Day Two Hundred Eleven

After briefly visiting the Thorn Creek Nature Preserve last week, I knew I wanted to go back.  My husband, off work today, suggested we walk there today.  Last week, when my son and I visited, the place was eerily quiet. Today, however, when we drove up, there were at least a dozen workers in the wildflower section in the front (we later learned we were visiting on Volunteer Day, but weren’t volunteering–oops).

We had a really nice walk through the woods.  We especially liked “Pine Plantations,” rows of red and jack pines, planted by farmers in the 1950s.

Thorn Creek

After our walk, we looked through the nature center, an old church moved from nearby Park Forest.   While we were inside, the volunteers had heard a barn owl in a nearby tree. We stuck around for awhile waiting for him to show himself, but, unfortunately, he never did.  Maybe some other time!

Good day, good walk!

Day Two Hundred Ten

Who Knew?

IMG_20130729_123355I needed to find a new place to walk today without travelling too far. I thought I’d peruse Google Maps just for a little inspiration. Instead, I found that Google Maps has a bicycling trail overlay (it shows dedicated lanes and bicycle friendly roads too).  I found a trail in a nearby town that I did not know existed, because it runs behind and between residential areas.  And I thought I knew about everything around here!

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My son and I stopped there for a quick walk on our way to running some errands.  It’s a nice wide two mile trail that gives bike and pedestrian access between residential areas and the local library, shopping, other bike paths, and even commuter train stations.  And that is worthy in itself.

Good day, good walk!

Day Two Hundred Nine

IMG_0796“Midewin” Means Healing in Potawatomi

My husband, youngest son, and I traveled today to the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie, in Wilmington, Illinois.  The U.S. Department of Agriculture is turning the former Joliet Arsenal back into a prairie.  It is still a “work-in-progress,” but what a beautiful piece of open land!

Midewin

We walked along the closed Old Chicago Road to the Turtle Pond and seedbeds (fenced in to keep out the deer).  We saw butterflies, goldfinches, loggerhead shrikes, and very few people.

Midewin2There is more of this peaceful place to explore, and we’ll be back!

Good day, good walk!

Day Two Hundred Eight

Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore-West Beach Loop

I’ve been wanting to do a dunes walk for awhile.  With today’s really cool weather and my nineteen-year old wanting to join us–today was the day!

We drove to the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore and visited West Beach.  We walked the West Beach Trail Loop and the Dune Succession Trail Loop.
Indiana Dunes West Beach

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The West Beach loop is away from Lake Michigan and is unnaturally low after years of sand removal to other areas around Chicagoland.  We saw some interesting wildflowers and prickly pear cacti.  It was a nice walk.

The National Park Service map describes the Dune IMG_0781Succession Trail as “scenic but strenuous,” an apt description as the views were breathtaking and climbing the dunes and stairs, exhilarating but exhausting.  Despite some clouds, we could see views of downtown Chicago and the entire South Shore.  I even found the views of Gary, Indiana, interesting!

Good day, good walk!

Day Two Hundred Seven

IMG_0771New Park Success

Today, my son and I checked out a new park in a nearby town.  The property has been vacant and underused for over twenty years.  For the past few years, the village hosted a community garden on the property, but from what we could see, they mostly used the property to store wood chips.  This year, however, they constructed a park, and it opened this spring.  It’s lovely!

A 3/8 mile bike and walking path travels around the perimeter of the park.  At four spots along the walkway are interpretive signs that explain the different ecosystems of the area:  tallgrass prairie, wetlands, forests, and farmland.  Within the park itself is something for everyone:  a playground, a splash pad, a community garden, a sensory garden, and a basketball court. They did this park right.

At first my son walked with me, but then I sent him to go play while I continued walking.  As you can see below, I checked on him often as I made my way around the park’s walking path (he’s in red, swinging away).

Swing and a WalkIt was nice to give him a little independence; he did great. (He has Autism Spectrum Disorder, but is, thankfully, high-functioning.)   I didn’t end up walking much though before he was ready to go because someone else showed up to play at the playground.  He remained calm, came running over to me, and said that it was time to go.

I’ll put that in the success column.

Good day, good walk!

Day Two Hundred Six

Whoever Virgil Gilman is, He Has a Nice Trail Named After Him

I remembered reading something about the Virgil Gilman Trail last spring when we traveled to Aurora, Illinois, for a walk along the Fox River Trail on Day 124, but while walking today on this trail, I determined I must learn more about Mr. Gilman and the history of this trail.

After our walk, I could find little information on Virgil Gilman, but did learn that he was an original Fox Valley Park District board member that lent his name to a nature walk, an early rail-trail conversion. Over the years, the trail was extended from a short nature trail to a twelve-mile paved trail with a large pedestrian/bike bridge over Illinois Route 56 and continuing on to Sugar Grove.  I wanted to see and walk this bridge.

After studying the map briefly at home, we made the drive west (first stopping at the outlet mall in Aurora–our reason for being this far from home) and parked at the Bliss Woods Forest Preserve in Sugar Grove. We headed east on the paved trail.  We walked through a beautiful dense forest and then along the mostly shaded walkway between Blackberry Creek and the Bliss Creek Golf Course.  We had a lovely quiet walk.

Virgil Gilman1Once past the golf course, I wondered if we were ever going to reach the bridge.  It was farther than I had estimated, but we rounded a bend and finally saw it.

IMG_0765-001I am fascinated by bridges and love travelling over and under them. I especially like pedestrian/bike bridges (or bridges with dedicated pedestrian lanes) where I can take my time and enjoy the view of the cars driving or the water flowing by below.  I appreciate the engineers that make the bridges structurally sound, but I love when the engineers design a unique bridge.  I just know I wouldn’t be good at either–especially the structural part.

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We were grateful for the shady walk back to the car after full exposure to the midday sun on the bridge.  The forest seemed even prettier on the way back.

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One tree in particular stood out, and I have entered a picture of it in WordPress’ Weekly Photo Challenge: Masterpiece.  Check it out!

Good day, good walk!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Masterpiece

Masterpiece of Nature:  Timing is Everything

We took one of our special walks yesterday.  By “special” I mean:

  • we drove out of our immediate area to explore someplace new
  • we successfully got to our intended destination, or were so pleasantly surprised by a slightly alternative version of our destination, that we almost forgot about the original
  • external influences such as temperature and precipitation–often referred to together as “weather”–did not negatively affect our enjoyment of the walk
  • external influences of a buggy nature, such as mosquito bites, bee stings, or “buzzy-fly” noises in my autistic son’s ears did not negatively affect our enjoyment of the walk
  • external influences of an auditory nature, such as dogs barking at us from backyards along a trail or poorly trained ones on passing leashes, did not negatively (again, having to do with my son’s autism spectrum disorder) affect the walk
  • passing snakes or coyotes were just as content as we were to just keep moving in the opposite direction (we’ll put poison ivy, oak, and sumac in this category too–all have, thankfully, left us alone)
  • we saw something special:  a new (well, new for us) bird, interesting art, a cool bridge, or something that simply affected one of us in some way.

In addition to a great pedestrian bridge, something on yesterday’s walk struck me–a tree.

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This tree, with some storied past of reaching sideways toward the sun, appears to be now in its final stages of life, mostly leafless but beautiful, bathed in sunlight in an otherwise shaded forest.  I felt lucky to have seen it.

Timing is everything.