Monday, December 31, 2007

Majestic Moraine Hills SP

Another foggy day cleared and allowed a 30 degree windless hike through the pristine snow of Moraine Hills State Park -- 80 minutes of nearly solitary hiking to end the year outdoors.

Patti and Dave and Ellen and I marveled at the majestic whiteness and eagle-eye Dave spotted a lone coyote sauntering down a frozen creek -- too far away to get a photo.

Lunch at Culver's capped the enjoyable morning, and I wish to all who read these words a pure and pristine 2008.

Lodging to avoid...

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Volo Bog: Winter Wonderland

After the morning cloud cover and fog dispersed, we hiked for 70 minutes through the new-fallen snow at Volo Bog and reveled in the winter wonderland scenes before us.

After 2 days of inactivity, the bog and woods soothed our souls and satiated our longing for the outdoors.

Only 2 more weeks to enjoy the snow before I head to Arkansas and then Florida for 10 weeks or so for a lot of mountain biking, hiking, and kayaking.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

George & Osama

Osama Bin Laden himself decided to send George Bush a letter in his own handwriting to let him know he was still in the game. Bush opened the letter and it appeared to contain a single line of coded message: 370HSSV-0773H

Bush was baffled, so he e-mailed it to Condi Rice. Condi and her aides had no clue either, so they sent it to the FBI.

No one could solve it at the FBI so it went to the CIA, then to the NSA.

With no clue as to its meaning they eventually asked Britain's MI-6 for help. Within a minute MI-6 cabled the White House with this reply: "Tell the President he's holding the message upside down."

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Lakewood FP critters

The weather gurus are predicting another "active winter weather pattern" including "a major snow event" for later today and tomorrow with guesses of up to 8" falling, but this morning was one of those crisp, sunny 30 degree beauties which we enjoyed as we hiked for 105 minutes in Lakewood Forest Preserve. We decimated our old record of 31 deer sightings, spotting 61 today, including 2 bucks which we had not seen in a long time. Here is one below...

... but we also spotted 2 red-headed woodpeckers.

Below is another of a deer...

... but the greatest find was a shy coyote who wouldn't emerge from the tree line but did remain long enough to allow a few quick zoom shots. Look closely and you'll see him dead center in the shadows (double click the photo for a larger image.)

Then if that wasn't enough excitement for the day, we went to JJ Twiggs and hit their pizza and soup buffet for a nice lunch.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Moraine Hills - walking on water

All right -- frozen water to be more specific. We hiked 90 minutes at the state park -- the last 30 minutes or so on Lake Defiance. It was a beautiful, sunny 40 degrees, and we shared the views with 3 ice fishermen and several dog walkers also out enjoying the brisk clear air.

Christmas Day

Christmas Day was at Linda and Phil's and began with a scrumptuous prime rib meal by Linda (with consultation with Ellen) as well as scalloped potatoes, cauliflower, rolls, string beans, beets, potato salad, and several wonderful deserts.

Suzi showed her final exam photo projects for her photography classes ...

... and Scott and Sarah played their photos from Christmas Eve on the tv screen...

... and then Steve passed the gifts out...

... and Asti the cat reveled in all the new and exciting playthings discarded on the floor.

More photos of the day are available on Chuck's Web Gallery (and can be downloaded.)

Christmas Eve

For seven decades, the Morlock siblings who emigrated to the United States and settled and remained in the Chicago area, have celebrated Christmas Eve as an extended family. This year's party was at Norman and Gisela's and was quite lively, fueled by the energy and enthusiasm of the 8 youngsters (all under age 7) of the fifth generation who reveled in the activities and made us all smile.

Following the annual grab bag was the traditional singing of Christmas Carols, led by Norman on the organ as shown in the photos above and below.

Finally the moment the children (and adults) were awaiting -- the gift exchange. Norman was on hands and knees retrieving the gifts from beneath the tree...

... as Amy and the kids passed the gifts to the recipients...

... who tore into the task with enthusiasm and the assistance of parents.

More photos of the evening are available on Chuck's Web Gallery (and can be downloaded to your computer.)

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Lake County Model Railroad Club

The Lake County Model Railroad Club was founded in 1971. The layout today reflects an operation from the town of Wauconda, Illinois, to Madison, Wisconsin, and has a main line run of about 360 feet featuring 149 turnouts of which 35 are controlled electrically. There are 3 off mainline staging yards and 3 interchange yard points on the layout.

Scott caught the model railroad bug from me. Every Christmas the Lionel layout ran around the Christmas tree, later the entire living room, and later the entire basement family room. When we moved to Lake Zurich, we built a train room in the basment. Scott has been a member of the LCMRR club since high school (over half his life ago!)

