August is truly summertime. Those other summer months, June and July, have their pleasures, but August is when things really heat up. Lazy, sweltering afternoons are best enjoyed from a kayak; cool, peaceful mornings, for walking in shady woods. August is about rejuvenating before fall routines begin. There is a little time for a last, late summer adventure.
If you know a budding bird watcher, consider taking them out in a kayak, canoe or boat. You can also spot birds while wading at the beach. Water birds are some of the showiest and easiest for beginners to spot. They range in size from the long-legged Sandhill Cranes to fierce, raucous red-winged blackbirds. Ducks appeal to people of all ages, and spotting a pair of mallards could be occasion for reading (or re-reading) Robert McCloskey’s 1941 classic, “Make Way for Ducklings” with a young person.
A favorite northern Indiana bird is the sandhill crane. At our house, we jokingly refer to them as “Indiana flamingos.” Their gawky elegance is exaggerated by their height: They can be up to 4 feet tall or so, with wingspans of around 6 feet. Their distinct bugle call can be heard up to a mile away. Although a gray bird, they often take on an ochre or brown color. Their heads are crowned with crimson. Sandhill cranes favor wetlands, marshes and grasslands. They make a large nest on the ground from piles of whatever they find. Both parents incubate the nest, which typically contains two eggs.
I’ve read that cranes are known to hop, dance and run. I haven’t seen it myself. I did see a pair “jogging” earlier this summer. They were under attack by kamikaze blackbirds, who apparently thought the cranes were too close to their nest.
If you do want to get out in the water, consider a relatively quiet trip in a canoe or kayak. My first paddling experience was in a canoe. I was a little leery of a kayak … after all, isn’t that what those whitewater people use to roll around under water?
We took the kids and went canoeing a few times, always having fun. At one livery, though, the owner told us, “If you want to test your marriage, take the canoe. If you want to have fun, rent the kayak.” We did rent kayaks and had a great paddle. The canoe was soon replaced.
I find kayaks to be more stable, lighter to haul, and more nimble than a canoe. Steady as they are, you still cannot stand up in one, as my mom reminded us a few weeks ago. Paddle boards are for standing on, and are surprisingly simple to use, once you find your balance.
Kayaking combines two of my favorite things: enjoying nature and going barefoot. Add in a group of like-minded people and a knowledgeable person to lead the way, and it equals a fun, once-a-year opportunity to explore several of the Seven Sisters lakes in Steuben County.
Bring your own kayak or canoe and join Nate Simons for the 14th Annual Wing Haven Canoe Trip on Saturday from 2-4 p.m. at Wing Haven Nature Preserve, 180 W. C.R. 400N.
Check out ACRES’ website to find a preserve near you. They are free and open to the public all over northeast Indiana. They are a great place to stretch your legs, see a little nature, and have an adventure.
A fun upcoming August ACRES event is The Matchsellers in the Garage at Wildwood nature preserve in Kosciusko County on Friday, Aug. 28 at 7 p.m. The Matchsellers are an alternative bluegrass duo whose music is stuck somewhere between the electric blues of Chicago and the bluegrass of Kentucky. You can find more information at http://thematchsellers.wordpress.com/. Wildwood is at 409 E. S.R. 14, Silver Lake.
Jill Noyes is a Steuben County resident and outreach volunteer for ACRES Land Trust. Membership-based, ACRES is dedicated to preserving significant natural areas in northeast Indiana, northwest Ohio and southern Michigan.