By Leon Lindley

Out Your Back Door

When you step out your back door, you’re stepping on to a path; you’re starting a journey and beginning an adventure. 

It was early on a Friday morning when I was about to exit the house by way of my back door. Clutching a cup of coffee, my mind was working through a long list of projects that I needed to get done. As my mind and body stumbled out the door, several things happened at once. First, a woodchuck came loping across the yard. Next, a pair of shrieking wood ducks exploded from an ephemeral pool near the house, and at the same moment, a series of birds burst from around my feeder with a splash of color and sound. My mind was immediately cleared. I took in a breath of the fragrant air and mused to myself, “What a grand way to meet the day.”

Not everyone has a backyard like mine, but most of us can find such a spot without going too far. Certainly in Black Hawk County, we have many such places in our parks. The perfect thing about our natural areas is that they are free for everyone to visit. Not only can you discover your adventure, you can do it on a budget.

Adventures are everywhere for you to find and, as the seasons change, new adventures appear.  Have you noticed the spring greens this year? I was walking in the park early in the morning and the sun was trying to break through. It was spectacular! The greens, so many kinds. The willows, a clean yellow green. The grass, an iridescent darker green. Everything seemed to be a different shade of fluorescent green. A master painter with an enormous palate could not have come up with such rich greens.

With spring comes the discovery of  bluebells, large patches of heavenly blue. The valleys are a river of blue, the trails a highway of blue. Up close the bluebells form those most perfect flowers and, on closer inspection, not all are the same blue. Some are more pinkish blue, some are violet blue and every year, I find a few snow-white bluebells. They make for a merry stroll in the woods while looking for mushrooms.

I recall an afternoon I spent with some high school students who were helping me clear brush from a trail prairie when, unexpectedly, we found a prize. One of the young students gave a jump and a shout and, after securing some distance, yelled “Snake!” A quick investigation produced a fine specimen of the prairie, a five to six foot bull snake. It was an unusually large, elegant constrictor and it possessed amazing strength as it wrapped itself around my arm. After the initial fear, most students moved closer while I explained a little of the snake’s biology. I explained that bull snakes and blue racers were the two most prairie-adapted snakes we could find on the nature trail. Many of the students took the opportunity to run their hands over the snake to feel its keeled scales before we released it back to the prairie. Discovery and adventure are everywhere.

Nature and natural areas offer us a change of pace and a chance for a different kind of adventure. We are blessed in Black Hawk County to have so many different opportunities and the price is right – FREE. Get out and explore. Help your children discover nature. Rediscover your own youth, make your own adventure. It’s all there right out your back door.