For Hitch 2, Ryan Bernardi and Dan Solmon took the Team Bravo mantle, and drove across the northern middle of the United States.
The trip began in Buffalo, New York with a side trip to Niagara Falls State Park and the Anchor Bar to eat the original Buffalo chicken wings. Both of these were well worth the trip, but soon it was time to begin our work at Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge, in the midst of central New York’s drumlins and along a spur of the Erie Canal.
From New York, we drove around southern Ontario to the Lower Peninsula of Michigan, where we visited Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge, a forested preserve in the midst of the Rust Belt. Then, it was on to southern Indiana’s Muscatatuck NWR, full of stout hardwoods with carvings in the trunks from the nineteenth century.
We spent our first weekend with Ryan’s family in the Chicago area, where we were able to relax, eat some of the Second City’s famous foodstuffs, and see the White Sox win at home.
From Chicago, we traveled over to Iowa, beginning with two refuges on the Hawkeye State’s so-called East Coast, the Mississippi River. At Port Louisa NWR and the McGregor District of the Upper Mississippi NWR, we saw the Big Muddy already a wide, braided river with many sloughs and forested islands bordering the barge channel.
Next, it was we went to Neal Smith NWR, west of Des Moines, a large preserve of native prairie with its own herd of bison and elk. Which we did not see, unfortunately. Our time in iowa ended along the West Coast, the Missouri River. There we visited DeSoto and Boyer Chute NWRs, straddling Iowa and Nebraska. Both refuges lost considerable trail mileage to the Missouri River floods of 2011. Several Trails at Boyer Chute were buried under several feet of sand deposits, and DeSoto’s visitor center’s steamboat salvage exhibit was unfortuntaley, still in off-site storage.
For the third week, we made a quick trip through Wisconsin, Minnesota, and the Dakotas,, seeing the St Croix Wetland Management District, Whittlesey Creek NWR, Detroit Lakes WMD, Hamden Slough NWR, Tewaukon NWR, and Sand Lake NWR. Highlights included spending time on the shore of Lake Superior in Wisconsin, excellent hamburgers in Lidgerwood, ND, and a surprise waterpark at or hotel in Grand Forks, ND.
All in all we had a wonderful time touring the Midwest and Great Plains, seeing family and friends, eating great food, and crossing and recrossing the Mississippi river.