Autumn Odyssey 6: Finding fall colors far and wide
January 4, 2023 | Topics: Stories
By Eddee Daniel
Although we bemoan the effort it takes to shovel it, or drive in it, snow is a salve for the darkness of winter. Without snow, as we have been seeing, winter is merely dreary. Winter rain is especially disheartening. Fortunately, we can readily return to the glory of autumn here in The Natural Realm. Our Autumn Odyssey is far from exhausted. This week, as we journey back in time we also explore parks and preserves both near and far.
Forest Exploration Center
We’ll start out close to the center of the six-county region that is the focus of A Wealth of Nature. The Forest Exploration Center is just a portion of the 535-acre Northeast Quadrant of the Milwaukee County Grounds in Wauwatosa. It has a beautiful 60-acre hardwood forest to, yes, explore but the center is still in the planning phase. However, what the nonprofit organization that manages this WIDNR property lacks in terms of a building it definitely makes up in terms of programming and popularity. An accessible crushed gravel trail loops through the forest.
Mary Knoll Park
Moving west to Waukesha County we find 20-acre Mary Knoll Park, a City of Brookfield park. Don’t let its diminutive size fool you. Almost half of the park is in a natural state—another hardwood forest. I visited twice during my October Odyssey and found some of the more spectacular colors. Good things can indeed come in small packages. The park nestles up to I-94 with its incessant buzz, but that’s a common feature of the urban wilderness. The terrain slopes down away from the freeway, which mitigates the hubbub. It is also a link in the Brookfield Greenway Trail System.
Grasslyn Nature Preserve
Next we hop northeast to Mequon in Ozaukee County and an even smaller spot on the map. In this case, the entire 15 acres of Grasslyn Nature Preserve is left to nature’s own devices. It includes a sizable prairie surrounded by woodlands. A couple of trails loop through it all. The preserve can be hard to find if you don’t live in the residential neighborhood surrounding it. Our Find-a-Park map is intended to help with that though!
Seno Woodland Education Center
A big leap takes us to a much larger property in southwest Racine County. This 213-acre preserve, aka Seno K/RLT Conservancy, is owned and managed by the Kenosha/Racine Land Trust. Over five miles of trails meander across a rolling terrain that includes woodlands, prairies, and a large tamarack bog. Here is another place where I happened upon some pretty spectacular autumn colors—although I missed the transformation of the tamaracks, which turn to gold during the peak of the season.
Finally, we’ll circle back to Milwaukee’s inner city where I joined a group from Saint John’s on the Lake who were touring McGovern Park. About a third of this 61-acre Milwaukee County Park is a remnant beech-maple forest. The magnificence of the maples make autumn a great time to visit, but another good time is in spring when the ephemeral flowers are in bloom. Autumn is also when the apples in the orchard are ripe, but that’s another story!
I leave you for now, dear reader, with this quote from George Eliot: “Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.” And if we cannot fly about the earth we still can find successive autumns right here in The Natural Realm. More to come!
I hope that by sharing the stories and images of these places that you will be inspired to explore them and others yourself. These are among the many other nearby parks that you can find on our Find-a-Park map.
Previous installments of Autumn Odyssey 2022:
Eddee Daniel is a board member of Preserve Our Parks. The featured photo at the top of the page is from Seno Woodland Education Center.