Weekly Photo Challenge: Beginning

Mile Marker ZeroBeginning: Mile ZeroI love when a trail has mile markers. I seem to lack the innate ability to know how far I’ve walked (or, frankly, how far I should walk). I’m sure it’s because I’m distracted by the scenery or even my own thoughts, so I appreciate when the trail keeps track for me.

I walked the entire 20.1 mile Old Plank Road Trail at the beginning of last year. I did it haphazardly, walking a short section at a time, there and back. I snapped pictures of the mile markers with my phone to help me keep track of where I’d walked.

It seemed an appropriate time to go back to the beginning.

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Day Three Hundred Sixty-three

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Icy!

We’ve known for days that a cold front was coming today. If we left early enough, we thought we’d be able to take a walk before the weather changed. We didn’t quite make it though. Freezing mist and icy trails kept us from actually doing much walking.

We still had a really nice outing.

We headed to a Cook County Forest Preserve, Bemis Woods, near Western Springs, Illinois, to walk on the paved Red/Salt Creek Trail. I walked on a portion of this trail back on Day 336, but north and west of Bemis Woods, in DuPage County.

When we arrived at the preserve, we figured out very quickly that yesterday’s melting snow was definitely refreezing. It was really slippery, and we didn’t get very far on the trail. Instead, we walked around the long drive and the parking lot for a bit, but decided even that was too slippery. So, we headed for Oak Brook Center (a large shopping center) to get lunch!

On the way, we stopped at Graue Mill and Museum, operated by the DuPage County Forest Preserve. Graue Mill was a stop on the Underground Railroad and is still an operating mill and museum. The mill and museum are closed for the season, but we took a look around anyhow. It was slippery here too, so I should say we gingerly took a look around.

Graue MillThe quickly moving Salt Creek runs next to the mill. Some mallards, after riding in the current, came right up to the edge of the water as we walked by. We saw a mature great blue heron in the creek as well.

Graue Mill BirdsBoth Bemis Woods and Graue Mill look like great places to walk when the weather gets warmer! I’ll have to keep them in mind for next spring or summer.

With the weather that’s in the forecast for the next few days, today’s walk was likely my last one outdoors in 2013!

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-nine

I vowed to myself that I would finish this 2013 walking resolution off by not skipping any days in December. Today’s schedule and weather made that vow a little difficult, but I did take a short walk.

I was in Bloomington, Illinois, again this morning. On my way out of town, I walked along a fraction of the extensive Constitution Trail. The 24 mile long trail began as a 4 mile rail conversion, but over the years, the towns of Bloomington and Normal extended the north/south trail and added east and west branches to the trail. I was on an east branch today.

Constitution Trail

I walked along Sugar Creek and General Electric Park. This part of the trail seemed mostly utilitarian as I saw a couple people using the trail to get to work.

Good walk, good trail!

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!

Day Three Hundred Twenty

Cranberry Slough

I wasn’t sure I’d get a walk in today at all after watching last night’s weather forecast. So when I woke early and saw that it wasn’t raining yet, I donned my walking shoes and walked up to the grocery store for breakfast supplies. When the heavy mists hit me squarely in the glasses on my walk back, I figured this would be the extent of my walking today. However, by the time I had the Saturday morning french toast cleaned up, the weather had cleared up too. We decided to go ahead with a walk, but wore rain gear and packed plastic bags for the electronics, just in case.

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My oldest and youngest sons joined me today on the Yellow and Tan Trails in the Palos Trail System of the Cook County Forest Preserve. I have read good things about the area surrounding the Cranberry Slough and planned our route around it.

I have really enjoyed planning walks in this area and in the nearby Sag Valley Trail System. There are many intersecting unpaved trails of various lengths, giving plenty of hiking, biking, and equestrian options. It’s a great example of public natural space.

On today’s route, the water, the curvy oak-lined trails, and the slightly hilly terrain made for an interesting three-mile walk. (And it didn’t even rain!)

Cranberry Slough

I would love to see what this place looks like in the summer. I guess I will just have to go back!