Tag Archives: Adventures

Looking for Stars


What an Amazing Sunset

The rest of my family went out of town for the weekend. So many things to do and a beautiful weekend to work on my list around the house. But that would be responsible and I know I would spend more time inside than I should and miss too much of this last weekend of summer-like weather (highs in the 80’s and sunny). Camping for the weekend seemed like the perfect way to spend a weekend by myself. I’ve really been itching to get some nice photos of the milky way and light pollution is a problem in many areas near me. After a little searching, I found a state park without the fall color seeking crowds and what appeared to be a perfect place to photograph the night sky as the land was higher than the surrounding area giving me miles of horizon towards the south, where the milky way touches the horizon, without much light pollution.

The Sun Has Set. Time to Wait for the Stars to Show.

Friday afternoon arrived and so did this last summery weather so I took off from work early and hurried home to pack. Soon after I was on the road for the almost 4 hour drive to Blue Mounds State Park anxious to see the setting sun from this location and look for the milky way to take over the night sky. I arrived at the park just in time to register for my campsite and get to higher ground to prepare for the sun and the stars. It didn’t’ take long for the sun to display it’s breathtaking colors as it neared the horizon prompting me to begin clicking away with the camera. In a very short time I had shot 70 pictures in an attempt to record this beautiful fading display. A few more photos of the twilight and it was time to eat a few snacks I carried with and prepare for my main subject.

The Stars are Starting to be Visible

Finally the first stars of the night were visible as the sky continued to darken. I took a few pictures to check the settings on the camera and make sure they were correct for astrophotography. Thankfully I did because a couple of the settings needed adjustment with the most important one being focus. The camera was still on autofocus so I switched it to manual focus and adjusted it for infinity in order to photograph the stars as clearly as possible. After changing the settings I snapped a few more pictures and decided it was set up the way I wanted for the night.

More Stars are Beginning to Show Up

Now that I was ready and just waiting for the darkness to grow I began to realize I was all alone out in this park with all kinds of wildlife. Yes, this is where your mind begins to play with you and make you wonder if this is a good idea and jump at unfamiliar sounds looking for some wild animal to come lunging at you. Searching through the list of animals in this area that would be active at night I realized the most likely animals in this area were coyotes and they were very unlikely to cause any problems. Forcing myself to relax I continued to look upward as the sky light up with its nighttime show. Soon I was once again swinging my camera back and forth on the tripod capturing different scenes as they appeared all around me. Eventually the milky way made an appearance above me and I knew it would be a matter of time until it glowed closer to the horizon.

All This Way Only to Blocked by Light Pollution Again.

As the night grew darker I soon realized that the milky way would show up right were the nearby town was preventing me from getting the shots I was desperately trying to get. On top of that it was homecoming so the football stadium lights shone bright. All of that time and effort and this was the best picture I could get of near the horizon. Not very impressive however you can still see it. I knew this would be a possibility but hoped for the best. I took the pictures I could and began to vacate my star gazing rock as this part of the park was closing soon. A few photos of the milky way overhead and I was off. Besides it was getting to be a long day and I still needed to set up my tent.

The Milky Way From Overhead

After setting up my tent and sleeping quarters I decided to catch a few photos from this location to cap off my evening of looking for stars. The trees overhead brought a different and interesting composition to all of these bright stars shining down.


After a number of pictures I decided to play with my flashlight and began to highlight the trees and see how that looked against all of these stars. It was kind of interesting and something I would have played with more except I had finished my evening beverage and decided it was time to catch a few hours of sleep as I wanted to get up at dawn and photograph the prairie waking up.

Playing With Light Against the Night Sky

I did decide to try again the next night with a little better luck. To continue on click here…

The Longest Cave

Inside the Enormous Cave

The longest cave in the world is found in Kentucky with over 365 miles of explored caves to wonder and get lost in. Although if you’re not an experienced cave explorer than you have to be escorted inside because it would be too easy to get lost and not be found for a long time as so many of the passageways look the same. Fortunately there is also a lot to explore outside of the cave as well with almost 80 miles of trails to hike and the Green River in this 53,000 acre national park.

