Riveredge Nature Center

Little boy in a yellow rain suit with red rainboots sitting on a rockRiveredge Nature Center has to be one of my favorite places I’ve discovered since moving back to Wisconsin. The atmosphere here is simply welcoming and heartfelt. The staff makes you feel welcome and the facilities are gorgeous.

They have a great nature preschool with lots of kids activities. There’s a preschool library with sensory bin, different activities for the seasons, and a hideout in a “tree” upstairs. Then you go outside for their natural play area. Additionally, they have a grouping of rocks that are purposefully strewn for kids to climb and play on. It’s truly a remarkable place where both adult and child pursuits have been considered and melded together. We have yet to walk all the trails, which means there is a lot to explore still!

Inside a silo painted with a mural 4 kidsThe kids love it when we come here. This time we brought friends. I got to break out all the rain suits I own and 4 kiddos played happily in the cold, mud and wind. It’s so wonderful when, with the right gear, we can facilitate enjoyment of weather that isn’t “quite” perfect.

We walked the Vernal Pond Trail. It was so much fun to see how the ponds are full now and will vanish in the summer. Graham walked the whole trail, loving to be with his buddies. Warren walked about half. He’s been very cuddly lately, so it was a real pleasure to see his desire to walk.

Pros: amazing kids programs and play area, lots of trail options, wild, bathrooms available year round

Cons: 40 min drive from Milwaukee

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Sunshine On My Shoulders

Independence Grove in Libertyville, IL. 3 miles of a unshaded gravel path. As Kate said, “Not exactly what I planned.”

All around though it was a great walk. The path was quite extensive and beautiful. It had two loop options. We took the shorter loop to avoid the bikes on the top loop. Neither path had any shade to speak of. The top loop connects up to the Des Plaines River Trail and Greenway- which could make a nice backpacking trip.

There was a great kids playground with ‘cave’ and climbing wall. I was pretty impressed. It worked pretty well for a wide range of kids.

Pros: Long trail with lots of detours over the lake. Awesome kids playground by the pavilion

Cons: While this park is free to Lake County residents you have to pay $10 to park if you don’t live in Lake County. There isn’t a sticker you can buy so you’ll have to pay each time. Lack of shade in the summer is a concern. High traffic area- so if solitude is what you are looking for, this isn’t the place for you. This is a great residential park but definitely isn’t a wilderness.

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Jacobus Park

two boys climbing over a water duct

Let’s be adventurous

Mini Pinecones Toddler in red & white striped hat standing in front of a dry stream bed

Narrow Trail with an umbrella stroller at the bottom

An incline that I perhaps shouldn’t have taken the umbrella stroller down

The HikeitBaby30 is underway again. So we’re mileage focused. We started adult paced and quickly devolved back to kid exploration and then back to adult paced. I guess this isn’t much of a “hike” as most think about them. But the kids got down and dirty with rocks, sticks, and streams. It also required a lot of physical negotiation with the stroller and the path/not path.

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52 Hikes

It was narrow. It was close. It wasn’t exactly what I had planned. But it’s completed. I had planned to make my last hike of the 52 hike challenge a completely solo hike. Going solo anywhere is a bit of a challenge for me, so I thought it would dovetail nicely with this challenge. Then we ended up going to my in-laws for the last weekend. 

The hike was Grant Woods Forest Preserve, which was very lovely. I guess you could say it was solo since Elliot carried Warren and Graham walked the whole time. The woods were lovely. It has been so nice to share our passion with our family. Encouraging others to be more active and enjoy nature is so much fun. Considering how much we have benefitted from this lifestyle, we want to include our family in that as well.

I’m going to continue to post about hikes and we have an upcoming backpacking trip that I need to document. Plus, what I’ve learned! Can’t wait.

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Snails and Puppy Dog Tails

Of all the things I’ve learned from the 52 hike challenge, one that sticks with me the most is that the weather doesn’t have to be perfect for it to be a good hike. Unlike our last trip to Schlitz Nature Center (with driving rain), this trip was sunny albeit a little cold.

Toddler Walking along Lake Michigan

Warren walking along Lake Michigan

We brought along some friends and ended up walking 3 miles! One of my favorite parts of Schlitz is Lake Access! The pebble beaches often amaze me with the variety of rocks. Quartz, Marble, Granite, Sandstone- it’s a veritable treasure. Each rock is so smooth and heavy. The sensory input is just awesome.

4 year old boy in red rain suit standing in Lake Michigan

Graham deciding to wade in

We’ve also taken to exploring the ponds to look for snails. Finding the empty snails shells is easy. It’s being patient and observant to find the ones stuck to the bottom that’s’ much harder.

Little boy holding a snail shell beside a pond

Snails Shells

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Lichen, Liken, Like um?

