Saturday, September 12, 2015

Tyke Hike #15 -Waterville/Marlin Johnson Prairie

A well-deserved new name for the prairie
Barn group picture
Just under 30 hikers, including one dog, one cat, and our youngest Tyke Hiker yet (5 weeks old) enjoyed a prairie walk at the newly named Marlin Johnson prairie. Led by the aforementioned Marlin Johnson, we all learned about the history of the nearly 100-acre field station, enjoyed a "field guide come to life" as Marlin showed us a multitude of interesting native prairie plants, and even visited a barn and composting outhouse.
Ready to hike

Investigating Big Bluestem, or the Turkeyfoot plant

It's always a pleasure to visit Marlin. He is a wealth of knowledge and so accommodating to learners of all ages. He is also extremely generous. I am fortunate enough to be one of the recipients of his generosity. Besides being a great resource for information, he donated a tarp to my school so that we can begin restoring the land I am using for our forest kindergarten. After our hike today, I ended up going to my school and getting that section ready for the initial steps of restoring it.
Native Wisconsin prairie - coming 2017-18

We ended today's hike with a few wonderful stories provided by Emi Weiss of the Delafield Public Library and the grand finale. It isn't a prairie walk unless you actually walk through the prairie. With grasses towering over the tykes, it was a sight to see and hopefully a memory the attending families will cherish for years to come.

Prairie walk!

Today, we were also graced by the presence of one of my best friends, Joshua Mayer, who is a man on a  mission to visit all of Wisconsin's State Natural Areas. He said today he had recently passed the 500 mark. This is impressive for anyone, but with a lovely 4 year old daughter and a new 8 week old bundle of joy, he is certainly a busy man. It is great to see the love and appreciation of nature he is instilling in his young family.

After our Tyke Hike ended, my family joined Josh and his kids and Kevin Kuhlmann, a fellow volunteer, on a second round of hiking. We visited a variety of wonderful areas of interest on the land including the famous Halloween tree and a part of the prairie planted by kids form my Saunters class earlier this year. The girls even treated us to a game of "nature baseball" using their walking sticks and some fallen walnuts. We trekked through prairie and forest before stopping at the Wildlife in Need Center. Besides a gorgeous kestrel and some turtles and snakes, we were treated to young gray squirrels getting bottle fed. In fact, I was lucky enough to bottle feed my newest 8-week old friend as I admired the thirsty squirrels.
Nature friends!

Nature baseball
The Halloween Tree - always a favorite photo op
I thought fungi were afraid of heights.

Once again, it was a wonderful day on the trails. With my favorite hiking season of autumn approaching, I look forward to many more outdoor adventures, including our next Tyke Hike on Saturday, October 10th at Lapham Peak.
This area was pretty bare just 3 months earlier when my Saunters class was busy planting.

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