Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Poetry in Juneau Park

Fall is a beautiful time to get into the parks and there's another great reason coming up this weekend.  Come listen to native American poets recite poetry by the Solomon Juneau statue in Juneau park.  This is one of the best views you'll get of the lakefront.  I wrote about this park a couple years ago, but it's always a favorite of mine.

Sponsored by Juneau Park Friends, this is the second poetry event in this park.  The first was well attended.  Bring your blanket and snacks.  If you enjoy geocaching, there is a cache here, so maybe you want to make that part of your weekend adventure.  This park with 2 statues is also part of the City Walk: Monuments and Statues Tour in Milwaukee.  If it's a nice day and you feel like getting some exercise, this is the starting point.

Follow the Facebook page for Juneau Park Friends for more information about events in this park.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Another Accessible Playground in Franklin

It's fantastic to see so many beautiful crowdsourced accessible playgrounds going up near Milwaukee.  I wrote recently about the grand opening happening this weekend for Kenosha Dream Playground.  Now here's another!!!  The latest addition is called Kayla's Krew and it has a grand opening tomorrow, October 9 at 5:30 PM.  The park will remain open until 8:30. Take a look at the Facebook page for many more photos of the community build.  I haven't been there yet, but it sure looks fantastic!

This playground is located at Franklin Nature Center, 3723 W. Puetz Road, Franklin.  Though there isn't parking onsite yet, there will be a shuttle from the Milwaukee County Sports Complex from 4:30 until 9 for the grand opening.

You can read more about the playground and make donations at the link at the City of Franklin website.  Thought it has been built, it will require maintenance and your donations will help with that.

In future there will be another accessible playground built at St. Francis, provided funding is raised.  Follow the Facebook page for St. Francis All Abilities Playground on Facebook to stay up to date on that project.  

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Villa Terrace Fall Gardens and a New Exhibit

I'm certain you've driven past that huge black iron gate near Bradford Beach and wondered what those gardens and home look like close up.  This is a great week to find out.  There's a new exhibit opening and the museum will be free to the public.  New Hanji- a Korean Paper Tradition begins October 9 at 6:00.  Get there as early as possible to take advantage of free admission and the light just before sunset.  Often the sky is at its best just before sunset which is 6:25 PM.  You'll sometimes see reflected light in the clouds over the lake and the view from the patio at the rear of the home is stunning with all the fall foliage.

Opening Reception
Friday, October 9, 6-9 PM
Free admission sponsored by Chris and Christopher Adams
Korean artists Haemija Kim and Kumgang Seunim will be there for the reception

Special events here are really done well.  I especially love to come for coffee and music at the cafe on weekends.  These are held the first Sunday of the month at their Cafe Sopra Mare. I have taken my son with me but it is a small space and unless your child can sit very still, it's probably more of an adult destination.

Even if you can't make it to the exhibit during the grand opening, this is worthy of the admission fee of $7, or only $5 for seniors and veterans. Get more information about tours and open hours at the website. You'll want some time to walk through the lovely  Renaissance Garden. It's kind of a hike up and down the staircase or hillside.  So much work is done here by volunteers who weed and tend the plants.  You can help do this too.  Ask while you are there.

There are outdoor yoga classes every Sunday at 8:30 AM through fall, weather permitting.  What a relaxing, beautiful setting this would be.

Be sure to take notice of the black and white stones in the entry, set in a mosaic pattern.  Those were collected from the beach by the children who lived here when it was being built.  Can you imagine how many trips that took?

You can't enter/exit from the lake side of the museum.  You'll need to find parking on the street at the building entrance on Terrace Avenue.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Lynden Sculpture Garden- Breathtaking in fall

I remember the first time I stopped in to see Lynden in Fall. I was blown away by the colors reflected in the pond and appreciated all the sculptures in my photos.  Every year I make it back at this time.  If you've never been here, you need to make this a destination in the next 2 weeks.  You might clean up the kids a bit and get some nice family photos here too.

This is the former home of Harry & Peg Bradley but is now a private park with art.  The program seems to grow every year, and if you're an educator, you need to check out the Free Educators Day on October 18, where you can explore how art can be used in curriculum.  Bring your family with you!  On the same date, you get a rare opportunity to walk through the gardens with a tree expert who can share information about the trees and answer nature questions. Autumn Tree Walk with Sharon Morrisey.

