to-coast participated in Earth Hour. As an incentive to encourage people to sign-up for Earth Hour, WWF-Canada ran a contest for on-line registrants for Earth Hour, with the prize of a trip for two to Churchill - the polar bear capital of the world. Currently, there are less than 25,000 polar bears left in the wild. Canada's arctic is warming faster than anywhere else on the planet. In the past 30 years, 25 per cent of Arctic sea ice has disappeared, pushing the bears to the brink of survival.

Ms. Hall has won a three-night trip to Churchill Manitoba courtesy of Frontiers North Adventures and airfare courtesy of Sears Travel. Led by an expert guide, this adventure includes two full days on the tundra viewing and photographing polar bears and other wildlife, such as arctic fox, hare, and ptarmigan from a world famous Tundra Buggy(C).

"Visiting Churchill has been on my list of places to see for some time because I love polar bears," says trip winner, Wanda Hall. "With the effects of climate change pushing these majestic animals to the brink of extinction it makes me sad to think future generations, might never have a chance to see them in their natural habitat. I am so excited and hope I can use my experience to encourage others to do more for the planet."

Saturday, May 9, 2009

ILLINOIS STYLE: Oswego man travels ``green'' in RV

OSWEGO, Ill. - In the past year, Brian Brawdy has logged more than 60,000 miles on his RV while traveling through 48 states, all for the sake of exploration -- and conservation.

The Oswego man decided to take his wanderlust on the road after a close call with skin cancer.

"At 46, it was time for me to start doing the things I've wanted to do since I was a little boy," said Brawdy, now 47. That meant embarking on one hell of a road trip.

His adventure has found him trekking through Death Valley in 140-degree heat and kayaking next to alligators in the Everglades.

"People who don't know me probably think I'm crazy," said Brawdy, who recently dropped by the Chicago Sun-Times office en route to Colorado. "My friends already know I'm crazy."

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Nature's work of art

MARCO POLO called it the "Flower by the Indies" while Ibn Batuta described it as "One of the Wonders of the World".

And true to its reputation, the Maldives boasts some of the most spectacular sights that can only be seen in this part of the Indian Ocean.

As soon as my feet landed on the powder-fine sands of Kandooma island, I felt at home instantly.

Located some 35 km south of the capital Male, the four-star Kandooma resort features about 160 villas comprising beach and garden villas, two-storey duplex villas as well as water villas. Its contemporary aesthetic is seen in its large picture windows, and whitewashed floor boards that evoke a sense of fresh coolness, yet feel warm and textured to the bare feet.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Park It! The Great Outdoors Adventure

( - Ready, set, go! introduces Park It! The Great Outdoors Adventure - a stop and go excursion that lets you decide where you want to go, what you want to see and what you want to do. Nature inspired roadside attractions near bed & breakfasts such as local, state or national parks and/or monuments make it easy to find outdoor activities for extreme sports enthusiasts or leisure minded travelers.

Adrenaline Rush - If you crave excitement and unexpected surprises, how about a white water rafting trip on the Arkansas River? At America's Rocky Mountain Lodge & Cabins in Cascade, Colorado, guests can sign up for a half day or full day package and enjoy a fun and bumpy ride down Bighorn Sheep/ Parkdale Run or take a more advanced course down the Royal Gorge. If you'd rather use a little leg power instead, sign up for the "Pikes Peak by Bike," a challenging mountain bike course 20 miles down Pikes Peak.

Hunter's Paradise - Score your own big catch of the day. Birk's Gasthaus in Hermann, Missouri offers a "sportsman special," for fishermen and hunters who are on the prowl for deer, water fowl and turkey. Spring is turkey season and guests can request a packaged lunch at Birk's Gasthaus before heading out to turkey hunt at Canaan Conservation. If fishing is more your style, walk downtown along the Missouri River and stop by Hermann Riverfront Park and try to bait a catfish or two.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

South America trip an amazing adventure

"I remember you had told us when we booked this trip that South America had so much to offer," said retired teacher Katherine McDonald, "but Eddie and I simply never expected it would be such an amazing adventure.

So, because I want to inspire you to consider such a vacation, too, I begged these veteran travelers of the world to share some of their most unforgettable moments on a recent journey to South America:

# Seeing Iguazu Falls and trying to grasp its enormity.

FYI: Iguazu Falls was short-listed as a candidate to be one of the New Seven Wonders of Nature. The waterfall system consists of 275 falls along 1-1/2 miles of the Iguazu River. Some of the individual falls are up to 270 feet in height, although the majority are about 210 feet, according to Wikipedia. The most impressive is Devil's Throat on the border between Argentina and Brazil.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Hawaii: Side trips in paradise

Foster Botanical Garden: Home to Hawaii's largest collection of tropical plants, it took root in 1853 when a German botanist planted some trees, including the island's first banyans. The 14-acre garden's orchids are famous; its oddities include a palm that bears 50-pound coconuts. It's an oasis in the city, with sun-dappled paths and shaded glens. Alas, the birds can't quite drown out the freeway roar. The huge Bo tree was a gift to Mary Foster, an ardent Buddhist who willed the garden to the city. Open daily, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. $5, including an optional tour at 1 p.m. daily except Sundays. 50 N. Vineyard Blvd., Honolulu;(808) 522-7065,

Liliuokalani Botanical Garden: Once part of Foster Garden, but now separated by the H-1 freeway, this 7-acre garden is a work in progress. Queen Liliuokalani, Hawaii's last reigning monarch, liked to picnic here -- and so do locals. You can too. There's a footbridge across a rushing stream fed by a waterfall, and a shaded lawn with tables. Try to ignore the ugly apartment building abutting the gardens. Free, but very limited, parking. Open 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. 123 N. Kuakini St., Honolulu; (808) 522-7060,

Lyon Arboretum: Visitors to this 200-acre rain forest deep in the Manoa Valley are warned right off, "You're going back to nature now, and therein lies the adventure." (Translation: Beware of wasps, falling branches) My first thought: Thank heavens Hawaii has no snakes. A research unit of the University of Hawaii, the Lyon's mission is to preserve endangered native flora. There's a children's garden and a world-class palm collection. Scenic walking trails can be wet and slippery. $5 donation. Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturdays until 3 p.m. Guided tours by reservation. 3860 Manoa Road, Honolulu; (808)