Winter is beautiful here, but it sure does drag on some days. Too many cold gray days in a row and motivation fades. I have to push and push myself to pick a park and just go. Monday was such a day. Especially after Sunday's spring-like weather, when everyone seemed to be out for a walk in the blessed sunshine.
Then came moody Monday. Colder. Cloudy. Blah. What I wanted was some color, some art, and some of natures inspiration. It took me all morning to decide where to go. But once I got there, I was rewarded.
Mitchell Park is a 405-acre park on the outer wild edges of Brookfield, and encompasses walking trails, a sledding hill, a park pavilion, the Sharon Lynne Wilson Center For The Arts, and more.
There are some nicely paved trails spanning the length of Mitchell Park, starting along the south end, and heading north towards the Arts Center. There's a dog exercise area on the south end, which seems to be a popular spot. In fact, there were lots of dogwalkers there, pups running in the open areas, or leashed and walking the paved trails.
I found the outdoor art I was craving. There are several art displays lining the walking trails, offering inspiration in colors that offset the gray day.
From the paved path I took the lowland hardwood trail that exits at Mitchell Park Drive, crossed the road, and followed the paved trail and boardwalk back south to the Arts Center parking lot entrance. Along the way I found some color in faded milkweed and red-twigged dogwood.
The Strohmaier Sculpture Garden is no doubt stunning abloom in flowers and visiting butterflies, but it has a certain muted beauty in winter as well. And the sculptures adorning the grounds are truly unique and worthy of attention.
From a pair of metal sculpted horses, dancing cranes, the graceful 15-foot tall FLIT, inspired by a nesting sparrow, to the bronze 5-piece musicians in performance installation JOY OF MUSIC, the sculpture garden blends with the natural surroundings in perfect harmony.
I really enjoy Valentine's Day. I think if you get caught up in the romanticism of the day it can be disappointing. But if you embrace it as a way of spreading a bit of happiness to family, friends, even strangers, I think it's much more enjoyable. I always loved decorating that little shoebox in grade school so it could hold valentines from classmates. I've always enjoyed making valentines for others, no matter how simple. Homemade hearts, cut out cookies, CD mixes (I'm old, and I miss those). Let that inner artist shine!
As a nature enthusiast, advocate, and amateur photographer, I love finding hearts out in nature. A naturally occurring heart shape found in the bark of a tree, in a stone, a leaf, a flower, a pine cone poking through snow. Of course, these can be spotted any day of the year. But the closer it gets to Valentine's Day the more I seem to search for them. And they are there! I wrote about this in more detail in a post last year entitled Let Nature Be Your Valentine.
I spotted this pine cone heart on the trail at Carver-Roehl County Park just a few days ago. I nearly stepped on it!
I recently discovered that there are heart-shaped snow molds. The same kind of thing you could use to make perfectly formed snowballs. Which gave me an idea. I ordered one, and on days when the weather cooperated and the snow had melted to the right consistency, I went out for walks on the trails, and in the parks, and made some snow hearts. Sometimes I used fallen natural elements to embellish them. Then I placed them along the trails to photograph, and to leave for other hikers to enjoy. Eventually they would simply melt away.
I don't know if I'd say I was gleeful, but it was a lot of fun. And, hopefully, they brightened someone else's day, too.
Once I got started, the ideas just kept coming. I couldn't wait to get out and make more. I came up with just a couple props that I could carry with me, utilized the natural elements, set logic aside, and let my artistic side play. I hope you enjoy the results. HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY!
Some people build snowmen, or snow and ice sculptures. But I like to make snow hearts. And, out on the trail, I like to spy nature's hearts along the way. This year I picked up a snow heart mold, and on a few days when the snow was just the right consistency, I made snow hearts along my nature walks. It was snow much fun! Yup, pun intended. But seriously, we've had some really beautiful winter days lately, and I've been exploring our parks and nature trails. Some tried and true, and some new to me.
I visited, for the first time, the Wisconsin Veterans Memorial Riverwalk in Delafield. It was a perfect winter day for exploring the trail along the Bark River. On one side is a natural trail that loops back around to the boardwalk trail on the opposite side of the river. It's an easy walk, and scenic, too.
Featured along the trail are nine separate war memorial sites, honoring veterans service in all wars with monuments, and educational kiosks illustrating the history of each war.
Wisconsin has some brutally cold winter days. I took advantage of one of those this close to sub zero temp days to take a drive to view the Tiffany Bridge along the Turtle Creek Parkway in Rock County.
This 5-arch stone historic railway bridge is noted to be the oldest bridge in Wisconsin, it's a beauty. And just as beautiful in winter as any other time of the year.
Also in Rock County is the historic Beckman Mill County Park. Another cold weather road trip. This 50-acre park includes the Beckman Mill and other historic buildings, along with a boardwalk and woodland nature trail.
Events are held on site throughout the year. It was quiet the winter day we visited, so we had the grounds to explore on our own. Worth the trip!
There's more nature going on in Delafield. I paid my first visit to hike the Lois Jensen Nature Preserve. This 30-acre hilly woodland preserve will provide you with a great winter workout, and great views to boot. The peaceful vibe comes complete with the sounds of woodpeckers and Chickadees flitting from tree to tree overhead.
The trails can be icy, so be prepared. I'll be visiting this gem in spring and summer for certain.
The ice-capped shore of Lake Michigan called and we took a ride down to the Port of Milwaukee for the frozen views, and a rare snowy owl sighting!
We're so lucky to live along such a beautiful lake here in Milwaukee.
Have you ever seen ice bubbles up close? I happened upon ice bubbles in Spring Brook Creek at Carver-Roehl County Park this week. I went to check out their "Hearts in the Park" feature, and was treated to the bonus ice bubble sighting. It's a great park any time of the year, but gorgeous in winter!
The hiking trail can be steep and icy in parts, so good hiking boots and a walking stick can come in handy.
There's something about Natureland County Park in Whitewater that just appeals to me. Maybe it's the name (clever), or its simple beauty. At 122-acres, the park features 4 different walking trails along different types of terrain. It is as stunning in winter as it is in any other season. I spotted a heart in one of the trees I hadn't noticed before.
Nature is full of surprises.
A traveler, singer, novice photographer, humane gardener, and nature lover.