You get the best WiFi reception at Lake Bemidji State Park on the west side of the shower just across from the women’s bathroom.
Naturalist John Fylpaa told me it was the best place to download a podcast of a virtual tour of their famous bog walk.
I did a quick search for Lake Bemidji State Park in iTunes as a couple walked by with new hiking boots, walking sticks, designer backpack and brand new Lake Bemidji State Park hats. The woman looked at me like I was some kind of work-a-holic, technology-addicted freak. The look on her face screamed, “Get a life buddy, don’t you know you are suppose to be enjoying nature in state parks?”
You know, there are purists out there that don’t believe computers, cell phones and GPSs belong in state parks. That’s so 2008. Personal computer technology has become a way of life. They are as much of a state park visit as paved roads, flush toilets and electric hookups.
I knew I could download the podcast off the DNR website but I wanted to push things a bit. I typed “Lake Bemidji State Park” into iTunes and hit the jackpot with an entire Minnesota DNR State Parks section of 13 podcasts. There was everything from, “Who was Henry Sibley?” to “The Whitewater State Park Flood.” I could listen to the fall colors on the North Shore and visit Wild River State Park.
There is was at number 6, “Audio Tour of Lake Bemidji State Park Bog Walk.” Cool! Normally, I would download this and then transfer it to my iPhone but I had to push this little wireless experiment. I went to iTunes on my iPhone and sure enough found the same podcast and downloaded it in seconds.
So I tightened up my worn out old hiking boots, threw my camera bag over my shoulder and put my earplugs in for my audio bog tour.
It took me a good 20 yards to get in sinc with John’s soft, direct narrative. The bog walk is well marked but John’s detailed description gives it all more meaning.
I learned the moss goes ten feet deep into the bog and the Snowy Lady Slipper plants can be 100 years old. While the orchids were beautiful the Pitcher Plant was the sneakiest of the batch. It holds water in its flower to attract insects, which it traps to eat.
I successfully completed my first virtual podcast tour of a state park. Granted it would have been better with a naturalist but it gave me a closer look at the majesty that lies within a bog.
The Friends of Lake Bemidji State Park have been ahead of the technology curve for some time. They maintain an informative Facebook page. Some friends groups have blogs, photo galleries and You Tube Channels to tell the story of their park, trail or river. Touch screen computers will soon be guiding visitors to many state parks.
Such techie tools as parabolic microphones, snake cameras and Global Positioning Devices help us learn more about the natural world we live in. In no way do these tools take away from the experience of hiking a trail, paddling a river or sleeping under the stars. They feed a greater hunger to learn more about the environment we live in.
I was feeling pretty smug when I returned to the contact station to tell John about my experiment. He led me into his book-lined office to see his latest project. He will soon be filming his bog tour to put on a DVD player for people to carry along the way. What next?