Heading into the Historic Entrance of Mammoth Cave

Mammoth Cave National Park is not on our National Parks Monopoly Board but has been a destination of interest for us and this spring we had to opportunity to join some friends and visit this cave. I get a little nervous before entering any cave due to claustrophobia but after going in Wind Cave and Jewel Cave I’ve learned that these caves are so enormous, especially where the tours are, that I forget I’m underground in a cave most of the time which allows me to take in the surroundings and enjoy the cave. I recommend getting to Mammoth early in the day as the tour tickets go fast at this popular National Park.

One Last Look Back to the Daylight

The pathways are fairly easily managed and there is plenty of light to navigate by, once your eyes adjust, while being led through the tunnels by a ranger. Just be prepared for a lot of stairs. There are several tour options available which take you to different parts of the cave and highlight different formations and the historic events that occurred in certain areas such as mining saltpeter which is used for gun powder and holding church services during the hottest times of the year. We chose to take the Historic Tour as our introduction to Mammoth Cave.

The Boulder Known as the Giant's Coffin

After meeting at the predetermined location we began walking towards the historic entrance which was all downhill for us. Following a brief talk covering the rules and guidelines inside the cave we headed down a long staircase going inside the cave. There was a set of doors to go through and we were inside this dark, cool, and damp maze. I was surprised to be underground exploring a cave this quickly. My prior experiences all required an elevator to get inside the cave and yet here we were. It was hard to see much making the lighting seem rather dim. As it turned out, our eyes just needed to adjust as moments earlier we were in the sunlight. Once our eyesight was adjusted for these cave conditions, it was much easier to take in these unique surroundings.

Some of the Writings on the Ceilings

This two hour tour goes up and down, sometimes with stairs and other times just on a dirt path. It winds around boulders and man made structures used at different times during the many uses of Mammoth Cave. In some of the areas there are names written on the walls and ceilings from before becoming a National Park. There are naturally carved areas larger than most houses and tiny narrow openings that only one person can squeeze through in this winding system of tunnels. These passageways were all carved out by running water which continues to make new areas even today. Just at lower levels. Such amazing sights and beautiful formations to remember because photos are difficult and a tripod is not allowed on the tour. I just set my camera on a rock or the floor to keep it as still as possible to get the best pictures I could when there was time because the group was stopped. Otherwise you could fall behind and that was not a pleasant thought.

Looking Down From Mammoth Dome which has 155 stairs to get to the top.

Without lights it would be so dark you couldn’t see your hand right in front of your face. And when there is no one else near you it is so quiet all you can hear is a loud high pitched buzzing coming from the moving parts in your ears as air moves over them. Even with all the people on the tour there can be a sense of loneliness in such a large rock structure and a fear of getting lost in these numerous caverns. Good incentives to stay with the ranger leading the group and continually counting everyone that started this tour with you. After walking for about 2 miles you begin to see familiar stones again with daylight soon after. The tour is complete. Ready to do it again?

An Above Ground Trail

After being below ground for a couple of hours we decided to explore above ground for awhile to take in the scenery and an amazing spring day under the sun. The rock formations here are also beautiful and help translate to the rocks below ground. The main difference is that these rocks are subject to the harsh elements of the Kentucky climate such as wind and rain and snow and ice. There are plants growing all around breaking these enormous boulders into smaller rocks over time. All of which either does not occur underground or in lesser amounts. Plenty of this to climb on or around if you’re young enough. For the rest of us, the trails are relatively easy to navigate so everybody can enjoy time wondering through the woods and catch a glimpse of the Green River which is largely responsible for the depth of the tunnels inside Mammoth Cave by controlling the falling water levels over many thousands of years. Amazing how these different environments work together to make such a creation.

