Yesterday was a beautiful party cloudy day in which I chose the Richard Bong State Recreation Park as my destination.
“Richard Bong State Recreation Area is a 4,515-acre unit of the state park system of the U.S. state of Wisconsin. It is located in the town of Brighton, in Kenosha County. This managed prairie contains 8.3 miles of mountain bike trails. Other recreational activities include high power rocketry, swimming, dogsledding, falconry, ATV sports, land sailing, horseback riding, hunting, fishing, camping with amenities, and ultralight aviation. There is a wildlife preserve where great egrets, sandhill cranes, and great blue herons are known to nest.” -Wikipedia
History: In 1955, the air force began to buy the land previously settled by English immigrant farmers, to build a Strategic Air Command Base housing B-52 bombers. The base was named to honor Wisconsin native Major Richard Bong. Bong was a WWII pilot succeeding in 40 aerial victories and awarded the Medal of Honor for his bravery and heroism. Work Continued on the airbase until cancellation in 1959, at which point local citizens had the foresight to protect the area as a recreational space.
This is a great park for hiking and camping, having stayed a few over nights here myself. There is a total of seven hiking paths and a horse path. It is nestled in amongst the farms and prairies of the South-central part of Wisconsin. This backdrop is a great residence for the area song-birds and wild-life.
I had intentions of walking the longest trail (the Red trail) which is kind-of a figure-eight shape. It’s total length is 8.3 miles, however after completing the first of the loops I wound up (intentionally) veering off to another trail for a while and then locating my car in the parking lot, chose to end the days excursions without completing all 8 miles. This more due to time management reasons than dislike of the trail.
Most of the trail is a wide swatch of mowed grass amongst the (at times) shoulder-high bushes, brambles, wild grasses and shrubs. As you can see this would be a haven for ground critters and birds alike. The trail was not marked for difficulty, but aside from the distance I would call this easy to moderate as it is mostly level elevation and a well-kept path to navigate.
So here is where it gets interesting….
As stated in the history recap above, this park originally was an airfield and the trail I chose is said to be most true to the original topography of the area before the clearing of it for the fields construction. While walking through this wild terrain, I was astounded by the thought of the work that would needed to be level this ground and also of the dreadful passage by plane to land on such an UN-level ground! How frightful the approach and nerve-wracking the landing would have been!
Here is where I let out a small secret. I was here for a purpose; to research and photograph one of a few abandoned airfields in the area. I was asked by my cousin, who is writing a book and requested a little visual inspiration of the area. I’ve been privileged to read the rough draft, and without letting the cat out of the bag, I’ll just say that I’m thrilled to do his bidding and help participate in his creative writing process!
Which was also the focus of my (smaller) outing last weekend:
LakeShore State Park: “formerly known as Harbor Island, is the only urban state park in Wisconsin and is designed to provide an urban oasis with recreational opportunities and outdoor educational programs. The 22-acre park includes a 1.7 mile trail that connects to the Hank Aaron and Oak Leaf state trails; a watercraft beach area with access for canoes, paddleboats and kayaks; fishing areas and 20 boat slips for vessels up to 60 feet in length with overnight boat camping available. A bridge connects the north end of the park to the Summerfest grounds and an extension of the land near the Marcus Amphitheater connects the south end.”
There is only one short and paved trail within this park, but on a hot summer’s day it is an urban oasis of land and sea. Its views afford downtown Milwaukee to the North, Summerfest and the Hoan Bridge to the West and all of the boating and aquatic activities along the vast Lake Michigan to the East. I frequent this park and the lakefront connecting pathways and riverwalks quite often and when I do I find peace amongst chaos, so in many ways its desired effect has worked, though writing about it seems routine, I assure any visitor to the area will find this short excursion far from disappointing.
The park parallels the strip of land that was once Maitland Airfield which conveniently afforded a “seaplane ramp” as well as accessibility to the (then local) train station and later becoming the Nike Missile site. Most of these facts make my cousin the curious cat, so in addition to the trail I did a little walking off the beaten path and ventured down to explore and document on his behalf. But I will let that be his story, not mine and if you would like to get a taste for his writing you can find him @selkirksghost.wordpress.com
I’m just grateful our cityscape is much more beautiful now then it had been with protruding and intimidating missiles!