Saturday, May 31, 2008

Biking, Dinner with Don, and Beethoven

Spring finally made a grand entrance with a gorgeous 75 degree day, and we enjoyed the warmth and biked 14 miles on the Millennium Trail wearing just shorts and t-shirts. It's comforting to hear the myriad birds singing again as we pass and to see the variety populating the area -- cardinals, great white egrets, great blue heron, barnswallows and tree swallows, robins, orioles, blue jays, swans, woodpeckers, and more -- though I'm disappointed that I haven't yet spotted the sand hill cranes that have been along the trail the last three years. We also spotted 2 deer today...

Later, our friend, Don, came and Ellen outdid herself preparing a delicious rotisserie grilled pork tenderloin with sweet potatoes and asparagus and salad. Don had refused to tell us his food preferences, replying "I like to be surprised," and Ellen fortuitously chose three of his favorites and cooked them to perfection.

Then the three of us were off to College of Lake County's magnificent James Lumber Center for the Performing Arts for Beethoven's 9th Symphony, performed by The Lake Forest Symphony and The Chicago Master Singers, both under the exceptional leadership of director Alan Heatherington. What a spectacular evening of music these 200+ fine musicians provided! Here's a photo before the concert started since photography is not permitted during the concert:

Friday, May 30, 2008

Moriane Hills SP hike

We met Dave and Patti and Len and Marlene at the state park to hike since the weather forecast was not conducive to biking. We supposedly had a "window" of dry weather between 2 waves of the intense storms predicted for today, but partway through a 4 mile hike we were hit by rain and winds with gusts up to 60 miles per hour! Obvious from this photo is the fact that most of us were comfortable despite the conditions -- the only one not smiling is not really dressed for the forecast...

Branches and leaves downed by the storm littered the trail the last 2 miles, and a large branch fell onto the trail just 10 feet behind us at one point, verifying that our decision to cut the hike short was the correct one. Then we drove through the wind and rain and discovered a number of downed branches partially blocking the roadway out of the state park, and also half a dozen traffic lights around Island Lake were out from power outages, but a fantastic breakfast at Walker Brothers made up for any discomfort.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Deer Grove Biking

The weathermen blew it again! After I finished volunteering at church this morning, Ellen met me at Deer Grove with our bikes. The predicted 75 degree sunny day (with rain coming late tonight) was cloudy, 65 degrees, and the last 2 miles of our 10+ mile mountain bike ride were in a light drizzle.

Anyway, the forest was magnificent. the numerous mud puddles were by-passable or negotiable, the wind was negligible, and we only saw 1 other biker during the entire 75 minute ride, though we did see a momma doe with her tiny, spindly-legged new-born fawn. And afterwards, we enjoyed a magnificent meal at Biaggi's Ristorante Italiano. So let it rain now!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Des Plaines River Trail biking

We availed ourselves of the beautiful, sunny day, despite the 57 degree temperature (17 degrees below normal for this day) and chilly-feeling wind and biked 22+ miles from Independence Grove to Wadsworth Road and back...

... which is entirely forest preserve. During the ride we spotted deer, a fox, Great Blue Heron, Great White Egret, woodpeckers, cardinals, bluebirds, and even 2 Amtrak trains (one car of which was painted to advertise a tv game show!) By doing this segment, Ellen has now round-trip biked the entire Des Plaines River Trail in Lake County (33 miles) as well as a good portion of Cook County's continuation of the trail.

Our early dinner at the Gurnee Boston Market was a treat since both the Boston Markets near home have closed. We passed the 200 mile biking mark for the fourth straight month and have over 900 fat-tire miles so far this year!