The Green River

Anticipating Alaska

The Promise of Grand Views in Alaska

An Alaskan adventure was one of the most anticipated trips on our board once we decided it was time to explore the National Parks Monopoly Board. Anytime someone asked where we were headed this year and found out it was Alaska there were nothing but positive remarks. Either they had been there and would like to go back or would love to go there. We were amazed how many people have traveled to Alaska, usually on a ship. With so many positive comments how could one not be excited to go? Was it possible to have too high of expectations and be disappointed that Alaska didn’t live up to them?

Boarding the Ship

After a few days of exploring Olympic National Park and touring Seattle, the time had arrived to board the ship towards this highly anticipated destination. We were fortunate to share this experience with a number of friends and family who decided to join us for their first cruise making it even more memorable. For the first time our ship left the dock before our 4 o’clock departure time catching us off guard as I usually like to be out on a deck as we set sail. Hmm… maybe I had better pay closer attention to time on this trip. There’s a history of me getting on board at one of our stops right before we sail. In fact, I’ve been the last one getting on the ship before. I could very well miss this ship if I try to do that this time. Noted!

Leaving Seattle

Seattle faded into the horizon and two other ships were in tow as we left Puget Sound bringing rougher seas and more ship motion. A little time settling into our state rooms and then dinner. Completing dinner there was little to see outside as darkness had fallen bringing eagerness for the next days views as we enter Alaskan waters. Juneau, Skagway, Glacier Bay, Ketchikan, and Victoria oh my.

Rougher Waters with Mountains in the Background

Morning light began shining in the window. A quick look out of the window showed why the ship seemed to be rocking so much – 15 –20 foot swells along with clouds and fog making the shore difficult to see. From time to time the mountain ranges would appear however nothing more impressive than we had been accustom to seeing over the last couple of days. As the day at sea wore on, the clouds and fog continually increased reducing visibility considerably. The cold and wind made taking a stroll outside unenjoyably. Being restricted to the inside of the ship there wasn’t much to do that day but eat. Guess we were in the right place for that. From time to time the shore would reveal slightly taller mountains exciting those who saw it as these indicated what might be ahead.

Seeing an Occasional Mountain Through the Clouds

Day two brought calmer waters as the ship was now sheltered on both sides by mountains and clearer views of shore. Snow was beginning to show up near the peaks on mountains proving the journey further north. If it wasn’t for the snow and cold it would be difficult to know if you were in Alaska or Hawaii as the shape of the mountains looked very similar. As the day entered noon the first glaciers began appearing however the picturesque landscapes were only partially visible due to the low hanging clouds. Still they were beautiful to see. What amazing color these glaciers have even under this dreary sky. At this point I was a little disappointed because this type of weather was in the last forecast I looked at for most of our Alaskan Adventure. That meant peering at these vistas from inside the ship and not being able to see them in all their grandeur. O.K. it was too early to let this dictate my attitude for the rest of the trip. There was still much to see and do.

The First Glacier of this Alaskan Adventure

On to Juneau!

Only a Short Time to Take it all in….part II

The Freedom Trail

Now that the airfare is confirmed it’s time to reserve hotels right? Not quite yet. At least that is not my order of planning. My next step is to spend a little time researching what sights I want to see and activities I may want to do. This allows me to find hotels closer to the places I want to spend time at helping eliminate transportation time and possibly costs. Also, if there is something that you want to accomplish while in your place of destination but require reservations in order to assure you get to do it such as a Red Sox game at Fenway or watch the Celtics in the TD Garden you have a little head start on others giving you a better chance to do that activity. In our case it was eating at the Union Oyster House. We probably could have made it in there without the reservations but we may have had to wait and spend more time to get in taking away from other sights.

New England '11 096[1]_thumb[16]

Since Boston is such a historic city we definitely wanted to visit it’s past. A very quick web search brought up the Freedom Trail which included most of the places we wanted to see. Looking over each sight on the Freedom Trail we prioritized the list because there are so many stops on the trail and there wasn’t enough time to really see all of them and have time to do other things. One of my other high priority stops was the Bull & Finch pub used as the basis for the hit comedy Cheers. Now that I know what sights we wanted to see I searched for hotels closer to those destinations and figured out modes of transportation while in Boston. Boston has a pretty good train network allowing you to get around to many of the key places. Also, take it from me, driving in downtown Boston is quite stressful due to the traffic and narrow streets.

