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Well Wisconsin Radio

Well Wisconsin Radio

Hosted by the WebMD Team

A podcast discussing topics of health and well-being from experts around the State of Wisconsin. Tune into Well Wisconsin Radio whenever you want and wherever you are! Subscribe to Well Wisconsin Radio in the podcast platform of your choice to be notified when each new episode is released.

Note to those eligible for the 2024 Well Wisconsin Incentive: only episodes of Well Wisconsin Radio from season 3, dated November 2023 and later will qualify for well-being activity credit.


Moving Outdoors this Winter Transcript 

Host: Hello, and welcome to Weld Wisconsin Radio, a podcast discussing health and wellbeing topics with experts from all around the state of Wisconsin. I’m your host Renee Fox. And today my guest is Janet Hutchens, Friends Group and Volunteer Service Coordinator for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. Janet, thank you for joining us today to talk about ideas for moving outdoors this winter season. 

Guest: Thanks, Renee, for inviting me to join you on Well, Wisconsin Radio. I’m really excited to be here today. 

Host: Oh, I can’t wait to get started with our conversation. Can you start us off today just by telling us first a little bit more about the work that you do with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources?  

Guest: Yeah, thanks for asking. I really love the work I do for the Wisconsin State Park System. 

I get to work with our Friends Groups which are non-profit organizations that are dedicated to supporting our specific properties that include state parks, state forests, trails, recreation areas, and scenic waterways. And there are 64 of those groups that support 69 of our properties. All across the state, they’re fundraising, like they sell firewood, ice, and souvenirs that you find on our properties.  


They host special events like 5K runs and seasonal celebrations. They organize volunteer workdays, and they donate back to the property to support our natural pro-naturals programs and help construct new amenities like shelters and nature centers and things like that. So, they’re always looking for volunteers and new members and you can find a listing on our website.  

Host: And our listeners can check out that link to your website in our episode show notes. 

Guest: Yeah. And I also coordinate our volunteer services program where I work with our staff to help promote our volunteer opportunities across the state and recruit volunteers. We organize statewide event series like our Earth Day events during the month of April, public lands day in September, and I work with staff to recruit long-term volunteers. And help on board and train them so we have positions like campground hosts who come and stay for a month at the campground and help answer questions and sell firewood and interact with campers and we have naturalists. We have property maintenance staff, adopted trail groups. So that information is also on our website along with an online registration system, which is fairly new and um, people are really enjoying that.  

Host: Oh, that sounds like a lot of exciting opportunities. Thanks for sharing that. Can you talk a little bit about the state parks OutWiGo campaign and the purpose behind it? 

Guest: Yeah, we started this a handful of years ago, as a way to kind of plug into encouraging people to get outside to improve their health and wellness. 

We know that getting active outdoors really benefits mental health and physical wellness, and we want to provide opportunities in ways that everyone can get outdoors. And a lot of our activities are really designed to help people feel comfortable and welcome to try new outdoor recreation activities and learn about Wisconsin’s unique natural and cultural resources. We really strive to make them entry level activities for individuals and families to find joy in exploring nature and trying new things. 

Host: As we know, when the temperatures drop and snow starts to fall, a lot of us, maybe are not thinking about getting outdoors. For some of our listeners who may be new to visiting state parks in the winter, can you talk about some of the great things you have planned for being outdoors and again aligning with the OutWiGo campaign for this winter. 

Guest: Yeah, there’s so many exciting things happening in the outdoors to help people enjoy getting out and one of our most popular activities is the candlelight events and those are where we invite people to come out and hike, snowshoe, or cross-country ski. Just imagine being under the stars on a crisp, clear winter night, crunching through the snow, following a path made of luminaries that light up the forest and listening to winter wildlife like owls hooting back and forth through the trees.  

Hikes can be, like I said, they can be walks, snowshoes, cross-country skiing, and then we usually follow those up with a warm bonfire with hot chocolate and maybe some s’mores to help warm you up. 

Host: Sounds like a magical experience. 

Guest: Yeah, it really is. And you really have to experience it to really know how that feels to be out in the candlelight, in the forest. 

