School was out Monday, so we hiked that afternoon. Eagle wanted to return to a park they’d visited with summer program two years ago. They remembered there was a meadow and most importantly a spring. I contacted the camp, to see in the off chance they remembered the location. I was in luck, one of Eagle’s counselor’s from 2019 answered my email and could tell me exactly which park it was! We drove to a spot only twenty minutes, and a world away, from our home. The Pheasant’s Branch Conservatory is 319 acres (1,290,947 square meters). Looking up the springs on the park map, I narrowed it down to two possible parking lots, one mile away from each other. Both led to the springs. When we drove up to the correct parking lot (more luck), Eagle recognized it. “This is it! This is it!”
As we walked down the gravel path into the park, Eagle confirmed, “This is definitely it!” We crossed a wooden foot bridge, the path turned to grass and the expanse of the meadow spread out around us on all sides.
After about a half mile (800 m), we saw a sign pointing to the spring location. We walked down a dozen steps and around the corner was a wooden overlook. This was the special site that Eagle remembered. I was amazed at the movement of the water. I don’t remember seeing such an active spring before. The surface was bubbling and rippling with the force of the water emanating from its source.
After we finished our epic journey to the spring, we walked back to the main path. We heard a lot of cranes with their deep croaking honk sound and saw them flying around. Wonder if there was a predator? Although we were curious to get closer, there was no path that led to their location. Signs discourage hikers from departing from the path, so as not to trample the native plants and disturb wildlife.
So we looked to the hill, where I read there were effigy mounds.
We took our time, on the looping path up the hill. From the top, we could see the Capitol building on the other side of Lake Mendota 2 to 3 miles (3-5K) away!
The plaque describes the burial mounds and effigy mounds found on top of the hill, and those on the side of the hill that were destroyed most likely by farmers as they ploughed their fields. Several mounds are to honor the springs which are important as entryways for good people into the spirit world.
I believe my photo is of the oval shaped mound.
All in all, I believe we walked 3 miles (5K). We saw wildlife, a beautiful spring, the autumn prairie, a view of the Capitol, at least one effigy mound, and enjoyed a family hike. We understand why Eagle found this park memorable and a must see! Thanks to them for inspiring this outing.
What are your favorite natural areas near you?
We have several wonderful entries for the October poetry challenge. Please add yours to the comments too, by Sunday.