Wisconsin is a state I wish I could spend more time in, but I usually am only passing through as I head from the east coast home to Arizona. My last trip I spent time in the Milwaukee area, this time in the Madison area. Here was my 2.5 day itinerary:
I arrived in the afternoon at Retzer Nature Center in Waukesha to do some birding. The previous day in Illinois I added a bobolink to my “new bird list”, but I wanted to get a photo of the bird. I spent a couple of hours here and did get a photo.
I camped at a campground I had already visited in the last couple of years.
I hoped to bicycle ride a section of the Glacial Drumlin State Trail; however, I woke to wildfire smoke. I did not know how bad the air would be at the trail so I ate breakfast at a restaurant close to my starting point and decided on plan B.
I drove to Aztalan State Park in Jefferson. It looked to be an interesting park but it required an $11 park entrance fee. I decided it would be worth it on a visit when I might spend 4 hours or more. This day was not going to be it.
I drove to Goose Pond Sanctuary in Arlington, a place I had been to in past visits. I wanted to walk alone and observe what I knew would be few birds, but I simply wanted quiet. My brain and heart were with craziness; I needed time to think, feel and process all that was going on within me. Time in nature allows me to grapple with emotional hardships … and I was having one of those moments. Days earlier I left my best friend of 40 years and knew she would die soon. My heart ached. I needed time to think and understand what was best for her. It was no time for me to be selfish, yet why do such friendships ever have to end?
I left the sanctuary needing to discover a new place. I visited Olbrich Botanical Garden and Bolz Conservatory in Madison. Wow, was it all amazing! For $6 the conservatory had a rainforest from Peru. It got me wondering if these little birds were one of the 100 birds I had seen when I was in Peru’s Amazon. A Madison man has a protected place in Peru and is linked with the conservatory.
The outdoor gardens are free and so magnificent that I would think local people would walk here often. Each garden was representative of a different area of the world. The Thai pavilion and garden was beautiful too:
I discovered a bicycle trail not far from the Olbrich Botanical Garden which had ebikes for rent. I was almost tempted to rent one, but with the smoky air I returned to my campground about an hour south with less wildfire smoke.
My second night at this campsite. A van as small and basic as mine prompts people to ask me about it. Tonight a woman asked about travel itself; she is new to RVing. I met her at her camper after I cooked my dinner and she walked her dog. Over a glass of Malbec wine, I offered some things I learned while on the road. It was nice to chat about outdoor life and how to be safe as a single woman on the road. She was contemplating Harvest Hosts for possible nights to save some dollars. The main thing I learned is to definitely read the reviews written by others who stayed at a particular Harvest Host location. She had seen the movie Nomadland and I encouraged her to read the book to understand the whole story. I could not suggest dispersed camping or boondocking. I believe it is important for at least a campground staff or Harvest Host to know I am on property. I had no problem being off by myself backpacking in the middle of nowhere in a forest, but these days on the road it is quite different. Safety is the priority!
Relaxed morning start. Bird-watched while I ate breakfast at my picnic table. Organized and cleaned the van. Took a shower. Washed and dried clothing at the campground’s laundry room. Charged my Apple Watch and Goal Zero. Spent time writing before leaving for LaCrosse, Wisconsin to meet a friend for dinner and to stay at Pearl Street Brewery, my Harvest Host location for the night.
No wildfire smoke has been in this area of Wisconsin so I had 2 good nights while sleeping. I hope my luck continues. Once again I cannot head north to northern Michigan, Wisconsin or Minnesota. The winds from the 400 wildfires from British Columbia to Nova Scotia are blowing into the USA. It’s a good reminder of how we are all connected!
Iowa, here I come … another new day … another new beginning!