Quick Nature Fix: Wesselman Woods Nature Preserve

As most of you know I am back in the Midwest spending time in my hometown. Since I plan on being in the area for an extended amount of time, I am trying to make a point to explore areas of the city that one can experience the natural world without venturing too far away from creature comforts. These are places that are not intimidating for those with limited outdoor experience and easy for the experienced to get a quick nature fix.

Wesselman Woods Nature Preserve

I have run numerous laps in and around the baseball fields and picnic areas surrounding Wesselman Woods Nature Preserve but it has been since I was a kid that I have entered the actual preserve.  The nature preserve is tucked between an expressway, golf course, baseball fields, numerous businesses and busy streets which may immediately turn some away from a visit, but I personally am impressed by the fact that the preserve is still “preserved.”

The day of my recent visit, there were many runners and dog walkers around the preserve but I timed my visit to avoid school trips and weekend crowds, I basically had the place to myself.  My child mind remembers feeling very easily taken in by the wilderness around me and so I was excited to see how my perspective would differ as an experienced hiker and adult.

The preserve has about six miles of walking trails (not to be confused with hiking trails) which are well maintained, and a great introduction for children or adults new to the outdoor experience. I didn’t walk the entirety of the preserve, as some sections were extremely flooded due to recent rain however, I explored over half the area. Some small sections of trail (closer to the nature center) are paved but most of the trails are dirt or boardwalks. It’s easy to forget that a busy city surrounds you while walking within the preserve but occasionally on some of the out skirting trails I was brought back to the city. On some of these trails, I heard and could see traffic along with taking in smells of fast food on the wind. I have a feeling, that once the surrounding flora goes into full bloom these sights and sounds will be diminished to some degree.

As I walked along the trails I was able to let my mind wander and take in the calls of birds and even the sounds of a woodpecker. Walking along a few ponds and creeks I took in the familiar croaks of toads (a sound I didn’t realize I had missed out West) and the sounds of flowing water that doesn’t seem to happen enough in the desert.

Several trails have been given local and historic names such as “Wabash Erie Trail” which is named for the water source it runs by; once the longest canal in the United States, the Wabash & Erie Canal. Others I couldn’t help but find a little off-putting after clearly being named for a company sponsor such as the “Toyota Break Trail”. Within these same off-putting thoughts, I cannot help but feel grateful that these companies saw the importance in continuing to help protect this special area of land; a catch twenty-two of sorts.

After immersing myself within the woodlands, I returned to explore the small nature center.  A few captive birds and reptiles can be viewed along with several hands-on displays, which I am always a sucker for. The weird smells and deteriorating taxidermy animals I remembered from my past have long since been replaced.  I did remember being mesmerized by a bird and wildlife observation area within the nature center and found the area still part of the center.

From the protection of glass, one can observe various species of bird, squirrel and other wildlife that come to feed and drink around a small stream. What makes the scene even more special is the placement of hidden speakers outside allowing the observers to hear all the natural sounds and wildlife talk. Forgetting just how bright red a male Cardinal is and how big a Fox Squirrel can get, I was fully entertained for a good half hour watching small dramas unfold in front of me.

After my visit to Wesselman Woods, I can honestly say I was fulfilled. For a minimum of five bucks (further donations are always appreciated), I was able to get my nature fix, learn a little history, rehash old memories, get some exercise, observe wildlife and hopefully with this post, show my appreciation that my hometown recognized the importance of protecting a wild place.

There are many ways to enjoy nature beyond just long-distance hiking and without traveling long distances. If you’re ever in my old neck of the woods, I recommend a visit to Wesselman Woods Nature Preserve.

Learn More About Wesselman Woods Nature Preserve, a place of the likes that “no other city in the United States with a population exceeding 100,000 has within its corporate limits.”


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My Book: Mini Misadventures

Etsy Store: TravelandTrail

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Previous Posts You May Have Missed:

Learning To See – Review

Four Years Ago, On A Trail Far, Far, Away…


Learning To See – Review

Full Title & Author: 

Learning To See by Elise Hooper

How I Came Across This Book: 

I can’t exactly say where I had seen this book before but I can say that I found it popping up in the background of my life most recently. Perhaps this was in part due to Darwin’s new project out on the Arizona Trail, that I was sensitive to anything regarding photography or film.

A few weeks ago, this book finally just slapped me in the face while standing in the check-out line at the library. I could ignore it no longer and made a mad dash to grab it off the shelf and checked it out. In some ways, I felt reading about a photographer would somehow allow me to understand this art form better and feel more connected to Darwin, while he is out filming and photographing the people and places of the AZT. I often find comfort in books and this one was no different especially for the fact it was the story of an amazing woman.

