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Posts Tagged ‘Parks’

  1. Animals In Winter

    January 23, 2015 by admin

    IMG_2739 We don’t let winter keep this TR family indoors.  There are many great, fun things to do outside during the winter: sledding, building snow forts, conducting science experiments, and more!

    A fun adventure we enjoy is to go on a winter hike.  Hiking in the winter is a different experience than going during a warmer season.  For one thing, you have to dress right.

    You might think there are fewer animals to see in winter.  A lot are hibernating and many others migrate.  There aren’t a ton of critters left to observe, right?

    Wrong.  A lot of Animals are still out and about during the winter months, even in the most extreme weather.  You just have to know what to look for.

    IMG_2748We are reminded of one of our favorite illustrated books on this topic: Animals In Winter, by Henrietta Bancroft, Richard G. Van Gelder and Gaetano di Palma.  We’ve been reading this book to our kiddos since they were tiny tots.  The poetic writing and space pen-and-ink drawings beautifully capture the wonder of the wilds in winter.  Our family learned from the start that animals are up to all sorts of activity during the winter.

    We took this knowledge with us on a recent walk at the Waubesa Wetlands State Natural Area.  Bluey had been learning about foxes and wanted to try to see some in the wild.  Using this as our motivation, we headed out to a likely habitat.

    IMG_2737Tip: Be prepared when heading out for a inter hike.  Parks and natural areas are sparsely attended in the thick of winter.  Dress warmly, and be careful not to overestimate how far your group can hike.  Remember you have to be able to make it back to the car.  Bring a cell phone.

    Immediately upon stepping out of the car we found a trail of canine footprints that were too large to be a fox.  We guessed they were coyotes which we also knew to frequent that area.  Undeterred in our desire to explore, we followed the coyote pack’s prints through the fresh snow and saw where their path crossed those of squirrels, rabbits, chipmunks and deer.IMG_2735

    And it’s not just mammal prints we found.  We saw hawk footprints near a deer carcass, including a great imprint of the bird’s tail feathers as it crouched in the snow.  We’d never seen that before!

    IMG_2736As beautiful as this natural area is, we would never be able to have this adventure if not for the recent snow and cold temperatures.  We were able to enjoy a beautiful hike, see some amazing signs of animal life, and engage in a meaningful discussion about our local wildlife and what these animals might be up to in the winter.

    To top off our discussion of animals that migrate, hibernate or stick around in winter, a large group of Canada Geese passed over us on their migration route as we headed back to our car.

  2. Halfway Prairie

    January 7, 2015 by admin

    IMG_2589In a recent search for a new place to explore, we found ourselves at the Halfway Prairie near Mazomanie, Wisconsin.  We had originally been aiming for Indian Lake Park.  But driving up the street to our original destination, we saw the impressive ruins at Halfway Prairie and decided that we had to go there first.

    Visible from the road is a large, crumbling building, and a smaller building next to it.  This drew us in and we parked our car to explore.IMG_2590_2

    The larger building is mostly a ruin- the windows, roof and wooden parts have long ago rotted away, leaving tall stone walls behind.  Our best guess is that it was a former school, or maybe a church?  We’re not sure.  But it was very cool to explore the outside.  (The building is fenced off for safety purposes.)

    Tip 1:  Hunting is permitted in this wildlife area, so exercise caution if you explore during hunting season!

    The smaller building is locked and boarded up.  It is much smaller and less ornate looking than the other structure, and in better condition.  Perhaps it was a maintenance shed, or a caretaker’s home?

    Several paths flow off from the buildings, heading deep into the prairie beyond.  We enjoyed walking the paths and following some of the remaining fence lines.  At one point, we startled some sleeping deer who took off across the fields towards the wooden area further back.

    Tip 2: Indian Lake Park contains parts of the Ice Age Trail.  Perhaps one day the trail will cut through this wildlife area.

    IMG_2587_2We were quite taken by the quiet serenity of Halfway Prairie.  We’re sure to be back, and we recommend this out-of-the-way park for a day of explore.

  3. Lake Mills

    October 3, 2014 by admin

    IMG_7974We recently headed out to a nearby city’s library book sale. It was a beautiful Fall day and even though we had never been to the city of Lake Mills, the idea of an exploration along a country road was enticing enough for this TRFamily.

    Tip: Why not slow down and explore that place you always just drive through on your way to somewhere else.

    IMG_7990The library is an impressive stone building that was constructed in the late 19th century. It is situated right off the city’s Commons Park. The book sale was held in a small house owned by the library on the back of the property. At $2 a bag of books, we were quite pleased to rifle through the offerings. In addition to our bags of books, we scored a good supply of FREE books on tapes that include Arthur stories and a German Language series for kids.

    IMG_7996After the sale, we decided to look for lunch. There was a smattering of cafes across the green space and we headed that way. Timber Creek Pizza Co seemed a great choice and it didn’t disappoint this sometimes picky family. They have tons of choices at fantastic prices. Service was friendly, accommodating, and fast.

