Take A Hike

I currently write a column in the Oshkosh Scene titled “Take Care.” These are a few of the articles I have written thus far. I hope these will provide you with more tools that will aid you in taking care of yourself in a multifaceted way. 

Take a Hike

It’s so easy to get stuck in the monotony of daily routine.  For most, Monday through Friday is the same thing over and over again. Then comes the much awaited weekend. But instead of spending it doing the things you love, most people end up cleaning the house, doing laundry, grocery shopping and getting organized for the week ahead.  This lifestyle is not healthy.  We all need a way to release stress, recharge, center ourselves and feed our souls. One effective way to find this inner peace is through getting out in nature and exercising.  Being that it’s spring and the weather has warmed up, why not try out a new hiking trail?

By proximity, Waukau Creek Nature Preserve offers the best local hike, with its lively stream embedded in the center of the trails.  The preserve is 64 acres, holding Rush Creek, the only flowing stream in Winnebago County. It’s densely wooded, the trails are rustic with steep-walled ravines and tiny side trails throughout leading to the beautiful quaint stream. The hike is not physically demanding, the beauty of the stream will take your breath away and the peaceful sounds of nature have a soothing grounding effect.

Kettle Moraine State Park is a vast beautiful park that is scattered along a very long stretch of central Wisconsin. The northern point is the closest part of the park to Oshkosh, falling east of Fond du Lac and west of Sheboygan. This place is a hiking and biking enthusiasts dream with miles and miles of beautiful hiking and biking trails. There are 132 miles of trails in the north unit alone, too many trails to list here, but not too many to go out and discover on your own.

Set out to discover Hobbs Woods just south of Fond Du Lac. This is a 60-acre, thickly wooded county park. There is a beautiful creek, Parson Creek, running throughout the park. The creek harbors naturally reproducing brook trout. There are about three miles of relaxing trails; all are natural and well taken care of. This place is well worth the drive.

Not too far from Hobbs Woods is The Wild Goose State Trail.  The trail is located in Dodge and Fond du Lac counties on an abandoned Chicago and Northwestern railroad corridor.  The trail runs from the southern trailhead at Hwy 60 in Dodge County to the northern trailhead at Rolling Meadows Drive in the city of Fond Du Lac and passes by the Horicon Marsh along the way. Horicon Marsh is the largest freshwater cattail marsh in the United States.  It’s also home to more than 290 kinds of birds. Horicon Marsh embodies five miles of trails offering hiking through woodlots, planted prairies and onto the marsh. Trails are flat and easy so anyone can enjoy this area. The trails lead you through three of the most common habitats in Wisconsin; woodlands, wetlands, and grasslands.  The Horicon Habitat hike is surfaced with wood chips, mowed grass and gravel.  Part of the trail leads you around Goose Pond with a dike constructed to flood the pond, which enhances the wildlife.  With so much natural beauty, sounds of birds singing and a fresh crispness to the air that is divine, it is so worth the trip.

Peninsula State Park, in lovely Door County, offers a variety of trails for hikers and bikers.  Sunset Bike Route, 9.6 miles long, is a pretty flat trail with rather fine gravel, allowing for wheel chair accessibility. Eagle trail is one of those can’t forget breathtaking trails; however you’ll have to work hard to experience it. This hike shows off its 150-foot cliffs, beautiful springs, and forest terraces while offering you a sneak peek at an ancient sea cave. Nicolet Bay is a moderate level 2.2-mile hike that passes by Nicolet Beach. There are a number of easy 1-3 mile hikes throughout the park as well, a little something for every activity level.

Whitefish Dunes State Park sits on the eastern shore of the Door Peninsula with luscious white beaches and few tourists. This park preserves sand dunes on the western shore of Lake Michigan with a mile and a half stretch beach.  Several hiking trails are spread throughout the 863 acres, where you will find a historical reconstructed village. If you’re up for a cardio workout, you can hike up the stairs to Old Baldy, the highest sand dune in Wisconsin.  This park offers such a variety of natural landscapes, it’s a must visit for anyone wishing to experience Wisconsin.

