Wildflowers are to spring as snow is to winter. When we’re hiking along, wildflowers often surprise us with their abundance— such a rare sight, almost refreshing, after a long ungodly winter. Typically wildflowers last from March to August, sometimes year-round in warmer climates. They exist in all their purples, blues, reds, pinks and yellows. The term “wild” comes from their exotic quality, since they grow without human care, but spread thanks to the birds and the bees. We’ve gathered a list of beautiful wildflowers hikes from lesser known national and state parks with great views, but smaller crowds. That means more space to frolic and dance near the wildflower fields—but be careful not to trample on them.
Do you know your state’s insect? While exploring your state park, try spotting one of these insects. Once you find them, snap a photo and post it to our social media sites!
Your State’s Insect
This state’s insect is the praying mantis. It’s a green or brown insect that eats aphids, flies, grasshoppers, caterpillars and moths. The praying mantis is beneficial to farmers, and it’s a symbol of stillness and patience.
The beautiful zebra longwing butterfly belongs to the state of Florida. It has long black wings with thin stripes. It makes a creaking noise when it’s alarmed. They feed on nectar and pollen, and their life span is about six months.
It’s the honeybee! Some of us might fear this insect, but bee pollination is crucial to plant and human survival. Honeybees live in hives of up to 80,000 individuals. Young worker bees are called house bees; they construct the hive and maintain the comb. Older workers are field bees where they gather nectar and search for pollen, water and plants.
If you live in New York, your state’s insect is the amazing, nine-dotted ladybug. Ladybugs help gardeners and farmers by eating tiny insect pests that damage plants. They also eat harmful insects, such as scales, leafhoppers and mites. The nine-dotted ladybug continues to persist, but they have become very rare.
The firefly beetle is Pennsylvania’s state insect. The firefly produces its light through a chemical reaction using special photic organs with very little heat given off as wasted energy. Both sexes use the flash patterns to attract members of the opposite sex.
The insect that belongs to this state is the green darner dragonfly. It is usually seen in the early spring through fall and it has a large body with silvery wings, compound eyes, a green thorax and a blue stripe down its back. Adult darner dragonflies catch and eat insects on the wing and they have powerful jaws that tear and chew up their prey.
Suggested Gear List:
- Insect Repellent
Check out our Pocket Ranger® Gear store for these items and much more!
July is bursting with great events (and fireworks!) at state parks around the country. We’ve combed through the event calendars and uncovered the ones that you won’t want to miss:
Three Rivers Regatta
Point State Park, Pennsylvania
July 2 – 4, 2014
Looking for more excitement? This year, the Regatta is hosting the XPogo World Championships in addition to BMX and agility dog stunt shows. A fan favorite is “Anything that Floats,” a parade of handmade, crazily decorated parade floats that bob down the river. This year’s headliners include American rock singer Steve Augeri, former lead vocalist for the rock group Journey, jazz musician Kenny Blake, and Beatlemania Magic. The Regatta culminates with Pittsburgh’s Official 4th of July Celebration fireworks, widely considered to be one of the Top 10 Fourth of July fireworks displays in the country. And did we mention that all of this fun is free? There is no admission fee and no charge for any of the Regatta’s concerts, acts, activities, or events!
Festival for the Eno
Durham City Park, North Carolina
July 4 – 5, 2014
World Championship of Catfishing & Independence Day Celebration
Pickwick Landing State Park, Tennessee
July 4 – 6, 2014
Nearby Savannah, Tennessee, also known as “Catfish Capital of the World,” is currently hosting the National Catfish Derby. Through July 5, any catfish caught in the Tennessee River is eligible to win. (Don’t forget to upload photos of your own monster catch onto Pocket Ranger Trophy Case®!) On July 6, the World Championship of Catfishing will have its final weigh-in at Pickwick Landing State Park with cash and prizes awarded to the winner. Not so interested in noodling for your own catfish? Then stick around for the after-party for free catfish and live music. Or grab a lawn chair and head to the 35th Annual Savannah Bluegrass Festival to listen to the best that Tennessee has to offer.