*Money Saving Tip: Many hotels will give you a reduced rate if you book them online and pay for them in advance. This can save up to 20% if you know that is where you will be staying. Be warned, once you pay in advance there is no canceling these reservations.

For us, we chose to stay in one hotel for a couple of days and on our last night move to a different hotel which provided a shuttle to the airport the next morning. Taking some time to plan what we wanted to do in Boston allowed us to see what we wanted and do what we wanted. Each hour was not planned but just a general idea of things to do that day. The exception was dinner reservations which had a finite time. Knowing your goals ahead of the adventure can help fulfill your needs for your vacation which does require a little bit of research and planning.

The Union Oyster House

To Read further on exploring Boston check out these pages:

Visiting Cheers

The Freedom Trail

Only a Short Time to Take it All in?


Finally, our vacation has arrived. Better hurry and pack because the flight is early tomorrow and we need to get going in order to avoid missing the plane. Once you’ve arrived at your destination it’s time to find a hotel and check before deciding which sights to see. It seems that the fast pace at which our lives move, the trips we take have become shorter. How can you take in all of the sights with very little time? With only a few days to relax and see the sights a little planning will help.

It took a little time to make to flight arrangements or a driving plan to arrive at your destination. Doesn’t it make sense to spend a little bit of time to figure out what you want to do and where you want to stay once you’ve arrived at that destination? I understand that it’s no vacation if you have every hour of each day planned. That is not what I’m writing about here. Let me go through an example of planning our adventure to Boston.

Our very first objective was to look over transportation cost to Boston. Since we were leaving from Minnesota and time was a factor flying was determined to be our best choice of getting to Boston. After figuring out we would be flying, it was time to pick the dates.

*Money saving tip: flying on a Tuesday or Wednesday can save a significant amount of money. Often times we save enough money to stay an extra night in a hotel and then some.

I use sites like Expedia and Kayak to find which airlines and which dates are the most affordable. Sometimes I will go directly to the airlines website if I’m trying to use rewards to help reduce our overall flight costs. If you fly frequently enough, signing up for rewards programs either through credit cards and/or the airlines can really help keep costs down especially in these times of higher airfares. Yes, it does require some extra time to sign up for and earn these rewards as well as use these rewards but it can be worth it.

The USS Constitution - 'Old Ironsides'

Let me provide and example: on our trip to Boston in 2011 we were able to get 4 airfares from Minneapolis for $500. Without our rewards programs it would have cost us almost $400 per airfare for a total of $1600. That’s over a $1,000 in savings! This required us to use 2 different rewards programs which can be a little tricky when booking the flights if you want to get everybody on the same flight. You need to first check each program and which flights are available through each to find which one match and then go through and book them selecting seats next to each other. This is some of the extra time required to use these programs. For those that are saying sure you could do that in 2011 but costs have gone up since then, We recently booked 4 fares from Minneapolis to Seattle for $500 this summer so it’s still possible.

To Continue Reading for more tips click here….

Life Experience Through a Plant

Colorado Wild Columbine

The above photo is of a Columbine as photographed in Rocky Mountain National Park. We were taking a family trip there as part of our Monopoly travels to see the Flattop Mountain trail. In addition to seeing this trail there was much else to explore. To get this particular photo I had to climb down a very steep bank. The purpose was to see one of the higher waterfalls in the park. Unfortunately most of these falls were covered from view by trees. Once I got to the river I noticed some of the flowers in the area and took a few pictures. When looking back at this picture I remember the adventures in the Rockies but also enjoying a moment of solitude as the water rushed passed. The rest of the family was not far and were in sight almost the whole time but this was my own little personal experience in the Rockies that not many others get to share.

Below is a picture of another Columbine which I photographed in the bluffs lining the Mississippi River. This was another family adventure where we decided to embark on a 7 mile hike exploring the bluffs. This photo is a reminder to me of the time shared with members of my family and completing the longest hike for our family to date. It also reminds me of some great views of the Mississippi River and surrounding landscapes.

