The Capitol (Madison)

I’ve been under the weather since last weekend. I had a cold that zapped every ounce of energy (and what little give-a-damn I had) right out of me. On top of that, I burned six of my fingers on a waffle iron Saturday morning as I was preparing to celebrate National Ice Cream For Breakfast day, so I spent the rest of the day holding a baggie of ice. While we had planned to go on the Urban Candlelight Walk at Three Bridges that evening, we opted to stay home instead and rest. I am just about over the cold now but haven’t done much in the way of walking since the last post.

I’m hardly going to let that stop me from posting, though! 🙂

On January 7th – the day after I went to Tower Hill – I decided I wanted to get out but that I’d stick closer to my home base at the time (my parents’) in case my foot, or any other part of me, started hurting again. I knew from past experience that I could see the capitol from Olin Park, so that seemed like as good a place to start as any.

Located along Lake Monona, Olin Park is probably best known to Madisonians as the park where they have the Christmas light display each year (or, as we north-siders know it, the park that stole the Christmas light display). But the park actually has quite a bit more to offer. While I was there, most other park-goers were ice fishing, but there are a playground and a beach, as well as fields and paths. Its best feature, however, is the view.

WW Olin Cap
The Madison skyline ❤

While the weather wasn’t too bad (cold, but not unbearably so), I had forgotten to bring a hat, so as beautiful as the scene was, I didn’t stick around as long as I would have if my ears hadn’t been so cold they were burning. I did get to enjoy the view and snap a few photos. I also got to watch an ice fisherman make his fishing hole, which is an odd (and startling, if you’re not aware it’s happening) sound. After not too long, I headed back to my car but determined that I wasn’t done quite yet. There had to be another park where I could get a view of the capitol, right?

A quick search showed a handful of parks that were near the lake, so I headed toward them. The first park I came to (Winnequah) wasn’t actually on the lake, so I kept driving past it and on to the next. The next park (Waterman) was across the street from the lake. Closer, but no view. Fortunately, about half a block away from that park was another park… with a beach; lake access at last!

At a cursory glance, Schluter Park isn’t much to write home about, particularly in the winter: there’s a building, a playground, and the lake. Upon closer inspection, however, it became clear that this park is small, but not without merit. There is a tiny library, a gazebo, some grills and picnic tables, and a (relatively?) new building with restrooms (though they may not be open in the off-season). Capitalizing on Madison’s bike-friendly nature and Schluter’s proximity to one of Dane County’s bike routes, the park also has a bike repair station available (complete with bike pump and tools).

And then, of course, there’s the lake. At 3,359 acres, Lake Monona is the smaller of Madison’s main lakes, but it is still a hot spot in the warmer months for swimming (or wading), boating, fishing, and relaxing. In the winter, you can certainly still fish, but the fun of the lake this time of year is, apparently, just being on it. I’d thought I was largely alone at the park until I stepped out toward the pier. There were fishermen, of course, but there were also people just hanging out… ON the lake. Families taking walks. Dogs playing catch with their people. I even saw someone flying a drone! Obviously, I had to get in on this.

WW Lake
I’m walkin’ on water, whooooo-ooooa!

For the second time that day, I found myself looking out at Madison’s beautiful skyline; from the lake, the view is largely unobstructed (save for a crane or two), and because of the distance there’s more of it to see than at Olin. I wandered around the lake for awhile, took a few dozen photos, and then headed back to my car as my ears once again froze.

WW Park2
Just another day in the Mad City.

Since I had now seen it from two different points, I decided I needed a third view of the capitol and headed downtown. I had to do two laps of the square before I found a parking spot I could access (I had to find something I could just pull into since my parallel parking skills leave something to be desired as is, and parking on the square is on the left-hand side of the street). I gathered up my camera and bag and walked a lap around the capitol.

WW Up Close

Being in the city and away from the lake meant less wind, so my ears got a bit of a reprieve as I slowly walked the square. I was approached by a gentleman who was hoping I could help him out with a few dollars, but I didn’t have my wallet on me. He misunderstood and thought I had said I didn’t have money on me, so he asked if I could go to the ATM. I had to explain again, and he largely took it in stride. Aside from that encounter, it was a nice, quiet stroll, full of opportunities for photos. Unfortunately, my foot was starting to hurt and I was starting to get worn out, so I ended my trip as soon as I made a full lap and ended up back at my car.

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Madison will always be home to me, and the capitol building will always have a special place in my heart. From field trips to choir performances, random visits to our engagement photo shoot, it has long been a symbol of everything Madison means to me. And I will most certainly be back to visit… many more times.

If you want to visit any of these places, here are some things to know:

  • Due to its adjacency to Turville Point Conservation Park, Olin Park is also known as Olin-Turville (and, in fact, the street on which the parks are located is such named). If you’re looking for some paths to walk, Turville has about two miles of trails within its 64 acres. Like many parks in Madison, and because it’s a conservation park, no dogs (or horses) are allowed.
  • Olin Park and Turville Point are both City of Madison parks. Olin is open from 4AM until 10PM, while Turville is open from 4AM until dusk. Schluter Park (and beach) is part of the City of Monona, so hours may differ.
  • If you go to Schluter Park during “peak season” be sure to run across the street to Monona Bait & Ice Cream (aka Bait & Tackle) to get some delicious Babcock Hall ice cream. The orange custard with chocolate chips is a personal favorite.
  • Parking along the square isn’t always easy (or even possible, depending on what events may be going on), so if you’re hoping to get up close and personal with the capitol, you may want to try one of the nearby parking ramps or lots.

And I’ll leave you with these lovely links!
Olin Park (City of Madison)
Turville Point Conservation Park (City of Madison)
Friends of Olin-Turville (FOOT)
Schluter Park (City of Monona)
Lake Monona (Wisconsin DNR)


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