Wonder and curiosity on the trails

  • Posted: Tuesday, Mar. 12th, 2024

“Let’s go to Wonder Pond, team!”

Mary Brickweg gathers her group and heads through the prairie towards ‘Wonder Pond’, a favorite destination at the Main Property affectionately named by her kids. A gaggle of children, including six of her own, and three other moms are at Dodge for their routine walk. Mary has been bringing her family to hike at the nature center for years.

Damien and Gianna Brickweg digging around in sand on the banks of ‘Wonder Pond’.

“We stumbled upon it one day. My oldest at the time was three and I’d just let her roam and follow along behind. I loved that I could give her that freedom to just go.”

Hiking at Dodge offers children (and adults) a choose-your-own-adventure experience. Mary, who homeschools her children, visits twice a week for nature walks as part of their curriculum.
What’s a typical hike like with her family?

“Lots of chaos and some observing here or there. I bring the crazy, but otherwise it’s not crazy!”

Mary Brickweg birding at ‘Wonder Pond’ with her youngest, Edith Brickweg, on her back.

The group arrives at ‘Wonder Pond’. While the kids are exploring the edges of the pond, peering into the water, and tromping up and down the dock, the adults have their binoculars up searching for birds—they’re learning alongside their children.

Mary spent her life camping and being outdoors but didn’t know much about the plants and animals around her. Walks at Dodge sparked her desire to become a better teacher for her children.

“I started getting nature study guides. One year I’d focus on trees, the next on wildflowers, then on birds—it just kind of snowballed.”

Veronica Brickweg climbing a tree.

Varied biomes of hardwood forests, prairie, and wetlands within the Main Property’s 110 acres offer the perfect environment for observation and learning. As the seasons change, so does the experience—wildlife come and go, different plants emerge. “You get to know the area which makes it fun,” says Mary. “We kind of feel like it’s our adopted backyard.”

For those who are interested in hiking at Dodge (with kids or not), Mary lends her advice: “Set low expectations—try it as a routine. Even if it feels overwhelming to leave the house, I am never bummed to be here.”

The Brickweg family hiking on a trail with another hiker approaching behind.

She promises the effort is worth it. “Being here has enhanced our wonder and curiosity about the world,” Mary shares. “It’s been super life-giving and we are so grateful.”


Hiking at Dodge is always free! Trails are open from sunrise to sunset every day of the year. Plan your visit here.

This article was originally published in the Nourish Your Need for Nature Newsletter, Spring/Summer 2024.

Search Dodge Nature Center