I was in Brookfield around 4 pm on Friday afternoon. Usually I would go home, but the weather had finally turned warm, the light was beautiful. I’d wanted to revisit Mangan Woods ever since Brian Russart, Milwaukee County Parks Natural Areas Coordinator had introduced it to me. (See previous post.) Red trillium—new to me—had just been budding out and I’ve been afraid I’d miss them. I headed south. Traffic was crawling on the Freeway so I took side streets. They were only slightly faster. After bumper to bumper traffic on Hwy 100, I drove through Whitnall Park and finally reached Mangan Woods at 4:30. I didn’t have much time.
The other side of the trail had a dramatically different character. The trees were mostly all the same size and weedy varieties like box elder. Below that was a dense understory of brush and invasive species like buckthorn. Brian had explained that the 300 acre core of Mangan Woods, which is wedged between Whitnall Park and the Root River Parkway, had survived the logging that occurred throughout Milwaukee County following European settlement. This trail ran along the edge of that relatively pristine wilderness. The brushy side was second growth.
It was getting late. I turned down a new trail towards the parking lot. Finally, just as I was leaving, I spotted trillium—not just one but a whole patch of them. The flowers still seemed new but they were a deep, burgundy red and pricked up like a candle flame.
That would be a nice end to my story: a successful hunt and a peaceful stroll. Sadly, as I turned to leave I found the patch of native trillium surrounded by masses of garlic mustard. After that, more bumper to bumper traffic getting home. But I was grateful, as always, for the blessing of urban wilderness, however short the stay.