Day Three Hundred Thirty-six

Planes, Trains, and a Bike Path

I had to pick up my son from O’Hare International Airport this afternoon. I decided to leave a little early and go for a walk just west of the airport on the Salt Creek Greenway Trail. The Salt Creek Greenway is a 25 mile trail that runs through eight suburbs (that I counted), connects to many other trails, and spans across Cook and DuPage Counties. I only walked on a short portion in Wood Dale, Illinois.

I didn’t plan my parking very well and ended up parking at a Target and walking mostly through an industrial park and under large power lines. With the air planes descending and Metra tracks crossing the trail, it definitely gave the walk an industrial and transportation theme.

Salt Creek Greenway

I did walk into a portion of the Salt Creek Marsh Preserve. It was really nice, but I ran out of time and had to head back to the car and on to the airport.

On my way back, I spotted an adult great blue heron. He looked like he was hunkering down trying to stay warm while watching the ducks swim calmly by him.

Salt Creek Greenway 21

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I was struck by this heron’s dark feathers and head plumage. I think he must be more mature than most of the herons I saw over the summer and early fall. I wished that I could have gotten closer to him or caught him in flight, but I had to keep moving in order to get to the airport.

I think with a better parking spot and more time, I would enjoy walking here again in the future–even if it’s after 2013 and the end of my official walking resolution.

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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 Two Hundred Sixty-four

More of a Day-Trip than a Walk

We knew today’s planned walk was a fair distance away, but we didn’t think we’d be gone all day.

This month’s AAA magazine, Midwest Traveler, has a short feature on the sand-hill cranes that flock each fall to the Jasper-Pulaski Fish and Wildlife Refuge in Medaryville, Indiana. I would love to see sand-hill cranes! I thought, “Great! That’s near the Grand Kankakee Marsh in Hebron, Indiana, that I’ve been wanting to visit and walk. We’ll do both.” My husband, who puts up with all of my crazy ideas, was game and even my oldest son agreed to come along.

Our first stop was the Grand Kankakee Marsh. The walk along the Kankakee River was lovely, and we were glad to still see some wildflowers along the walk. The sandy two-track path was well-mowed and ran right next to the river, giving us some great views.

We enjoyed seeing the different water management and irrigation creeks that led away from the river, but the river level actually seemed low as we could see the root systems of many of the trees on the other bank.

Grand Kankakee MarshWe loved the rural area too, with a one-lane bridge over the Kankakee and railroad tracks that appear to go on forever. We had a great walk on our first stop of this trip, but I really thought we’d see more birds; the only birds we saw were several groups of turkey vultures soaring overhead.

Grand Kankakee Marsh 2Our drive to the Jasper-Pulaski Fish and Wildlife Area took longer than we thought, and our directions were a bit off. We ended up on washboard gravel roads and driving in a giant circle before we figured it out and arrived at the sand-hill crane viewing area.

We decided that this must be a popular spot, but we were there at the wrong time. In other words, the parking lot is huge, but with only one car parked there–ours. We checked it out anyhow. There’s a nice path through a wooded area with sand-hill crane information alongside. The viewing area is a large two-story tower with posted viewing telescopes.  There were about twenty sand-hill cranes, but we would have never seen them without binoculars or the telescopes because they were so far off. See them along the edge of the mowed area?

IMG_1287Part two of the trip was a bit of a bust! We had a good laugh about it at least. Get this, my family says we’ll just have to go back when there are more sand-hill cranes in October. Maybe I’ll get a telephoto zoom lens by then too!

Day Two Hundred Fifty-one

The Loop is Mine for the (Picture) Taking

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After last Sunday’s successful walk at Graceland Cemetery, I went into the city to do another Chicago walk that I had read about recently in Crain’s Chicago Business, the Chicago River Walk. It didn’t go exactly as planned, but I had fun anyhow.

I found free parking along Upper West Wacker Drive, and headed toward the Frankin Street Bridge, one of the walk’s ending points. Wacker Drive is one of my favorite streets in Chicago, because it has so much character. Wacker Drive bends along next to the Chicago River, so it runs east/west north of downtown, then bends south and runs north/south west of downtown. The most interesting part of Wacker though is that it has two levels, Upper and Lower.

When I worked in downtown Chicago (over twenty years ago already!) I worked just north of the river and in the depths of winter would walk along Lower Wacker to get between my office and my train station.  Walking under ground allowed me to avoid heavy snowfalls and those cold Lake Michigan breezes. Unfortunately, many of Chicago’s homeless hung out underground as well.

They still do.

Today, when I looked along the lower walkway next to the river, I saw a few homeless camps and, since I was alone and there weren’t many folks around, I decided to stay on the upper level. I still really enjoyed walking around and taking some pictures (still trying to find a unique point of view for WordPress’ Weekly Photo Challenge).

Chicago RiverWhile aimlessly walking and snapping pictures,

  • I followed the river for awhile and enjoyed watching the tour boats come along every few minutes
  • I got to see the Wells Street Bridge replacement, a huge transportation project and engineering feat because it affects CTA trains, above, and cars, below.
  • I wandered into the deserted Loop and took pictures along closed and empty roads while tourists were elsewhere and weekday workers were at home (or across town at Soldier Field) watching the Bears’ game

I have separately entered WordPress’ Weekly Photo Challenge here.

I had some failed challenge attempts too, including a chopped-off Merchandise Mart, a corner Chipotle that was so crowded that no one would be able to focus on anything, and a regular ol’ picture of Willis (Sears) Tower.

Chicago POV AttemptsSo much fun.

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 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 One Hundred Sixty

I-94 and the Little Calumet

This evening we headed to Northwest Indiana to walk on the northernmost section of the Erie Lackawanna Trail.  My son and I had walked some of this section on a cold, windy, drizzly Day 100.  Today, we walked farther in each direction in perfect weather.

After parking in the giant Cabela’s lot, we walked behind the store and under I-94 through a large tunnel.  My son especially enjoyed this part of the walk and thought the wall along the expressway looked like a giant puzzle; he also really liked the tunnel.

Cabella'sAfter briefly looking around north of the expressway, we headed back towards the Little Calumet River.  The Erie Lackawanna connects here with the Little Calumet River Trail that runs along the river heading west.  (It seems like the Erie Lackawanna Trail and the Little Calumet River Trail are quite enter-twined through this entire area.)

This part of Northwest Indiana has had significant flooding in recent years and is undergoing a large water management construction project, so we only looked around briefly and then headed back to the Erie Lackawanna.

IMG_0352We continued between a retention pond with a few folks fishing and along the river to the east.  It was lovely.  We had a Baltimore oriole fly by us and saw a hummingbird bobbing between flowers along the river.  On a bridge that takes the path around Wicker Park, we saw a groundhog swimming below, with some long leaves in his mouth.  (At first we thought it was a beaver, but decided that it was too small and the the tail was all wrong.)

We were especially impressed by how much this trail was being used by neighborhood families and had several groups bike past us.  What a great way to spend a Sunday evening!

Good day, good walk!