Story by

Keila Leist

November 10th, 2015

I remember when our older son Gabriel was just a few weeks old. I used to wrap him up snugly inside the baby wrap and walk around our neighborhood until he fell asleep. I think he loved hearing the sounds of the leaves in the wind, the cars slowly driving by and the smell of fresh air. We spent a lot of our first moments like that as I adjusted to motherhood and learned more about our little baby. Walking soon became one of our favorite things to do. Throughout the years, we have always made time to walk. Now, as a family of four, it's one of our favorite ways to slow down, connect and make time together.

I was looking for a new trail to hike and discovered the Wehr Nature Center through a friend. I knew it would be the perfect way to walk and take in the beauty of our surroundings. The Wehr Nature Center is the only one found in the southern half of Milwaukee County. It has various natural communities that are made up of woodland, wetland, prairie, oak savanna and lake areas. We were so excited when we found out there was a waterfall there as well. It's really a treat to have a place like this so close to the city.

It's sweet how excited Gabriel becomes when we tell him we're going somewhere new. We've realized that for our curious toddler, it helps to start preparing him for our little adventures by repeating what we'll be doing before we do it. That morning before we headed out I told Gabriel, "Gabrielito, vamos a salir a un parque y encontraremos unas cataratas." ["Gabriel, we are going to a park and then we're going to find a waterfall."] "Oh, ca-ta-ra-tas." He kept repeating his new word trying so hard to enunciate each syllable just right. Once we arrived at Wehr, we were blown away by the gorgeous foliage on its expansive 200 acres. The beauty of the changing colors was so striking, and we started off by visiting a little play area and picking up our maps.

Gabriel noticed right away that there were color-coordinated wooden posts. We found out that they led to the different trail loops, and decided to head to the one towards the waterfall. It was about a mile long. One of my favorite memories by far was watching Gabriel make up games while we headed down the path. He found a giant seed and started yelling, "Ball! Ball!" while he threw it than chased after it.

This continued for a good ten minutes until he would discover a new tree branch or fenced area that seemed too good to not explore. He has taught me so much. Watching him stop and admire everything with his bright eyes has inspired me to do the same.

As with most of our walks, Cristian was in his baby carrier while my husband held him. We stopped throughout our walk to have him touch the leaves that I think he found so soft. Later, we tickled his nose with the grass, and he would laugh then sneeze! We made it to the waterfall rather quickly, and it was such a neat place to experience—although I was a bit disappointed when I found some litter and cigarette butts near the top. Gabriel tried to grab them when I mentioned it was "icky" and shouldn't be there. I can't imagine how difficult it is to maintain the natural beauty of an area so large. But at that moment it was a great opportunity to remind Gabriel that we cannot throw trash on the nature we have been given.

The rest of our hike was simply beautiful as we walked through the grasslands trail. I had to nurse Cristian in the middle of the field! That was a first for me, and it definitely ranks as one of the most scenic places I have fed him.

I am so grateful that we found this nature preserve. Being able to experience it as a family on that day made it one of the most memorable days of our autumn.

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