First Thoughts:

I immediately liked the book and found it never to be dull or slow. The author Elise Hooper is a good writer, however, if you do any research on Dorothea Lange, you’ll realize Lange’s life was never exactly dull or slow in reality. Lange traveled around America doing things that were frowned on for a woman to do. She sought out places that men would shy away from and she did what she could with the skills she had. She followed her passions regardless of what others said about her; a true artist.


Learning To See is another historical novel which like I have mentioned in another review, I find easy to read and learn from. The novel depicts the life of American photographer and photojournalist Dorothea Lange at the start of her career around 1918 to a few years before her death in 1965. Although Lange was not a hiker, she was a female adventurer who found herself in many precarious situations traveling thousands of miles and making sacrifices to provide for her family and to capture a story.

The author Elise Hooper, is upfront with the fact that although the novel depicts historical events in both Dorothea Lange’s life and the world she did take a few liberties in order to present the book from the perspective of Lange herself. Hooper even discusses this further in the “P.S” section, in the back of the book. As I read, I would often refer to pictures Lange captured in specific times in her life (a few are also presented in the book) which gave even more meaning to what I read. Lange risked her family and her life to show the world the devastation brought on by the Great Depression and traveled to remote places to show the horrors experienced by Japanese Americans who were forced to evacuate their homes to be incarcerated in camps after Pearl Harbor was attacked in 1941. Her photos are now pieces of history that many would like to forget but we can no doubt all learn from.

Not only did I find Lange’s photography interesting but also the crowd of fellow artists she was friends with such as Ansel Adams the landscape photographer and environmentalist and Frida Kahlo the highly famous Mexican artist. One can also not mention Lange without mentioning her husband of fifteen years the famous painter of the American West, Maynard Dixon. I found the mix of Hooper’s writing and the basic facts of Lange’s life to be full of inspiration. Lange herself was surrounded by creative people who found their inspiration and pursued it no matter the costs as she herself did.


I think Learning To See is a book for anyone looking for inspiration to create something. Whatever your art form is writing, photography, filmography, painting, etc. Dorothea Lange’s life alone will get you motivated to show the world what you can do even if the world doesn’t want it yet. This book also gave me a little more understanding of the mindset of what it takes to capture a shot, a moment. It’s more than just setting up the camera and looking through a lens. It has a lot to do with the artist, their surroundings, and if taking that shot is really what they are passionate about.

Hooper’s novel can be found following this Amazon link https://amzn.to/2UEzVYo or check your local library to see for yourself!



A Few Other Book Reviews: 

Sharp Top, A Historical Novel – REVIEW

The Blue Ridge Parkway By Foot – Review




Four Years Ago, On A Trail Far, Far, Away…

When I headed out for my run it was gray outside, a color not uncommon when describing my hometown in the Spring. A glance down the street showed me a distant fog hovering over houses and businesses. I started out feeling the dampness in the air; a reminder of the sticky humidity that summer would bring. My run took me down streets of my past but as the morning sky continued to close in and darken, I remembered what I had been doing the same day, years before.

March 10th marked the four-year anniversary of the day Darwin and I touched our first White Blaze on Springer Mountain in Georgia. An event that still lingers in my mind like it was yesterday. A chilly foggy morning, the kind where you can’t exactly say if you’re wet because of rain or just from the amount of moisture hanging in the air.

During our time on the AT, rain was a constant. I remember how good it felt to peel off my cold wet clothes and trade them out for my dry camp clothes. I also remember how it felt the next morning waking warm in my sleeping bag knowing my day old wet (and sometimes frozen) clothes awaited me. Georgia presented numerous challenges for all of us newbies. We were all excited and nervous but those feelings can only motivate you for so many miles before the weather really starts gnawing at you.

I remember coming down from Blood Mountain, another foggy rainy day preventing us from having any views. We, however, we’re excited to have survived our first few days on the trail and ready to treat ourselves with the first bit of civilization, a bunk bed and shower in the hostel at Mountain Crossings.

Several people left the trail at that point however I remember being still hopeful and excited to hike back into the fog and rain the next day. That excitement would wain as we continued to hike in those conditions for several days. I would find out, later the harsh reality of the saying, “No Rain, No Pain, No Maine”.

Now life post AT, I find I am very tolerant of cold, rainy, or foggy weather. Not exactly my favorite weather, but again it’s tolerable. It doesn’t keep me from doing something…usually. When hiking the AT, the tolerable attitude is a must and a lesson the trail will surely teach any hiker willing to listen.

Of course, this is all easier to say knowing, that when I finished my run I could treat myself with a hot shower, and dress in warm dry clothes, via a warm dry house. Another gift from the AT…an appreciation for the little things in life.

Thank you Appalachian Trail, for all your lessons. It’s four years later, and  I haven’t forgotten you or all you taught me. 


