Mound View: A trail for all seasons | Features | –


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PLATTEVILLE, Wis. — In December during my daily constitutional walk on the David Canny Rountree Branch Trail, I heard splashing.I peered over the side of the South Chestnut Street bridge to discover two river otters frolicking in a game of tag, or some such play enjoyed by otters, taking advantage of the 45 degrees and sunshine.Winding along the southern edge of Platteville, each section of this trail offers adventures on any given day in any given season.Katie’s Garden, adjacent to the Platteville Regional Chamber and Travel Wisconsin Welcome Center, is a three-season congregation of flora. In spring, crocuses, daffodils, hyacinths, irises and flowering crabapples disperse their colors and scents.In summer, the palette includes zinnias, petunias, alyssum, nasturtiums and impatiens. Wisteria vines, roses, mums and asters hit their stride in late summer into early fall, followed by a coda of sumacs and maples.Volunteer master gardeners sculpt the beds, pairing colors and textures and adding new species every year in honor of the garden’s namesake Katie Vaassen, a dedicated Chamber employee until her untimely passing.In December, Santa arrives amid a fantastical display of lights and decorations, and in pleasant weather, a gazebo, picnic tables and benches provide a place to have lunch complete with birdsong serenades. The magical fairy garden and the Little Free Library merit exploration, as well as Katie’s Kindness Canal, where many leave their inspirational painted rocks.Kids can examine plant roots through a windowpane to observe what happens underground after seeds sprout, and the Five Senses Garden encourages touching, smelling, seeing, tasting and listening to some specially-grown vegetative species.Pausing on the paved pathI often ride my bicycle along the three-mile paved and lighted path from the South Chestnut Street Bridge to the gazebo behind Walmart where a wooden bridge links it to Mound View State Trail, a seven-mile scenic route to neighboring Belmont. These treks allow me to observe others using the amenities along the trail.Last summer, two young women reclined on inflatable rafts in the stream, dangling feet in the current, donning sunglasses and reading books. Another day, a dad supervised a group of youngsters and joined them by cooling off in a waist-deep swimming hole.Dog walkers, joggers, baby stroller pushers and meanderers all experience the great outdoors on the trail without having to worry about cars. Benches are available and spaced accordingly for rest stops or peaceful meditation.West of Mineral Street, Nutrition World’s Outdoor Fitness Center provides strength-training stations, and adjacent to this, our four-legged companions can socialize at the City Dog Park. Once a railroad bed, the tree-lined stretch from Mineral Street east to the gazebo behind Walmart borders a rural landscape where livestock graze and crops thrive in the rich soil along the stream.One might spot a hawk or eagle soaring or sitting in a tree on the lookout for their dinner of small prey. Once, a doe emerged from the brush and ran alongside my bike for a few strides before returning from whence she came. Some hardy cyclers with the wide, studded-tire bikes bundle up and traverse the snowy terrain in winter, as do snowshoers and cross country skiers.As a trail maintenance volunteer, I note the colors emerging in the butterfly garden and other plants in bloom, like coneflowers, perennial sunflowers, Queen Anne’s Lace, chicory and Brown-Eyed Susans.Last summer, I conversed with an Iowa couple admiring the creativity of the garden of sculpted fish among prairie dropseed grasses. It was their first visit to the trail, but they would definitely be coming back.“It is so well kept — and so beautiful. You are lucky to have this right in your backyard,” the woman said.The Platteville Community Arboretum Board oversees volunteers and financial donors who strive to maintain and improve the trail. Informational kiosks provide trail maps and information about the history of the trail and the area, such as the tornado that devastated trees and vegetation in 2014, as well as lead mining, the railroads, the Platteville Brewery and the Mill Pond.Bike racks combine utility and artful ingenuity along the way, and two new organic art pieces bring culture to the trail: “Funnel Vision” and “CRISPR,“ designed and created by commissioned artist Bill Mitchell.Animals aboundThe trail also connects with a path heading west along the stream at the South Chestnut Street Bridge onto the University of Wisconsin-Platteville grounds below Pioneer Stadium. This route follows the stream across Southwest Road to a lovely meadow loop amid prairie grasses where woodchucks and foxes often reveal themselves.It was here that I crossed paths with a mountain lion a few years ago on a morning bike ride. After brief eye contact, he took off up the hill and into the brush, a place I now call Cougar Pass. Experts said he was just passing through, and after a few weeks he left for greener meadows.Rountree Branch is the artery of the trail, circulating through this rich pocket of the Driftless Region. Unless engorged from a downpour or heavy spring snowmelt, the stream’s current flows slowly and steadily from east to west, with occasional sections of shallow whitewater.At times this rushing sound begs me to stop and listen.The other day, I was reminded of a Norman Maclean quote from his novel “A River Runs Through It,” also a popular movie: “Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world’s great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs” (i.e. our loved ones who have passed).Whether seeking a space for contemplation, exercise, observation, socialization, you will find that the David Canny Rountree Branch Trail is an open door to nature and all it has to offer. Come explore.Come see what you can find. No matter the season, it is ready and waiting to feed your mind, body and soul.

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