Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Oak Leaf Trail Discovery Tour

Maybe you've been on a segment of the Oak Leaf Trail, either biking, walking, or just hiking.  Last year in celebration of 105 years of Milwaukee County Parks, they made a passport to the trail.  There's a blog post that tells a little about the original program and how it celebrated 105 days of summer.  Although I missed out on joining that venture, I'm looking forward to the Discovery Tour this year, and you can too!  They have added more to the program.  Seems like a fun way to get out and explore the parks!

This information is taken directly from the facebook page of the Oak Leaf Discovery Tour.

Get out, get active, and rediscover your Milwaukee County Parks Oak Leaf Trail. Get your Oak Leaf Discovery Passport and collect stamps and keywords from many unique locations. Register your passport for a chance to win prizes at the closing party.
Passports will be on sale starting on April 4, 2013 at the Wheel & Sprocket Bike Expo, The Park People Office, or Milwaukee County Parks Administration.

Strollerblading on the Oak Leaf Trail

Monday, March 25, 2013

Blue Bayou at the Domes

The latest seasonal floral creation is at the Mitchell Park Domes, and it's inspired by New Orleans blues.  You will see azaleas, hydrangea, tulips, and Easter lilies to name a few.  It smells heavenly! There are decorations like alligators and animals playing instruments.  This should make you feel like it's spring here in Milwaukee, even if it's only for a brief moment.  I stopped by for the free admission offered to Milwaukee residents.  You can visit every Monday from 9-noon, if you have an ID that shows you live in Milwaukee county.  Because it was just installed, only about half of the plants are blooming.  You may want to wait a week or two before going if your goal is to see it in full bloom.

Of course there are 2 other domes- desert and tropical.  They remain relatively unchanged during the year. The koi fish and the waterfall are a favorite photo stop for visitors to the tropical dome.

I also took a peek at the progress on the bike/pedestrian bridge at the rear of the Domes.  This will be the link to the Hank Aaron Trail and the new park, that I've written about previously.  It's looking good!  It will be fun to take a really long bike ride from the lake all the way to the Domes this summer.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Late Season Snowshoeing in Greenfield's Parks

It was a sunny day and just nice enough that I ventured out with my snowshoes to Greenfield.  If you haven't put yours away yet, there are still plenty of fine places to go.  I ended up checking out 2 parks in Greenfield that have wildlife trails and wasn't disappointed.  The nice thing about the city of Greenfield parks, is that you can see a slide show of every park from their city website.  Of course, all the photos are from summer, but that shouldn't stop you from taking a look before you go.

The first place I went was Konkel park. There's a large parking lot which is cleared, and a paved, cleared path to the nature trail that crosses Honey Creek and goes through the wetlands.  The only bad part about going for a long trek in winter is that all the toilets are often closed for the winter, and this was the case for this city of Greenfield park as well.  Bring your own water if you plan to stay long.  I'd say to keep this park in mind for later in the summer too, as they have an interpretive trail with signs along the boardwalk, but everything is frozen over now.  There was even a sign indicating a resident groundhog might be about.  I think he went back to sleep until winter is really over.  Spring is not here, even though the calendar says it is.

I also went to nearby Creekwood Park and followed the creek.  The creek is mostly frozen, but there is a smaller section that is flowing that is full of ducks- probably 50-60.  There is only on-street parking for this tiny neighborhood park.

Nature Trail at Konkel
No groundhog sightings today

Boardwalk covered in snow

Ducks at Creekwood Park

Currie Park Indoor Golf or Outdoor Sledding

Last year at this time, golf courses were already in use.  This year, all the courses are still snow covered, but that doesn't mean you can't start working on your golf game.  Currie Park in Wauwatosa has an indoor golf dome, open every day from 8 am-10 pm.  The rates vary depending on how long you're there and what day of the week.  You can buy a discount card for multiple visits too.  You might also check out the updated website for Milwaukee County's 15 golf courses.  It's brand new and includes photos, directions, and a list of all the courses.  You can even book tee times from the website.  Very nice!  Of course, it may be awhile before you can actually use a golf course, but for now, golf indoors.

Currie Park Golf Dome

This is going to be one of the BEST WEEKS all winter for sledding!!!  I was out sledding with my son at Kletzsch Park today and was impressed with the snow.  There's a hard layer covered by powder, and that's similar to what I saw at other parks as well.  If you love sledding, check out the sled hill at Currie Park.  It tends to be busy on the weekends.  If you have very young children, there are some smaller hills at the side of the parking lot that could be used to tow them up and down.   And if you need other options, be sure to check out this listing of sled hills in Milwaukee County parks.  You might notice that Kletzsch Park isn't listed on the county parks listing, and I'm not sure why.  The hill is just past the archery area, and you can see the snow is on the north side of the hill.