If you have a dog, there's a dog day every month where pooches are welcome.  I borrowed a dog once and found this is a great way to keep the geese population down.

Admission is $12 for adults and $8 for children.  You can become a member if you plan to visit more frequently, starting at $40.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Cemetery Tours Not to be Missed at Forest Home

October and cemeteries just go together and that's why I'm excited to give you a couple reasons to get into one of my absolute favorite places- Forest Home Cemetery.  This is full of a wide variety of trees and plants- more diverse than any place in the region.  You're going to see lots of color in the next week or so.  It is also home to anyone who was someone back in the early days of Milwaukee- mayors, businessmen, beer barons.  You can take a self guided tour, but if you're lucky to get on to one of the guided tours during October, you should be thrilled!
The Blatz family grave

A beautiful bridge in fall

Brew City Safari has walking tours year round.  Check out the website for a complete listing of what's to come.  You need to be somewhat fit for these tours.  October 17 they will be hiking Forest Home Cemetery.  This one is considered a beginner tour at 3 miles long and goes from 1PM - 4 PM.  A donation of 2 canned/packaged food goods is requested.  If you enjoy tales and/or photography, you're going to get plenty of both with this tour.  You can join at the event on Facebook called Brew City Safari; Forest Home Cemetery Tour.

Historic Milwaukee Inc. is offering a Halloween tour on October 30 at 5 PM.  This event will definitely sell out and there is no waiting list.  Be prepared to book online October 8 at 9 AM.  This link is for the tour page, but on the date, expect an additional live link to sign up.  Bob Giese is the tour guide.  I've been on tours with him and he just knows everything there is to know about anyone buried there...and then some.  I'm certain this one won't be as strenuous as the Brew City Safari hike, but the terrain is uneven and rolling so a pair of comfortable shoes is a must and I'd dress in layers.

If you're not able to make these tours, go anyway.  Just pick a day when the sun is shining and look at the fall colors.  You won't even need to get out of the car if you don't want to.  Download a map at the cemetery website to find out where people are buried if you like.

Since you're in the neighborhood, also make a stop at St. Luke's Hospital, 2900 W. Oklahoma.  Take the patient elevators to the 9th floor and get off at the Healing Garden.  You will get the best view of Milwaukee and the Menomonee Valley from up here.  There's even a viewer to see things a bit closer.  You can park in the parking garage, but I usually park across the street at Leon's Custard...well, you know why.  It's open 11 am-midnight every day.  Just eat your custard before you go upstairs.  No food or drinks allowed.
View in fall at sunrise from the Healing Garden

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Take a Nature Field Trip with an Expert

I went on a field trip with Brian Russert, Milwaukee County Parks Natural Areas Coordinator, a few years ago and learned more than I ever imagined.  He's a walking, talking expert on all things that grow in these parks.  We saw salamanders, wildflowers, poison ivy, birds, and just had a great walk with fellow nature lovers. His crew has been doing nature hikes to various parks this year and there's still time to get on one now that the fall foliage is going to peak.

This is a great time to get into a park with an expert

You can view the complete file about what the hikes are and how to pay.  The easiest way is to pick up the phone and reserve a space for one of the last three hikes left. No matter which one you select, it's certain to be worth your while.

Tuesday, Oct. 6, 9:30-11:30 a.m. - Exploring the Forked Aster Trail at Franklin Savannah in Franklin Park
Saturday, Oct. 17, 9-11 a.m.  Autumn Birding in Grobschmidt Park
Saturday, Oct. 31, 9-11 a.m. Invasive Species at Grant Park

Here's an excerpt about payment:

Programs are limited to the first 15-20 people registered. Hiking conditions vary by site, from easy walking to strenuous hiking. Participants should check conditions when registering.
Registration and payment must be received three days before the program date. The program fee is $15 per person over 12; $10 per person age 2-12 or 60 and better. Children under 2 are admitted free. Credit card payments may be made by phone at (414) 257-6521 or in person at Parks Administration, 9480 Watertown Plank Road, Wauwatosa. The Public Services Office at Parks Administration will also accept payments of cash or check. 