    Full of good food, we decided to explore the Commons Park and its massive band shelter before heading home. But on the way out of town, Rock Lake Park on County Rd B caught our eye. It offered a small playground, a fun hand operated water pump drinking fountain, and a secret tunnel passage. It was a great way to end our visit in Lake Mills.

    No matter where you live, there is probably a town or area that you haven’t really investigated. Give it chance.  Get out there and explore!

  4. If You Build It, They Will Come

    July 20, 2014 by admin


    We recently embarked on a day trip to the Myrick Hixon Ecopark located in La Crosse, Wisconsin.  Just over two hours from our home in Madison, it was a very easy  drive.

    The Ecopark is nestled within a much larger park with access to hiking, biking tails, and a dream park play structure.  The Ecopark has a large welcoming center IMG_6761with live animals, building blocks, arts & crafts, reading areas, snack tables, a small gift shop, and clean restrooms.

    Tip:  At the moment, the Ecopark is free of charge.  But there are rumors there will be an admittance fee once construction is completed.

    We quickly made our way outside to explore the Ecopark’s playscapes.  Many of these areas are still under construction.  But each playscape is partially erected and completely open to the public.  There is more than enough to make the trip worthwhile as it stands now.

    We were drawn to the forest scramble and Bluey and Plum immediately began the climb up the ropes to the first level of the tree house structure.  We had a great time crossing the bridge and enjoying the views from the tipy top.

    IMG_6775Then, we made our way to the prairie mystery.  Even though we had fun following the paths and finding our way through the growing grasses, it was definitely a playscape that will improve as it evolves.  There isn’t much to a maze that offers direct sight of all the paths,  the entry, and exit.

    Finally, we visited the wild water.  Bluey and Plum really loved this area.  You can manipulate metal dams and use rocks and mud to try and change the flow of the water.  A gentle mist emits from a large standing spray feature, which keeps you IMG_6790cool as you explore.

    Tip2: If you’re like us and get there early, you may have to activate the water in the wild water playscape area. Just press the blue post at the top of the river.

    We ended our adventure playing at the dream park.  Then we had a quick return to the Ecopark welcome center to use their restroom to wash up, and we were on our way home.

    Next visit, we’ll bring a picnic lunch (there are picnic tables everywhere) and our bikes to make it a full day exploration!


  5. Destination: Neenah

    June 22, 2014 by admin

    IMG_6438We recently discovered the wonderful city of Neenah, Wisconsin.  We’d never even really heard of Neenah before, although we’ve been many times to other cities in the Fox Valley.  We recommend you check out this destination.

    We headed up there to visit the Bergstrom-Mahler Museum of Glass.  The museum is located in the former Bergstrom residence in a very swanky neighborhood of Neenah, along the Lake Winnebago shoreline.  After a brief review in the car about ‘looking but not touching once inside,’ we went into the museum.  We were enthusiastically greeted by a docent on the front steps, who made sure to remind us to check out the upper level.

    Tip:  Admission is free with a note about a suggested donation.  There are restrooms but no other services.

    We were impressed right away to find that in the lobby there was a hands-on display!  The kiddoes played with colorful glass triangles on a light table, creating their own little art works, before we headed into the main museum.  And there we found another hands-on display inviting us to use paintbrushes to manipulate glass sand into designs of our own making.  What fun!  We hadn’t expected to be able to touch anything in this museum, but we were pleasantly surprised.  IMG_1953

    After viewing dozens of glass paperweights and beautiful artworks, we were surprised again to find that the museum gift shop had small glass items for sale that were very suitable for young patrons.

    You won’t spend a lot of time at this museum, but it is well worth incorporating into your day trip!

    IMG_6418Directly across the street from the museum, we discovered a fabulous park and playground.  Located right on the waterfront, Riverside Park features a rocket-ship themed play area with a giant rocket climbing structure, moon cars, and more!  The kids tired themselves out before we headed for lunch.

    Downtown Neenah hosts a lively farmers market and has numerous fun shops and cafes along Wisconsin Avenue.   We had a quick lunch and grabbed some ice cream before heading home with the whole family asking when we’d come back to Neenah.

    We look forward to our next trip to this city- what unexplored treasures await us?  The lighthouse? Another cool park?  We’ll let you know what we find.

  6. Better Than A Booklist

    May 9, 2014 by admin

    We see them all the time. Someone puts out a list of all the books that kids should read when they are 7. Or when in High school. Or in order to be considered truly literate.

    There are a lot of great books out there, too many for any list.

    For our homeschooled little Bluey, we have a different kind of list.  A list for an explorer.  Parks!IMG_1793

    We love visiting new places and getting the chance to meet new people. So we have embarked on an ambitious plan- to have our young son experience all the parks in our hometown (big and small).

    There are over 200 parks in the city of Madison. That’s a lot of parks, so it’s a big challenge. But that’s not all we are going to do. We also resolved to attempt to visit all 31 parks in our county park system, and all the state parks as well.

    It’s almost 300 parks to visit!

    IMG_0127We know that this is an ambitious idea. But think of how many natural wonders our son will see! Think how many wild animals and plants we will encounter.