Door Bluff, AKA Headlands, in Door County offers undeveloped, all natural hiking trails. The trails will take you on top of bluffs overlooking Lake Michigan. Throughout the hikes you’ll get glimpses of the lake through the trees, at some points you can see down to the rocky beaches.  If you decide to venture off and hike these trails, expect to have the trail to yourself.

As the busiest Wisconsin state park, Devils Lake State Park is about three miles south of Baraboo and offers various hiking trails – all of which are amazing. Balanced Rock trail is a very steep trail, resembling an uneven rocky staircase, which takes you to a beautiful scenic view. Tumbled Rocks is another beautiful trail, which follows along the lakeshore winding through boulders and talus fields. East Bluff trail is a wooded trail and is the most gradual way up the bluff with scenic vistas of the lake.  Parfrey’s Glen trail takes you through the hushed narrow gorge covered with moss and ferns and a stream at the bottom of the glen.  Putting this park on your list of weekend activities will not be something you’ll regret.

Ellison Bluff County Park is located off state highway 42 on the northern side of the Door County Peninsula. The park is approximately 174 acres, offering the most picturesque overlooks of Lake Michigan’s Green Bay as well as natural hiking trails. The hiking trails range greatly in terrain. Some of the trails are very steep and rocky while others are flat with crushed stone. The trails offer you a glimpse of great scenic vistas of the surrounding shoreline.

At Newport State Park, northeast of Ellison Bay, you can choose between walking along the beach or through the woods. Newport offers 38.3 miles of trails amidst 2300 acres. It also holds 16 backpack campsites with food storage bins, benches and fire pits and every site. There are 11 miles of the Michigan shoreline to hike along with a combination of sandy beach, rocky shoreline and unique rock formations.

Get out there and try out these trails for both your physical and mental health. As Garrison Keillor put it, “Walk out the door and find good health.  There is no fever that a ten-mile hike can’t cure.”

Homeopathic Summer 

Surviving through a Wisconsin summer comfortably at times feels as rough as getting through a dreary winter.  The hot humid days, the thousands of hungry blood sucking mosquitoes, and the bugs that destroy your garden can all make for some frustrating summer days. And chances are, if you’re just as terrified of cancer as the rest of us, using chemicals to keep the bugs away is just not an option.  The alternative options are to buy organic products that are often pricey and difficult to find or learning how to make homeopathic remedies for little to no cost to you. Lets focus on the ladder.

One of my favorite homeopathic remedies that won’t cost you a dime and will keep those hungry mosquitoes away consists of onionskin, garlic skins and water.  It doesn’t get much easier then this. All you have to do is save your onions and garlic skins in an empty mason jar in the fridge. After you have saved enough to fill a jar, dump the skins in a pail and fill the pail with water. Let this sit in the sun for a week. Strain out the onion peels and garlic skins and there you have it.  Fill up a few spray bottles and say goodbye to those pesky mosquitoes.

If you’ve been growing a beautiful lush garden this year and have noticed pesky bugs crawling all around your tomatoes, you can use this same spray on them.  You can also bury the onion and garlic skins around plants that are prone to aphids, spiders or any other pests to rid them away.  Who knew your dinner scraps would come in so handy? Another health conscious pesticide that is very effective and potent is concocted by pureeing 3 hot green peppers with three garlic cloves. Pour this mixture into your spray bottle and add ¾ tsp. liquid organic dish soap (Mrs. Meyer’s dish soap is a great option) and three cups of water. You will want to let this stand for 24 hours. Strain out the pulp then spray onto your bug infested plants.  Make sure to always coat the tops and bottoms of the leaves. Another way to keep bugs away from your tomatoes or other plants is to wrap tinfoil around the base of the plant. Insects become confused by the shinny reflection, thus driving them away. With these homeopathic remedies the bugs will stop eating your veggies so you don’t have to.