Another interesting fact about Currie Park is that it used to be an airport from 1919-1926!  You can read more about the history on the historic marker right next to the golf dome, or at this link from OnMilwaukee.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Trimborn Farm

View of the entire farm from the bluff above the lime kilns

Milwaukee County is probably one of very few to have a full farm inside of a county park.  That's what Trimborn Farm is.  It's on the national register of historic places and is a state historic site as well.  The buildings are open from May 15 - October 15, but you can use the park grounds all year round for free.  It's just a picturesque spot to do some hiking or view lime kiln if you have never seen them.  From approximately 1847 to 1899, the property was a lime producing farm, but later went on to convert to dairy farming, as was popular with so many places in Wisconsin at the time.  You can read more about the property's and family's history.  You can see a map of the grounds at the county parks website.

Parking is kind of difficult as there is a round driveway and some room to park on the shoulder of the road a bit farther down Grange Road.  As long as you are there, take a walk down the paved path along the street to the Jeremiah Curtin House, which is also on the property and has been conserved.  It's a great example of a home built with stone and lime.  You can read the brief history on a sign outside the property, which tells you that Jeremiah was born in Detroit of Irish immigrant parents, then came to Milwaukee in 1837 to join his mother's family.  They moved into this typically Irish stone house in the 1840s. He pursued languages and graduated from Harvard in 1863.  HIs command of Russian won him a position in the US Legation in St. Petersburg in 1864, thus launching his forty year world wide career as linguist, translator, ethnologist, folklorist, and diplomat.  This house is also open to the public during warmer weather, by appointment only.

Lime kilns where dolomite was wood fired
Stone barn

Threshing barn

Jeremiah Curtin house
If you're still interested in the history of the lime industry in Wisconsin, you might want to take a drive to neighboring Ozaukee county to see the Lime Kiln Park in Grafton.  You can read a brief history of that site before going, so you know what you are seeing.  Of course the huge lime kilns there take the limestone production to a completely different level.  It's very interesting to see.
Lime Kiln Park in Grafton

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Washington Park wins MANDI award

I've written a little bit about Washington Park in  previous posts about their pocket parks and the Urban Ecology Center there.  Now there's more to the story, as Washington Park recently won a MANDI award -Milwaukee Area Neighborhood Development Innovation- from the Brewers Community Foundation.  It awards a public space that contributes significantly to the overall well being of the community.  There's a great video at this youtube link, or click on the video below, that explains everything Washington Park has going for it now.  Take a look!

Even though it's the first day of spring and we should be celebrating sunshine and warmer weather, it's just not happening yet.  Maybe you want to stop by Washington Park and check out some snowshoes from the Urban Ecology Center and enjoy the snow while it's still here.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Winter sports in Milwaukee are almost done

Higher temps this weekend through next week will likely be an end to winter fun and we'll say hello to mud and slush.  If you want to get out your skis, skates, snowshoes one last time, you can always check out the Milwaukee parks page and sort activities by where they are available.

I know many of you were hoping the Door County Sled dogs might be making an appearance in Whitnall park again, but they are indeed finished for the season.  If you didn't get a chance to see them, go check out their page and enjoy the photos until next winter.

This would also be a good week for Lynden Sculpture gardens. It's especially lovely with fresh snow.  Weather permitting they do a weekend ice rink.  Remember this is a private facility and they do charge admission. They also have a variety of courses posted at their webpage if you want to be indoors.  And have you ever seen Cedarburg's covered bridge park with snow? It's one of the best sights ever! Then there's Schlitz Audubon Center with a roaring fireplace indoors. You can hike and enjoy hot chocolate afterwards for a small donation. All of these places have previous entries that you can read by searching within my blog. The  Urban Ecology Center  is still keeping a very busy schedule- everything from soapmaking to maple syrup.  Check out their schedule to see if there is something of interest.  Last but not least- how about Grant Park where you can hike the 7 Bridges trail?  There's also a fundraiser at Grant Park golf course on Sunday that includes a good helping of Irish food.

Enjoy the last of the snow! Spring will eventually come!