We also have first day hikes, which happen on January 1st every year, and it’s a really good time to just start out the year the right way and get feeling good, get moving. And these are usually daytime hikes and it’s walking with a group and exploring a new trail. And they’re usually led by a naturalist or park staff where you can learn more about nature specific to that region or habitat and ask questions about the park and about the flora and fauna of that area.  

And then later in January, we have a free fishing weekend. That’s January 20th through the 21st  in 2024, and it’s a time to get out without having to have a fishing license or a trout stamp or a salmon stamp. And it’s great for families and friends to give it a try and try to catch fish through the ice.  

So you can try this with experts and get some good tips and tricks. And, all of those are listed on our DNR event calendar. Really, a lot of these activities happen all across the state. So, anywhere from Havenwoods in Milwaukee, that’s a state forest right in the city of Milwaukee, and then places like Mirror Lake, in Central Wisconsin by the Wisconsin Dells, and then places like Perrot State Park or Buckhorn State Park, all across the state. 

And then we also have things as far north as Copper Falls and Amnicon Falls. So, really you can find a place that’s going to be within an hour driving distance of your location to get outdoors. 

Host. Fantastic. In addition to opportunities to get active outdoors, what are some educational programs that you have going on this winter?  

Guest: Well, one of our big events is, OutWiGo snow, and that is happening January 20th at Willow River State Park near Hudson. And that’s a family fun event to try either different outdoor recreation experiences or learn more about nature. So, we’ll have everything from cross-country skiing to snowshoeing, and snowmobiling. We’ll have outdoor wheelchairs there, adaptive sit skis, sledding, hiking, winter fat tire biking, and again bonfires and hot chocolate. 

Our Friends Groups will be there also to talk about their volunteer activities and fun things that they do and helping teach about nature as well. So, that’s one great family friendly activity. And then some of our properties do in December coming up here, some natural greenery workshops where you can put together a door decoration, porch pots, wreaths, and things like that with real greenery and learn a little bit more about the different types of greenery you can use and maybe identifying some of those trees that the greenery comes from.  

We also have story time for youth where kids can come with their family members and learn about birds, turtles, hibernation, winter stargazing, and all types of topics available. And then places like Devil’s Lake has a drop-in where you can pick up a nature discovery clue card and head down the trail and look for trivia signs along the way, answer those trivia questions, and then there are prizes as well. So that’s a fun activity that you can do right from the Nature Center.  

And then one of the great things in wintertime is animal tracking. There are tracks everywhere in the snow and um, even tracks underwater because we know animals go under the ice. So, learning about what animals make tracks and how to look for them, and how to identify them so you can kind of learn a little bit more about what those animals are doing in the wintertime.  

Another activity happening at Haven Woods, which I mentioned before in Milwaukee, is Winterfest. They have a winter festival for families with all kinds of activities and they’re doing tracking as well, making your own animal tracks to take home and just coming out and having a great day to try snowshoes, and get out there and have fun. 

Host: So, tell me a little bit more about trying snowshoes. I know you mentioned the snow guided walk and a lot of participants might have snowshoes on during that event. So for someone who might be trying snowshoeing for the first time, what type of equipment rental programs do you offer and where can that be found?  

Yeah, we do have both rental and loaner programs. So, we do have the ability to just check out snowshoes without a cost at some of our properties. Haven Woods in Milwaukee and Devils Lake also offer the free loaner programs when their nature centers open. So just check the hours before you head out on that one.  

And then we have other properties where you can rent snowshoes, like Buckhorn State Park and Chippewa Moraine State Recreation Area, Copper Falls, way up north, um, High Cliff State Park, Kinnickinnic State Park, which is over towards Hudson, Lapham Peak, which is closer to Appleton, Perrot State Park, which is over on the western side of Wisconsin,  Wildcat Mountain, and Willow River State Park. So, lots of places scattered across the state that you can find and rent snowshoes. 

Host: I know you mentioned, you know, some events are designed for families in mind, but can you talk a little bit more about the various events that you’ve already described? Are children usually able to participate in all of those activities? And also pets. Should families bring everyone along? 