More Points to Ponder

  • Life not only begins at forty, it also begins to show
  • It's better to regret something you HAVE done than something you haven't.
  • If you give some people 2.54 centimeters they'll take 1.61 kilometers!
  • Graciousness engenders graciousness.
  • Your mistakes do not define you. How you act after a mistake does.
  • We should keep our mouths shut more and our ears open longer and more often.
  • Intentional kindness goes a long way in combating selfishness.
  • When writing, avoid cliches. Avoid them like the plague!
  • Only one without conscience or goodness never suffers.
  • Redemption is when guilt leads to good.
  • Everything you do and say has your own personal signature on it and embodies you.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Carl Sandburg, "Happiness," and the Des Plaines River

Carl Sandburg, one of Illinois' most famous poets, was born in Galesburg in 1878 and his ashes were returned to his birthplace and placed beneath Remembrance Rock in Carl Sandburg Park behind his family's home. Twice, 1940 and 1951, he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize. His first book, Chicago Poems was published in 1916 and included this poem referring to the Des Plaines River:


I asked the professors who teach the meaning of life to tell me what is happiness.
And I went to famous executives who boss the work of thousands of men.
They all shook their heads and gave me a smile as though I was trying to fool with them.
And then one Sunday afternoon I wandered out along the Desplaines river
And I saw a crowd of Hungarians under the trees with their women and children and a keg of beer and an accordion.

—Carl Sandburg, Chicago Poems, 1916

Rare Snakes in the Chicago Area

Chicago has 2 rare, endangered snakes. The first is the eastern massasauga rattlesnake (Sistrurus catenatus) and is the Chicago-area’s only venomous snake. Historically, this small “pygmy” rattlesnake was known to be very abundant in parts of the Upper Des Plaines River Watershed, but habitat loss and persecution have nearly eliminated it from northeastern Illinois. The massasauga primarily eats mice, smaller snakes, and frogs. It is listed as an endangered species by the State of Illinois, and it is a candidate for listing as a federally endangered or threatened species.

The second is the Kirtland’s snake (Clonophis kirtlandii) which was first discovered in this area and described to science by Robert Kennicott. He grew up during the mid-19th century in present-day Glenview and was to become one of Illinois’ first naturalists. Kirtland’s snake is a small species that eats worms, leeches, and slugs. It is also listed as a threatened species by the State of Illinois.

Both of these unique snakes live in wet, grassy, or shrubby meadows, and they hibernate in crayfish burrows. If water tables are altered, and the crayfish populations are affected, so are these snakes. So gone in my mind is the oft-perpetuated myth that Chicago has no poisonous snakes!

— Photos and information by Mike Redmer, Habitat Restoration Coordinator and Herpetologist, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, as found in River Tales by The Upper Des Plaines River Ecosystem Partnership (UDPREP), published in 2007 in honor of the 50th annual Des Plaines River Canoe Marathon.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Wauconda Memorial Day Parade...

... was held down Old Rand Road through the downtown and viewed by tons of people, all enjoying the magnificent Spring weather and the festivities.

Our Wauconda High School Marching Band was a hit...

... as were the Scout troops, the veterans walking and driving, several flyovers by vintage aircraft, the antique cars and farm tractors, and even the politicians, both office holders and campaigners. One of my favorites was the Shriners "magic carpets..."

...though the Medinah Shriners were also well represented by their Black Horse brigade, their brass band, Oriental band, Drum and Fife corps, big motorcycles, motor scooters, big wheeled bikers, mini-jalopies...

... and more. Ellen's favorite part was all the candy being tossed to the onlookers by the participants -- something new to her because the New Jersey parades never did that.

Then we met Len and Marlene for a meal at Alemar's in Palatine followed by a 14 mile bike ride on the Palatine Trail to Twin Lakes Reservoir and back. A wonderful way to enjoy the 80 degree day!

Sunday, May 25, 2008


I'm reading The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. His main character, Amir, quotes his father, who has little respect for religion but much respect for Afghani customs and moral behavior. Here is his unusual take on theft:

"Theft is the one unforgivable sin, the common denominator of all sins. When you kill man, you steal a life. You steal the wife's right to a husband, rob his children of a father. When you tell a lie, you steal someone's right to the truth. When you cheat, you steal the right to fairness. There is no act more wretched than stealing." (p. 106)

Interesting take on human behavior and its repercussions. What do you think?

