Thursday, May 31, 2007

Matthiessen State Park & 17 Year Cicadas

We hiked the upper and lower dells areas of Matthiessen State Park and it is as magnificent as I remember it from 2 decades ago. The trail needs some work, but the scenery is awesome and the 17 year cicadas were at full volume and abundant on leaves and branches. I got some lovely photos of their beady red eyes as well of the waterfalls and canyons of the state park.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Starved Rock State Park hiking

Starved Rock State Park is about a 2 1/2 hour drive west and south of Chicago, along the Illinois River -- an area inhabited by various Indian nations for over 10,000 years. In the photos, Ellen reads outside our Pioneer Cabin and hikes one of the magnificent trails along the bluff trail above the Illinois River; St. Louis Canyon waterfall which is a 3 mile round trip hike from the lodge area.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Des Plaines River Trail Adventure

It was a beautiful day for a 20 mile ride through Lake County's magnificent forest preserves on the Des Plaines River Trail. Ellen and I in the first picture, and Dave, Patti, and Ellen in the second photo enjoy the serenity and glory of the forest. We saw several hawks and later 5 Great White Egrets, one of which had a fish in its mouth. We capped the day's ride with a tasty lunch at the Independence Grove Cafe. Independence Grove is the "crown jewel" of the Lake County Forest Preserve District -- a multi-million dollar conversion of an old quarry into a huge lake/picnic/beach/boating/fishing mecca.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Hiking and Biking in the Woods

Today we hiked 5+ miles through the verdant forests of Lakewood Forest Preserve and then biked 13+ miles on the Millennium Trail. Another beautiful and sunny 80 degree day, and Ellen loves the bike trails we have here, for there were no such trails near where she lived in either New Jersey or Arkansas. On the hike, we saw a momma doe with newborn fawn as well as a majestic mating pair of swans with 5 babies.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Ellen visits from Arkansas.

Ellen is in town and I showed her the Lakefront and Lake Shore Drive, Wrigley Field, Navy Pier, Grant Park, Buckingham Fountain, Millennium Park, the Bean, State Street and the Loop, and Michigan Avenue. It was a beautiful day and she loves Chicago. Having lived most of her life in New Jersey and after years of attending school and working in New York City, she remarked numerous times about how clean and pristine Chicago was compared with many cities in the northeast. Lake Michigan and the Chicago River also appeared much cleaner to her than waterways out east.

Grant Park - "Eyes Wide Open"

As we walked Grant Park heading to Millennium Park, we came upon the "Eyes Wide Open" display of 3452 pairs of combat boots, a vivid and moving graphic representation of the magnitude of our country's loss as well as the enormity of each family's personal loss, because each pair of boots had a lost soldier's name and home town attached. Many of the affected families had found their soldier's boots and added small mementoes, memorabilia, and even biographies of the dead. This display is touring the country and the schedule is available on their website listed below.

"The American Friends Service Committee, as a Quaker and pacifist organization, stands against all wars as a way to resolve global conflicts. But we believe it is crucial, particularly this Memorial Day, for this nation to remember the sacrifice of those killed in the Iraq War, while at the same time condemning the war that took their lives.

Equally important, this nation must see with their eyes wide open, the human cost of this war, so that never again will we blindly vote for war. We began this memorial in January 2004, just after the 500th US combat death. Today, we come back to Chicago, its birthplace, with a memorial, tragically, seven times larger than when we began." Eyes Wide Open website

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Life with M&M -- A daily adventure!

Belly-up is a very comfortable position!

Always a huge help when I use the computer... well as when I work at my desk.

Heights are no problem for this critter!

Everyone knows that water from the jacuzzi tub tastes better than from a water bowl!

Wherever I am, she is too!!!

Monday, May 21, 2007

Red River Gorge

Bob and I had a wonderful backpack in Red River Gorge which is about 2 hours southeast of his home in Louisville. The Gorge is a magnificent dense forest replete with geological features galore, the primary ones being natural arches eroded from the sandstone. This area abuts Kentucky's Natural Bridge State Resort Park and shares many of its features. The Sheltowee Trace National Recreation Trail passes through the Gorge as it traverses the length of the Daniel Boone National Forest and parallels the Red River seen in this photo where Bob and I were perched on a high rock overlooking the river. Young people were jumping from this rock to the river 20 feet below and also swinging on a long rope and falling from it into the river. More photos and info are on my webpage, Chuck's Backpacking Bonanza, under Backpacking Locations:Kentucky.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

My next adventure

I've done over 60 backpacks in 49 different places in our beautiful country, and today I leave for location #50 -- Kentucky's Red River Gorge in the Daniel Boone National Forest. In a week or so I'll add photos from that adventure to my website, Chuck's Backpacking Bonanza.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Trail building

Today I "fine tuned" a couple trails I built last year for the Lake County Forest Preserve District. The trails are in St. Francis Woods adjoining Independence Grove and are used for environmental/naturalist education in their summer Day Camp program for students in K-8 grades. As part of the project, I also constructed 2 stairways to assist in safely traversing the trails. I was trained in trail building by professional crews of the US Forest Service and have completed 20 such volunteer projects all across the country during the last 11 years. Photos and descriptions of all these projects can be found at here.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Greg visits Chicago

Yesteday, Greg Pflug, the head honcho for Adventures in Florida guide service, had his first tour of Downtown and was duly enthralled with the Lakefront, Navy Pier, Millennium Park, the Loop, and Michigan Avenue, but "The Bean" sculpture was probably the highlight. Though he prefers paddling the wilderness waters of Florida and elsewhere, our hikes through Lake County forests and visit to Lake Geneva and Downtown gave him much to share with his young sons and wife.