I didn’t realize how much of a fan I was of lichen, fungi, and mosses. It’s something about these plants that just draws me in. This hike was all about balance for me. We had done a whole bunch of stroller/ adult pace hikes recently. It was raining and miserable. The last thing I wanted was to pack up and hike while carrying kids. So we toddler led. Graham and Warren spent about 20 minutes running back and forth through the same puddle.

This hike was such a blessing. Walking at a child’s pace allowed me to appreciate all the little details. There were moss, lichen, and fungi all over our hike. The copious amounts of rain we had made everything verdant green. I think what I find most fascinating about these plants is the locations they grow on. Most grow on rock or dead trees. It’s amazing how they create a life for themselves. Hike 51 is complete.

It looks like I won’t be doing a solo hike for my last hike. But I do plan to make that a goal for myself.

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Dance Me

It is the renewed vigor of challenge that draws me onward. I think we all do a dance as parents and human beings. Just what and how far do we sacrifice? How much can we lose and still be ourselves? In the growth of ourselves aren’t we better beings?

We headed to the Menomonee River in Wauwatosa for a 2.3-mile hike and 1.5 hours in the ridiculous 70-degree weather. The trail was really muddy in places. We also had a brief scramble over not-trail-not-water.

Graham did a great job and hiked the whole time. Warren had fun on me for the most part. He’s very particular about when he walks. And the first part of the trail was so ridiculous that I’m glad he didn’t want to walk. I love that my mom (Nana) has been coming hiking with us. It’s so wonderful to share this passion with my family.Hike 50 is done! I must be one of those people that thrive on deadlines.

Dance me to your beauty with a burning violin
Dance me through the panic till I’m gathered safely in –
Billy Joel

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I have 5 minutes

5 minutes in which my fingers can fly. We did Hike 49. That means there’s only 3 left. And I’m not sure we’ll make it. When I said two posts ago that it wouldn’t matter, I was kidding myself. Of course, it matters. It matters because this was a goal for me. This was something that meant something to me.

I knew that I needed to make the effort to add this into my life. I knew it as surely as I know that life isn’t any good without tea. I knew it as surely as Graham’s laugh makes me happy. Hiking matters. My goals matter. I brought out the compromise and thought I can live with that. Turns out, I can’t.

Hike 49 was great. It wasn’t much mileage (hahaha) but I soaked up every ray of the weak watery sunshine. My sons laughed with their friends and spent most of the time attempting to dig holes alongside the trail. At one point it was suggested that a 3 pound rock would make a good hiking companion and would you, pretty please mama, carry this?

So I have about 14 days to hike 3 hikes. I would like at least one of them to be a completely solo hike. Alone but not lonely.

Some things we sacrifice as parents. This isn’t going to be one of them.

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Winter awakens all my sorrow, now these leaves grow bare

This title is a little misleading. But I wanted to talk about those hikes that don’t go the way we expect. I was hoping, when I scheduled this hike for Hike it Baby that it was going to be a great hike. The weather would be warm(ish) and that lots of our friends would be there.

But that isn’t how it went. Instead, we drove an hour and a half for about 40 minutes of hiking. We hiked alone. It was freezing. It was windy. At one point Warren needed to be held because the wind knocked him down. (I’m not kidding) And yet, this hike was wildly successful. No one whined. No one. Graham ran around like a banshee screaming into the wind. Warren explored some trees. We found a slightly less windy spot and had snacks. I am eternally grateful for Pouches. We made practically no distance. Everyone smiled. Everyone had a great time.

It’s days like this that teach you how impressive your kids are. All that work we pour into them to help them be resilient and happy, it pays off. It pays off when they can have a good time even if it isn’t what was planned. “hey mama, what are these holes? Oh, mama are we on the ICE AGE TRAIL? hey, mama, I found a stick” the kids being happy has helped me be happier. I have so much to learn.

Hike 48. Too short to count mileage. Too long to not count.

Winter awakens all my sorrow, now these leaves grow bare; often I sigh and mourn sorely when I come to think of this world’s joy, and how it all goes to nothing

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For the Kids

A huge part of my 52 hike challenge journey has been finding the balance between my needs and my children’s needs. While I’ve definitely increased the number of kid led hikes we’re leading, I’m trying to be really mindful of how much adult pace I ask of them. The last couple hikes were mostly at my pace. My birthday hike was a walking pace and pretty long. While the Bong Recreation hike wasn’t nearly as long, we did move pretty quickly to stay warm.

So the kids were due for a full on wanderlust hike. I only urged them forward as little as possible and mostly my requests were that we play in the sunshine. Occasionally, I’d ask to move out of the wind. Otherwise, I left them to their devices as they ran gleefully through the same puddle 40 times. Or splashed the pond to stir up mud. Or tromped over the bridges. We sat peacefully and ate our snacks and watched the geese.

Our mileage was tiny. We might have walked a mile. MAYBE. But we spent almost an hour doing so. And it was perfect. The kids and I both loved it.

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