Day Two Hundred Eighty-five

IMG_20131012_141200Great Walk and Picnic

We’ve had a little problem on our Saturday walks. By the time we sleep in and my husband cooks breakfast (a longstanding Saturday tradition), we leave fairly late in the morning for a walk. If we walk close to our home, it works out fine to walk and then come home for lunch. But for walks that are farther from home, we’re often really hungry and somewhat crabby by the time we get home. On one extreme walk, searching for sand hill cranes in Indiana, we ended up stopping for an emergency fast-food lunch on the way home–at 3:30 in the afternoon. I figured out that day, if I didn’t change something, I’d lose my walking partners.

Since we were getting a late start again today and were heading a ways from home, I decided to bring lunch with us and quickly assembled sandwiches, gathered drinks, and washed fruit. It wasn’t until we were halfway to Channahon, Illinois, that I realized in the rush to make lunch, I forgot my camera. My phone would have to do.

We headed to McKinley Woods, a Will County Forest Preserve that borders the Illinois & Michigan Canal. Along here, the I & M Canal Trail runs between the canal and the Des Plaines River with great views of both.

I & MMcKinley WoodsI’ve walked at least ten miles along the I & M Canal, and I noticed that the canal is considerably wider along here. With a couple of great blue herons and a hill full of colorful trees rising on the bank opposite the trail, it was lovely.

IMG_20131012_124953On the other side of the trail, the occasional fishing boat traveled by on the Des Plaines River. We also saw snowy egrets and cormorants take off and land on the river.

After a successful walk with even the rain holding off, we enjoyed our picnic lunch at the Frederick’s Grove Shelter, part of a former Civil Conservation Corps‘ camp from the 1930s. We had not only a timely lunch, but one with a touch of history!

Great day!

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Day Two Hundred Fifty

Great Spot!

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We traveled to Channahon, Illinois, again today and walked along the Illinois & Michigan Canal trail near the point where the DuPage River joins the Des Plaines River. (I walked part of this trail just a couple of days ago on my walk-reconnaissance mission.) We had great walking weather, but my youngest son would have preferred more shade, because the sun makes him “tired.” (See picture below, left).

My husband has been having some back problems lately and hasn’t been able to join us on our weekend walks lately, but did join us today.  He moved more slowly than usual and lagged behind us at times (see below, right), but at least he’s back.

I & M Channahon McKinley Woods 2The I & M Canal and the trail bend south in Channahon, and the trail runs directly between the DuPage River to the east and the I & M to the west. All this water, of course, attracts the birds.  We saw red-headed woodpeckers, great blue herons, great egrets, and a solitary green heron. I loved it.

I & M Channahon McKinley WoodsAfter reading WordPress’ most recent Weekly Photo Challenge about finding an unusual point of view, I took the following pictures along the way:

I & M Channahon McKinley Woods POVAlthough I enjoyed taking the pictures (and they are definitely from a different perspective than most of my pictures), I think I’ll try again on a different walk to post something for the challenge.

Great walk today!

Day Two Hundred Forty-seven

Scouting and Walking

I’ve been planning this outing for a while.

In Ted Villaire’s book, 60 Hikes within 60 Miles of Chicago, there are several hikes in the Illinois River Valley chapter that I have wanted to walk. Since many of these walks are fairly far from my home, I thought I’d do one reconnaissance mission and do three or four mini walks to see which ones would be appropriate for willing family members to join me at a later time.

Reconnaissance is right up my alley.

My first stop was the western side of Channahon, Illinois. I have walked along the Illinois & Michigan Canal in the eastern part of Channahon. Today though, I wanted to continue going west on the I & M Canal where it joins with the DuPage River. I enjoyed walking along the canal at the state park and seeing the locks, turtles, and great herons.

I &M CanalDuPage River

As the I & M bends south, it runs near the Des Plaines and Kankakee Rivers. All three rivers converge nearby to form the Illinois River. Near this convergence, I stopped briefly and walked around McKinley Woods Nature Preserve. We will definitely come back here for a hike through the woods to the canal and river.

Next, I drove south and west to Goose Lake Prairie State Nature Preserve. This preserve is run by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and is the largest contiguous prairie in the state. Some of the prairie has being reclaimed after the land had been farmed and mined. Farmers planted most of the trees that I saw (as wind breaks). The tall grasses and prairie flowers were absolutely beautiful.

Goose Lake

I took four additional pictures which I have entered in WordPress’ Weekly Photo Challenge: Sea (my take on sea–a sea of grass).