Good Bye!  Door County Sled dogs at Whitnall Park

Covered Bridge Park in Cedarburg

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Milwaukee River Walk

Take a walk on the "culture" side of Milwaukee.  You probably don't think of the Milwaukee River Walk as the place to get in some exercise during the winter, but it's excellent as long as you don't need to push a stroller (lots of stairs=not child friendly).  They do have an effort underway to add accessibility ramps and in some places today, I saw them.  They do a pretty good job at keeping it cleared and the view is nice, no matter where you go.  There are surprisingly very few people using it this time of year.  And did you know it made the 2011 list of Great Public Spaces as designated by the American Planning Association?

This beautiful walking space is about 3 miles long and runs on both sides of the river.  Where to start?  I like to park near Pere Marquette Park because it's kind of central to the river walk and you get free wifi at that park so if you're inclined to check in with yelp or trip advisor, you can see where you can walk for attractions or lunch.  There are also picnic tables and benches there with a nice view.  If you show up during office hours, the Milwaukee County Historical Society building is right there so you can visit and use the restrooms while you look inside.  If you've never been inside that building, put it on your list of great things to do.  It's a gorgeous old building with historical photos, books, and interesting architecture.  Plus, it gives you a nice view of the river walk.
view of river walk through Historical Society window (upstairs)
Unfortunately, no matter where you start, you'll probably have to pay for parking.  Free parking is tough to find, at least in the downtown area.  At least most spaces are available with credit card, so if you don't have cash, you can pay with plastic.  You could park at one of the riverfront restaurants, if you plan to eat.  Another option- take the bus and then you can start at one end and walk to the other, finding a bus stop nearby.  Have you tried Milwaukee transit's trip planner?  You can get maps and route information online.

Since the walk was created, there has been an addition of interesting sculptures, art work, and tiles.  There are several locations between Juneau and Wisconsin where you can pick up a free River Sculpture! 2012 card that tells you what you are seeing and where it's located.   The sculptures represented in it are made by Wisconsin artists.  There are also useful signs that include stories about the history of the river and the spaces along it.  I learned that students created the tiles you'll see under your feet as you walk.  They depict children's views of what the river represents.
The Fonz is at Wells St.
One of the tiles created by students

It was a bright sunny day today when I was there.  The river is frozen in most places, but there were few tracks on the ice.  The ones I saw were likely made by fox or coyotes, and waterfowl.  It makes it very picturesque.  Enjoy my photos and then go see it for yourself!  Another beautiful space we can be proud of!
A few geese were resting on the fresh snow
Look for these useful signs in the downtown portion of the walk 

So many beautiful buildings line the river

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Last chance to see Ice canoes

A field of bumpy ice canoes

Once in awhile we'll get a winter where there is lots of wave action and cold weather, which makes the waves along Lake Michigan freeze into what I've learned are called Ice canoes.  This year, I've been watching for ice canoes to appear, but they weren't there 2 weeks ago, and now they are, but they will quickly disappear with warmer temps and rain in the forecast for this weekend.  If you want to experience them this year, better hurry up!

They are visible from Bradford beach all the way to Ozaukee county.  I went exploring with my grandson today at Schlitz Audubon, which was the sure thing, since I had already seen some photos on their facebook page.  It's a common destination for some preschools in the area at this time of year because the younger kids are just the right size for sliding down the sides of these icy hills.  We just happened to arrive as several preschool classes from the center's own school were heading down.  My grandson thought it was great fun to be playing with kids near his own age.  Because they were somewhat fearless, he was willing to take some chances too.  It is a bit of a hike down to the lake, but I was surprised that most of the kids did it willingly.  The walk back up...not so easy.  Allow a little extra time if you're taking younger kids.  The trail to the bottom didn't have much snow on it so it was easy to walk.

Once you're at the lakefront, there are lots of slippery spots.  Try to stay on the land that is beach...because naturally Lake Michigan hasn't frozen all the way and you can see pieces of ice sloshing about just yards away from the frozen hills.  These are covered with snow, but they are basically large ice sculptures.

We also checked Doctor's Park, if you're looking for a free alternative.  If you go to Schlitz Audubon Center, they charge admission of $4-6 per person.  If you decide to walk there, I'd advise snow shoes.  It's a bit deep in places and the drive to the bottom hasn't been cleared, so you'll have to take a trail that is less traveled.  The snow is great at Doctor's  Park for making a snow man, if you need a side project.
Preschoolers sliding down the hills

A nice tunnel to crawl through

Near Bradford Beach, you get the addition of birds

There is also a very nice teepee made of driftwood logs- just big enough for kids to hide inside-
down at the beach by Schlitz Audubon Center