How to find new places to explore

I was done with work and in a mood to go somewhere. For times like this, I have a more strategic equivalent of throwing a dart at a map on a wall: I open Google Maps, find my location, and zoom out until I see green (a park) or blue (water) I haven’t been to yet. I’ll look at the distance away, ratings, comments, and pictures available for that location to determine if it’ll be appropriate for my adventure buddy, Gjalla. Then it’s go-time!

Exploring Liberty Park and Veterans Memorial Riverwalk, Delafield

Do you like multi-tasking on a walk? Near/through Liberty Park there’s a River Walk with monuments to the important US Wars in history – starting with the Revolutionary War and ending with War on Terror and a Peace Garden. If it wasn’t oppressively hot and if I had brought along my husband (who loves military history), I would have been at this park much longer. Perhaps we’ll go back in November when the leaves start turning colors.

I almost missed Liberty park completely but saw a sign for it as I was leaving the disappointing trek through St. John’s Park. St. John’s looked like a little park on the other side of the lake as Naga-Waukee Park, which I’d already visited. That day, I’d picked St. John’s to explore, thinking it would give me another way to wade in Naga-wicka lake. I was wrong.

St Johns Park and Naga-waukee Park
Google Maps view of St John’s (Left) and Naga-Waukee Park (right). If you are deciding between them, pick Naga-Waukee.

There are only 3 parking spots for St. John’s park and the blue circle shown in the map is not something you’d want to swim in. There is a little stream near the water fountain, but it’s not worth visiting unless you live in one of the houses right there and just want a quick dip.

The trip to St. John’s was not a waste because I wouldn’t have found Liberty Park and the Veteran’s Memorial Riverwalk with my map-zoom-and-search strategy. As I explored the Riverwalk, I noted for future reference the trail is flat but not paved. A stroller would have a tough time here.

I didn’t bring Gjalla with me on this adventure because of the heat and humidity. There were other doggies at this park, wading in some of the shallow parts of the river. However, based on the swarms of bugs I saw near the water surface, I know I’d get eaten alive by the bugs if I brought Gjalla here to swim.

We’ll see what this park looks like in November.

Exploring Menomonee River Parkway and Webster Park

I can tell Gjalla is happy to be where she is when she starts rolling. Webster Park is much smaller than the parks we normally visit, such as Mitchell, Menomonee, or Nashotah, but Gjalla looked pretty excited.

Webster Park connects to the Oak Leaf Trail – a paved road for bikes and pedestrians that parallels Menomonee River. This trail doesn’t offer much of a view of that river, but if you keep checking Google Maps for your location relative to water (like I did) or happen to wander through the right clearing (like Gjalla did), you can find the river.

If you had a dog that likes to walk, you could walk all the way from Webster Park to Currie Dog Park. However, neither Gjalla or I can walk long distances (meaning more than 1/2 mile) so we just explored a little section of the trail.

As we drove home from our adventure of the day, Gjalla seemed obsessed with the smells of one particular small town we drove through. Watching her in my rearview mirror try to inhale as much of this town as she could, I was reminded that my favorite part of exploring new places isn’t just the destination, it’s also the journey. Even when we find small parks or uninviting rivers, the process of going out and exploring makes it worth it to me.

 

 

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