By Shelby Rowe Moyer
Ever heard of a forest bath? You’ve probably been doing it for decades without even realizing it. The practice is popular in Japan, and simply means immersing yourself in the depths of nature as a form of relaxation and rejuvenation. Luckily for us, Wisconsin is rich in outdoor life and there are many area parks and preserves that offer an indulgent moment away from city life.
To get the full experience, we recommend leaving your headphones at home and quietly walking along these local trails — all of which feature precious, and often rare, forest and wetlands.
Kishwauketoe Nature Conservancy
Bird watchers and lovers of other fauna visit the Kishwauketoe Nature Conservancy in Williams Bay to experience the diversity of wildlife. This treasured area, spanning 231 acres with 4 miles of trails, features views of wetlands, prairie, oak woods, meadow, an arboretum and two creeks. It’s open year-round and parking is available onsite. Keep in mind that the Firebreak Trail is a bit difficult to navigate right now. A trail map is available online.
White River Park
Similar in size to the Kishawauketoe Nature Conservancy, the White River Park offers 200 acres of lush landscape with two miles of frontage on the river and half a dozen trails that wind throughout scenic views. The trails span anywhere from 1.3 miles to .25 miles and offer leisurely hikes great for families. We like the Orange Trail (.97 miles) because it leads you to a peaceful pond that’s popular for fishing. Make White River Park an all-day outdoor experience when you bring your canoe, kayak or fishing poles. Permitted seasonal hunting and trapping is also allowed.
Fully immerse yourself in the density of Hermansen Woods, which has undergone a habitat restoration to revive and replenish the native woodland. A system of well-marked hiking trails can be found on site where you’ll see a bevy of sugar maples, elm, black walnut and many other northern hardwoods. If you’re lucky, you could spot a fox, a turkey or any number of wildlife attracted to the area. Hermansen Woods is just off the shore of Lake Como and resides on 15 acres.
In the Town of Lafayette, you can hike, fish, kayak, hunt and view wildlife at the 77-acre Hansen Preserve. Weaving along the .5-mile trail is Sugar Creek, ends at a rare oak opening. Along the way, the landscape includes a cattail marsh, sedge meadow and more. Just like Hermansen Woods, Hansen Preserve is overseen by the Geneva Lake Conservancy with support from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and private donors.
Named for the Bromley family, which immigrated from England in 1837 and homesteaded on the farm for several generations, the Bromley Woods is now a 40-acre parcel with an expansive pond and oak forest. The woods abut to the Kettle Moraine State Forest — a popular place for hiking — and is maintained by Geneva Lake Conservancy. Bromley woods is of huge ecological importance with its rare acreage of oak savanna, and the kettle pond is a habitat for all sorts of water dwelling creatures, including beavers and turtles. Hike along its trails or hunt within the woods.