April 26th, 2016 ~ Day 32
Parking at the Russell Road parking lot, and taking my oldest son with me today, our hike began on the Des Plains River Trail at the Van Patton Woods Forest Preserve. With overcast skies, it was a chilly day for a hike in Illinois. Not something we are used to living in Phoenix.
The grass, a rich green, along with an empty corn field greeted us as we began our hike. The images reminded me of my childhood.
My grandpa took my cousins and I to explore this area one time when I was a little girl. I only remember bits and pieces of that day, but I think of that day often as I am out there on the trails, and today lots of images of that day came flooding back.
My grandpa had taken my cousins, my brother, and maybe my sister and I on an exploratory hike through the woods. He had made sure we had packed enough gear for our adventure. I believe he may have even made us each a trail mix for the trek. I remember going off trail exploring through the woods. Going to places I never even knew existed. Looking for wildlife and searching for deer tracks. I don’t remember how long we were out there, but I remember it being a great day for an adventure. One that will live on in my memories for a long time, so that I can think of where my love of hiking may have begun. A seed was planted that day.
As we continued hiking the trail, we came upon Sterling Lake. The chill in the air became even cooler next to the water, and still it was a beautiful day for a hike.
The Des Plains River sat to our left of the trail. One day, I want to kayak down this river and experience all it has to offer. This is something I’ve dreamed of doing for the last 20 years. One day I will get the opportunity.
There is a trail through the center of the lake, where there must be too much water, because the trail was washed out. Stopping to take a picture, we continued to head south to go completely around Sterling Lake.
Once we came to the south side of the lake, the wind picked up. Without any trees to block its path, the air became bone chilling cold. My son, only in a t-shirt was freezing, although he wouldn’t admit it. We tried to hurry along to get out of the freezing cold.
Capturing a bird in flight over the lake. Adding more beauty to this wonderful hike.
We came upon the beach at Silver Lake. I don’t believe you can swim here, but you can launch your canoes and kayaks. Another adventure I hope to one day enjoy.
Having lived here most of my life, I never took the opportunity to see what there was to offer. I was too consumed with other things in life and I never really realized what I was missing until now. I am just grateful for the opportunity to come back here and see what I was missing.
We stopped at my favorite tree. Barren from the winter, but when the leaves are full in the summer, it is the most stunning tree I have ever seen. I have spent many days at Van Patton Woods for our Sunday School Picnics, but for some reason, I don’t remember this tree until I was about 19 years old when I came out here with my friend Amy and we were just driving around, I noticed the tree and fell in love.
As we made our way back to the trailhead, the sounds of nature came to us in full force. The frogs in the pond were croaking their hearts out, not something you hear every day in Phoenix.
A beaver in the water. He popped up out of the water long enough for me to get a picture then disappeared under the water and as we waited a minute or two, he didn’t come up for air again.
I noticed the boulders in the prairie and I couldn’t help but wonder if they were recently placed there, or if this was from many years ago. I’ve heard stories of how the Indians used to roam this land. Maybe it was from them, or maybe the settlers who once occupied the area. I love that my imagination can run wild when I am in the outdoors. Keeps me young at heart.
We ended up with a 3.62-mile hike and only a 42-foot elevation gain. There’s not much elevation in the prairie lands of Illinois. It was a beautiful day for a hike. I’m glad I could share this experience with my son. Exploring an area from my past and bringing new memories to take with me.
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