Sunday, April 19, 2015

Tyke Hike #10 - Hartland Marsh

When I woke to a chorus of robins this morning, I thought it would be a great day. When I stepped outside and felt the warm sun and the soft breeze, my initial thoughts were confirmed.

It was an absolutely perfect day for a hike. Embry and I couldn't wait to get started. This particular hike was even more exciting because it represented the first "partner" hike between the Waukesha/Milwaukee County Chapter of the Ice Age Trail Alliance and the Delafield Pubic Library. In select hikes this year, besides a stroll on a wonderful trail, hike-themed based literature, crafts, and/or songs will be provided.

Speaking of partnerships, this is a fantastic word to describe the location of today's hike: Hartland. For many reasons, Hartland is a crucial element in the future of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail.

First, the village of Hartland is in the process of becoming an Ice Age Trail Community. Essentially, the community and the Ice Age Trail Alliance work together in a close relationship to dually promote the trail and the amenities near it as a way to promote usage, preservation, and appreciation of the trail. Read more about this at Hartland Hopes to Become an Ice Age Trail Community.

Secondly, our hike today spent some time detailing a wonderful project put together by a local family and fellow community members to help raise awareness (and hopefully increase the number of birds) of the chimney swift, a migratory bird that in certain parts of the year, would act as an excellent insect repellent in this mosquito-rich marsh. Chimney swifts migrate as the weather turns, but look for chimney-like structures to rest as they make their journey. Though they used to be regular visitors of Hartland, the chimney they frequented is no longer standing, so a family worked with the community to build this structure in hopes of getting return visits for years to come. Please read about this amazing project at Hartland Chimney Swifts.

Lastly, this area needs partners like YOU! This particular stretch of land is currently in the very beginning stages of being restored. Invasive species and pest plants have taken over considerable areas of the land. Plans are in the process of being made to help improve the land and restore it to earlier conditions more conducive to native plant growth and the supporting of animals while also making it more enjoyable for visitors. This is a long-term project and there are plenty of ways you can help, Find out more at Hartland Marsh Restoration.

As for the actual hike. .  .WOW! Thirty hikers joined the largest Tyke Hike to date and enjoyed a warm and sunny trek from the Maple Avenue parking lot to the chimney swift and John Muir Overlook. Along the way, the kids and I talked about marsh plants and animals, learned about the chimney swift, stopped at my "magic" tree, and tried to figure out why there were yellow rectangles painted on trees along the way. When we reached the overlook, it was a perfect time for some scenic views while we heard a hawk story, created a hawk craft, and sang a hawk song with Emi Weiss, a local librarian who is teaming up with the Tyke Hike program to get more kids outside.

While hiking back, we heard a chorus of upland chorus frogs, chatted about the important purposes dead trees have in the marsh's ecosystem, and uncovered the secret of the yellow "blazes" painted on the trees before taking a group picture, handing out some Tyke Hike and library goodies and heading home after a wonderful day at the marsh.
Well, almost headed home. My daughter, who had a death grip on our mammoth mascot, Mojo, and wouldn't take a step without her new hiking stick demanded "More hike!" as I packed up the vehicle. I couldn't help but oblige so we went back, climbed the ridge to the Aldo Leopold Overlook, listened to the geese, saw a few turkey vultures, barely missed squishing a fuzzy caterpillar, and jumped on a few rocks before finally calling it a morning. And what an awesome morning it was!

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