Watching Eagles Soar

It would have been enough just to be outdoors again; instead, it was breathtaking.

After several days stuck inside, preoccupied by extreme weather concerns like a dying car battery, a nagging lack of proper home insulation, and a special-order furnace filter further delayed by snow, we were really ready for an outing. So when the weather improved, we mapped out a great one.

I’ve known about the bald eagles that winter at Starved Rock State Park along the Illinois River, and I have always wanted to go see them. This year I read about additional bald eagle sightings along the Fox River which is closer and bound to be less crowded. So even though a sighting seemed less guaranteed, we decided to drive to Oswego, Illinois, and walk on the Fox River Trail. Since we’ve walked on a different portion of this trail before, I figured we’d enjoy the walk, but to be honest, I really never thought we’d see any eagles.

We actually saw two–a splotchy juvenile and an adult. We were thrilled.

Watching them majestically soar high overhead gave me chills.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Community

IMG_1110

Walking through Chicago history at Graceland Cemetery

Historic Community

I learned about Graceland Cemetery in the Notes section of The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson, where he noted that Graceland is “an utterly charming haven where, paradoxically, history comes alive.” (394) I could not agree more. I took a walk there on a sunny day in early September and loved it. It’s gorgeous and so interesting.

Many of the figures in Chicago history are buried at Graceland on Chicago’s north side. I cannot name them all, but architects like Daniel Burnham, Louis Sullivan, and Mies van der Rohe are buried at Graceland. Marshall Field and Potter Palmer, both famous Chicago businessmen, and the inventors, Cyrus McCormick and George Pullman, are at Graceland too.

Graceland is a different type of community to be sure, but it is a community of people that have accomplished great things, and even though these people were not all contemporaries, their stories are all together at Graceland Cemetery.

Graceland Monuments

Graceland Cemetary Graceland VaultsThanks, Daily Post, for the chance to post again about one of my favorite walks this year as I complete my resolution.

Day Three Hundred Thirty-five

Surprisingly Good Walk for a Random Pick

Frankfort Square Trail SunsetBy the time we finished some chores and watched the Bears fritter away the game, we got a late start on our walk this afternoon. With darkness approaching, we didn’t want to travel far so I used the bicycle overlay on Google Maps and haphazardly chose a trail between housing developments in Frankfort Square and Frankfort, Illinois.

The paved trail runs near Hickory Creek and around various flood management ponds. Much of the area is slotted for development but yet to be built (another result of the economy). We loved having fewer houses around for our walk though and really enjoyed our sunset views.
Frankfort SquareRight around dusk, near the farthest point of our walk, I saw a bird atop a street lamp and shot several pictures of it, trying to figure out what kind of bird it was. Once I returned home I had to zoom in on my computer to get a good look at the bird, but determined it’s an American Kestrel. (Add another new bird to the list!) I have entered these pictures in The Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge: Let There Be Light! Check it out, here.

When we were walking back to the car, I thought I heard an owl. As we got closer and closer to the car, it got louder and louder, because there were two great horned owls quite close to the trail! It was too dark to get any detailed photos (and there was too much brush to focus well), but I did get a couple of silhouette pictures.  It was so cool! Even though it was too dark for good pictures, it was a great time to go bird watching!
Frankfort Square OwlsI never would have guessed that the digital equivalent of throwing a dart at a map would have given us such a great walk!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Let There Be Light!

American Kestrel on a Streetlamp

I took the following pictures at dusk in a new housing development. I was trying to figure out what kind of bird this is while walking on Day Three Hundred Thirty-five of my “Walk Every Day in 2013” resolution. I kept shooting as I got closer and closer to the bird, until he had enough of me and flew away. Thankfully, because of the light from this streetlamp, I was able to determine that it is an American Kestrel.

My bird book states that it’s a fairly common bird, but I’ve never seen one before tonight. So even though these are not the crispest, clearest photos in the world, I do get to add the American Kestrel to my list of new birds that I’ve seen while out walking in 2013!

Day Three Hundred Seven

A Definite FavoriteIMG_1783

While still in St. Louis today, we took the opportunity to walk across the Mississippi River on the McKinley Bridge Bikeway. What a view!

We drove to Venice, Illinois, to park at the McKinley Bridge Roadside Park and headed back on foot over the Mississippi towards Missouri. The bridge, built in 1910, was originally a railroad bridge with automobile lanes on the outer edges on cantilevers. The bridge was closed  in 2001 due to unsafe conditions. After six years, the new, improved bridge was reopened.

McKinley Bridge is no longer a rail bridge, now having automobile lanes in the middle and a bike lane on the southern outside edge of the bridge. It is this outside lane that offers such great views of the Mississippi and downtown St. Louis.

McKinley Bridge

On the Missouri side, the ramp between the street and bridge levels has iron arches for architectural interest. At the bottom of the bridge, the trail connects to the St. Louis Riverfront Trail, but we turned around and went back over the bridge. (The McKinley Bridge Bikeway also connects to Confluence Bikeway in Madison County, Illinois, thus making a giant loop with the Chain of Rocks Bridge farther north up the river.)McKinley Bridge 2

As we descended down the ramp on the Illinois side, we had great views of the Roadside Park. The folks in Venice, Illinois, wanted to celebrate their side of the bridge and commissioned a sculpture, built completely through fundraising monies.

Great walk!

On a personal note: I’ve listed today’s walk as one of my favorites, not only for the scenery or the great bridge, but because it is the first walk in 2013 that all six members of our family did a walk together. And it only took three hundred seven days!

Day Three Hundred Three

Orange Day

This may sound strange, but I think I’m seeing colors more this year. Notice I didn’t say that I was seeing more colors this year; I wouldn’t really know how to make that comparison. The comparison I’m making is much more nebulous and non-scientific. Perhaps, I should say that I’m noticing more colors this year. This week, I’m especially seeing orange.

Today, I grabbed my camera and set out in search of orange. I found it everywhere.

Orange 1I found orange all over the neighborhood: yellow-orange, red-orange, pink-orange (a.k.a. salmon), green-orange (a.k.a. brown? rust?), and orange-orange.
Orange 2I saw orange in the trees, maples and oaks; I saw orange in the bushes, the vines, and the flowers clinging to life. I saw orange in the pumpkins too.Orange 3I like orange. I wish it would stick around for awhile. To quote Dr. Seuss, “On my orange days that’s how I feel.”

Fun walk.

Day Two Hundred Ninety-nine

IMG_1619Great Hike–after those Stairs

We’ve driven by Swallow Cliff before but have never walked here–until today. It’s one of the more popular spots in the Cook County Forest Preserve, and it’s easy to see why.

The area, near Palos Park, Illinois, is heavily forested with a varied terrain of bluffs, ravines, savannas, creeks, and wetlands. In a our mostly flat area, it’s unusual to have such a big bluff. The bluff, formed by glaciers, brings sledders to the preserve in the winter, but the 125 limestone stairs and the surrounding trails attract the athletes year-round.

Feeling rather athletic ourselves, my husband, oldest and youngest sons, my daughter, and I eagerly headed from the parking lot towards the stairs, built by the Civilian Conservation Corps. Not wanting to slow up any of the athletes behind me, I bounded up those stairs at a faster pace than I would have liked. At about stair 90, I honestly didn’t know if I was going to make it to the top without a rest (or perhaps some muscular athlete throwing me on his back). After gasping up the last 35 stairs, I joined my family near a stair-counting abacus that a boy scout troupe erected at the top of the stairs, and we started our hike.

Swallow Cliff2

It was lovely.Swallow CliffBy mile two, I felt like I finally recovered from climbing those stairs.

Great place!