Guest: Yeah, good question. Alot of our activities are family friendly and open to youth, but some of them may be a little more distance to hikes and things like that, so if you have younger children, you may want to be sure you read the descriptions carefully. 

If you’re really not sure, contact the property ahead of time. They’ll gladly let you know what the details of the event are, especially if it’s a hike. But yeah, a lot of our activities are designed around the whole family and especially bringing pets. Pets are really fun to bring to the state parks and forests. The one thing to remember when bringing pets in the wintertime is a lot of our trails are youth designated. So if it’s a cross country skiing trail, that’s been groomed for cross country skiing, pets are not allowed on those trails, but we do allow them on our snowshoe and hiking trails. So just be sure you check the designation for the trail type before you head out. 

Host: Yeah, great guidance. Janet, could you talk a little bit more about the type of adaptive equipment that you have available at state parks for people with mobile disabilities? 

Guest: Oh, yeah, this is a really exciting program. I’m really glad you asked about our adaptive equipment. The Wisconsin DNR is really committed to providing universal access opportunities for all Wisconsinites, especially in winter, and several of our parks, forests, and trails offer a variety of options for people with disabilities, so they can enjoy the wintry outdoors too.  

So, we’ve been growing our fleet of equipment and just launched a new outdoor wheelchair program this summer where we have several chairs that have, um, different adaptations, a handful of them have tracks on them so they can go across different terrain and through the snow. So, these are outdoor wheelchairs that can be used year-round. 

So, we encourage people to make a reservation online and try out those chairs. So those are available at Buckhorn State Park, Peninsula State Park, and Point Beach State Forest, and Catamaran State Forest at Pike Lake. We also have cross-country sit skis and that’s a fantastic opportunity for people with mobile impairments to try out cross-country skiing, and they’re available for free to use at Buckhorn, Catamaran State Forest Lapham Peak Unit, Mirror Lake State Park, and Richard Bong State Recreation Area in the southeast part of Wisconsin.  

I also want to mention that several of our playgrounds now have universally accessible equipment on them and can be used in the wintertime as well. So, children may want to check out those playgrounds with that inclusive playground equipment. 

Host: Are there typically costs associated with visiting state parks and a collaboration with the library to help provide more access to people who want to visit parks across the state? 

Guest: Yeah, good question. So there is an admission fee for most Wisconsin State Park System properties and state trails. It can be paid at a daily rate or you can purchase an annual pass that provides unlimited access during the calendar year.  For 2024, the admission passes go on sale on Black Friday and are good for the rest of this year and next year. 

So those make great holiday gifts. But if you’re looking for a first-time visit to a park or forest and you’re not really sure, you just want to try it out, or you want to check out those snowshoes for the first time and see if you like it. We do have a new program called Check Out Wisconsin State Parks at Your Library. It launched in 2022 and it’s a collaboration with the DNR, Department of Public Instruction, the Wisconsin Association of Public Libraries, and the Friends of Wisconsin State Parks. And the idea there is to reduce barriers for people who want to do a first-time visit to state parks and forests, and maybe they’re not able to pay the fee, or they just want to give it a try and see if it’s, it’s the right thing for them. 

And they can go to the library and check out a free day pass, and that gives them a one time, one day opportunity to check out all the things that we’ve been talking about and really get out there in the winter.  And they can check those out from their library right in their community. We do have a list of all of those libraries on the DNR website, so you can check out and see if your library has this program. And if not, maybe ask them if that’s something they might have in the future. 

And I also want to point out that a lot of our libraries have equipment and things that you can use to enjoy the outdoors. So, you might be able to check out some binoculars or a backpack with bird ID books. Um, so all kinds of things. So, ask your library what they might have to help enjoy winter recreation. And I do know that some of them have snowshoes. And I’ve heard that a couple of them have bicycles, and I don’t know if they have winter fat bicycles, but maybe that’s something to come. 

Host: Oh, excellent resources. Great idea to just tap into that and see what is available. 