    Maybe he’ll never choose to read the top ten greatest non fiction books of 2010, but we know that he will experience amazing things.

  7. Picnic Point

    December 18, 2013 by admin

    IMG_0881Recently, we posted on the joy of a holiday walk in the midst of family-gathering chaos.  One of our favorite local destinations is Picnic Point in Madison, WI.

    A peninsula located along the Lake Mendota edge of the University of Wisconsin- Madison, this mile long stretch of land affords lovely views of the Capitol and is a great bird watching destination.

    Tip:  Be sure to smooch your sweetie while exploring Picnic Point, it is tradition!

    The walk is pretty level, so there should be no significant impediment to any age.  There are no restrooms.  Parking is plentiful and leashed dogs are allowed.

    Tip2: There are several fire rings on the Point.  Reserve one by contacting the Wisconsin Union!IMG_8515

    Remember that Babcock Hall is only about 1 mile from Picnic Point.  Ice cream is always a welcome treat after a hearty hike.

    Explore the outdoors, near and far!

  8. Glenwood Park

    November 17, 2013 by admin

    We were so pleased to have recently found another fun park in our town.  Glenwood Park is an absolute oasis from the “Kaboomed” repetition of many other local playgrounds.  We were happy to not see a single bit of plastic during out time here.  It is a truly unique experience to explore Glenwood Park.  IMG_1522

    IMG_1509This park, designed by Jens Jensen in 1949, immediately fires up a child’s imagination.  There are rocks jetting out of the earth, small caves to explore, tree limbs to collect, and vines to swing.  It is remarkable that such a rustic, old-school park is allowed to remain in its original, ‘wild’ state- given people’s desire to sanitize and ‘modernize’ city parks.

    Tip:  You’ll definitely want to keep an eye on younger kids until they are familiar with the sloping landscape.

    We had the park to ourselves, save for a few adults walking their pups or out for a jog.  There is only street parking convenient to this “wilderness” area.  And there are no restroom facilities in the immediate vicinity.

    Our family had a great time exploring this wild space.  We are all eager to return and see what other discoveries we can make during our play.




  9. Must Love Dogs: Dog Parks in the Madison Area

    June 25, 2013 by admin

    IMG_0248A dog park is a great outing.  It’s a chance for your pup to run off leash and an opportunity for both of you to get into nature.  Here are a few of our favorite dog parks in the Madison area.  All of the parks feature fenced in areas and trash disposal- they usually have some water available too, just in case you forget to bring it for your pup.

    • Yahara Heights:  This is one of our favorites as it has trees, prairie, and a river.  It’s big, so one trip around the circumference is usually plenty of exercise on most visits.  Yahara Heights is rarely very crowded, which we consider a plus.  Moo likes to go wading at the docks and Bluey enjoys running on the paths in the woods.  Once we met a nice 80 year old man walking his two Shelties and he talked to us for twenty minutes.  It gets pretty breezy in the winter, so watch for wind-chills.
    • Warner Park:  It’s closer to our house, but also more crowded than Yahara.  Warner Park has water access into the lagoon.  Its smaller size makes for a quicker walk than some other parks- but sometimes that’s just what we want.
    • Sycamore Park:  We love this park when we don’t want to deal with a wet dog.  It offers a long walking trail through a grassy prairie setting, with no pond or river.  On occasions when we want to give the pup some exercise, without dealing with towels, we head here.  There are no trees and little shade, so be careful on hot days and grab your sunscreen or a hat.


    A few caveats:

    • Always bring water, a leash, and disposal bags with you to the dog park.  Don’t assume that it will all be provided.
    • Some parks require a registration fee on a daily or annual basis.  Be prepared for this or you’ll risk a ticket.
    • Use some form of flea and tick preventative on your dog.
    • Check yourself for ticks thoroughly when leaving the park.
    • Keep your dog on a leash unless s/he is super-friendly and well-behaved.
    • Watch for small kids as they become quickly intimated by running dogs.  Your dog is your responsibility to control properly.


    Grab your leash and head outside!

  10. Ride Your Bike: City of Madison Bike Paths

    July 26, 2012 by admin

    There is an extensive network of bike paths all through the city of Madison.  They require no trail pass and they get you easily and safely where you need to be.  Skip the parking hassles and take advantage of a bike path on your next trip around town.

    A small selection of cool places you can easily access via bike path:

    Olbrich Park: Take a leisurely tour of the gardens.

    Law Park: Watch the Mad-City Ski Team practice or put on a show.

    Tenney Park: See locks in action!

    UW Geology Museum: Dinosaurs! RAHR!!

    Monona Terrace: Take the bike elevator to the Capitol Square.

    Picnic Point: Woodsy Fun on the UW Campus

    Vilas Park and Zoo: Lions and Tigers and Bears!

    Olin Park: The path along John Nolen Drive is a great outing.

    Keep your eye out for all the treasures along the way:  community gardens, café’s that welcome bikers with the lure of free water, urban sculptures,wild animals and more!  And remember that walkers and families utilize the pathways as well so stay alert! (And stay to the right!)