(Technically, I didn’t touch the 1st Blaze, I leaned on it…)


Cool Thingys That I Also Do:

My Book: Mini Misadventures

Etsy Store: TravelandTrail

Instagram: The_snuggle_diaries  

One Of Many AT Journals :

3/16/15 Trail Magic & Tray Mountain

Darwin’s 2019 AZT Thru-Hike Gear List

Thru-Hiking Gear:


Waymark Thru 40 Pack – https://bit.ly/309Ifa7

Zpacks Shoulder Pouch – https://zpacks.com/products/shoulder-pouch?aff=7


ZPacks Plexamid Tent – https://zpacks.com/products/plexamid-tent?aff=7

10 Carbon Stakes – https://zpacks.com/products/carbon-fiber-stake?aff=7

Sleep System: 

EE Enigma Quilt – https://bit.ly/37b1iSs

Thermarest Neo Air    http://amzn.to/2nOaOkA

Aeros UL Pillow – https://amzn.to/2uCaPkm

EE Side Kicks – https://bit.ly/3a1ka8p

Cook System: 

Sea to Summit Spoon – http://amzn.to/2nqpICn

Zpacks Cuben Food Bag – https://zpacks.com/products/bear-bagging-kit?aff=7

Sawyer Micro Filter – https://amzn.to/2SvvDkg

CNOC Vector 2L Water Container – https://amzn.to/2JRNEtb

1L Water Bottle(Swart Water Bottle – 2


Zpacks Vertice Rain Jacket – https://zpacks.com/products/vertice-rain-jacket?aff=7

EE Torrid APEX Jacket – https://bit.ly/3a13Pkf

EE Wind Pants – https://bit.ly/3mclwjb

Ice Breaker Merino Wool T – http://amzn.to/2wM43Vc

Patagonia LW Tights – https://amzn.to/2Xuzn9u

Darn Tough Endurance Socks –https://amzn.to/2EGTnyp

Wigwam Sock Liners – https://amzn.to/2pofnWa

Columbia SilverRidge Lite LS Shirt – http://amzn.to/2ocpLAv

Nike Pro Running Shorts – http://amzn.to/2wH3KQ8

Buff – https://amzn.to/2EdYan7

OR Sun Gloves – https://amzn.to/2VJ1VtU

Altra Olympus 3.0 – https://amzn.to/2EJgata


Canon M50 – https://amzn.to/2Xu6c6c

Canon EF-M 22 – https://amzn.to/2Xu68Du

Canon EF-M 11-22 – https://amzn.to/2XuL7Jd

Rode Video Micro – https://amzn.to/2XmJ61z

Anker Dual Port Plug – https://amzn.to/2EztCzF

Anker 20100 Charger – https://amzn.to/2BWv2mb

Pedco UltraPod II – https://amzn.to/2tHNM4h

Various Charging Cables

UCO Air Headlamp – http://amzn.to/2kZbubo

Iphone 7 Plus – http://amzn.to/2iQkdIi


BD Ergo Carbon Cork Trekking Pole – https://amzn.to/2DbagCo

Leuko Tape  http://amzn.to/2xYkDGr

Spyderco Knife – http://amzn.to/2wHxmwZ

Deuce of Spades Trowel – http://amzn.to/2GwhVsA

Surface Sun Screen Stick – https://amzn.to/2tW8PAd

First Aid Kit

Misc. Toilettes

Watch A Video Of Me Going Over This Gear List HERE!


Updates From The Mid-West

  • I’ve been back in Indiana for a little over a week now and I’m still trying to adjust to the Mid-West’s cold weather. Somehow it feels colder here then when I was in Leadville, CO snowshoeing in -9 degrees.


  • Static Electricity is a real issue that is easily forgotten about when out West but you’ll be shockingly aware of it in the Mid-West.


  • There is such a thing as “wet snow” and “dry snow”.


  • Currently catching up on snuggles with my best companion Bowie. For those of you who are wondering, she is doing great!


  • Currently rekindling my love for Ginger Turmeric Tea and my good old friend Chai. The weather here is a good tea drinking motivator.


  • Influenced by my husband’s current venture of filming a documentary along with his interest in photography, I am currently reading a book about Dorothea Lange. A book review will no doubt be posted in the near future.


  • Speaking of a book review, I FINALLY got a copy of Thirst by Heather “Anish” Anderson and will be starting it directly after I finish my current read. A book review on this will also be happening.


(Yep you guessed it, this picture was NOT taken in Indiana.)

Cool Thingys That I Also Do:

My Book: Mini Misadventures

Etsy Store: TravelandTrail

Instagram: The_snuggle_diaries  

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Lost In Waves Of Sand