Midwestern Wild Columbine

This last Columbine was a Mother’s Day gift to my wife. It is a hybrid that was grown in a greenhouse. Fortunately I have actually been to the greenhouse where it was grown, however it was not purchased there as it is a wholesale greenhouse only. It is a wonderful yearly reminder of why it was added to our landscape.

Each of these Columbines has a unique experience attached to them while all being closely related to one another. One found while exploring in the Rocky Mountains with another discovered on an adventure to the Mississippi River Bluffs and the last one represents the family that goes on these adventures along with the place that family returns to at the end of an adventure. At least for now!

Hybrid Columbine

Playing in the Snow

Snowmobiling in the Chequamegon National Forest

The holidays are past, football is over, and there is still plenty of winter to go. What to do during these cold days? It’s been awhile since I’ve been on a snowmobile so this seemed like a good way to spend a day in Northern Wisconsin. Downhill skiing would have been another option and may still be one of these weekends coming up. It was a cold day but that doesn’t matter with current snowmobiles as long as you’re dressed for it. Many of these machines now come with effective foot warmers and hand warmers making the adventure much more comfortable. Two areas that quickly become cold providing a less enjoyable experience.

Stream Under Train Tracks

Northern Wisconsin is beautiful during the summer and a popular place to visit. However during the winter you can travel through areas that just aren’t accessible during the summer due to frozen ground. There is a serenity during the winter as so many living things are resting causing those that are enjoying these surroundings to relax as well.

Chip and Dale Barstool Skiing

While traveling into one of the many small towns on the thousands of miles of trails we came upon Barstool races in Drummond. We needed to fuel the sleds as well as ourselves so some time enjoying this competitive event seemed like a good idea. At first it was unclear what was going on. Our only clues where cars parked along the roadsides and a lot of snowmobiles in the area both moving and parked. Eventually it was figured out that this was the day of what appears to be a popular event known as the barstool races. Some of these barstools attached to skis get pretty elaborate. There is definitely some time put into building such a unique sled if you can call it that.

Some of the Many Snowmobiles

These seemingly endless miles of trails go through some amazingly scenic terrain. It was always a challenge to decide how fast to go. Flying through the snow at 50 miles an hour with nothing between you and the surroundings gets the adrenaline pumping. Slowing down to take in the landscapes you are passing is a must. The trick is to balance out enjoying the views and the wind blowing by as you travel quickly on top of this white powder.

Scenic Trails

I’m ready to go again anytime soon!

Water Rushing Through the Snow

Isle Royale part II

Hitting the Trail

We were off to the next destination which was just over four miles away while carrying 40 pounds or more of camping equipment and food. While researching backpacking it was recommended to carry a maximum of 20% of your body weight in your pack. Ours seemed slightly higher than that which appeared to be more common amongst the other hikers on the island. 20% would certainly have been more comfortable and easier on our bodies. The scenery was quite nice and changed along the way however after a couple of miles of walking up and down hills with all this weight the scenery became less important. Finally after five hours of hiking we arrived at our destination and where able to take the packs off for an extended period of time. This did include stopping for lunch and a couple of other snack breaks so it was not constant walking. After some recuperation it was time to set up camp for the night and enjoy our surroundings.

Huginnin Cove

Huginnin Cove was without a question worth the hike. We had Lake Superior on two different sides of us with trees and rock formations everywhere else along with plenty of peace and solitude. The landscape was spectacular even when you’re exhausted from getting there. Listening to the waves of the lake crash against the rocks surrounding the shoreline while taking in the surroundings was an amazing experience. Off in the distance we could see the shores of Canada and at times see the city of Thunder Bay. At this camping area there was no pre-built shelter, running water, or flush toilets so it was more extreme camping. Our evening meal was prepared while watching the sunset across the water. As we finished cleaning up for the evening the stars light up the sky with no moon to interfere. This happened to occur at the same time as the Perseid Meteor Shower was winding down so not only did we get to star gaze but we were treated to shooting stars and numerous satellites crossing the sky. This was the experience I was hoping for!

