H-T covers visually impaired ecotour; Sierra Club certified; guidebook editing

The Outdoors page in Sunday's edition of The Herald-Times features an account of last week's ecotour with members of the Heartland Association of the American Council of the Blind. Page editor Carol Kugler took the entire four-hour ecotour with us and wrote an excellent cover story that captures the spirits of the day and ecotourism. Here's the lead:

Local ecotours offer chance to responsibly enjoy nature

Getting people outside to enjoy the scenic, natural beauty of southern Indiana. That’s the basic goal of Natural Bloomington, a project created by Bloomington’s Steven Higgs, who has worked as an environmental reporter and writer for a number of years and runs a news website.

On a recent Saturday morning, Higgs was directing a group from the Heartland Association of the American Council of the Blind on a four-hour tour of natural areas near Bloomington. The tour began on a tree-shaded deck at the Restle Unit of Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuge, which is in the bottomland area north of Bloomington. Red-winged blackbirds and hawks flew overhead while dragonflies buzzed past the group as Higgs talked about what ecotourism is.

Here's the story link. (The H-T Online is a subscription-only site.)

Certified as a Sierra Club guide

I had no trail time this past week, expending my enrgies instead studying and earning Sierra Club certification to lead "Level 1" and "Level 2" hikes. That means I can lead anything from short day hikes to extended backpack trips organized by the Club -- almost. I have to provisionally lead an outing and afterward receive the blessing of an experienced Club leader before I can claim the mantle.

IU Oxfam Ecotour, Yellowwood State ForestOn Friday and Saturday I completed Outdoor Leadership Training 101 and 201 courses, the first online, the second, taught by Joey Shadowen from Lexington, with six fellow Sierrans at the Sierra Club Hoosier Chapter office on Indy's northwest side.

Both classes were outstanding and covered a range of issues, from planning, publicizing and conducting an outing to leadership skills, trail safety and handling troublesome situations, such as ill-prepared or lost participants and sexual harassment on the trail, not to mention strategies for working conservation issues into events.

Hoosier National Awareness Project

Not only will the trainings enhance my abilities to effectively lead Natural Bloomington ecotours, but leading Club outings will expand the audience for the message I want to deliver about natural Southern Indiana, especially on the Hoosier National Forest. In fact, the new Hoosier National Awareness Project is a joint endeavor between Natural Bloomington and the Sierra Club Hoosier Chapter (where I serve on the Executive, Communications and Conservation Committees.)

Unfortunately, my videographer fell ill and has not had a chance to edit the video we shot of my interview with Hoosier National Supervior Mike Chavez, so it is momentarily stuck in the production process.

Update: A Guide to Natural Areas of Southern Indiana

I will get my last chance to change the Guide to Natural Areas of Southern Indiana manuscript on or about Aug. 17, when I will receive a copyedited version from IU Press. I'll have three weeks and won't see it after that until it is laid out as a book.

To pre-order a copy and financially support our work at Natural Bloomington, here is a link to the Donation Page.

Photographs: Right, H-T Outdoors page; Left, IU Oxfam Club Ecotour, Yellowwood State Forest, November 2014


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