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Salmon Swimming Upstream in Milwaukee River Now

It's officially Salmon migration time for the Milwaukee River Parks.  If you're a fisherman, check the local fishing reports to see what comments are being made about fishing at a particular spot.  I'll add a link here for fishermen...or those who just enjoy a good story about fishing.  There was an active blog that first got me looking for salmon on the river back in 2010 called Seeking Trout.  The link I've provided is for that story they wrote about fishing the Milwaukee river for salmon. It has some good photos and video. The blog doesn't seem to be active any longer but the stories about fish from many interesting locations are there for the reading.  It may give you some fishing tips too. This is also a good time to drive to Kewaunee or Racine to see the DNR fish facilities where they collect eggs.

If you're like me and just enjoy seeing the fish jump, check out the places in the river where you can find rapids or small waterfalls. The fish begin their journey up river from Lake Michigan in late September.  These are what some people call "half dead' fish.  When the river is shallow, as it is now, they get beat up on the rocks which only makes it worse.

There's a spot near North Avenue bridge where the water is full of rapids and rocks.  I was there a few weeks ago and since then, there is a new mural under the bridge, so you get to see fish and art at the same time.  It was a community mural project done for the Urban Ecology Center at Riverside Park and displays birds found in the Milwaukee area.  I borrowed a photo from my friend's Facebook page to give you a preview.  You can access this place by taking the East Bank Trail from the Rotary Centennial Arboretum. You can also download a complete map, which includes this bridge, from that link.

As you go upstream from here, the next good viewpoint is at Hubbard Park in Shorewood.  Stop in and have a cool drink at the Beer Garden if it's open.  You'll see nice foliage here in the coming weeks. too. This is a great place for Friday Fish Fry or Sunday brunch at Hubbard Park Lodge.

The Estabrook and Kletzsch Parks have smaller waterfalls.   I've written before about these parks during the salmon run and you can read that blog here.

To get to the Estabrook waterfall, take the stairs down below the beer garden.  This park gets very busy on a nice weekend, and the parking lot fills up. It's a prime location for dogs, skateboarding, biking, and disc golf.  There's also a nice playground. The fishermen tell me the fish are easier to catch closer to Capitol Drive.

Kletzsch park has the best opportunities for both viewing and catching fish.  Fish are caught here before they make the jump where they pool among rocks. Unfortunately, this tends to be really messy with careless  people who leave their fish guts and garbage behind.  Hopefully that won't happen this year, but you've been warned. You can park along the roadway at Kletzsch or there is a parking lot closer to the playground.
Kletzsch waterfall with a salmon in the air

Estabrook waterfall

Estabrook Beer Garden
Hope you enjoy seeing some fish this fall!  Let me know how your outing goes by commenting!

Friday, October 2, 2015

Scenic Drives using the Fall Color Report

It's often difficult to know exactly when to drive somewhere to see the changing fall colors, but when you plan to make a day of it, it's good to know what is going on from somebody local.  Travel Wisconsin posts a Fall Color Report that includes the percentage of foliage that has peaked.  You can look at a county and see by the color, whether it has pretty foliage.  If you know a county is peaking, then you can look for large wooded areas and lakes within that county for the prettiest views. Sometimes users will post photos along with reports and you can see where they went to take the photo.  It's an interactive map.

There are three especially scenic drives I would recommend.  It says peak color will be during the 2nd week of October, so if you can do it then, you'll likely be rewarded with some great views.  I've done them in the past, so the photos you will see are not from this year.

The first is always an annual trek for us.  Holy Hill.  It is a beautiful Catholic Church set atop a hill in the Kettle Moraine.  You can hike the Ice Age Trail here if you're up to the challenge.  Click on the link given and you will find a downloadable map you can take with you.  Though there will probably be many other hikers, it's always a good idea to let someone know you're doing the hike, just in case you get lost. Sometimes I go off on a weekday on my own and forget to do that...then realize there is no cell phone coverage in this area. You can also pick up apples while you are there.  Check out Pine Hill Orchard or Rim's Edge Orchard.  Years ago there was a helicopter ride given by the apple stand on the way to Holy Hill, but it didn't last very long.  People who lived there didn't appreciate the noise of a helicopter overhead.  Now you get the best views by climbing the tower at the basilica.  Good luck!

The Kettle Moraine Scenic Drive has been listed in books as one of the most scenic drives in America, and rightfully so.  There's a diversity of trees, rolling hills, and a few opportunities to climb towers to see what's below you. Allow several hours to do this and expect there to be traffic.  You can always stop along the way and take a short hike.  Depending on how much of the drive you do, you'll have opportunities to climb at Lapham Peak or Parnell Towers. This is a good way to stretch your legs and once you're at the top, you can see for miles on a clear day.

