This week from sunrise to sunset, The Friends of Pope Farm Conservancy in the Town of Middleton invites the public to attend its annual Sunflower Days.
Bring the whole family and your camera to the free event, which runs from Aug. 12-20. Just be sure to leave your dog at home and refrain from touching the flowers.
Hundreds of thousands of sunflowers grew on the 9-acre field between Old Sauk and Blackhawk roads on a hill that overlooks Lake Mendota in the distance.
While most people pick a direction and walk around the field, this year there is also a trail that carves into one of the corners so they can get a closer look.
From a distance it may seem like all the sunflowers are alike, but as you walk the perimeter you'll notice some are just beginning to emerge, most are at peak bloom and others are beginning to droop.
When I arrived after 6:30 a.m. Monday, the sunflowers faced east toward the delicate light of the rising sun.
Taking an invigorating walk around the field -- or just pausing to reflect on its beauty -- is a perfect way to start your day.
You'll also see bees buzzing around the petals, goldfinches plucking seeds and butterflies flying above them.
Be sure to listen for the other wildlife that occupies the surrounding woods, cropland and prairies. I spotted two sandhill cranes, a hummingbird, woodpecker, indigo bunting and bluebird when my attention wasn't focused just on the flowers.
Evenings and weekends are the busiest times for people to arrive, so it's recommended to get there between dawn and 9 a.m. for a better parking spot. And if it rains, the grounds and parking lots may temporarily close, so it's best to check the website for updates.
When the sunflowers aren't in bloom, people can still come to the conservancy, which features seven miles of trails; a picnic area with views of Lake Mendota, the Capitol and Black Earth Creek Valley; and interpretive signs about the geological and human history of the site.
Check it out
What: Sunflower Days When: Sunrise to sunset, August 12-20, 2017 Where: Pope Farm Conservancy, 7440 W. Old Sauk Road, Town of Middleton Info:popefarmconservancy.org
Looking for other things to do this summer on the west side? Laura Kocum shares her favorites here.