For me, February is the most agonizing month. Especially when there’s no ice to sit on and fish through. Most of the hunting seasons are closed. It’s too cold to camp. The trails are usually either icy or squishy. And it seems like forever until spring. 

I wonder if that’s why they made it the shortest month. Thanks, somebody…

I struggled at first to come up with outdoor things to suggest doing this month. So I hit up the staff at Starr’s Cave Nature Center, Marcus Nack and Jacklyn Goodman, and they had all sorts of ideas for things we can do. Here are a few of their suggestions. 

Spend that tax return

Ok, admittedly, this isn’t something to do outdoors. At least not directly. Though I suppose one could sit outside and order online from a mobile device. But I still don’t think that counts as outdoor recreation. 

Anyway, the idea was that since so many of us are doing our taxes around now, why not spend some of the tax return on new outdoor gear? Hiking boots to wear or a new bike to ride when the trails dry out. A kayak for when the water warms up. Camping gear to make the summertime campouts a little more enjoyable. 

Here’s another idea. We sell camping voucher books where you get six nights of camping for the price of five. Hard to beat that. And with as fast as campsites book up, especially around holiday weekends, it’s a good idea to make your camping reservations now. Reservable campsites at most county parks can be found at State park campsites are available through Reserve America, though I’ve found it best to just navigate there via the DNR’s website: 

Back to that tax return. What’s something that you could add to your gear collection that would help you get outside more this year? Might be a worthy investment.

Prowl for owls

I feel like Cupid’s spirit animal is definitely an owl. No, not because they both fly around impaling victims with sharp objects. It’s the air of love that surrounds both in February. People celebrate Valentine’s Day in February. The month also serves as peak courtship season for barred owls. 

And that, according to Des Moines County Conservation Naturalists, is a great reason to go prowling around the woods at night. Like you needed a reason. But still…

To share in the fun, they’re hosting multiple “Owl Prowl” events throughout the month, on Wednesdays starting on Valentine’s Day. The events are free but in order to keep from having too-large crowds (turns out, even the most outgoing owl suitor shies away from a big audience), pre-registration is required by calling Starr’s Cave Nature at (319) 753-5808. 

Some of the prowls include a hike, some are more stationary. All of them include educational information about these silent avian hunters of the night. There will even be some owl calling which can sometimes result in an amorous owl flying in pretty close. 

Hike a park

Sure, it’s a bit soggy out there, but the temperature has been fairly balmy, considering the season. Don those new hiking boots you spent the tax return money on and join us for a hike later in the month. Back by popular demand is the Hike a Park series. Monthly until next winter returns, our naturalists lead guided hikes at local and regional parks, some of which you might not even know exist. These events are geared specifically to highlighting some of the underappreciated gems in our area. This month’s hike takes us to Eden Park in Louisa County on Bonus Day, February 29 starting at 4:30 PM.

February always feels like a long, slow slog to spring. But there’s actually quite a bit going on and good reason to head outside. 
Maybe owl see you out there (see what I did there?).

published Friday, February 9, 2024

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