Scott stopped in for supper with us last night and then invited us to the layout which Ellen had not yet seen. She was duly impressed with what they have accomplished in 35+ years of existence.

A Chicago and North Western train can be seen in the background of the photo below. I relayed to Ellen what Scott had told me many years ago: That all these men were not "playing with trains" here -- they were "operating railroads." She replied, "Oh."

Below is a photo from the club's photo gallery, with Scott in the center. More photos of the layout can be found on the club's photo gallery.

Wauconda, Illinois

Wauconda is a small town of about 13,000 in Lake County, founded in 1849. Its name is a Native American word meaning "spirit water" and refers to Bangs Lake, the 309 acre natural glacial lake in the center of the Village. Below are three night photos of the 2 block downtown.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Lakewood Forest Preserve hike and Walkers

The six of us hiked again today -- a foggy, overcast day promising rain later. But we enjoyed the 30 degree warmth, saw 30 or so deer, saw no one else, and reveled in the white majesty of snow-laden woods. Oh what wonders those who have retreated to the sun belt states have forsaken!

The "Walkers" in the post headline doesn't refer to us -- it is the name of the wondrous and locally famous chain of pancake houses. Four of the six of us partook of the venicia benedict dish seen below and it was delicious!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Glacial Park winter hike

Today we tackled the kames (hills created by the glaciers a couple years back) as seen below with Dave, Patti, and Ellen trudging up the steep, snowy incline...

... to the reward of views far into the distance...

... and then after a slog through deep snow along the Nippersink Creek, we re-climbed the kanes and followed the ridgeline through the forest. The 30 degree temps were canceled by the cloudless blue sky, radiant sun, and lack of wind, followed by conversation and burgers at Wendy's.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Photo Gallery

Today I spent time culling some photos from various of my adventures -- rappelling, whitewater rafting, trail projects -- and miscellaneous other groupings of photos, and added them to my web gallery.

Check them out when you get a chance! The can be viewed as a slideshow, a carousel, a mosaic, or as a group.

Monday, December 17, 2007

M & M and Chuck posted via email using the iPhone.

Ellen & KC sent to blog via iPhone email.

Moraine Hills snow hike

Moraine Hills State Park was radiant in white this morning for our 105 minute hike. Much of our trek was bushwacking off-trail through the 6 to 10 inches of fallen snow, and here Ellen, Patti, and Dave trudge up a hill...

...atop which a lonesome boulder is snow covered. Ellen and I admire the rock art Patti created by drawing a face in the rock's snow.

All my friends in warm places such as Florida are probably envious of our winter wonderland playground here. Right Greg???

Saturday, December 15, 2007

"The Journey" behind the scenes

Last night was the first of our 2 shows, and here are a few "behind the scenes" shots. The first two are part of the male contingent in the entourage in the caravan of the Magi. All are choir members who were recruited to perform double duty and be extras, namely servants of the Magi (l to r) Edgar, Randy, Tim, Dave, Karl, David, Anthony, and Mark.

Anthony and I are two of the head servants and hence wear more formal attire. (BTW, all the costumes were made by some extraordinarily talented seamstresses/church members -- Yvonne, Kim, Joelle, and Marion.)

I love retirement, but I do miss being around high schoolers. This role gave me the opportunity to meet three great young ladies who portrayed servants -- Ashley, Lynn, and Kristen.)

Following the performance, the church hosted a cookie reception where I could relax a bit with Ellen, Scott, and Sarah.

More photos of CITV are available on Chuck's Web Gallery

Friday, December 14, 2007

Hikin' The Hollows

We met Len, Dave, and Patti today and hiked 115 minutes in The Hollows near Fox River Grove. The 6 degree wind chill day was brightened by blue skies, glistening trees (from the ice storm of a few days ago), and sparkling conversation. Of course, thoughts of the subsequent meal at Colonial Ice Cream in Crystal Lake also helped alleviate the weather.

Here are a few shots of the magnificent tree branches agleam with glistening ice.

Moral" Don't curse the weather -- get out and enjoy it. (And then reward yourself with a great meal!)

"The Journey" begins...

The week of dress rehearsals is over and showtime is here! The choir is ready...

... as is the church orchestra (augmented by 20 professional musicians)...

... and the mom is telling her son about the birth of Jesus...

... as prophesied by Micah...

... and despite the nefarious efforts of that vile King Herod...

... Mary and Joseph make it to Bethlehem for the birth of the Christ Child, and then safely home.

More photos of CITV are available on Chuck's Web Gallery

You, too, can learn of the true reason for this season by coming to the production, or by reading any of the four Gospels. But don't delay!