More to Explore in Wisconsin

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.

Next day:

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?

Time to understand life and death.

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.

Peru’s orange-cheeked waxbill

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:

Thai Garden

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!

Next day:

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!

3 thoughts on “More to Explore in Wisconsin

Leave a Reply