On Saturday, January 13th, I took part in my very first Meetup event! For those unfamiliar with it, Meetup is sort of like the online version of a bulletin board. Looking for a group of other walking enthusiasts? Hoping to connect with others in your industry or field? Just want to find some people to hang with over a few drinks? Meetup’s the place to do all of that. As Wikipedia puts it, “Meetup is an online social networking service, intended for people to organize and/or join group meetings in real life (IRL).”
In order to broaden my horizons, I joined Meetup to see what’s out there. The answer? Quite a bit. There are broad groups, like New Friends MKE, where the goal is just to meet some new people and have some fun. There are oddly specific groups, like MKE Unicyclists or Milwaukee Underwater Hockey, who have a more goal-oriented or activity-oriented focus. And there are groups everywhere in between. Can’t find a Meetup group that fits your needs? Create one and let people come to you. Odds are good that if you’re interested, someone else out there is, too.
Among the other groups I recently joined (just to see what’s going on outside my bubble) is a Hiking/Backpacking/Camping group. There’s a small subset of people from the group who go walking every Saturday morning (at a civilized hour, nonetheless) down along Milwaukee’s lakefront. If I really want to see everything Wisconsin has to offer, that’s going to include more than parks and trails in more rural areas, so I (along with my husband) RSVP’d for my first Meetup!
Because the focus was on walking, and I was still in a bit of pain from pushing myself the week leading up to the Meetup, I decided to leave my camera in the car. I figured if anything came up that I wanted to photograph, I could either come back after the walk, or I could make a note to return on another day. That turned out to be a good idea for a number of reasons. First, the people in this group were serious about their walking. We definitely brought up the rear for the whole walk, and I was definitely trying my best. If I’d had my camera, I’d never have made it. The other big reason was the temperature: it was COLD. While this isn’t a deal-breaker for taking photos, it can be hard on the camera. Covering and exposing the lens can cause excess moisture. Cold temps drain battery faster. And it’s really hard to shoot with gloves on.
There was a lot to see along our 5-mile walk, and I would love to try it again with the group when a) I’m a bit faster, and b) it’s a bit warmer. A few of the members were nice enough to hang back to introduce themselves and get to know us a bit, but the majority of the group stuck to their pace and never looked back. I’m hoping if it’s warmer and I can keep up better that the experience might be a bit different. The route itself, though, was a nice mix of scenic Lake Michigan and the urban jungle that is Milwaukee (particularly the Third Ward), and I would very much like to attempt it again on my own (or with someone willing to walk more slowly) to take pictures. (Note that our route took us through Lakeshore State Park, but only briefly. I’ve been there before, though, and it’s a lovely place to take a walk!)
As it was, there was one spot I couldn’t resist going back to take photos. Toward the beginning of the walk, we strolled past the Milwaukee Art Museum. If you’ve never seen it, the art museum is kind of difficult to explain. For lack of better words, it’s weird. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s incredible. But… it’s weird. (It has wings. Need I say more?)
Just after we passed the museum we found a spot along the lake where the wind must really be drawn. The waves must have come crashing in to this little corner because the ice that was formed there was spectacular. And it wasn’t just on the railing, as was the case in other locations; it had also found its way on to the sidewalk and into a tree. This is one of those things that you’re only ever going to see in the winter, and only after the conditions have been just right, so it was an opportunity I couldn’t waste.
Since it was almost noon, we stuck around to watch the art museum flap its wings. (No, I’m not kidding. It’s a real thing.) I’d always wanted to check it out, but hadn’t gotten the chance. We were definitely ready to get out of the cold by the time the wings closed, and since any photos of them opening back up would look the same as closing, we decided to be done for the day. Since I hit 10,000 steps before noon, I was good with this decision.
If you want to find a walking group in your area (or any other group, for that matter), check out Meetup.com! If you’re in the Milwaukee area and want to join the group who walks this route on Saturday mornings, look up the Milwaukee Campers, Backpackers, and Hikers group. You’ll need to apply to join, but I think it’s more to make sure the group isn’t just full of lurkers. The questions are pretty easy and straightforward. I got in.
If you want to head to Milwaukee’s lakefront on your own, here are a few things that might be helpful:
- As is the case in most “major” cities, parking can be difficult to find. Try heading to one of the parks (like Veterans Park) or nearby shopping areas. If you don’t mind paying to park, there are meters and ramps around as well.
- The art museum’s wings (known as Burke Brise Soleil) open at 10 AM, flap at noon, and close when the museum closes. This is all subject to weather, and the wings take about 3.5 minutes to open or close (so 7 to watch them flap).
- The Hank Aaron State Trail runs through Lakeshore State Park, just behind the hallowed Summerfest grounds (Henry W Maier Festival Park). While nice for taking a stroll, this is also a prime spot for fishing, biking, and jogging. There are also a handful of Poké stops (or portals, for anyone playing Ingress).
- Other buildings of note along this stretch of Milwaukee’s lakefront include Discovery World, the Betty Brinn Children’s Museum, the U.S. Bank Building, and the North Point Lighthouse.