11th Toledo Lighthouse Waterfront Festival
Maumee Bay State Park, Ohio
July 12 – 13, 2014
Bannack State Park, Montana
July 19 – 20, 2014
4th Annual Wakonda Indian Festival
Glen Elder State Park, Kansas
July 19 – 20, 2014
Well, everyone, what Dorothy meant to say, when she said: “I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore,” clearly was: “I have a feeling that I’m having a very bizarre dream, and we are in Kansas.” Which we are. Today. At Cross Timbers State Park. In Kansas.We’re going to keep going with this theme, because Dorothy, inadvertently, perhaps, with her statement, kind of made Kansas’s reputation to be somewhat of an ordinary, typical, run-of-the-mill, shall we say boring place. And we’re going to defy that! Because it is anything but, friends. Especially if you head to Cross Timbers State Park! And play the KS- “What’s Your Mountain?” Challenge! Because what’s more exciting than taking in natural beauty through a really fun scavenger hunt, played on an app? (Technology is so cool, right?)
So, here’s what to expect in the game (and at the park.)
Trees and TrailsCross Timbers State Park is a place to enjoy the trails. All of the trails are open to walkers, hikers, backpackers, and other non-motorized modes of transport, like jogging and mountain bikes, except for the Ancient Trees Trail, which is only open to walkers, hikers, and backpackers. Speaking of the Ancient Trees Trail, the Ancient Trees on the Cross Timbers are one of the objectives in your GeoChallenge! They’re near the entrance to the Toronto Point Campground, where you’ll be able to see the gatehouse for the Toronto Point area, and information about these Ancient Trees. Other trails of note include the Oak Ridge, the Blackjack Trail, the Chautauqua Hills, and the Overlook Trail.
Speaking of the Overlook Trail, this 1.25 mile path will lead you to another objective on your challenge. The Dam Overlook, as you might expect, is an overlook with a view. You can find it at the beginning of the Overlook Trail, and you’ll be able to see most of Toronto Lake, which we’ll be talking about next.
Toronto LakeCross Timbers State Park is located at Toronto Lake. All 1,075 acres of the Cross Timbers (consisting of forested flood plains surrounded by open prairie, hills of oak savannah, and forests) overlook the 2,800-acre Toronto Reservoir. It’s a great place to see diverse wildlife and plants in their natural habitat.
It’s also the place to go fishing at the park. Fish for bluegill, channel catfish, crappie, spotted bass, green sunfish, and more.
The adjacent 4,600-acre Toronto Wildlife Area has forests, grasslands, farmlands, and marshes, and these unique habitats provide homes for animals such as white-tailed deer, wild turkeys, quails, squirrels, rabbits, doves, raccoons, and a variety of songbirds.
Cross Timbers State Park has a lot of campsite options. Camping is available at the following areas: Toronto Point, Holiday Hill, Mann’s Cover, and Woodson Cove. Facilities vary, with some that are able to be reserved (like the ones at Toronto Point.)
The park also boasts homey cabins. They can house six adults, are equipped with a bathroom with a shower, some basic furniture, a stove, fridge, and coffee pot, and more. One is handicapped-accessible.With this (read: a whole page’s worth, plus more) much to do, we think we’ve proved that Kansas is anything but boring. (At least Toronto, Kansas. Mainly because of Cross Timbers State Park.)
So, assuming you’re convinced (and especially if you’re not!) head on down (or up) or whatever direction you may be coming in to Cross Timbers State Park! The KS- “What’s Your Mountain?” Challenge awaits!
The Wichita Eagle reports that the estate of John and Fran Peterson donated $1 million to the conservancy, which is said to be one of the organization’s largest donations, the largest being $4.8 million.The money will be used for land acquisition.
“We are very excited,” said Rich Bailey, director of philanthropy for the Nature Conservancy in Kansas, said the article.
The article said the Petersons first become involved with the Nature Conservancy in 1989 when they helped support acquiring land at Cheyenne Bottoms. They once again helped acquire land in Logan County for the eventual creation of the Smokey Valley Ranch.
John Peterson worked for the U.S. Treasury Department and the Department of Defense in Washington. The Kansas native received master’s degree from the University of Kansas. He passed away in 2009. His wife, Fran, also worked for the Treasury Department and was a Texas native. She passed away in 2012.
According to the article, the Nature Conservancy has protected more than 95,000 acres of land and easements in Kansas.
The Petersons also donated $1.2 million to Kentucky University’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the School of Music and the School of Dance. [The Wichita Eagle]