Sunday, May 24, 2015

Tyke Hike #11 - Lapham Peak

It was a perfect storm. Splendid weather. Improved awareness. Increased interactivity. Tyke Hikesare headed in the right direction!

Over the past year, Tyke Hikes have slowly grown. We've added new locations. new activities, and best of all, new tykes. :) However, the recent partnership with the Delafield Public Library has helped promote the program in a fresh and innovative way.

With a beautiful spring day expected and the location of this Tyke Hike in Delafield, where the library has done a tremendous job promoting Tyke Hikes, I expected a larger crowd. I didn't expect 80. To say I was pleasantly surprised would be quite an understatement.

Once the opening remarks, guidelines, and introductions were through, it was time to hit the trail.  A leisurely 1.25 mile hike through the diverse terrain of Lapham Peak showcased glacial geology and wildflowers galore.

As usual, many of the interested (and sometimes competitive) children headed the front of the group while many adults and toddlers trailed behind. With various stops to explaining things like blazes, erratics, and an overview of the Ice Trail, we played catch up and gave everyone opportunities to rest their legs. With the theme of the day being glaciers, general information about different glacial features was provided throughout the trek. Based on the questions asked, people seemed to really enjopy the information. Even Mojo the Mammoth had a new friend for the day.

Watching children interact with nature is a driving force behind Tyke Hikes. Whether it is answering questions, sharing stories, or just experiencing the natural world around them, their curiosity and engagement makes all the planning worthwhile.

When we made our return trip top the tower. Emi, the librarian from the Delafield Public Library. led the children through some very cool glacier activities (no pun intended). She read a glacier story, led a session of glacier yoga, and provided a glacier sticker sheet to all participants.

As usual, it was another wonderful day to be out on the trail. I can't wait to tyke it up again!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Woodside Walk in the Woods

With a year of Tyke Hikes under my belt, I have been able to share my love of hiking and teaching with many children. However, there are so many more out there. :)

As a member of my school's Green & Healthy Committee, an idea of organizing a school hike came into my head. Originally, the concept of a family-friendly morning hike was the goal. However, after gauging community interest, it was soon known that one hike would not do. Instead, we needed a day of hiking.

So, after sending out information sheets, save the dates, and assigning hike times based on family preferences, over 400 people had signed up for the inaugural Woodside Walk in the Woods at Lapham Peak State Park.

I scouted out hiking options, some short, some long. Some stroller-friendly, some more rugged. I bought snacks and ordered signs. I reserved a building and contacted many different people to help volunteer. Looking back, it was a great deal of work, but when it is something you love to do, it hardly feels like work at all.

The day of the hike, Mother Nature was a trickster. The threat of rain was in the forecast and the morning clouds were threatening, but nothing ever really developed. Unfortunately, her threats and the local soccer schedules impacted the turnout. When it was all said and done, nearly 250 students and family members took part in the 4 hikes scattered throughout this spectacular Saturday.

Highlights abounded throughout the day, but rather than give every one, I'd rather share a few of my favorite moments.

Though a locked door caused some initial confusion and chaos, all was well once we hit the trail. Each hike had new personalities, varying levels  of interest and ranges of hiking experience. However all hikes had one important element: fun.

We saw wildlife from deer, turkeys, frogs, hawks, and butterflies.

We heard many terribly awful jokes (which I love).  My favorite?  Why is there a fence around the butter fly garden?                

To keep the butterflies in.

We saw the newest member of the Waukesha/Milwaukee County Chapter of the Ice Age Trail; Alliance: Month. He is a wonderfully adorable mammoth mascot I know I will be able to experience firsthand sooner than later.

We learned many things about nature, from finding glacial features like erratics to discussing then importance of "nurse stumps" and tree graveyards.

Most importantly, we saw child after child get some exercise, experience some of the beauty of the outdoors, and leave with a smile on their face and a new adventure in their memory.

To me, any day hiking is a good day. Especially when you can share the trail with the future.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

2 days, 4 state parks, 1 terminus

While the weather didn't fully cooperate, a weekend in nature is always better than the alternative. Heading out to Door County prior to peak season, we enjoyed four state parks in two days, each one with its own special characteristics.

We kicked off the state park your with a stop at Newport State Park. I missed out on the biggest wildlife encounter while I rushed back to retrieve the camera right at the start of the journey. Luckily, my wife's keen eyes and ears spotted a two-foot yellow and black snake that I just caught a glance at as it slithered away from the trail.While I missed out on much of that excitement, I was able to enjoy the next three or so miles with my two favorite ladies. We took a trail near the shoreline. Seeing the rock formations and unique tree growth along large bodies of water just makes you realize how fascinating the power of water really is.

Being only two years old, I am continually impressed with Embry's endurance and excitement on the trail. Of course, her problem-solving is also enjoyable. Fallen trees, large rocks, and root systems have nothing on this little girl. In fact, she spends a good portion of time calling out every root and rock she sees while also apologizing to the roots and asking if they are OK after she steps on and over them. Very cute.

