Day Three Hundred Nineteen

I walked today in a nearby town, Olympia Fields, Illinois. The town has done a nice job with the area around their commuter train station. They added a large lot a few years ago and did it right, with a pretty water retention pond and a paved walking trail and tall grasses surrounding it. The walking trails connect the train station to major roads and residential areas. Olympia Fields Train StationToday, I saw mallards, killdeer, and a red-tail hawk as I circled the pond. I also walked under the tracks, hoping to walk around the Olympia Fields Country Club which borders the east side of the railroad tracks. Understandably, the club has a gate to keep non-member commuters and nosy walkers like me out of their exclusive club.

I do not remember this gate being here when we attended the 2004 U. S. Open at this club. I think they took it down and opted for a faster entry for that large venue. We so enjoyed having that international golf event nearby!

Good walking and reminiscing!

Day Two Hundred Seventy-four

“I haven’t walked yet today. I’m going to meet Dad’s train.”

“I’ll come too.”

“Hey, buddy, put on your shoes. We’re going for a walk.”

“Wait, everyone’s going for a walk? Wait for me.”

And the four family members that were home tonight all headed out in the dark for a walk around the park, then to town and the commuter station. When the train pulled into the station at 8:20, my husband was the only one with an entire welcoming committee.

I think he liked it.

Day One Hundred Eighty-seven

Indiana Dunes IMG_0569

After a family graduation party this afternoon in Indiana, we thought we’d check out a couple of trails on our way home.  First, we stopped at the Calumet Trail, donned our walking shoes, coated ourselves in bug spray, and headed east from the Michigan City trailhead off Route 12.

It was an interesting walk, with a unique mix of wildflowers and industry along the South Shore commuter rail line and under the NIPSCO power lines.  Unfortunately, some of the wildflowers had grown into the trail, which made it a little scratchy in a few places, but we enjoyed ourselves nonetheless.

Indiana DunesOur second stop was at the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore‘s Great Marsh.  We didn’t walk much here because our son was tired, but we got a got a great look at the Marsh and a pair of kingfishers.  We will definitely come back here!

Indiana Dunes' Great MarshSince we were near Portage, Indiana, we also checked out the Prairie Duneland Trail and the Iron Horse Heritage Trail for future walks.  We determined that there are still a lot of great places in Northwest Indiana, for us to walk!

Good day, good walk!

Day One Hundred Fifty-three

Marshy Fun

When I read the descriptions of Waterfall Glen on Traillink.com, the “rock ridges, ravines and wetland potholes” intrigued me, so without much research other than driving directions, we made the last minute decision drive up to Darien, Illinois, to walk.  We were even able to convince our nineteen year-old son to join us this cool, misty day.

We’ve walked a couple of times near the Des Plaines River and the Illinois and Michigan Canal, and each walk has been worth the trip.  This walk, also near the Des Plaines River, was memorable.

We noticed right away that the parking lot had a significant number of cars despite the lousy weather, so we decided it must be an interesting place  We saw several people ignoring the Trail Closed sign, so we followed them and headed counter-clockwise on the looped trail from the Lemont Road parking lot.

Spring, 20135This part of the trail must flood often, because a passing runner, headed immediately up to the adjacent railroad tracks and ran right next to the tracks on the rocks (ballast?) while we stood there dumbfounded, staring at the flooded trail.

After we deliberated at length whether our thirteen year-old son with Autism Spectrum Disorder would infer that it’s acceptable to walk near railroad tracks, we followed the runner (along with strict warnings to never do this alone).  My husband and youngest son each still managed to completely submerge a foot crossing the swampy area between the tracks and the unflooded trail.  I got one foot pretty wet too.  We still enjoyed the lovely marsh.

Spring, 20136Once through the flooded area, we walked past Poverty Prairie (named after a type of oat) and the model airplane flying field before turning around to head back.  (By this time, we noticed that several passing cyclists had somehow managed to either ride through the flooded marsh trail or also went along the railroad tracks and through the swamp to get back to the trail–but carrying bikes!  We debated their methods for quite some time.)

On our way out of the preserve, I picked up a map.  I learned then that the ten mile main trail and the entire preserve encompasses Argonne National Laboratory.  Once home, I learned even more about Waterfall Glen’s unique ecology from the DuPage County Forest Preserve’s website.  We’ll just have to go back to see the waterfall!

If I had done my research in advance, we would have probably parked in a different lot and kept our feet dry.  On the other hand, if I had done my research, we would not have laughed our entire way along railroad tracks and through a swamp.

Good day, good walk!

Day One Hundred Thirty-six

Same Walk–Different Stages

Today, I hadn’t had a chance to walk yet, so I headed up to meet my husband as his train arrived from downtown Chicago.  I thought about all the times we had walked home together from the train station over the last twenty-five years and enjoyed reminiscing . . .

Once upon a time, when I worked in Chicago’s Loop, I rather enjoyed riding the commuter train into the city from the suburbs.  I liked the hustle and bustle, the mindless cattle-like line-forming, and the silent competition (by those of us who cared) to get the best seat or to get off the train first.

Many mornings, my husband and I walked up to the station and rode the train together, even though we got off at different stops once downtown.  Occasionally, if we were early enough, we’d stop and get coffee and a donut for the ride in.  We didn’t subscribe to a newspaper at the time, because we didn’t want to spend the money.  We soon noticed though that many people would read their morning copies of the Wall Street Journal or the Chicago Tribune and then just leave them on the train.  We would each scoop up the least wrinkled copies on our way out the door and read it at lunch or even save it for the ride home.  (Reading old news seems strange in today’s shortened news cycle!)

Our schedules usually didn’t coincide well in the evenings, so we didn’t ride home together as often.  When we did, it was often on a Friday, and sometimes we’d stop at the bar and pick up a happy hour cocktail and a gourmet popcorn to share on the ride home.

Whether we rode together or not, because of the short walk for each of us at both ends of the commute, it made for a really nice way to get to work and back home every day.

Once we had children (and I was lucky enough to stay home with them), I would often load the kids up in a stroller, walk up to the train station, meet my husband at the train, and we’d walk home together.  At first it was a single stroller, then a double, and later it would be bikes and scooters.  The kids liked watching Dad’s head come up the stairs among all the other commuters’ heads as we sat on a bench across the street.

Once my older children were in high school, I would walk up alone to the train station, and the two of us would walk home together. It would give us a few minutes to discuss things without many pairs of prying ears.  I’m not sure my husband enjoyed these walks so much, because I noticed that he started asking, “What’s wrong?”  or “What did they do now?” as soon as I showed up.  On these nights, he probably would have enjoyed a quiet walk home alone after a long day at work, but there were things to be discussed, and he put on a brave face.

Today, because I had texted him earlier in the day about a big local news story that I knew he’d be interested in, he jumped right into conversation about it as soon as we were close enough to hear each other. He didn’t even say hello. He didn’t need to, of course; he knew why I was there.

Good day, good walk!