Saturday, October 22, 2016

The Healing Garden

Parks can be found in many strange places. We have one on the 8th floor of St. Luke's Hospital (2900 W. Oklahoma Ave) and it's open to the public.  With the entire valley out in front of you, it's a fantastic sight, especially with fall colors. Here's a photo from Saturday. Some trees are still green, but maybe leaves will fall before they color this year.

Called The Healing Garden, it was a labor of love, built with donations from both private and public donors.  It's a space where patients can enjoy the fresh air through the season.  There is even an indoor conservatory. Over 100 different varieties of plants are up here, including seasonal plants like mums now. There is an herb garden where you are encouraged to pick and smell. You'll notice sculptures as you make your way around the garden. Hours are 5 am- 9 pm. There's free parking in the garage. You'll have to make your way to the second floor from the parking garage elevator and find the patient elevators, then select the 8th floor.

The herb garden

Raised planters hold annuals and perennials
If you'd like to make a donation, you can have a brick placed in one of the planters. For more information, pick up a brochure in the Healing Garden, or call 877-460-8730.
Make an outdoor brick purchase
While you're up admiring the view, you might notice Leon's Custard is just across the street.  Make your way over there and bring cash (they don't take anything else) to try one of the best Milwaukee custards.
While you're in the neighborhood, Forest Home Cemetery is just down the street.  With an incredibly diverse selection of trees and plants, this is a fantastic fall destination. Here are a few photos from today, when we visited. Download a self guided tour at the website.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Sunrises, Salmon & Fall Hiking

So often our weekday mornings are hurried and we like to sleep in on the weekends, but this is the best time to get out and enjoy a sunrise before the time changes and the clocks fall back an hour on November 6. The sunrise is around 7 am, which isn't too incredibly early. We did this the other day and watched the sun rise at Klode Park in Whitefish Bay, but any of the lakefront parks are a good place to watch the sun rise. Armed with donuts and coffee, it made for a real treat!

Another great park for a sunrise is Big Bay Park in Whitefish Bay, which had some repairs done in the past week.  There's a new rain garden at the place water runs out of the bluff drainpipe, complete with plants and mulch. Several of the railings have been replaced and the stone steps cleaned up a bit.  It's quite nice, so if you stop there, be sure to take a walk through the woods. The sandy beach is now under water because Lake Michigan is so high.
Lake Michigan is quite high which eliminated the beach at Big Bay

new rain garden at Big Bay Park

Take the path less traveled through the woods and enjoy the new repairs
Fall also brings salmon upstream in our rivers.  I've been to both Estabrook and Kletzsch Parks this week and found them crowded with fishermen, clad in waders. Salmon are jumping where you will notice them at Kletzsch, while Estabrook you can't see them due to high water levels.  It's a fun fall activity to stand at the waterfall in Kletzsch and root for the fish.
Fall brings salmon fishing on the Milwaukee River
While you're at Kletzsch, do some fall hiking.  Go to the far north end of the park and you can pick up a trail near the picnic area. Estabrook also has the Milwaukee River Trail with some great views.  As you have a view of the river, you might notice fish jumping. These photos were taken early in the week, so with any luck, you'll see some more color.  It's a great time to be outdoors!
Milwaukee River at Estabrook Park

Monday, October 10, 2016

Kayla's Playground Celebrates One Year

I can't believe it took me an entire year to get to Franklin to check out Kayla's Playground, the all abilities play area.  I had read reviews on Google about how great it was, and for a kid, I have to say, this is awesome.  With just one way in/out, parents can also relax while kids play.
The entrance to two separate age appropriate play areas

The volunteers who built this playground have good reason to celebrate, and they came together in a public party on Sunday. Attendees could decorate cookies, enjoy a free soda or water, get a face painting, or even take a photo clad in fun costumes.  The sun was out and it was a great day.  We brought books to exchange in the little free library, which was full of some great kid selections.
Frosting cookies at the festivities