What to do about the hot humid days? The most important thing is to stay hydrated. One fact to keep in mind is that water is not always enough to prevent you from dehydration. Dehydration occurs when your electrolytes become imbalanced. Keeping your electrolytes balanced is crucial. Electrolytes are vital elements such as potassium, calcium, sodium and magnesium. When you sweat urinate or lose fluids in any way you deplete electrolytes in the bloodstream. Normally electrolytes are replaced through healthy eating however sometimes you need a boost if you have been in our summer heat and thus sweating excessively. The most basic electrolyte drink you can make at home consists of two quarts of water, one teaspoon of salt, one teaspoon of baking soda and half a teaspoon of salt substitute (potassium salt.) Another electrolyte replenishing drink that you can make at home is made up of ¼ cup of lemon juice, ¼ cup of lime juice, one teaspoon of salt, one whole squeezed orange and one liter of water.  The first mixture is the one I have always used and it’s proven to be very effective.

Theses are just a few of the many homeopathic options out there that will help you get through the summer more comfortably. The main idea is to stick to natural remedies so you’re not doing your body more harm then good.

Bike For Life

Our waistlines are bigger, our planet is suffering and our pockets are empty. We drive everywhere and we pay a hefty price for it. It’s time to make a change. Laces up your shoes jump on your bike and start living a healthier lifestyle.

Ride for your health. The health of Americans has declines as we now rely on modern conveniences like our vehicles to take us everywhere we go. Inactivity-related diseases are the second largest killer in the US, falling just behind smoking. Currently ninety percent of the population in the US drives to work each day, only .6 percent ride their bikes. This is in spite of the fact that seventy percent of Americans car trips are less then two miles away. If we are all traveling such a short distance, why not jump on your bike and reap the health benefits? According to the British Medical Association, cycling just twenty miles a week reduces ones risk of coronary heart disease by fifty percent. Cycling helps boosts high-density lipoprotein (HDL) or “good” cholesterol and helps decrease unhealthy triglycerides. This keeps your blood flowing smoothly, while decreasing your risk of cardiovascular disease and helps prevent high blood pressure. Cycling is also an effective way to lose weight, build muscle mass, and increase your metabolic rate long after you’ve finished riding. The average person will lose 13 pounds in their first year of riding to and from work. Biking also reduces stress and depression and improves ones sense of well-being and self esteem. It increases hip and knee joint mobility and helps to build your overall stamina. Just like any other physical activity, there are different levels of biking that range from a leisurely bike ride through the park to training for biking marathons. But, just as a journey of a thousand miles starts with one step, the journey to fitness begins with just a bike ride around the block.

Ride for the environment.  Less concrete more trees! Twenty bikes can fit into a parking space designed for one car.  Studies show if we all ran half of our errands by biking just for four months out of the year we would save 3.5 billion dollars in air quality related expenditures. Fifty to ninety percent of emissions are caused by automobiles. 15 percent of all asthma cases are linked to living close to major roads. And currently, one in two Americans breath highly polluted air every day. It is our responsibility to take care of our planet so it can be enjoyed for many generations to come.

Ride for your pocket. Gas prices are simply outrageous, not to mention the politics and wars behind the oil industry. Transportation alone accounts for twenty percent of an Americans family budget, it’s the second biggest cost, only behind housing. If we all road our bikes just four months out of the year, and rode to complete only half of our errands, the US would save 3.8 billion dollars just as a result of fewer car accidents. Adding 30 minutes of biking a day would save each of us 544.00 in medical costs each year. By the year 2040 Portland, will have saved 400 Million in health care. That is due to the fact that Portland takes the cake for the highest percentage of any US City commuting by bike, falling in at 6 percent. Lets follow in Portland’s footsteps and save ourselves some of our hard earned cash through biking to work each and every day.

