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Monday, April 21, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 56.0° F  Fair
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Seeking out Mother Nature at the UW Arboretum
The New Girl: The water. The trees. The mayhem.

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Between saki bombs and self-checkout lines at Shopko, life can get pretty hectic sometimes. A girl just wants to unwind, become one with nature -- while avoiding a perforated colon. Jaunting into the wilderness with two wonderful pals was a dream made reality this Sunday in the Arboretum.

I've ripped a new one in Wisconsin's topography before. The abundance of manufactured skylines and farmland that my eyes are accustomed to made lush local land hard to fathom. Armed with my UW Arboretum map, found conveniently at various parking spots within the park, we took to the wild to seek out Mother Nature's beauty!

My companions and I first entered the deciduous forest by Indian Mounds and Wingra Woods, dotted with brush, leaves and trees uprooted from deep within the soil. What creature came in and pushed over these verdant kings? Hmm, Frodo? No, the sound of civilization crept through to the trail, then revealed itself as pastel-adorned senior citizens and scantily clad runners.

I am accustomed to being wary of bears, deer and wolves on my hiking excursions, but the carnivorous wildlife prowling the Arboretum was all human. "Damn, I could go for some sushi," my compadre said wistfully as we gazed upon the water at the Booth Courtenay Memorial Overlook, "You think there are any fish in there? ...Ooh, look at that plump squirrel!"

Through the trails we traveled, deeper and deeper into the bush and then we hit...a road. We set upon the small street, Arboretum Drive, like convicts on the lam, avoiding cars and cyclists by hiding in bushes that resembled marijuana (and in my roommate's case, by rolling around in them naked and giggling -- kidding!) Signs on developed land picketing further development seemed a bit ironic, but we let the politics of these banners take a back seat to our sun-drunk calm.

The next part of our expedition brought us to the southern, diversified portion of the Arboretum across from the West Curtis Prairie parking lot. What we thought was the sound of rushing rivers and waterfalls was only the rustling of leaves atop tall trees; and the tunnel by the highway was not an abandoned rail line but a newish structure passing under the Beltline.

But there was a savanna! The Arboretum goes out of its way to allow exploration of as many landscapes as possible. Tramping through the prairie fulfilled my fantasy to run around like Laura Ingalls and have Michael Landon for a dad. The seats tucked into the side of trails in the savanna provided the perfect, peaceful place to be proposed to, or to stage an intervention. And the wetlands introduced me to a gang of hyperactive gnats.

Brightly colored wildflowers, twigs, berries, butterflies and alien-like insects brought three smiling faces and two juicy bug bites out of the Arboretum. For a new girl whose childhood backyard looked like a scene out of Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, trees, waterfalls, bows, arrows, Kevin Costner, Bryan Adams -- the expected, the Arboretum filled that nature niche!

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