I drove then within the Goose Lake Preserve to Heidecke Lake where I saw kildeer, herons, and a smaller pair of birds (spotted sandpiper, perhaps) along the shoreline. This lake was originally a cooling station for a generating station. The constant flame of industry burning is visible across the lake as well.  I’m guessing, by the large number of docks, that this is a popular fishing spot on weekends. I’ve read that bald eagles have been spotted here in the winter–that’ll get my family members to join me here some time!

Goose Lake-Heidecke LakeGreat reconnaissance mission (and walking)!

Day Two Hundred Thirty-five

IMG_1011-001“Summer Vacation is Over”

School starts Monday.

On my son’s last weekday of summer vacation, we headed to Lemont, Illinois, to walk on the Centennial Trail. We had trouble finding parking and a trail head but found the Illinois & Michigan Canal Trail instead and walked along the towpath for awhile. We got a really good look at a juvenile great blue heron before the flooded trail forced us to turn around and head back to the car and the original plan.

Eventually, I figured it out, and we walked along the Des Plaines River on the Centennial Trail. I got to see a belted kingfisher hover over the river for a fish, a first for me. Mostly though, I found myself thinking about how much I would miss taking a daily walk with my son once he was back in school.

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My youngest son, recently fourteen and with Autism Spectrum Disorder, lives for summer vacation.  I think all kids love summer vacation, but by August accept that school eventually has to get started again, and they are ready to see their friends on a daily basis. Not him.

My son, who’s okay with the actual schoolwork, would much rather do that work in a quiet room without society’s requirements to say hello to people, to pass though raucous hallways of fellow students, and to quietly ignore the persistent coughing of his classmates.  Unfortunately, he has to learn to cope with life’s obstacles and unpleasantries, so it’s back to school on Monday.

Because of this walking resolution of mine, I’ve had an extraordinary summer with him, my walking buddy, exploring new trails and towns.  Most of the places we’ve gone have been quiet, and it’s been nice to spend quiet time together walking and even driving to and fro.

He never complained that the drive to get to a walk was too long.  He never gave me a hard time about the “duds”–the walks that didn’t turn out as planned. He always patiently waited for me while I looked at a bird through the binoculars or photographed a pretty field of wildflowers. The only times he complained were the times it was especially hot and sunny.

Most of our conversations this summer consisted of my answering his silly questions or his noting that the car clock showed a number palindrome, but that’s okay, because once in awhile he’d mention that he missed one of his siblings, he’d ask about his grandfathers (both passed away when he was five), or ask me about things when I was young. And those times made all the silly questions worthwhile.

I’m sure we’ll walk together this fall after school, and it will be nice, but this summer was special.

Day Two Hundred Twenty-eight

Much Better

After a dud walk with my daughter on Day 226, I wanted her to give the I & M Canal another try.  Today we started at the Community Park in Channahon, Illinois, walked under I-55, and continued west for a total 2.3 miles and back.  It was a lovely day along the trail!

I & M ChannahonWe saw signs of beaver activity and watched a heron pull a fish out of the canal. I really enjoyed walking under I-55. It is so low that I could have yelled hello to the truck driver stuck in a traffic jam above.  It’s quite different than I-57 over the Old Plank Road Trail that’s pictured above!

IMG_0961Good day, good walk!

 

Day Two Hundred Eighteen

Historic Canal

Today, we needed an outing.

We threw the walking pack into the car and drove to Lockport, Illinois, for another walk along the Illinois & Michigan Canal.

I & M CanalI have enjoyed every walk that I’ve taken along this canal. It always provides a nice blend of nature and history. Today was more about history, because we started in Lockport, an active town in the canal’s glory days.  Even though the historic buildings have since been converted into museums, condos, and businesses, the hitches for the canal boats are still hanging canal-side. The locks along here are interesting as well.

South of Lockport, the trail is no longer paved and views of the canal are blocked by overgrown trees and other plants, but it was still nice walking.

Good day, good walk!

Day Two Hundred Five

Back to the I & M Canal

I&M Canal 3With temperatures in the mid-60s this morning and nothing on the schedule, I decided it was a good day to drive a little farther than usual to go back to the Illinois & Michigan Canal.

I was right!  What a great walk we had along the historic canal, now filled with reeds and algae and not used any more by canal boats, but by wildlife–ducks, other birds, and turtles (lots and lots of turtles).

I&M Canal 2We had a few people bicycle past us and a small snake cross the path in front of us, but otherwise we had the quiet and shaded towpath to ourselves.

We have visited different portions of this National Heritage Corridor this year, but with 80 total miles of this trail to explore, we have been able to visit a new section each time.  Today, we were in a very remote area, crossing no roads and only one private railroad crossing. Such a nice walk!

I&M Canal1Good day, good walk!