This past weekend, Lynne and I had the chance to visit some Wisconsin State Natural Areas south of Madison as part of a Creation Appreciation hike led by our friend Ryan. Ryan works as an ecologist for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and part of his role is conducting biotic inventories, or field surveys, for rare species and natural communities throughout Wisconsin.
Usually on hikes, we enjoy the time outdoors and stop occasionally to look at some plant, tree or make an observation, but we also move pretty quickly. This creation appreciation hike was a great opportunity to really slow down and take in the rich environment around us. Ryan pointed out a variety of spring ephemeral wildflowers (spring beauty, trout-lillies, waterleaf and others), explained the reason for the sugar maples and red oaks in the forest, and helped us find some rare Wisconsin plants (for example, putty root orchid).
This hike helped me realize that there are many treasures in our natural environment that I mostly pass by. However, increasing my understanding of the plants, trees or habitat, even by a little bit, really helps me appreciate our natural world and all of its uniqueness. The hike has encouraged me to seek out more opportunities to learn about the natural world and as a result, gain this greater appreciation for our remarkable home.