I’ll be sure to link to the DNR page that our listeners can access in our episode show notes.  So outside of planned winter events, what are some other ways that our listeners can be more active when visiting state parks on their own or with their family and friends this season?  

Guest: Yeah. Um, I would say to go online and check out our winter exploration maps. We have a variety of maps for different regions in the state that show where you can check out that equipment or what’s available, and that gives you a lot of good ideas. But if you’re just passing by on the road and you want to drop in and visit a lot of our properties, you have a park map and a newspaper that describes all the types of things you can do in different seasons. And it might even have some activities in the newspaper. Um, so you can check those out. And then we also have kiosks at our trailheads where you can read more about what’s available along the trail. Maybe it’s a nature trail where you can stop and read interpretive signs. 

So, check out those different things if you have the ability to do a little bit of planning before you hit the trail. Also, some of our properties have nature centers that are open in the wintertime, so check the hours and you may be able to drop into a nature center and do a little hands-on exploration with some of the fun things that you can find there. 

We also have a program called Wisconsin Explorer and it’s for kids, ages three through nine and they can either download a booklet from our website or pick up one at the park office when it’s open and that will have lots of  variety of observational activities that kids can do  any time of year,  so I would encourage folks to plan that way and then also prepare, if you take a picnic lunch out with you to visit a property, which I really like to do, even in the wintertime, either use reusable items or be sure to bring a garbage bag. 

We have a pack-in, pack-out rule at the park. So be prepared. Also, I would recommend being prepared and dressing for the weather to dress in layers. With a wicking layer on the bottom, a warmth layer, and then a wind and water-resistant layer on the outside. That’s going to help you be warm and comfortable as you hike or explore the park.  

Host: Excellent resources and tips. Thank you so much, Janet. I really appreciate you joining us and for all of these ideas and motivations to help us stay active this winter. 

Guest: Thanks. I’m looking forward to OutWiGo this winter and you can find out more on the DNR website. 

Host: Fantastic. Thanks. We’ll again have that linked in our episode show notes. Thank you so much for joining us today. 

Guest: Thanks, Renee. 

Host: Remember the million steps challenge from years ago? It’s coming back in January, except now it’s about way more than steps. Just move for a million. That is move the equivalent of 1 million steps in ways that work well for you. Check your inbox for more information, including unique seasonal activity ideas in the beautiful state of Wisconsin, right where you belong.  

Do you have a goal to increase your activity level this winter or try a new way to move? WebMD Health Coaches connect you with a real person who cares about your well-being. Hear how coaching impacted a fellow Well, Wisconsin participant’s life. 

Coaching Participant: Hi, I have really enjoyed health coaching. Um, I’m at a point in my life where my metabolism has changed and some of my life has changed with kids going off to college and I was able to lose 30 pounds this year with a lot of positive feedback, support, suggestions from the team of coaches. I’ve just completely appreciated all of their input and positivity. It’s really been extremely helpful and I’m so grateful. 

Host: In 2024, we’re offering new specialties, so coaching is more tailored to your individual needs than ever before. Get started today by calling 800-821-6591, or send a confidential message on webmdhealth.com/wellwisconsin.  

Thanks for listening today. I hope you enjoyed this show. You can find our survey in the Well, Wisconsin portal and our transcripts and previous episodes at webmdhealthservices.com/wellwisconsinradio. If you’re listening to this podcast on your platform of choice, be sure to subscribe so you’ll never miss an episode. 

Show Notes

Looking for motivation as you plan to move for a million this winter? Don’t miss our latest Well Wisconsin Radio episode—Moving Outdoors this Winter with Janet Hutchens. Our expert from the Department of Natural Resources shares ideas for movement and education this winter in Wisconsin State Parks, including candlelight hikes, the OutWiGo snow event and much more. Discover how you can get free entry to state parks, try out equipment like snowshoes and access adaptive equipment.

Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

WebMD Health Coaching: 
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This information in this podcast does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. It should not be used as a substitute for healthcare from a licensed healthcare professional. Be sure to consult with your healthcare provider for individualized treatment or before beginning any new program.

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