Loaded with kids books to swap
The playground deserves a little more attention, so I'll include a few additional photos just so you can appreciate what can be done here.  Maybe you'd like to have a kid/adult swing where you face each other?  How about a short climbing wall?  Or battle your kid on a session across some rings. They come in two heights so kids and adults can play together, which seems to be the bonus here. It was built with special needs in mind, however everyone benefits when they can play together.  There are ramps, special chairholding swings, and even a place on the carousel for a wheelchair. It's a unique space in the region.
Face to face swings for toddlers and caregivers

A climbing wall

Lots of climbing structures to chase friends or wheel them around on the ramps
There's a wooded nature trail and dogs are welcome as long as they are on a leash.  All the trails are easily done pushing a stroller or wheelchair- some are paved and others are crushed limestone.  In fall, I'd say this should be on everyone's hiking list.  Beautiful spot. Not too long. Parking is right next to the restrooms and playground. Definitely one of the best playgrounds in the Milwaukee area.  Go check it out with some kids.
Nature trails are very colorful in fall

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Discovering the Lakefront by Bike

McKinley Beach

Fall is a great time to bike the Oak Leaf Trail, especially the lakefront portion. This can be quite busy on weekends, so you may find it easier to ride on the roadway, especially if you're not biking with kids. I did this last week and really enjoyed it.  You can pick up a rental bublr bike at Discovery World, if you live out of town or don't have a bike.  You won't really need a map for this trail, but if you want to check it out, get the new county parks map at Park People, or see the older city link.
Bike rack in front of Discovery World

Lakeshore State Park has a new system with signs showing codes which can be read by a reader on your smart phone.  It's a nice walk or bike through the park at any time. I chose to hike this portion and listened to the history and a bit about the animals one can see at the park. There are some pretty asters and black eyed susans in the natural plantings across the park, so you may see butterflies and bees enjoying them. There's free parking at the south end of the park, as well as portable toilets, so if you plan to do the trip I'm suggesting, park here. Look for the red lighthouse. Then walk the park, pick up a bike, and ride along the lakefront.

Beautiful flowers
Be sure to take a few minutes to play the wooden benches out in front of Discovery World on the way to the Bublr rack.  Everyone is a musician.  Those tall silvery sculptures are interactive too.  This art installation is called Wind Leaves. Set off on the trail in front of the Art Museum and ride through Veterans Park.  Here you can still get a snack at the kite shop on the weekends. If it's closed, Colectivo at the lakefront is a great choice as you head past McKinley Marina.  If you feel up to it, walk out on Government Pier- that long slab of concrete that goes into the lake. Beware if it's windy though as the waves can splash you right off of it. As I visited McKinley beach, there were only geese. They left lots of footprints. For an extra workout here, cross Lincoln Memorial and go up the stairs which lead to Back Bay Park. There's a new little free library on the street side of this small neighborhood park.
Find your inner musician


From here, you can head up towards Bradford Beach, but stop at the exercise station for a quick workout on the way. Past Bradford Beach is the entrance to Lake Park on the opposite side of the street. Look for the new lighthouse ravine signs which indicate a rustic trail which goes up to the lighthouse. This park has been very busy with Pokemon players, so if you're a fan, play along. You can go up one trail and come down on the other, just for a change of scenery. It's a bit overgrown, but perfectly safe and very pretty with flowers now. On weekends, Northpoint Lighthouse is open for tours, and sometimes you can climb the tower for a great view.
Do a few situps here

rustic trail with stone steps
Northpoint Lighthouse open on weekends
Now you've experienced a few lakefront parks and hopefully enjoyed your ride.  It's time to turn around and get back to your car.  If you still have the time, take a few minutes to climb to the upper side of O'Donnell Park after you park your rental bike. Most people know it because it's in front of Betty Brinn Children's Museum. There's a car park underneath.  You'll have a good view of the Art Museum from up here, as well as the lakefront you've just biked. This park will one day belong to the Art Museum and a sculpture garden may be part of the future.  Watch the Facebook page for MKE Lakefront Plaza to see what happens with the new lakefront development. 

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Apples, Pumpkins, and Fall Adventure

Every year I like to explore some outdoor places near Milwaukee in Fall. A few years I've done the Kettle Moraine Scenic Drive. That's always a good choice when color is at peak since it has many places to climb towers, hike around lakes, and enjoy the trees surrounding the roadway. Holy Hill is another place I've visited.  It's fun to climb the tower and look out at the surrounding area which can be full of color in October. Last year I went to Kenosha's parks and pumpkin farm. This year it was Colgate.