The third is Old World Wisconsin.  I have yet to visit during fall, but it's on my list for this year.  This is a beautiful natural setting any time of year, and it's even more fun for families because of the historical buildings and costumed volunteers.  It's only open Thursday -Sunday during October and there is an admission charge.  I'd advise you check out the website before you go to see what events are happening.  They do run a shuttle between villages and the parking lot, but you can choose to walk.  If you do this, you might consider dressing in layers and wearing some comfortable shoes.

I'll throw in a few more, though they are a bit farther away and I've written them on my other blog which is more of a travel blog.

A few years ago we drove to Columbia County to see the Amish homesteads.  If this is your thing, you'll enjoy seeing shops, buggies, and beautiful gardens at the general store.  Go early in the day so you can get fresh bakery.  You can download a map of the Amish businesses and places of interest at the Columbia County Visitor Bureau.

If you haven't seen the cranberry bogs up near Wisconsin Rapids, it's a beautiful destination, though we stayed overnight so we could do the tours of the fields. I learned so much and thoroughly enjoyed the student run tour Splash of Red at Pittsville. The best place for information about the whole cranberry experience is the Cranberry Growers Association website. The season runs through most of October, but if you combine a tour with the fall colors in mid month, it's even better for photography. Make time to drive the Cranberry Highway and you might see fall color, cranberry fields, and migrating birds too.

Drive to Sauk County to see the rolling hills and experience the The Farm Art DTour. Held in a different location of Sauk County every year, the Fermentation Fest has a variety of things to see and do, but you can download the driving tour at the website and see it any day October 2-11. It is 50 miles but because you will be stopping to see things, maybe take some photos, and driving scenic roads, it will take more than an hour.  Someone told me they did all the stops and it took them 4 hours...just so you plan enough time before it's dark.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Wehr Nature Center- the Perfect Fall Destination

It's officially fall so I'm going to dedicate the next couple of weeks to my favorite fall locations within an hour of Milwaukee.  Today, let's kick it off with Wehr Nature Center.  This center is located in Whitnall Park.  It's one of the smaller nature centers as far as building size goes, but packs a big punch when it comes to activities, mainly due to the 400+ volunteers who plan and participate in events. Admission is free unless it's a special event.  Parking will cost you $3. There's a fantastic gift shop with a variety of gift ideas for anyone who enjoys gardening, nature, hiking, or the outdoors in general.
Look up for some color too
The best place to find out about what's going on is the Friends of Wehr website. Click on upcoming events and you'll see a calendar.  There are some regular adult groups that meet, like the Wild Ones local chapter and the Wehr Photography Club. You can hike every Wednesday morning with the group that hits the trails for exercise, called Hike for Health.  For kids and their adults, check out Little Wonders and NatureNauts- preschool programs that get your kids outdoors and teach them to explore the world around them.

The Wehr Astronomical Society meets monthly and you can follow them on their Facebook page for more information.  They have invited some pretty interesting speakers in the past so if you enjoy anything to do with stargazing or astronomy, check them out.

This weekend is one of my favorite events- Cider Sunday.  It's an annual fundraiser.  Only one day- Sunday, October 4, 11:30-4:30.  Admission is $3, or get an annual membership for $25 individual/$35 family and you pay nothing.  Even parking is free for members.  There are opportunities to make apple cider, listen to music, hike the five miles of trails, bid on silent auction items, and do some crafts with the kids.  Be sure to get a look at the pond some time this season as the trees surrounding it turn color. No fishing is allowed here.  You will likely see a variety of birds, frogs, and turtles.
Kids love cranking the apple press

The other fall event that is really fun and often sells out is the Halloween Haunts.  This night time hike is for kids ages 4-10 (and adults who love to watch kids).  Volunteers dress up and post themselves out in the woods.  You need to purchase tickets in advance and it's held rain or shine.  We've gone a few times and really enjoyed it.

If you are at the nature center, why not hike to the waterfall?  It's very pretty in fall and if we've had much rain, it's really going to flow.  You can actually get down to the bottom of the falls and take some nice photos. Wear a bright color (other than yellow) so you stand out against the fall colors of the trees.

Check out Wehr Nature Center and find out what would make hundreds of people want to volunteer.  I think you'll love what you see!