Ride for yourself. Free yourself while being socially, environmentally and economically conscious. You can start living according to these philosophies by setting out on your bike each and every day, just as Janey Robson does. Janey is a mother of four and a local nurse. While she does own a car she rides her bike to and from work, to and from the grocery store, the video store you name it. She rides in the pouring rain, snowstorms, mid-summer heat, and in high winds. When I asked Janey why she bikes everywhere she responded, “For the freedom. I’m a very independent woman.  I don’t want to be dependent on a car, I don’t want to be dependent on gas, I only want to be dependent on me. It’s just who I am.” Janie explained, “You can’t be unhappy on your bike.  I’m always happy on my bike. It’s like you’re a kid, your free, it’s fun. There is just no other way.” Get out there and reconnect with your childhood. Let the wind hit your face, listen to the birds sing, embrace nature, and in the process you’ll be taking care of your body, your mind, and spirit all while giving back to our beautiful home we call earth.

“Life is like riding a bike. To keep balanced you must keep moving.”

Albert Einstein

An Empty Nest Brings New Beginnings

Many parents look forward to the beginning of the school year, when their children’s routines are more in sync with their own work schedules. However, it’s a very different feeling when your youngest is getting ready to venture off to college. This change can throw off a couple’s homeostasis, which in turn can cause a lot of frustration, uneasiness, and separation. The key to preventing an empty nest from negatively affecting your marriage begins with knowing what to expect when the kids depart. Making sure to communicate effectively with your spouse regarding the changes ahead is also an essential factor. As is the importance in planning, with your spouse, how you will fill your time in ways that will bring you closer.

If parents know what to expect, they will be able to prepare themselves ahead of time therefore lessening the shock factor. Parents can expect that they will experience feelings of loss, sadness, and emptiness and yes, tears will be shed. Know that crying is healthy and not something to run from, be ashamed, or reason to hide. Sadness, loss, and emptiness all are feelings that fit the situation and should be expressed. Most parents will long for their children, whom they love dearly and will miss. Those feelings are natural. Parents should be open with their partner about their feelings, and will likely find understanding and support in the fact that they both very much miss having their children around. Both parents may miss being a part of their children’s daily lives. They might find themselves incessantly worrying about their child’s safety. They might find they’re literally worried sick that their children might be put in a vulnerable position. Partners should share these fears with each other and help calm each other’s nerves. Parents should help each other come to a place where they can trust their adult child’s abilities to care for themselves, problem solve, and navigate successfully through life’s obstacles. After parents have gone through the initial shock, after sadness and worries have started to subside, it is time to carry on.

At this juncture the couple can begin looking at the positive aspects of having the house to themselves. Notice how the house stays neat and tidy for weeks, where as when the kids were home the house was in shambles within a day after cleaning.  Notice that there is food in the fridge; those leftovers you were looking forward to eating after work are actually still in the fridge when you get home. Grocery, water, heat and electricity bills decrease dramatically. The house is quieter and parental responsibilities have shifted, leaving more time to read, create, or play music. Parents should give themselves time to relax and enjoy this new lifestyle, and this does not mean that parents aren’t missing their children; it means they are accepting and embracing their child’s independence while rediscovering their own independence.

Look at this time as an opportunity to get closer to your spouse instead of a time to harp on all the distance that came between the two of you while raising kids.  This is a time to do all the things you talked about doing before the kids came along. It’s a time to reminisce on when the two of you first met and all the adventures you both went on. It might take a few months to realize that the freedom that you both had before having kids is back and available for the taking. This newfound freedom opens endless doors of possibilities. Parents can start planning little weekend getaways; they will be less costly now that it’s just the two of you.  Schedule a date night once a week together, go out to dinner or make dinner at home together, go out for an evening stroll or bike ride, or go out and listen to live music, theatre, or comedy. Enroll in a weekly evening class together, such as yoga, dance, or an educational workshop. Parents can now plan vacations tailor fit for themselves. They can go somewhere they both have never been, go outside their comfort zone do activities to make them happy. Some parents might feel like planning an adventurous, activity packed trip, for others a luxurious relaxing spa and massage retreat might be more fitting. Even just a simple night playing a game or watching a movie together can feel comforting.  The possibilies are endless! Parents, see what you both can come up with and act on it.

Change is not always easy; the transition into a new lifestyle will likely take some time to getting accustomed to. Parents, be patient with each other and yourselves through this adjustment period and don’t be afraid to lean on your partner for support.

Enjoy the adventures ahead and take care.