The Milkyway and a Satellite

Our next morning was beautiful and sunny giving some incentive to get up and enjoy the day. We were much slower in emerging from the tent even with this nice sunny day as there were many sore muscles and joints along with the knowledge that it was another day of hiking with all this extra stuff strapped to our backs. Eventually we made breakfast and cleaned the dishes and packed everything away into our packs in an effort to head back to Washington Creek. There are two ways to get from Hugginnin Cove to Washington Creek. We explored one of those the previous day so decided it was time to take the second trail today. A very good decision as the scenery was much better and the trail slightly easier.

A Beautiful Morning on Lake Superior

For the conclusion of this post click to continue…

Isle Royale Preparations Update

Backpacking Gear

We are down to the last month of the summer season and only a few weeks away from our backpacking trip to Isle Royale National Park. While in Northern Minnesota for this experience the thought of also visiting Voyageurs National Park had crossed our minds however that has been dismissed due to the distance involved. Voyageurs is about 4.5 – 5 hours drive time from where the boat picks up for Isle Royale in Grand Portage, Minnesota. That would be about the same distance from our house so we will have to look at that another time. Much of the spring and summer has been spent getting ready for our backpacking trip to Isle Royale and the time is near for all that planning to be put through the test. Often you hear that you should step outside of your comfort zone to experience life and find out more about yourself. This trip is doing that for us.

Over the past 5 months we have been researching the gear necessary along with the cost for that gear and possible alternatives and procuring that gear. This being the first backpacking trip, most of our camping equipment does not work due to weight and size. We are restricted to 40 pounds of gear for each person contained in a backpack for the boat ride to and from the island. This should be easier to accomplish on the way back as much of the food weight will be gone. There is a lot of stuff to carry on your back while hiking for miles and most of that is all in an attempt to sleep as comfortable as possible such as tent, sleeping bags, sleeping pads, and a tarp for under the tent. Keep in mind there are 4 of us to accommodate with one of them unable to carry their weight worth of stuff so the rest of us have to pick up that weight. All of this for 3 nights camping on Isle Royale.

One of Our Extra Companions

In an effort to be prepared for this backpacking trip we embarked on a trial run this weekend. We stayed at a county park with numerous short hiking trails in a mock hiking trip. It was a mock trip because we had our car with us and some extra camping equipment just in case. We tested our 4 person tent, sleeping pads which were made out of foam mattress pads, blankets, cooking equipment and mess kits, etc.… The tent was really tested because there were 5 people and one golden retriever. One person and the dog will be absent on Isle Royale. Surprisingly we all fit however there wasn’t much room. Our sleeping pads work well for adding warmth but offer little in the way of softening the ground. The blankets we brought didn’t keep us warm enough during a summer night and the nighttime temps on the island are expected to be a little cooler so there’s one area we need to improve in the next couple of weeks. Fortunately we had sleeping bags in the car so warmth was found.‘

Practicing Our Cooking

On the cooking and eating front things look good. Backpacking stoves were tested in an effort to learn how to cook different foods as well as how much fuel we will need. We found foods that will work well and some that we should stay away from. There are two types of stoves in our arsenal: a gas stove and an alcohol stove. Each have their advantages and disadvantages. The gas stoves are adjustable so you can use that for foods requiring different temperatures in order to cook thoroughly or keep from overcooking. Alcohol stoves are either on or off more like a candle. You light it and it heats or the flame is out. They tend to have a wider flame to heat more evenly so are good for boiling water as long as you add enough fuel. Our alcohol stoves come from bottlestoves.com and are quite useful and durable along with made from recycled materials. The mess kits include plastic ware and storage containers that are lightweight and pack together fairly tightly so they don’t take a lot of room. They seem to fit what is needed for backpacking. We did also bring a steel knife, spoon, and spatula for cooking purposes since plastic will melt. One of the things learned in this area is to use a different metal spoon and spatula since the pots being used are Teflon coated and metal can scratch that off.