Saturday, May 24, 2008


We went to Mom's today to visit. Asbury serves wonderful meals to their residents, but they don't offer two of Mom's favorites -- Chinese and Mexican -- so Linda took her out for the former yesterday, and we took her for the latter today. She even had leftovers from both restaurants, so she can enjoy these favorites another evening!

After a few hours, we headed home, running a few errands on the way, one of which was filling the tank with its first taste of $4.07 gas -- and that was at the least expensive pumps around at CostCo!

Then we hit the Millennium Trail and biked 14 miles, enjoying our first ride in a long time in shorts and tee-shirts as the temps finally got up near the normal of 72 degrees. Maybe Spring has finally arrived, 2 months late.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Hiking The Hollows

We met at The Hollows in Cary and hiked 5+ miles with Marlene, Len, Patti, and Dave since the temps were 20 degrees below normal this morning (global cooling these last few weeks?)...

... and we were amazed at the prolific spreading of tent caterpillars this season. It looks to be a bad year for trees!

Lunch at Colonial restaurant in Crystal Lake concluded the morning perfectly!

Thursday, May 22, 2008


When Tom went on vacation, he left his beloved cat, Blackie, with his sister Joan. Three days into his trip, Tom called back to check on things.

"So how is my cat?" Tom asked.

"He's dead!" replied Joan. No nonsense. Straight to the point.

"What?" screamed Tom. "You can't just hit somebody with news like that! You have to ease your way into it. Lay some groundwork for it. Use some tact."

"What do you mean?" she said.

"Maybe you could have said something about Blackie being up on the roof. You reassure me you have it under control and that everything is going to be fine. When I call the next day, maybe you could say he jumped off and broke his leg, but the vet said he would make a complete recovery. He's just going to have to spend a few days at the clinic," he explained. “Understand what I’m saying?"

"Of course," said Joan. "I'm not stupid, you know!"

"Okay," Fred continued. "When I call back the next day, you could say there were complications and that my cat had died. That way it wouldn't be such a blow. That way you could have gotten me ready for bad news. Right?"

"Yeah, I've got it," she told him. "I'll try to be more careful from now on."

"Good," said Fred. "I'm glad that's settled. So how's Aunt Alice?"

"Well," Joan began hesitantly, "she's out on the roof right now."

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

More Worthy Quotes

Living fully doesn't mean having it all and going everywhere and doing everything and being all things to all people. Many of us are beginning to see that too much is too much; it gets in the way of being able to enjoy the things we do want in our lives and to simply be who we are.
--Elaine St. James

Ideals are like stars; you will not succeed in touching them with your hands. But like the seafaring man on the desert of waters, you choose them as your guides, and following them you will reach your destiny.
--Carl Schurz

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.
-- Margaret Mead

Beware of all enterprises that require new clothes.
-- Henry David Thoreau

The question is not what you look at, but what you see.
-- Henry David Thoreau

The Eskimos had fifty-two names for snow because it was important to them: there ought to be as many for love.
-- Margaret Atwood

All of life is interrelated. We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied to a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.
-- Martin Luther King, Jr.

Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.
-- Rachel Carson

In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice, there is.
Yogi Berra

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
- Johann Sebastian Bach

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Millennium Trail extension...

... is coming soon, I hope. We biked 11+ today and saw the posts staking out the (imminent?) extension corridor departing from Singing Hills Trailhead, crossing Fish Lake Road at Gilmer Road and continuing west and north as seen in this photo (click to enlarge)...

We traced the stakes into a corridor between the Autumn Grove and Symphony Meadows sub-divisions, then west of and around the Volo water tower and alongside the new Volo Village Hall. A woman at the Village Hall told us the trail "must be completed by the forest preserve district by February 2009 per the agreement with the village."

The trail will then follow Fish Lake Road and cross both Routes 60 and 120 before veering west and north again into the as yet undeveloped Marl Flat Forest Preserve and along the eastern shore of Fish Lake (from what I've gleaned from reports.) Finally it is slated to head east and north to cross Fish Lake Road again, parallel the Baxter Healthcare property, and then cross Wilson Road within Marl Flat Preserve. Eventually, it is to rejoin the Des Plaines River Trail many miles to the east, creating a lengthy U-shaped loop. Cross your fingers!!!

