October 24, 2017

Hiking the Lower Yahara River Trail

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There's a new trail in town and I like it. It includes the longest inland boardwalk bridge constructed solely for non-motorized transportation in North America!

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The Lower Yahara River Trail links my community, McFarland, with a trail system that links and loops around the greater Madison area, in a series of other trails.

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I've highlighted the newest sections of the trail in green on this map. As you can see, it transverses a narrow strip of land between Upper Mud Lake and Lake Waubesa. In the past, we'd need to travel much farther, and through heavy traffic, to get to the parks across the lake. This new trail provides an easy, pleasant hike and access to the prairies and parks on the other side.

It's also open to bikers, joggers, and skaters. I realized later that I should have included more pictures of people in this post, because the trail was busy both times I've hiked it. The photos shown here were taken on two dates--during a dry, hot day in September and a recent warm, lush day in October.

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Some trees had already lost their leaves in September because of a mini-drought with several days in the 90sF/30sC.

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It was still pleasant on the dry, hot day, in spite of the difficult growing conditions.

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But much more pleasant and peaceful after sufficient rain.

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The trail parallels a long-established stretch of railroad.

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Sections along the way provide bike racks and plenty of room for people to pause, park, and enjoy the scenery.

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The clouds, the lake, and the shadows are mesmerizing.

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Looking across to the railroad bridge, this is the point along the trail where Upper Mud Lake connects with Lake Waubesa. It's a popular fishing and boating spot.

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Beyond the boardwalk, the trail connects with a particular area of Lake Farm County Park I'd never seen before--an area I'm planning to explore more fully next spring and summer. It's a beautiful loop of trails through prairie and woodland-opening habitat.

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During my October hike, I saw several Common Buckeye butterflies.

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Most of the forbs and grasses were dried up because of the September drought, but the framing of the colorful fall foliage made for pretty contrasts.

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A few Brown-Eyed Susans (R. triloba) and Thistles (Cirsium spp.) were among the scant plants still blooming in October.

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After exploring the prairie and the woodland for a bit, I headed back to the boardwalk, with similar lovely views on the return trip.

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A few people were fishing.

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Others were kiteboarding/surfing on the lake.

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A beautiful red-tailed hawk swooped down over the lake, across the boardwalk, and into a tree in my sight line. It paused long enough for me to capture a few candids. Such a regal bird!

It's wonderful to have a new trail to explore so close to home. This new area is within easy walking/biking distance of home, and it opens up new paths of discovery. Enjoy this video, showing aerial and surface views of the trail:

28 comments:

  1. Enjoyed your story and lovely photos of nature in autumn. Exploring the surroundings by feet always gives the best impression about all living and growing. Capturing a redtailed hawk for your lens is gorgeous.

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    1. Yes, it's a great place for enjoying the local wildlife and scenery. And a great place to exercise. :)

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  2. Wow. You are so lucky to have such a place to explore. Beautiful images.

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    1. Thanks. Yes, we're feeling very fortunate to have this new trail nearby...and it leads to more trails and places to explore. :)

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  3. What a fabulous addition to your community. It looks like a great place to get outdoors and enjoy the beautiful surroundings at any time of year. I love all the native plants that are growing around the trails too! Looks like you are enjoying some nice fall color as well.

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    1. Karin: I can't wait to check it out next spring and summer. The boardwalk will be awesome in any season, but the trails beyond were surrounded by native plants. I'm thinking it will be a great spot for butterfly sightings. :)

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  4. How wonderful - it looks so beautiful and peaceful. I especially like the fact that you are now afforded easy, traffic free access to the parks - much more enjoyable than sitting in a car on the highway.

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    1. Yes, it's great! And, ya, I used to hop in the car to get over to those other parks, but biking or hiking is much better.

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  5. We are lucky to live in such a beautiful area! The new bike trail in Sauk Prairie opened this weekend. The trail will soon go all the way to Devil's Lake!!

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    1. Hi Chris: Wow, a bike trail from Sauk to Devil's Lake! That's awesome! I'll have to check that out, too.

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  6. Beautiful!

    And nice photos :)

    (I've probably asked before, but what camera do you use?)

    Also, are the trails mainly for recreation, or can people use them as an alternative to car transport for getting around Madison?

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    1. Thanks, Aaron. I used two different cameras for this one. For the hike in September, I used my iPhone. For the more recent hike, I used my bridge camera--an Olympus. It has a nice optical zoom, but it's lighter weight than my Cannon Rebel DSLR, which I also love for other purposes and situations. Re: the trails--many people use them to bike commute throughout the area. I'm not a big biker, but biking is huge here in Madison.

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    1. It is! You'll have to check it out. It's a little busy with bikes on a warm weekend, but not too busy during the week. I imagine the traffic will lighten more as the cold weather sets in. I'm wondering if people will cross-country ski it: That would be fun!

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  8. Looks like a lot of beautiful area to explore in every season! Will this be totally covered in snow all winter?

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    1. Yes, it is gorgeous! I'm unsure about the snow thing. Now, we tend to have some snow-free stretches of weather. But if there's a long stretch of snowy weather, I'm wondering if they'll run a small snowplow over it regularly so people can ski it or walk it. I'll let you know when I find out. ;-)

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  9. Wonderful to be able to cross the water on a dedicated footbridge, instead of driving around.

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    1. Yes, it is! There was a wooded trail part of the way before, but not all the way across. People used to walk the railway bridge, but that's not safe. So, this is good. :)

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  10. I would love this!! Beautiful Wisconsin!!!
    Let us know if you take a winter hike along the trail. I am sure it would be beautiful.

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    1. It's awesome, Carla! I will keep you posted--I do plan to explore it when the snow flies. ;-)

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  11. What a gorgeous place! I think I need to visit Wisconsin some time; I've heard how beautiful it is and your photos certainly confirm that!

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    1. It IS really pretty. Thanks for your compliment. Yes, please do come visit! If you do, let me know when you'll be here and we can meet in person. (Winter is rough, but the other three seasons are awesome in Wisconsin!)

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  12. OMG Beth, sorry I cant open them all on the phone, it's a lot. I need the PC, and I want to go there too. I want to go with you!

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    1. Oh gosh, if you ever come to the States, you'll have to visit Wisconsin (spring, fall, and winter are nice). Let me know if you do so we can meet in person. :)

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  13. What a wonderful new hiking route. We've got to get back to Madison one of these days. Great capture of the hawk!

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    1. Thanks, Jason. Yes, you'll have to visit soon. As you know, spring, summer, and fall are awesome here. But the same can be said of Chicago and Evanston. How are we going to make it through the winter? LOL.

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  14. Beautiful photos of our newest local trail - one I have not yet had the chance to visit. Love the photo near the bottom of the hawk, too.

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    1. You'll have to check it out, Heather. I'm so amazed at the chain of trails available in the city now. I'm not a biker, but for those who do, the system just gets better and better!

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