Thursday, June 18, 2015

Saunters Thursday. . . Playing (and working) in the Prairie

Our 4th day of Saunters was our service-learning opportunity day. We kicked off the day reviewing habitats and discussing some of the flora and fauna we had seen in the week so far. Then, we quit talking and started walking, identifying many examples of natural systems, features, and plant and animal samples along the way. With an afternoon of prairie restoration ahead of us, we took a brisk trek to finish up the Lapham Peak Segment, stopping to rest, journal,  and sketch along the way

Then, after a long and humid trek along the Glacial Drumlin Trail, we made it to the Waterville Prairie to meet up with the wonderful naturalist and historian Marlin Johnson., He graciously provided a tour of the prairie he has been restoring since 1970. He even mentioned that this latest patch that was just planted is the final piece of his prairie puzzle. Deservedly so, Marlin mentioned the prairie is in the process of being renamed the Marlin Johnson Prairie.
We toured the diverse habitats of the UW-Waukesha Field Station, prancing through prairies, meandering through marshes, sauntering through savannas, and hiking through history.  We learned about pioneers, Native Americans, the prairie restoration process, kilns, and the history of out local segments of Ice Age Trail. Believe it or not, we even got a brief education on composting outhouses. Needless to say, we learned a great deal and had an amazing time.

 We even had the pleasure of posing for pictures with Marlin's Halloween Tree.
But, our main purpose was as Marlin put it "to become part of the prairie." So, after a brief training session, it was time to get down and dirty and fill up some bare spots in a recently planted prairie with new budding prairie plants. It was amazing to see the excitement and eagerness the hikers had to find the perfect spot for their pants. They were very protective of their plants and very proud of their addition to this amazing prairie.
Hard to believe, but tomorrow is the end of a tremendous week of amazing (and sometimes unexpected) outdoor adventures. We will celebrate tomorrow with the student hikers leading a Community Hike through Monches, with family, Saunters donors, and Ice Age Trail Alliance members as our special guests. Here's to a happy and healthy final hike!

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