Archive for May, 2017

  • Chapter 143- Gibraltar Rock / Merrimac Ferry / Dr. Evermor’s Forevertron

    I believe that fieldtrips are very important to a kids’ education.  And while our school is really amazing, they aren’t able to take my children on ALL the kinds of fieldtrips they need.  Those kind would be hikes in the woods.

    So when a friend I met on Instagram (weird, I know.  I feel conflicted about social media and virtual friendships, but I’ve made quite a few real friends through the internet so I can’t say it’s all bad) said she was hiking Gibraltar Rock on a Friday, I knew this was a fieldtrip worth missing school for!

    Leading up to the trip, I talked with my kids about the Ice Age Trail.  We learned that it follows the border of the last continental glacier in Wisconsin.  The giant sheets of ice pushed boulders and land into new formations 12,000 years ago, and now we get to see coulees, drumlins, bogs, kettles and moraines.  The Ice Age Trail Alliance has a great website with lots of information about the trail and ways that YOU can volunteer!  We’ll be hiking lots of different sections of the trail this summer, too.

    We met Kelly in the parking lot near Lodi, and put our boots and hats on for good measure.  The kids took turns carrying the backpack full of their water, and we decided that we’ll be asking for four of these when birthdays roll around next.

    The trail was easy to maneuver, and nobody got lost in their dashes ahead of me and Kelly.  There was a lot of yelling in excitement and finding sticks and using pine needles as brooms and whining that we were going either too fast or too slow.  You know, the usual.

    Kelly knows a lot more about plants/flowers/trees than I, so she educated us on jack-in-the-pulpits, trilliums and skunk cabbage.  Stay away from the latter.

    The hike from the parking lot to the top was less than a mile which was nice.  It definitely gets a little unnerving for mothers of four near the top, so if you go make sure your kids understand the necessity to stay on the trail.  It is a very long way down.  And we of course want to be safe and not add to erosion, but also keep the plants and flowers from getting trampled.

    Once we got to the lookout, we had snacks of apples and cookies and the kids did their best to give me a heart attack.  We grilled Kelly about her life because it was the first time we’d hung out, so thanks Kelly for fielding our million questions.  And for sharing about your hiking history!

    We saw quite a few large birds flying overhead, and read a bit about red-tailed hawks and other birds of prey who fly the thermals created by the tall cliffs (JSOnline has a good article about the hike).  I can’t say for certain what we saw, but I’m pretty sure J’s guess of Peregrin Falcons was a bit off.  Good guess, though!

    After our butts were sufficiently cold from sitting on chilly rocks, we decided to head back down.  Kelly grabbed this next pic of us right before we found the brightest bug ever!

    This little spider was about the size of a pinhead, and was a vibrant red from head to toe.  Half of my kids were scared and the other half wanted to take it home.

    On the way back down, Kelly got a good dose of whining that “this view is terrible!” and “I can’t walk any farther” and “I want to go home”.   I’m getting pretty good at just ignoring the ridiculousness of such statements and getting them excited about the next big thing.

    Which was finishing the hike and heading to the Merrimac Ferry!  After we said our thank yous and goodbyes to Kelly, and promising to do it again sometime soon, I took her directions to just keep heading north on 113 and find the ferry which carries cars across the Wisconsin River.  It’s free and runs around the clock from April to November.

    We were first in line and had to wait only about 3 minutes for the ferry to return from the other side.  When the gate opened, I drove on and put my car in park, hoping that’s all I needed to do.  At first there was some hesitation with getting out of the car.  For a 5 year old, it was a little unnerving to be floating across water where he thought sharks were just waiting to eat us alive.  After going over saltwater vs. freshwater, we all exited the car and took in the sights.

    And by the time we got outside, it was time to hustle back into the car.  It took about 5 minutes to cross the river, and when we arrived at the other side, we just turned around and got back in line to go back.

    Once back, I decided to try and find Dr. Evermor’s Forevertron.  I’ve been meaning to take the kids for a while, and since we were in no hurry to get anywhere, I headed southeast.  I didn’t have a map in the car, and wasn’t getting any reception on my phone to look at GPS, so I tapped into my innate navigational skills and hoped for the best.

    We ended up finding hwy 12 and that’s when I found service, so we knew to head north.  I’m pretty sure there used to be giant metal sculptures on the side of the highway to mark the spot, but I didn’t see them this time.  It took a tiny bit of backtracking, but we eventually found the entrance, just south of  Delaney’s Surplus.

    And when we got there, any trace of whining and complaining ended.  All four of my kids were entranced by the enormous machines and creations.  They all split up and walked around in amazement, imagining what the sculptures could do if they were functioning.

