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Backpacker Magazine – August 2013

Trail Mix: Central

Your region's go now guide: HIke with your kids in Missouri, watch the endangered whooping crane in Wisconsin, and more.

by: Sarah L. Stewart, Katy Welter, and Maren Kasselik

Insta Winner Dipti Salopek
Insta Winner Dipti Salopek

Perfect Days

Chicago, IL
Buffalo Creek
Traverse a restored tallgrass prairie—home to bobolink (in summer) and eastern meadowlark (year-round)—in the midst of the northwest suburbs on this 4.1-mile lollipop. After, catch a comedy show at Chicago Improv in nearby Schaumburg (Thursday through Sunday nights; tickets from $17; Trip ID 27526 
Milwaukee, WI
Kettle Moraine
Follow this 4-mile loop over rocks left behind by Ice Age glaciers, including a heath-filled bog formed when buried ice melted and the ground caved in. Rehydrate with a 25-ounce stein of hefeweizen in the outdoor beer garden at Weissgerber’s Gasthaus in Waukesha ( Trip ID 22902
Kansas City, MO
Burr Oak Woods
Bring the kids on this easy 4.1-mile loop atop scattered limestone outcrops in a conservation area that sustains more than 150 bird species, including flycatchers, wrens, and orioles. Afterward, cool off in Blue Springs Lake in nearby Fleming Park ($5/adult, $3/child; boats $30/hour; Trip ID 503635

See This Now
Fledgling Whooping Cranes, Necedah National Wildlife Refuge, WI

Watch endangered, 90-day-old whooping crane chicks fly for the first time at the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge, 100 miles outside Madison. Connect the Karner and Muskrat Loops to create a mile-long figure eight through wetland, prairie, and oak savannah. Look for trumpeter swans, great blue herons, otters, turtles, bald eagles, and the refuge’s 160 whooping cranes in the marshes. Identify snowy white, red-faced adult (monogamous) whoopers—the tallest North American birds (up to 5 feet)—and then scan nearby for the fuzzy, cinnamon brown fledglings. In late-summer, the chicks begin developing wing muscles so they can fly south in November. Find them early morning or dusk (whoopers hide their young when it’s hot). Contact (608) 565-2551;

Insta Winner
Tag your trip pics #BPmag

Dipti Salopek, 32, of NYC, snapped this pic en route to Brant Lake in MN’s Boundary Waters.

Solitude Finder
Trap Hills, Ottawa National Forest, MI

Cross rocky ridges and skirt 300-foot-deep gorges on a 14.9-mile overnighter on the North Country Trail (NCT). Encircled by protected lands with bigger name value—Porcupine Mountains SP, Lake Gogebic SP, and Bond Falls SP—the Trap Hills section of the NCT offers isolated backpacking. Explore the trail’s basalt and sandstone ridges (the result of a volcanic rift a billion years ago) on an inverted lollipop from the NCT Crossing off FR 326. Head east through the Trap Hills—named either for their abundant trap rocks (dark volcanic slabs) or because the Ojibwe people trapped beaver and otter here in the 17th century—to a lookout at .5 mile. Glimpse the Porkies and finger-shaped Weidman Lake to the northwest, and then wind south where gaps in the oak and fir forest reveal panoramic views of Lake Gogebic. Look for eagles, hawks, and falcons soaring on thermals, and, at 5.5 miles, scan northwest across Bush Creek to Lake Superior. Set up camp on one of the lookouts (if you hit FR 400, you’ve gone too far; backtrack a mile), and listen for nocturnal whip-poor-will birds foraging for insects. Next morning, follow the NCT west 4 miles, keeping an eye out for tracks of black bear, bobcat, lynx, and timber wolf. Turn northwest onto the Hack Site Trail for a mile to FR 326. Continue 2 miles along the dirt road through serene woodlands to your car. Contact (616) 897-5987;

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