Bottle Stove in Action

Same Photo Without the Flash

During our time camping we took 1 1/2 mile hike with backpacks loaded just to get a feel for what we’re in for on Isle Royale. All things considered, this hike went well. We traveled at about a mile an hour on average over uneven terrain. Not bad considering there are two younger kids traveling with us carrying backpacks. I’m glad we did a practice trip as there are a number of things we learned and need to make some adjustments before getting to Isle Royale. All of this for only 3 nights on the island. This better be worth it!


Our Practice Hike

The Hobbies of May

Woodland Stream

May is when the memories of winter start to fade as plants start to grow and flower, the leaves of the trees become large enough to provide shade, and natures orchestra begins playing once again with the birds singing, frogs croaking, and the breeze moving through the trees. There are many things about this time of year that I truly enjoy. Flowers gracing us with their beauty and fragrance, the smell of freshly mowed grass, and the warmth provided by the sun. While these are great moments to enjoy one of the things I enjoy most about May is going on a darter hunt.

Rainbow Darter

What’s a darter hunt you ask? Well it’s not really hunting as there are no guns or arrows. Instead a group of people are armed with the appreciation of nature and a few nets. A darter is a relatively small fish related to perch that are native to North America. Every May the Minnesota Aquarium Society plans a few trips near the Twin Cities in search of the different darter species that are native to this area. Along with members of the aquarium society they also invite members of the North American Native Fishes Association to participate of which I am a member.

Banded Darter

Members of these two organizations get to take some of these darters along with other minnow species home to learn about and enjoy in aquariums. Some of these fish end up in school aquariums or even at the Minnesota Zoo allowing more people the opportunity to see native fish they probably never new existed. I do have an aquarium dedicated to native fish and will bring some home from these darter hunts but mostly I participate because I enjoy seeing what fish are in area lakes, rivers, and streams. A special permit is required by the MN Department of Natural Resources in order to keep these darters which the aquarium society obtains every year so this is the one time of year I can get this unique fish.

Collecting Darters

A darter hunt begins by donning waders or hip boots for those that do not want to get wet. The water is usually a little on the cold side but there are those that don’t mind getting wet so go without waders or hip boots. Once dressed for the water we grab a couple of nets and minnow buckets to put in our catch and head for the stream. Or lake. Or River. And don’t forget the cameras but the real trick is to keep them from getting wet. A couple of people go a short distance downstream and hold a net across a portion of the river or stream keeping the bottom secured to the stream bed and the top above water if possible while a few other people begin chasing fish into the net by shuffling feet across the stream bed. Once this group chasing the fish gets to the net they quickly reach down and grab the bottom of the net and pull this whole thing up above the water to see what was caught. If this is not done in unison with those holding the net the likely scenario is escape. Fish are quite adept at escaping and only require the chance to do so.

Finding a Darter

As the hunters begin combing through the debris caught in the net to reveal fish the look on their faces is almost always the same – amazement. Amazement at success of actually catching some fish, amazement at how colorful some of these fish are, and amazement that these fish actually live in these bodies of water. As soon as first timers actually see and hold some of these darters for the first time they are hooked and ready to spend an entire day searching for more. Sometimes they are ready to hunt for much more than a day. Watching someone’s reaction to this success may be the best part of a darter hunt. Although, the beautiful surrounding could also be the best part. I can’t really decide.

Underwater Habitat

My first darter hunt took place a number of years ago now. I remember the hunt but I don’t remember which year it was. I was hooked on native fish and prefer to keep native fish above tropical fresh water fish and even saltwater fish. Mostly this is because very few people have or even know about these fish and knowing exactly where this fish was collected makes keeping them more memorable. There are many people who would like to collect tropical fish that they see and buy in fish stores but are unable to. Native fish allow a person to experience fish collecting without arranging a trip to some tropical place. This being written, I do still have a tropical fish aquarium and a saltwater aquarium.

Jack in the Pulpit


Where Darters Live