Now some of you may not even have heard of this rural town, northwest of Milwaukee, but it's worth a visit.  I'll guarantee you a day of fun in the outdoors. Our first stop was at an organic apple orchard, which is only open on weekends, Peck & Bushel. Be sure to check the link to find out what variety of apple is available and to see hours for the weekend you plan to visit.  You don't have to pick your own apples.  Next to the field where you park is a building full of apples already picked, as well as juice, honey, and some other products. The price seemed to be the same for "picked" or "pick your own." You purchase a bag and walk the short trail through the woods to the orchard where you'll find trees planted by varieties.

The trees that are not pickable will be roped off. It only took a few minutes to pick our own.  If you've never picked organic apples, you may be surprised that the apples do not resemble those you find in the supermarket.  Many are misshapen, discolored, or spotted. Don't be alarmed.  These are better for you and look prettier once you've washed them at home. We make our own apple juice and these came out tasty as juice. The apple experts are on hand to advise you about which varieties are better for cooking vs. eating.

From the orchard, we drove to Monches Farm.  This is combination gift shop, pumpkin farm (in fall), and nursery. We bought some squash and pumpkins for cooking, and even picked up a few gifts in the shop which has a wide selection of very cool things.  Allow enough time to browse.  You can get perennials and mums here.  Ask for chicken feed and let the kids go find the chickens, which come in many colors and varieties.  They are really fun to watch and feed. This weekend is their Fall Festival from 9-5, so you will find lots of interesting craft vendors, music, and produce for sale. It will certainly put you in the mood for Fall.
Happening this weekend

So Many Varieties!
The last stop was at Spectacular Sculptures.  I have been here a few times before.  Every time I've visited, I see he's done more amazing work.  The entire place is the artist, Paul Bobrowitz's, home and yard, and each part is filled with metal pieces. I have a bird bath and sculpture in my own yard at home. You can browse for free. You may get lucky and find him at work. If you see something you'd like to take home, go knock on the door.  Donations are welcome and you'll see a box for those at the driveway.

Look for the sign and follow the arrows
Where are your favorite Fall destinations?  I'd like to hear.  

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Villa Terrace Renaissance Garden

If you're willing to pay $5-7 (they discount for military, seniors, and students), Villa Terrace is a great place to see a beautiful garden and get some serious exercise. Known for its beautiful Neptune gate and water stairway, which are seen from Lincoln Memorial Drive, it's a home that was turned into a museum.Though I always enjoy seeing the current art on display, I enjoy the garden even more.
Beautiful lily pads

Neptune gate crafted by local craftsmen

Water cascades down the stairway

Take a look at the stone floor as you enter the courtyard at the front of the museum. Each stone was collected by the children who lived here when it was built.  They would walk to the beach and carry back stones which were arranged in patterns with the plants and statue you see here today. This was obviously long before the arrival of technology which keeps kids inside much more frequently now. I love it.
Stones from the nearby beach

A courtyard similar to those seen in Italy

The Renaissance garden requires volunteers to keep it looking so good, so if you have some free time to spare and enjoy being outdoors doing gardening a few times a year, consider volunteering here. I was here to get some exercise, so I went up/down the stairs a few times...with numerous pauses to reflect on the beauty. Actually I just had to catch my breath and try to keep my heart from jumping out of my chest. It's a good workout. There used to be a working elevator chair, but it's been out of order for some time.
Elevator doesn't work 

Some challenging steps
Every Sunday at 8:30, June through October there's yoga on the terrace. For a suggested $10 donation, join one of the rotating teachers for a good workout.  Some are themed, so check the calendar. This runs through October 30. You don't have to be an expert, just be willing to try. All levels are welcome, rain or shine.

Cafe Sopra Mare begins their winter schedule of monthly classical music on October 2 at 10 AM, with coffee and treats available for purchase. The music is free. This can get quite crowded, and I've found it's best enjoyed in adult company.  Why not check out one of these monthly concerts and see the grounds at the same time? I believe Fall is a great time to enjoy the gardens. It won't be long and all the trees will be turning color.