Day 261 ~ Van Patton Woods Wadsworth, IL

December 11th, 2016 ~ Day 261

After last night’s snow fall, the barren forest was covered in a fresh blanket of white snow. This is the stuff I lived for as a child and today was no different hiking through the snow. A beautiful white wonderland. The temperature was at 30 degrees and it felt warmer than it has the last three days. 

I began my hike at the spot where, when I was a little girl, we used to have our Sunday School picnics for church. I decided to follow the snowmobile route, because of the bright orange signs. I figured it would be harder for me to get lost. 

Crossing the frozen bridge over the partially frozen Des Plaines River, I decided to head towards the lake. 

A portion of the lake was frozen too, and where it wasn’t, the geese were swimming in the frigid water. The geese were calling like crazy and it seemed to echo. There were hundreds of them and everytime they took off for flight you could hear their honking even louder.  

I didn’t make it very far around the river, once the wind hit me I decided to turn back to the cover of the trees. 

I captured a photo of the geese flying away as I was headed back to the car. Hopefully they are headed for warmer weather. 

I made my way back the way I had come. When I came to a crossroad I decided to go a different direction through the forest. It didn’t take me very far, just a few extra steps. Today’s hike was for a total of 1.25 miles. More than I’ve been able to do in this bone chilling cold Midwest!
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Day 259 ~ Sedge Meadow Trailhead Wadsworth, IL

December 9th, 2016 ~ Day 259

It was another bitterly cold day at only 19 degrees. I will never again complain about the cold weather in Phoenix. Parking at the Sedge Meadow Trailhead, which is a part of the Des Plaines River Trail, I hiked as fast as I could around a little pond. My whole goal was to hike around the pond while trying not to freeze to death. 

The biting wind attacked my face as snow flakes fell from the sky. I didn’t want to be out here, but I have to continue on this journey. So here I am trying to hike in the freezing cold dead of winter. 

The water was completely frozen. It looked like there was a beaver damn off to the south side of the pond. When I was here in July, I hiked part of this same trail. I could barely see the pond with all the green tall cattails surrounding it. Now they are long gone waiting for spring to come and bring them back to life. 

A little bit of snow on the ice. As a child we had a pond in front of our house and I would always go ice skating. I’m sure I’d fall trying to get on skates now. This whole trip has reminded me of bits and pieces of my childhood. So many wonderful memories. 

I made it a half mile. I wasn’t too concerned with mileage. I drove 15 minutes to get to this trailhead, got my boots on, and hiked in the freezing cold… this counts in my book. Adding yet another experience to this amazing journey. 
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Day 120 ~ Des Plaines River Trail Wadsworth, IL

July 23rd, 2016 ~ Day 120

My favorite tree!

I went to the Des Plaines River Trail and parked at the canoe launch on Wadsworth Road. The trail began in the woods, which was great for shade. It was hot and humid, but not as bad as yesterday. There was a lot of cloud cover which helped with shade. It actually looked like it might rain.

The trail was next to the river, but there was so much vegetation you couldn’t see it. I found a side path where I could walk to the river itself and saw a crane standing in the water.

So many beautiful flowers here. After the forest it became what looked like could be the prairie. The plants were so tall I couldn’t tell.


I crossed a bridge where you could really see the water. It was green and mucky. The water level seemed really low. Not too pretty, but one day I’ll kayak this river, even if it is dirty.


I found a pond with lots of lily pads. I scared a mother duck and her babies when I came to the side of the pond.

Besides the humidity, it was beautiful out. So much green! I wonder why I never thought to enjoy this area when I lived here. Thirty years, and I never once set foot on this ground. It just makes me grateful for where I am today. Grateful for the opportunity to explore now. It’s never to late to do something. Trying to live as much as possible and see all that I can see.

As I came to the end of my trail, I realized it wasn’t the loop I thought it was and ended up walking down Wadsworth Road. I did a little over two miles, which is enough in this heat.

Day 32 ~ Van Patton Woods Wadsworth, IL

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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