Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Take a Hike!

Entrance to the wooded trail at Jackson Park
 I'm working on losing that winter weight that seems to hit me every year, so I thought it would be a good time to check out a few of the hikes shown on the Park People website.  These hikes are created by  Brian Russart, the parks natural areas coordinator and his crew.  As I write this, there are nearly 30 hikes in various county parks.  If you click on the link, you'll find a list of parks, and when you select a park, an aerial map comes up with detailed drawings of multi-use trails, current hiking trails, and potential future trails.  These are printable, so you can take them with you to the park.

I decided to do Jackson Park first because I had never been there.  It was easy to spot the trailhead near the woods because of the large brown sign.  I had read in the Oak Leaf Birding Trail map that I might see some wildflowers in springtime, and I did indeed find some!  The trail itself was wet and muddy, so if you go this week, you may still need some sturdy shoes.  It can be easy to veer off the main path and end up on what may be deer paths.  Do be aware that this woods, and some of the others in our parks contain poison oak and ivy, so it's a good idea to wear long pants and avoid touching the plants as you walk off the trails.  There are some good signs on this particular board that show you what to look for.  I've included a couple of wildflower photos to inspire you to get out to Jackson Park.

Jacobus Park is another park I visit in springtime because of the wild flowers.  There are many trails there, but the one I've taken most often with my son Omar is the nature trail, just off the playground, which has interpretive signs.  It's not very long so it's easily done with children.  It's also stroller accessible.

Jacobus Park interpretive trail sign

If you need a little more motivation or enjoy hiking with friends, Wehr Nature Center has weekly hikes at 10:30 on Wednesdays, called "Hike for Health".  You can also pick up a copy of the Oak Leaf Birding Trail map here at the Center.   This is a unique hiking area because some of it is through wetlands.  You may see waterfowl, wildflowers, turtles, and all kinds of songbirds.  Often the staff naturalist is on hand to tell you what you are seeing or can help identify plants and animals.  The five miles of trails are also easily marked so you can do them on your own.  We like the boardwalk trail through the wetlands, or the hike from the nature center to the waterfall.  Parking is $3 if you come by car, though there isn't a cost for the organized hikes and you don't have to preregister.  Meet in the nature center lobby.

Omar runs through the wetland trail on the boardwalk
One of my favorite hikes is Seven Bridges trail  in Grant Park, and this is definitely the best time to go if you like seeing woodland trillium in bloom.  Park at the entrance to the Covered Bridge and walk down the steps to follow the creek.  This will give you access to the beach as well, where you can walk the length of beach and end up at the bath house.  If you continue, you can make it a circular hike back to the parking lot at the bridge via the paved Oak Leaf Trail.  I've often seen deer in this area.
Trillium in bloom
There's a great paperback book, written by Kevin Revolinski, Best Easy Day Hikes: Milwaukee Guide Book.  You can pick up the book for about $5 on Amazon.  The complete list of hikes is available for review at the book link.  It was this book that got me hooked on hiking in the area.

Wherever you decide to go, I hope you will get out and do a little hiking this spring.  There's something to see in so many of the parks right now. It feels good after such a long winter.
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