When this Wauconda/Volo extension is completed, coupled with the announced trail spur to the former Four Winds Golf Course property recently purchased by the district, we'll have several more miles for recreation in this portion of Lake County. A sincere thank you, forest preserve officials, for your fine work!

Poem #31: The Midnight Bear

While backpacking with Scott in 1992 in Michigan's Porcupine Wilderness State Park, a black bear visited us during the night. He circled our tent 3 times, sniffing for food. Naturally, food has never been in our tent, but rather bear-bagged in a tree a hundred feet away. Bad news -- the bear found the suspended bear bag. Good news -- he failed to get it down from the tree branch. A neighboring backpacker wasn't so fortunate. We saw the remains of his food bag on the ground the next morning, and I was surprised to see the bear had even ripped open dehydrated food packages and licked the contents out! (Photo is of 2 grizzly bears I took in Denali National Park, Alaska)

The bear,
storied soul and spirit and substance of wildness,
simultaneously revered and feared,
awakened us at midnight --
not unobtrusively like a sleek stealth fighter,
but as raucous as a wide-bodied cargo jet --
deafening, gawky, lumbering,
his off-trail bushwhacking
bear-handling the surrounding underbrush.

He thrice circled our flimsy fabric shelter,
round and round and round us like a zero,
smelling for food, smelling of food,
his breath pungent through the tent material,
reeking and putrid and threatening.

One clawed paw-swipe would shred
our temporary home,
and Fear unlike any experienced, consumed us
as we awaited the bear’s trump to Fate's hand.

Then with a snort he left,
and that night, though relief eventually came,
sleep did not.

copyright 2004 by Chuck Morlock

Monday, May 19, 2008

McHenry Prairie Trail biking

We met Dave and Patti in McHenry and biked 18 miles south to Crystal Lake and back. Like yesterday, it was a cloudy, windy, 55 degree day -- 15 degrees below normal for this day. This segment of the McHenry Prairie Trail was the final one for Ellen to complete, and she has now pedaled the entire 60 mile Prairie/Fox River Trail round-trip from Genoa City, Wisconsin to Aurora, Illinois. The trail through Stearns Woods and Veteran's Acres Parks is especially scenic and hilly as seen in these 2 photos...

Then lunch at Wendy's completed the morning's activities.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Des Plaines River Canoe Marathon

Today was the 51st annual Des Plaines River Canoe Marathon and Ellen, and I paddled the 19 mile course - my fourth time and her first. Over 600 boats entered this year and started in groups of 8 at 2 minute intervals, though delays at the start line put us 36 minutes behind schedule. Here is the organized chaos at the staging area...

After a lengthy wait just to launch, boats were stacked up on the river awaiting revised start times for their groups of 8 boats....

... but despite the crowd of paddlers, we still found sections offering solitude. The scenic beauty of this river continued for most of its length because something like 85% of the shoreline in Lake County is owned by the Lake County Forest Preserve District, and 50% of the shoreline in the Cook County segment of the river is forest preserve.

Six dams are on this section of river. The first 2 were under water, the second 2 had V-shaped notches to allow us to paddle over them, but the final pair required portaging -- first at Ryerson Dam and second at Dam #1 seen below...

Nineteen miles is a long paddle on a river with little current, and everyone was happy to see the finish line pennant over the river at Dam #2 Woods.

Then it was onto the shuttle bus for the ride back to the start in Libertyville. A wonderful day despite the cool 55 degree temps and uncooperative sun.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Random Facts #13

1. In the 1400's a law was set forth in England that a man was allowed to beat his wife with a stick no thicker than his thumb. Hence we have "the rule of thumb"

2. Many years ago in Scotland, a new game was invented. It was ruled "Gentlemen Only... Ladies Forbidden"...and thus the word GOLF entered into the English language.

