Day Three Hundred Sixty-one

Great Day!

Today’s weather was a welcome respite from our early, harsh winter, and we took advantage of it. After making a holiday exchange at the mall, my youngest son and I walked at nearby Lake Sedgewick and Centennial Park in Orland Park, Illinois.

We were not the only ones out and about. We saw walkers, bikers, and many ice skaters at the outdoor rink.

Lake Sedgewick and Centennial ParkWe also had a hawk fly-over. What a graceful flyer!

Centennial Hawk

I only have a few days left to finish off my 2013 resolution! It was great to walk outdoors today. Both my son and I really enjoyed ourselves.

Day Three Hundred Fifty-two

The sun is back!

It certainly made it easier to head out for a walk this afternoon. I walked around the neighborhood and up to the park. Earlier this year I posted pictures of the park’s sculptures taken with my phone, but I wanted to take some better pictures for the sculpture gallery on my Along the Trail: Signs and Structures page, and I’ve added them there. I’ve added two more pages as well with some of my favorite bird and plant pictures.

(While at the park, I also saw three squirrels and a small plane.)

Three Squirrels and a PlaneGood walk!

Day Three Hundred Forty-three

Wind Chill and Photogenic Sparrows

Over the years, I’ve wondered how weather forecasters come up with those wind chill numbers that are included in our coldest winter forecasts. Obviously, the more wind, the lower the wind chill number, but there must be more to it than that, so today I looked it up. It was even more complicated than I had figured. Weather folk have been tinkering with this formula for years, and the National Weather Service reissued the following, currently used, formula in 2001:

T(wc) = 35.74 + 0.6215T – 35.75(V0.16) + 0.4275T(V0.16)

(with T=temperature in º F and V=velocity of wind in miles/hour.)

It seems that a “feel” temperature formula might be as much an art as it is a science, but I certainly did feel today’s T(wc) of 5º!

I had found a great place to walk and bird watch but had to cut it short because even though I was bundled up, today’s wind made my eyes water and today’s temperature made my face hurt.

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I visited Island Prairie and Indian Boundary Park in Frankfort Square, Illinois. The Frankfort Square Park District has done a really nice job with this park (also the location of their district headquarters). They have made this pond, flood prevention, and water run-off site quite lovely with a boardwalk through the marsh and signage describing plants and wildlife in the area. There is also a paved path around the marsh that continues and connects with other parks in town.

Indian PrairieI could hear the songbirds as I approached the boardwalk. Juncos and small sparrows (swamp sparrows, I think) were flitting about, and a hawk circled overhead. I wish I could have been more patient when photographing all of the birds; it was a great day to take pictures, but for the temperature.

Indian Prairie birdsI guess I’ll just have to go back when it “feels” more like it’s above T(wc) 15º!

Day Three Hundred Thirty-eight

A December Community Garden

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After feeling a little guilty for my negativity about yesterday’s walk in Olympia Fields, Illinois, I decided to go back to another spot in Olympia Fields where I walked once this summer. I really enjoyed my walk that day and again today.

I walked a couple of times around the loop at the new Tolentine Park. I love this park. There is so much here for the space (it’s not especially large). In addition to a walking trail around the park, it has a play area, a splash pad, a basketball court, and a quiet sitting area. What I love most about this park though is the community garden. Every time I drove by this park this summer, folks were working in their gardens. I used to think that community gardens were just for people who didn’t have a space to garden. I’ve recently realized that there’s more to it:  gardening in an awfully solitary activity; community gardens allow gardeners to garden with others.

Today, I found the remnants of this summer’s bounty fascinating.

Tolentine ParkGood walk!

Day Two Hundred Sixty-six

Don’t Feed the Ducks, Folks

The lawn mower refuses to start, despite the best attempts of the Lawn Whisperer.

When my husband (a.k.a. the Lawn Whisperer) asked me to get it fixed, I knew where to take it. The question was: could I find a nearby interesting place to walk? Using Google Maps bicycle overlay for the area, I found that the Village of Oak Lawn has a nature preserve, The Wolfe State Wildlife Refuge, that includes a pond with a path around it and a creek with an adjacent path continuing into the nearby neighborhoods.

After dropping off the mower and driving the short distance to the preserve, I was surprised how crowded it was, but many of the people were at the playground that is also on the property. I grabbed my camera and headed off on the path.

Despite the fact that the water was rather icky and debris littered the woods, the path itself was nice. It even had lighting. On the bridge over the creek, I could see fish and turtles. From a path that led right to the water’s edge I could see a large group of mallards.

Wolfe State Wildlife Refuge

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As I wandered around the other side of the pond, I could hear the ducks making a lot of noise. When I took a closer look, I noticed that a man was feeding them from one spot, and a mom and toddler were feeding them from another.

I could have sworn that I passed a sign that said not to feed the ducks and wandered back around to verify.

Why do people think that rules don’t apply to them?

It drives me nuts, but I still had a nice 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!