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autumn colors at Menomonee Park in Waukesha Co

Autumn Odyssey 2022

7:20 am  |  Topics: Spotlight, Stories


By Eddee Daniel

Autumn is perhaps the most evocative season. As the precursor to winter it is often used as a metaphor for the downward slide towards death. The days grow dark and the air grows cold. On the other hand, it is a time of harvest, of gathering in the bounty of the earth … and of giving thanks. My own gratitude extends to the earth itself, to the lands—parks and preserves—that we have set aside to heal our spirits and to remind us of our origins. And, of course, the trees.

MeKwon Woods, Ozaukee County.
MeKwon Woods, Ozaukee County.

As sequesters of carbon, trees have at last acquired the recognition of worth beyond that measured in board feet. We have learned that trees engage in sophisticated forms of communication and even altruism. They are the oldest, tallest and most massive living beings on earth. And in autumn, as they prepare to shed their leaves, they surround us with the grandest of spectacles—for free!

Greene Park, Milwaukee.
Greene Park, Milwaukee.

It is my favorite season. And have we had a glorious one this year! I have been asked on numerous occasions over the past few weeks if I think the autumn colors have been more intense than usual. Allow me to present you with Exhibit A:

Pringle Nature Center, Bristol County Park, Kenosha County
Pringle Nature Center, Bristol County Park, Kenosha County

As illustrated with this suite of autumn images, my answer to that question has invariably been “yes!” (Or something even more enthusiastic, like “incredible!”) And yet, to be honest, my “yes” must be qualified with, “it depends.” The reds tended to arrive early, with an intensity I don’t recall ever seeing around here. Then oranges had their moment. Later in the month yellow and gold became ascendant. All the while some trees remained stubbornly green. It also depended on location. I missed peak colors as often as I was amazed by them. Which, like a gambling addiction, just prompted me to keep on trying.

Donald Hackbarth Trail, Jerome Nature Center, Pleasant Prairie, Kenosha County.
Donald Hackbarth Trail, Jerome Nature Center, Pleasant Prairie, Kenosha County.

I’ve been a bit obsessed. Trying to find peak color this year has taken me all over the six-county area of SE Wisconsin that I cover for this project, A Wealth of Nature. While it is customary for me post an autumn story, I may have overdone it this time. The sheer number of images I’ve accumulated can’t possibly fit into a single blog post! As well as the number of beautiful places I’ve discovered.

Ice Age Trail, Butler Lake Segment, Kettle Moraine State Forest - Northern Unit.
Ice Age Trail, Butler Lake Segment, Kettle Moraine State Forest – Northern Unit.

In addition to seeking out peak color, I have made it my mission to explore new places so that I can share even more of our wealth of nature with you, dear reader. If you’ve been following this blog (thank you), it may surprise you to know that I can still find new places, but I assure you, there are plenty! Since they truly won’t fit into a single post, I will be bringing them to you in an undetermined number of installments—which I hope will bring comfort during the dark times ahead.

Seminary Woods, St Francis.
Seminary Woods, St Francis.

I’ve chosen this suite of opening images, from different places and times, to whet your appetite. My plan (which may change as things proceed) is to present to you, in a series of posts, the parks and preserves I’ve explored this season in roughly chronological order. As mentioned earlier, many were new to me and likely new to you. Some are quite small, others surprisingly large.

Large pond and wetland, Lions Park, New Berlin.
Large pond and wetland, Lions Park, New Berlin.

Let’s begin with Lions Park in New Berlin, which when I visited was still green overall but awash in fruits and berries. Although it is essentially a neighborhood park, all neighborhoods deserve parks as beautiful as this one! With forty acres it is large enough to accommodate a wide variety of typical park amenities—such as playing fields, picnic shelter, playground, etc.—as well as a woodlot, wetland, and two ponds. There is a grassy, mowed trail that meanders among the trees and bushes next to the larger of the two ponds, which is where I found most of the images here.

Gray Dogwood.
Gray Dogwood.
Crab Apple.
Crab Apple.
Common Pear.
Common Pear.
View of large pond.
View of large pond.
Ash tree seeds.
Ash tree seeds.
Aerial view of pond and trails.
Aerial view of pond and trails.
Apple tree.
Apple.
Crab Apple.
Crab Apple.
Gray dogwood.
Gray dogwood.
Hawthorn
Hawthorn.

For more information about Lions Park go to our Find-a-Park page.

The featured photo at the top is from Menomonee Park, Waukesha County.

Stay tuned for the next installment of Autumn Odyssey 2022.

Related stories from Autumn 2022:

Joan M. Pick Nature Preserve

Hiking Pike Lake State Park in Autumnal Glory!

Fall Colors at Virmond Park

To explore more parks and preserves throughout SE Wisconsin go to our Find-a-Park map.

Eddee Daniel is a board member of Preserve Our Parks.