3. The first couple to be shown in bed together on prime time TV were Fred and Wilma Flintstone.

4. Every day more money is printed for Monopoly than the U.S. Treasury.

5. Men can read smaller print than women can; women can hear better.

6. Coca-Cola was originally green.

7. It is impossible to lick your elbow.

8. The State with the highest percentage of people who walk to work is Alaska.

9. The percentage of Africa that is wilderness is 28%.

10. The percentage of North America that is wilderness is 38%.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Moraine Hills SP biking

We availed ourselves of what may be the best day so far this spring by meeting Len and biking the 13 hilly miles of loops at the state park. Unlike some of the cold and wet days, we did NOT have the place to ourselves today, as many dozens were out walking and biking as well as dozens more fishing at the dam. There was even a preschool group with their moms playing in the playground and then going on a nature walk. Ellen got this shot of Len and me coming down the biggest hill, which is why I assume it is a bit blurry -- we were smoking!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Church choir/orchestra music prep

I have sung in church choirs nearly continuously for over 45 years, ever since my teen years when Elinor Knobloch came to Ascension Lutheran Church in Chicago, began a youth choir, and taught a dozen of us teens how to sing. Since then, music has been a large and joyous part of my life -- a continuing adventure -- and I've learned much from the dozen or so different directors I've had at 6 different churches.

Thirteen years ago, I joined the Village Church of Barrington's choir seen here along with with our church orchestra at a Christmas concert...

... and for the past 6 years, I've spent most Thursday mornings preparing the choir and orchestra music for that week's rehearsal and services. Our choir of about 30 and our orchestra of about 20 all need music for the anthem and also for the half-dozen or so hymns and praise/worship songs for the week. We have 30+ drawers of sheet music, some of which can been here...

...and I need to pull the appropriate pages of sheet music for the director, organ, piano, 4 violins, 3 flutes, 2 cellos, clarinet, trumpet, French horn, saxophone, bass, guitar, and drums, (this week's music can be seen on the table to the right) and distribute all to the correct person's box, as well as re-file last week's music so it can easily be found the next time it is needed. Sometimes a song is new, so I have to find the original sheet music in the folders seen on the left table and copy the appropriate pages so the instrumentalists can write on their own copies of the music.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

None of it worked!!!

To all my friends who have emailed me various good wishes, offers, chain letters, 'angel' letters, or numerous other types of promises of good luck if only I would forward their email to people I know, I need to divulge to you that NONE OF THAT MALARKEY WORKED!

So, in the future, could you please simply just send MONEY, Whiskey, Beer, Wine, Chocolate, Gift Cards, or Gasoline Vouchers.

Thanks. :)

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Fox River Trail biking

A perfect day for biking! Despite the long car ride to reach Geneva so we could bike south to Aurora, this sunny, 73 degree day along the most scenic section of the Fox River/McHenry Prairie Trail's 50+ mile length was a treat. Even a stiff southeast wind couldn't ruin today's ride as Patti, Dave, Ellen, Len, and I pedaled 19+ miles mostly through forest preserves and always near the rushing waters of the Fox River. This was the first time Ellen and Len biked this segment, and they, too raved about its beauty.

And then the perfect day concluded with ice cream at Oberweis on the drive home!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Des Plaines River Trail biking

Today we biked 26 miles with Patti and Dave, from Half Day Preserve to Independence Grove and back. The sunny but 50s weather kept us cool and the forest preserves' verdant and thickening foliage kept us visually engaged. Below is a shot of Independence Grove, with part of its 115 acre lake in the background.

We stopped for lunch at Libertyville's retro McDonald's Diner.

One purpose of the ride was to scout out the condition of the river. Next Sunday, Ellen and I will join many hundreds of other boaters in canoeing the 51st Des Plaines River Marathon. At the launch, I talked with a crew from the forest district who were launching a motorized boat to continue the chore of chain-sawing away the winter's accumulation of fallen trees and tangled debris. You can see they have their work cut out for them in this photo below, showing a narrow channel to the right of this large deadfall...