Embry loves her towers almost as much as she loves her trees. So, at our next stop, Peninsula State Park, the tower was a must see. In fact, it was our first stop.

After a trek up Eagle Tower, we enjoyed our usual exploration of the Sentinel Trail, fully adorned with signs and markers with facts about trees. Embry especially liked the "tree identification spinner."

We made it almost the entire way before Embry realized she was without her walking stick. Every time we hit the trail, she picks out a local stick and uses it for that day's adventure before leaving it for the next tyke hiker to enjoy.

Day two of the weekend started off at Whitefish Dunes State Park. Unfortunately, blustery winds and nagging lake flies cut our hike shorter than we may have liked, but taking a break inside the nature center and playing with the puppets was a welcome respite from the chilly breeze.

We did enjoy the soft sands and especially clear waters viewable from the beach Embry, of course, found a new stick to guide her trek along the shoreline.

Adjacent to Whitefish Dunes was Cave Point County Park, so we made a quick stop and took in amazing limestone formations and more unique tree growth. Hopefully, our next visit will include some more sun and many fewer flies.

We saved Door County's southernmost state park for the finale as we headed to Potawatomi State Park. After finding the nature center closed (boo) and playing on a campsite playground (yay), we traveled the winding and pine-laden roads to get to Potawatomi Tower. Our little hikes of course made the trek extra long as she insisted on climbing each step herself.

Being a huge enthusiast of the Ice Age Trail, I finished up lunch with the family and ventured out and about on the segment from the tower for just a few minutes. 
I feel very "lucky" to be able to hike the Ice Age Trail. Apparently, so does someone else.

Embry continued her usual terned of "bopping" every blaze she sees. Though this day's hike was short, the memories made will be long lasting. My wife snapped a picture of Embry and I at the eastern terminus rock, signifying the beginning (or end) of a long Ice Age Trail Journey. While I am nowhere near the 1,000-miler status, I couldn't help but think of all the people I know who took this very same picture to celebrate their amazing accomplishment. I look forward to being able to snap this picture again soon, with many more miles on my boots.

The week of hiking isn't over yet! This Saturday, I will be leading over 400 people from my school community at our inaugural Walk in the Woods event at Lapham Peak. I am looking forward to getting people out on the trail and hopefully motivating more people to enjoy hiking in Wisconsin on a more regular basis.

Monday, May 4, 2015


In two short weeks, I will be leading four hikes through picturesque Lapham Peak State Park as part of the inaugural Woodside Walk in the Woods hiking event hosted by my school's Green, Healthy, & Wellness Committee. Knowing over 400 school community members have RSVP'ed, I wanted to do some scouting to find fun accessible and diverse trail routes for all involved. Two hikes will be shorter and focus on paved and easy terrain while two hikes will be a bit more adventurous, but certainly still family-friendly.

It's no fun to scout alone so of course I brought my hiking partner, Embry, and some of our closest friends and their fellow toddler. I love hiking and seeing my daughter enjoy the trails, but that joy is more than doubled when she teams up with the little lady my wife appointed as Embry's "bestie."

We headed out on one of Lapham's groomed trails with an easy and rolling slope and it wasn' too long before we came across three white-tailed deer foraging. We were at a distance where they weren't bothered by our presence, though an unsuspecting trail runner came within a few feet, startling and dispersing them ever so slightly. I know Wisconsin is loaded with deer, but there's still something cool about seeing them in their element.

We continued at a toddler-like pace with the two girls enjoying their own hiking sticks, running and stopping, occasionally whimpering, more running and stopping, and persistently pausing to touch anything and everything. And when you have two little ones, you better make sure you have snacks. We found a nice bench along the path and enjoyed some berries and fruit snacks before heading back to the hike.

It wasn't much longer until we came across a "beginning to bloom" butterfly garden. Watching the girls stick their sniffers up into the flowers was entertaining. They liked the colors and were reluctant to leave. Only the promise of scaling "the tower" lured them away.

When we got to the tower, both girls made it well known they wanted to do each step, so it was a bit of a slower ascent. Of course, there was no time to enjoy the views once we did reach the top, the girls made it clear it was time to climb down. Then, at the bottom, time to go right back up. However, the adults stepped in and ended the climbing party. While my friends and Embry's bestie headed home, my little hiker and I were just getting started.

We headed back on one of my daughter's favorite Ice Age Trail spots to date: the tower steps. Once again, she refused any help. Once making it to the bottom, she found a new hiking stick, stopped to listen every time she heard the faintest chirp, and pleaded to pet each of the many dogs we saw. Our favorites were a beautiful pair of very friendly huskies named Sebastian and Covie. We traversed the Ice Age Trail and some of Lapham's other trails before heading back towards the butterfly garden and the nature center where our car was parked. Once we got to the paved trail adjacent to the nature center, Embry requested to be held, something she usually intensely avoids when out in nature. Not more than one minute after her request was granted, she was out cold.

She may have been hiked out for the day, but our hiking adventures are far, far from being over.