Exploring the Parks and Nature Areas Around Sioux Falls

Sioux Falls has 76 named parks throughout the city that range from small sites suitable for neighborhood gatherings and playgrounds to large well developed nature centers such as Great Bear Recreational Park, Arrowhead Park, the Wegner Arboretum and East Sioux Falls Historical Site, and the linked park system along the Big Sioux River. The state provides outdoor recreation areas and state parks including the Big Sioux Recreation Area, Beaver Creek Nature Area, Lake Alvin Recreation Area, Newton Hills State Park, and the Outdoor Campus in Sioux Falls that is a joint city/state operation.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Great Bear: Hiking in the Deep Shade on a Summer Day

During these sweltering days of mid-July, hiking for us is best early in the day in areas that provide deep shade.  This is especially important for Finnegan, our elderly canine hiking companion with heart failure. 
Great Bear Recreation Park on the outskirts of Sioux Falls is probably the best place in the area for an extended walk in the deep shade of large leafy trees.
There are several hiking trails within Great Bear, ranging from steep climbs up to sunny open meadows to lowland trails that are mostly in full or dappled shade.  At this time of year, we generally choose the lowland and shady trails that wind back into the park along well- developed pathways.   
Passing the lodge, the first feature encountered is a large pond that separates the pathways into the wooded area.  The pond at this time of year is often covered in part with green algae.  To me, the full or scattered algae growth has its own special charm in this body of still water with no outlet.
Over the years, I have seen ducks, geese, lots of turtles, as well as tadpoles and frogs in the pond.  I like to pause along the shoreline of the pond to look over the animal and plant life that lives there.
On the trip today, Finnegan and I kept to the lower trails.  My wife and I have a hiking pattern in which we cut along the right side of the pond on a rougher trail, continue down to a fork where the trails pass along either side of a wooded and steep hill and turn right again.
We return along a rougher pathway to the fork and then turn right again, heading deeper into the woods.  This trail continues to a roofed bench that has become the watering hole for Finnegan.
 A walk through the lower trails takes about 45 minutes at our slow pace.  Today, we did not encounter anyone in the park or along the trail.
The temperature had increased to about 80 degrees and the skies were clear as we finished our walk.  Great Bear is less than fifteen minutes from our home on the east side of the city, so we got in a nice stroll through a beautiful nature area before the full strength of the sun brought us to a stupor.
For additional narratives and photos of Great Bear at various seasons, go to the menu of area hiking possibilities on the right side of the blog.   
Additional photos of our hike today can be found on my Flickr account at the following URL:

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