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Mother's Day

Ellen outdid herself with a sumptuous meal of boneless leg of lamb with Greek oven potatoes, asparagus, and roasted garlic artisan bread, and with a side dish of chicken alfredo and salad. Then three varieties of cheesecake topped off the day!

Palatine Band Concert

Following our Mother's Day festivities, many of us went to Scott's concert with the Palatine Concert Band, and enjoyed wonderful music by Offenbach, Camphouse, Leroy Anderson, Chaminade, Rossini, Brubaker, and Holst.

During intermission, Scott came out to visit with his groupies -- Sarah and me in this photo, but also Ellen, Steve, Kasia, and Susan.

A special treat was flue soloist Sarah Finegan, a senior at Fremd High School (where I taught for 29 years before retirement) but also a member of my church's orchestra. Though still young, Sarah's accomplishments required a full page in the program to list, and included principal flute in the All-State Honors Orchestra.

She received a well-deserved standing ovation from the audience and her justifiably proud parents and siblings.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Church Signs #5

In my driving trips across all 50 states, I often spot clever, amusing, and thought-provoking signs in front of churches of all denominations, and long ago I began jotting them down. I'll gradually post them here for your entertainment and edification.

1. This is the perfect church for those who aren’t.
2. Is what you’re living for worth dying for?
3. Lent is son-light saving time.
4. For all you do, His blood’s for you.
5. Jesus: God’s language of love for all the world.
6. Doubters welcome.
7. Let Go: Let God
8. Sleep peacefully – God is awake!
9. God cared enough to send his very best.
10. Summer advice: Exposure to the Son will prevent burning.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Poem #30: Wander and Wonder

Dare to Wander.

Abandon the routine
and meander through Nature.
Reel in new adventures
relinquish civilization’s seat belts
relax in new thoughts
revel in unprecedented distractions
the songs of exotic birds
the gurgle of flowing water
the rustle of foliage
the scudding of clouds
across the immensity of the skies.
Rejoice at the majesty of creation.

Osmose unfamiliar sensory data
tackle daunting challenges
hone untested skills
stretch forgotten instincts
refresh your head space
unveil new passions as you
bike the trails
paddle the waterways
scale the cliffs
descend the valleys
bushwack the backcountry
and soothe frayed nerves.
Heal raw emotions.
Relegate concerns to oblivion
and refine reinvigorated dreams.

Inhale with all five senses.
Discover Nature’s potpourri
of perfect imperfections
with both your hemispheres
canyon wren’s call
river rainbow’s majesty
air’s pristine fragrance
waterfall’s staggering ferocity
Redwood’s towering strength.
Digest all Nature’s myriad extravagances.

Stare. Heed. Muse. Discover.

And Wonder as you Wander.

copyright 2008 by Chuck Morlock

Millennium Trail biking

Instead of meeting at Moraine Hills SP, Len, Marlene, and Carol stopped by my place because of a flat tire, and after I changed the tube, we biked 10 miles out my door on the Millennium Trail...

... but a few miles from home, the same tire suffered a blowout, so Ellen drove back to rescue the stranded Len. All's well that ends well, though, as we then adjourned from trail to Walker's in Lake Zurich for another of their fabulous breakfasts!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Lakewood FP hike

Spring is finally springing big time here as foliage greens up and broadens and flowering trees burst open. We hiked 5 miles in Lakewood Forest Preserve with Patti and Dave and saw a dozen deer, 2 great white egrets, and a couple horses (Sammy and Han Solo with riders) all enjoying the sunny sixty degree morning.

Singing Hills Swans

The swans from a pond a mile south along the Millennium Trail came to visit our pond this morning...

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Wauconda Environs

Wauconda sits in west central Lake County, about 20 minutes from the Wisconsin border. Though there are numerous communities in the area, the land between the towns retains the rural atmosphere, as is evident by these photos, all taken within a few miles of my home. Though horse farms abound throughout the countryside's rolling hills...

There are also a multitude of other domesticated livestock, including goats, alpacas, chickens, mules, llamas...

... bison...

... (and whatever this is.)