I advise you to go to Hawthorne Glen in the summer. In the fall or spring or god forbid, the winter, the park feels too insubstantial. Without the full cover of leaves, when you take the quarter mile walking path up to the ridge and look through the bare trees, the Hwy 41 on-ramp, the nearby condo development, the backhoes, and the Amtrak rail will be in full view.
Go in the summer. Magically, the glen, under tall, unnervingly creaky trees and in full green cover, will mask all of these things and turn into an enclave.
Once a settlement spot for the Potawatomi and the Menomonee, by 1890 the Glen was being used as a gravel pit. I’m unclear when it transitioned into a park, but in 1938 the site was bolstered by a WPA project which constructed picnic areas and a small building with beautiful stone-carved nature scenes, which houses Hawthorne Glen’s Nature museum.
The Glen is the rare green space I’ve found around here that isn’t part of the Milwaukee County Parks system. Instead, it is managed by the Milwaukee Public Schools Recreation division, and has a decidedly educational bent. Signs dotting the trail helpfully point out Boxelder and Basswood and Bottlebrush, and flowers with curious names like Blue False Indigo and Zig Zag Goldenrod.
If you come between precisely 4:00 and 5:00 on weekdays and 11:00-11:45 or 3:00 and 4:00 on weekends, you will gain entry to the Nature Museum, a frankly depressing menagerie consisting of pond snails, snapping turtles, chickadees and mourning doves, alongside a variety of battered-looking taxidermied animals, including an otter placed under a glass tank, looking for the world like a house cat under a coffee table. The first time I was there, everyone from the caretaker down to the stuffed woodchuck seemed cranky. On a subsequent visit, things were livelier, with turtles crawling around on the floor and kids going beserk over the bull snake, sloooowly starting to move in its tank.
Hawthorne Glen | Milwaukee Public Schools Recreation Division | 1130 North 60th Street, Milwaukee
A couple of park shelters with firepit
Robins (a lot of robins), Mourning Dove, Cardinal, House Finch, Squirrels (seriously, a disturbing lot of squirrels)