On Sunday (2/18), we were just being lazy and enjoying having nothing to do when I decided I wanted to get out. The temperature was decent, it wasn’t raining or snowing, so why weren’t we outside? I asked my husband where we could go to see water. Didn’t matter what kind, I was just in a water kind of mood. After he gave me a few options, we settled on the Menomonee River in Wauwatosa.
We started our walk along the Hoyt Park Mountain Bike Trails, which apparently double as hiking trails (though I’m not 100% sure how it works). While there were some bike tracks in spots along the path, I don’t think we encountered anyone biking on the trails while we were walking. We did see a few other groups of people walking, including a few families out enjoying the nicer temps together. We also saw a number of birds…
Yes, scattered along the trails – mostly perched atop trail signs – are these cute, little wooden birds. Pictured above are the seven that we saw along our walk that afternoon. As to the meaning of or reason for them… I don’t have a clue. My best guess is that they might represent the birds one might see in the area (particularly since the Oak Leaf Birding Trail runs nearby), but I have nothing to back that up.
(I’m not exaggerating when I say I spent more than an hour on Google, searching a plethora of possible word combinations, like “Wauwatosa trails wooden birds” and “Hoyt Park wood duck.” I even tried searching for Cosmic Curtan [sic], but no luck. If anyone out there has any more info about them, PLEASE drop me a line and enlighten me. This inquiring mind certainly wants to know.)
The other items of interest along these trails were what looked like one or two shelters made from tree branches and other natural materials. I ducked into one and looked around quickly. There isn’t exactly room for dining and dancing, but you could fit a handful of people inside if they were all sitting and didn’t mind being too close to one another (and, depending on the weather, didn’t mind a wet bum). If nothing else, I’m impressed someone put their time and energy into creating them.
After a bit of walking along the river, we reached a sort of crossroads. If we turned left we would head to Hoyt Park itself. If we went straight, we could continue along the mountain bike trails. But we turned right and headed across a bridge to meet up with part of the Oak Leaf Trail.
The Oak Leaf Trail is a paved multi-use trail that winds around Milwaukee County. The trail seems to be ever-expanding but currently covers somewhere around 120 miles throughout Milwaukee and the surrounding ‘burbs. Parts of the path follow old railroad routes, while other parts take you along city streets and parkways. The part of the trail we walked that afternoon took us down the Menomonee River Parkway.
There was still snow on the ground next to the path, in which we could see tracks from people, dogs, bikes, and (we think) cross country skis making their way through the adjacent greenspace. The trail itself was mostly cleared and while I wouldn’t call it busy, it was certainly in use, particularly by dogs and their walkers.
When we looped back around to our car, we decided to walk just a bit further, so we crossed the railroad tracks and continued on toward Hart Park. However, we realized at this point that we were walking into the wind and that the novelty of a numb face was getting old, so we turned around and went back to the car. Along the way back to the car we were treated to a train barreling through town, but aside from that our outing was otherwise uneventful (so I apologize if this post is a bit on the dull side).
As this walk was a little unorganized, I don’t really have any super specific tips or info, but I do have plenty of links so I’m going to combine those two sections!
Hoyt Park (MTB Project) – A map and description of the Hoyt Park Mountain Bike Trail that made up the first part of our walk.
Mountain Bike Trails (Milwaukee County) – Just in case you want some “official” information about the bike trail. The link also has information about the other trails maintained by the county.
Oak Leaf Trail (Milwaukee County) – This link provides updates on trail closures and construction, as well as a brief background on the trail and a link to trail etiquette and safety rules.
Improvements on the Oak Leaf Trail (Urban Ecology Center) – A recent article about some of the history of, and improvements to, the Oak Leaf Trail.
Wisconsin’s Oak Leaf Trail (Rails-to-Trails Conservancy) – Another recent article about the trail, including its importance to the in-progress Route of the Badger network.