    There are very few pieces that you can actually sit/stand on, so if you go remember a few things:

    • This is about art, so be respectful of the work and take time to imagine what it might take to build and create these pieces.
    • There are no bathrooms here, but there is a gas station just north of the park.
    • Hours are posted online, and there is a box for donations.  There’s no entrance fee, so be generous with your dollars.
    • This fascinating place is run by the family of Dr. Evermor.  If you get the chance to speak with Lady Eleanor, whose office is in the park, please do so.   Her husband is Dr. Evermor and she’s knowledgable about the entire park and process.

    Speaking of Lady Eleanor, here she is.  She was kind enough to let me take her photo after we talked for a while about the history and future of the park.  She shared with me Dr. Evermor’s inspiration, a bit about her family, and the timeframe in which pieces were constructed.

    Near the end of our visit, my dude J took me on a tour of all of the bird-looking creatures.  I wish you all could have seen it.  Though it was starting to sprinkle, he pointed to almost every single creature and had names like “three-headed chicken lizard” and “electric cat king” and “fire-breathing trooper”.   He was in his element!

    When the rain turned into a drizzle, we packed up and headed to Madison.  Our friends hosted us for an overnight stay (which was the best, I love you Kady!) and then we hurried back to Milwaukee for a Saturday morning soccer game.

    It was a pretty epic trip in all.  We learned a lot about geological history in Wisconsin, we met a new friend, went on our first car ferry, filled our imaginations with art, and saw some old friends.  When we got home, I had grand plans to have the kids write/draw about the Ice Age Trail and present it to their teachers.  However, that didn’t pan out so my kids just ended up talking about all the adventures they had, throwing out terms like “glacier” and “driftless”.  Good enough!

    Hope this week is treating you well, all.  Be on the lookout for some pieces I’ll be contributing to Metroparent Magazine in the next few months, and I hope to see you adventuring soon!

    A. Storm

  • Chapter 143- Kettle Moraine State Forest- Pike Lake Unit

    A few weeks ago (ok, it was mid-March.  I’m a little behind here) I desperately needed to walk in the woods.  I’m finding a direct link between my emotional state and exercise/exposure to the outdoors, and on a Sunday that my husband was coaching soccer, I packed up some snacks and winter gear and headed north on highway 45.

    The kids asked for a place with an observation tower, so a quick search turned up Pike Lake.  The drive was only about 40 min from Milwaukee, and was super easy find.

    We parked near the playground on the beach, and headed north on the hiking trail.  Before we even started, though, two of my kids got super muddy and started crying.  Luckily I’m good at deescalating (ignoring) things like that and we made it to the beach to find shells and lots of fun ice formations.

    We had left the car about 20 minutes prior, and made it only 30 feet into the trail, so I tried to get the kids moving.  Eventually they gave in, followed me, and then ran ahead leaving me in the dust.  We found a little fort and Little T took notes while the other girls discussed some very serious business.

    We stopped at the next lake access and threw stones.  Because it wouldn’t be an adventure without throwing rocks in water!

    About 1/2 mile (and about 45 minutes) later, we stopped on a bench for snacks.  The terrain had turned to a prairie with a much different view and we sat and talked about how different the trail was at this point.

    This was one of the first hikes that I actually brought a physical map to, so we spent lots of time learning how to read a map.  We were on the lookout for trail markers, and decided that since this was one of the slowest hikes we’d been on, we should take the green trail as a shortcut.  That trail cut down into very beautiful and muddy valley, and the kids did a great job learning to read maps/signs.

       

    We found some pine trees and the kids listened to me go on and on about how beautiful the small forest was.

    The kids spotted an uprooted tree and speculated how old it was, if we could get it to live again by tipping it back up, and what it could provide for animals/plants now that it was on the ground.  And we poked it with sticks.  Cause that’s pretty much childhood, right?  Poking things with sticks.

     

    Close to the end of our two mile and TWO HOUR hike, S was feeling a little tired and whiney so J took her hand.  It was a pretty sweet moment because it was completely unprompted and served as a good reminder that they do indeed care for each other.

    When we crossed the road back to the parking lot, after slipping and sliding down a muddy hill, the kids cheered for their accomplishment.  It wasn’t all THAT far, but those little legs carried them for a long time.

    They of course still had energy for a playground, so we played for a few minutes, and then cried when it was time to leave.  Which is how many of our adventures end.  Yay!

    We didn’t make the observation tower, but it’ll be on our summer adventure list.  There are lots of other trails we’d like to try, so we’ve got plenty of reasons to head back.  Plus it’s so close to Milwaukee!

    Thanks for your patience in my posts…I’m trying to get caught up.  But who knows, maybe it’ll be June and you’ll still be seeing posts of hikes in snow 🙂

    A. Storm