Thursday, April 30, 2015

Where to see Spring Flowers

Spring is really taking some time to get here.  I was hiking at Seven Bridges Trail today and found very few wild flowers in bloom.  I know they are coming though.  Get ready for it! Trillium can be found in many of the park ravines if you look for them.
Trillium at Estabrook near the Milwaukee River

Wild flowers in bloom at Grant Park's Seven Bridges Trail
Villa Terrace Decorative Arts Museum has lovely grounds.  It won't be long and there will be a sea of daffodils on the hillside behind the museum.  If you want to see it for free, go on May 3 from 11-4, when the Milwaukee Museum Mile offers free admission to 5 museums- including two that are in parks- Villa Terrace and North Point Lighthouse.  North Point Lighthouse is always a treat too, and you can get in for reduced admission on this date.  $3 adults and $1 per child.  Take the opportunity to climb the stairs into the tower and see the lake before leaves cover all the trees.
Villa Terrace

Shorewood Nature Preserve is a bit tricky to find because it's just a slice of land stuck in between houses, but if you venture down the narrow path to the lake, there will be a sea of blue flowers in the woods to welcome you.  This is also a great place to see migrating birds, both in the trees and on the shoreline.  3600 Lake Drive.  Look for the small wooden sign and pay attention to on-street parking regulations, because they vary by time of day and day of week.
Shorewood Nature Preserve
Boerner Botanical Gardens just opened officially last week. It's a treat to go there no matter what is blooming, but I especially enjoy the sea of tulips they have on display.    Once these bloom, you can be sure there will be something to look at every week throughout summer.  The garden cafe is open too, serving coffee, pastries, sandwiches, and salads from 10-2 daily.  Be sure to watch their newsletter or events page for interesting things to see and do.  This would be a great time to buy an annual pass so you can go back as often as you like.  Remember that once you are a member, you can visit other botanic gardens, and the Domes at Mitchell Park for free.
Tulips at Boerner 

So many beautiful colors!

Call me crazy, but another beautiful setting I enjoy is Forest Home Cemetery.  Long ago when cemeteries were first formed, they were considered parks.  People would pack up the family and a lunch and spend the day there enjoying the outdoors while paying respects to dead family members.  The landscaping here is very pretty.  I was here last year when the irises were in bloom and really enjoyed the show.  There are plenty of flowering shrubs as well. This is the burial place for many of the beer barons and famous people who started Milwaukee.  Take a docent led walking tour if you want to learn more, or download the tour map from their website, or follow the Facebook page for tours.

If you want a more natural setting, check out the trails at Grant Park Seven Bridges Trail, Wehr Nature Center, Jackson Park, or Jacobus Park Nature trail. You'll likely find trillium, marsh marigold, trout lily, bluebells, and wild ginger.  You don't really need to know plant names to enjoy the view.  Jacobus park has interesting signage to help you learn more about what grows in the woods which makes it even better.  Mangan Woods in Whitnall Park is a spot to see unusual red trillium. You can find more hiking trails at The Park People website.
Seen at Wehr Nature Center trails

Jackson Park has these beauties
I hope this has given you some ideas about where to see some pretty signs of spring.  There are just a few flowers now so give it another week or two and you'll be sure to find something. Where's your favorite spot?

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Make a National Park Your Next Destination

Kayaking at the Apostle Islands National Seashore
I'm planning a short weekend getaway to see the Washington DC Tidal Basin full of cherry blossoms soon. As I was following the progress of the buds, I found out about a new program to get more people into the national parks since 2016 is the 100th anniversary of the National Park System.  There will be centennial events across the nation and maybe you'd like to be part of that.  Spend a few minutes browsing the events planned already for this year and be inspired.

In Wisconsin, we don't have any national parks, but we have trails and a national seashore.  You can find parks nearest you at the Find Your Park website.   This could be useful as you plan your next vacation. You can also read the stories from people who are visiting the parks, or add your own story. You can also find trails and parks at the Wisconsin DNR, like the new 4000 mile North Country Scenic Trail that runs across the top of Wisconsin through seven states.

A few years ago I went to the Apostle Islands National Seashore and we did some kayaking and sailing on Lake Superior.  Let's use this as an example.  If you go to the Find Your Park map and click on the Apostle Islands, you'll get a directory of things to help you, such as the Plan Your Visit option. Once you're there, you will find even more links which include maps, camping information, and helpful tips.

One of many segments of the Ice Age Trail
Another Wisconsin option would be to hike or bike the Ice Age Trail.  This 1200 mile trail traces the glacier's edge.  If you try this in summer, be sure to bring mosquito repellent.  From the National Park website, you can follow links to local partners like the Ice Age Trail Alliance to find out about local events and how you can be more involved, if that's your desire.

Maybe you want to select a few parks that are outside of our area and plan a driving vacation for the summer.  We do this frequently and have a good time spending quality time in the car.  Last May I went to Yosemite and had a great time with my sisters.  Hey, it's a time for all of you to talk to each other.  How often does that happen?

Once you've decided on your destination, there are a couple other websites and apps that can be useful.  Oh Ranger Park Finder finds parks using your phone's GPS, so if you are seeking destinations for a playground, bathroom, or picnic area enroute, this will give you a list of options. Tripadvisor and Yelp can help you find everything from restaurants to lodging to attractions like museums in the area. Every Trail is a good resource when you want a map of a specific trail, like the Ice Age Trail.  Some of those hikes are within the boundaries of a national park.

Wherever you go, enjoy and feel free to share your vacation tips and photos!