Friday, October 31, 2008

Des Plaines Trail Fall Colors

Today was magnificent -- a true "Indian Summer" day at 73 degrees with blue sky and sun. We availed ourselves of this gift, drove to Des Plaines, and biked 19 miles south out of Camp Ground Road Woods. It was also good to see that dozens of other bikers and walkers were out, and four deer and hundreds of lady bugs also added to the mix.

This and some prior posts might look like clones and you may be tired of seeing the Fall colors, but it is not repetitious for us to bike through yellow and orange forest beauty over and over, each time through a different forest preserve.

We journeyed off the main trail to the area with the moguls that some kids built, and after each of us rode the course several times, we experimented with taking a movie of the ride with my new camera. Here it is!

... and so did Ellen!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Deer Grove FP hike

After my volunteer gig at church this morning, I met the gang for lunch in Palatine and then a hike in Deer Grove. No deer sightings again (Ellen calls this place Deer-less Grove) but the sunny skies and 62 degree temps were refreshing after a week-plus of below average temps. And of course the colors were even better thanks to the overnight freezes...

We're hoping the next few days allow us to bike again before winter weather crashes down on us.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Lakewood Hike

Overnight we had our first sub-freezing temperature, so I hope the Fall colors intensify even more. We did an hour-plus hike in Lakewood today, enjoying the 51 degree, sunny day, as well as the colors...

Saturday, October 25, 2008

More Photos of Colorado

I've been playing around with an application for the Macintosh called iWeb which allows creation of web page albums and then automatically uploads the pages to a website hosted by Apple.

As I got ideas for pages to include, I went through some old albums and chose some prints to scan in. Here are a couple I didn't upload but are quite scenic ( in spite of my presence in them) from a backpack in Colorado's Weminuche Wilderness in 1994.

The top picture is a cascade on Needle Creek coming down from Chicago Basin, and the bottom shot is along the Animas River.

Then following this morning's special rehearsal for our church Christmas presentation, I finished up a few pages with pictures from some of my favorite adventures, recent and in the past, as well as wildlife photos and links to all my websites, and had the program upload them here.

So check it out when you get a chance

Friday, October 24, 2008

Chuck's new website

For 13 years, my backpacking site was on AOL and I was pleased with their service.

Earlier this month I fortuitously discovered that AOL planned to discontinue their hosting of websites at the end of October, and I posted this blog entry. I say "fortuitously" because they still have not notified me of this fact via email, and if I hadn't stumbled upon the fact, my site would simply have vaporized.

So I had to decide -- dump the website after 13 years of hard work, or engage in even more hard work to revise over half the pages and then transfer the 100+ pages and 700+ photos to a new host. My site was getting over 1000 visits per month, and many visitors thanked me for the info they found on my site. So I chose the to keep the site and move it, and after dozens of hours of work by me, and additional hours by Ellen checking to make sure all was working properly, today I finished the chore.

Over the last bunch of years, I expanded the site from just backpacking to include biking and paddling venues across the Chicago area as well as across the country, so I changed the name from Chuck's Backpacking Bonanza to Bike, Hike, and Paddle, and it currently features
So check it out sometime, and if you have bookmarked my old site, please replace the bookmark with the new one.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

$700 billion bailout plan...

For over 30 years, Illinois" Everett Dirksen served as US Representative and then Senator, and 40-plus years ago he was quoted as cautioning that federal spending had a way of getting out of control, saying “A billion here and a billion there, and pretty soon you're talking real money."

Time magazine on October 6, 2008 put the bailout/rescue plan amount in perspective, saying that with $700 billion you could:
  • Give every person in the US $2300, or very household $6200
  • Pay the income taxes of every American who makes under $500,000 a year
  • Fully fund the Defense, Treasury, State, Veterans Affairs, and Interior Departments next year -- as well as NASA
  • Buy gasoline for every car in the US for 16 months
  • Buy every NFL, NBA, and Major League Baseball team, build them all a new stadium, and pay all the players $191 million each for a year
  • Create the 17th largest economy in the world, roughly equal to the Netherlands
  • Or pay off only 7% of our national debt of $9.8 trillion

Glacial Park Hike

With the threat of all-day rains the next 2 days, we moved our weekly Friday hike to this afternoon an hiked 5+ miles in 2 hours up and down the hills and kames of Glacial Park.

As you can see in the photos above and below, the Fall colors are still out but may not survive the incoming rain front.

We met another couple hiking here, and upon learning that they, too, are regular hikers and bikers throughout the area, we gave them a few suggestions and received a few from them on future hike locales. They then obliged and took a picture of our group atop the tallest kame...

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Biking Des Plaines River Trail

The rains of yesterday finally stopped, and though it was a brisk 50 degrees, the sun was shining and an extra layer of clothing allowed us to bike 16 miles and enjoy more of Fall's color display...

Then it was back home so Ellen could take KC Bird in for nail clipping. See her blog for that story.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Village Singers rehearsal

Last night was another of our rehearsals for the Village Singers of Lake Zurich, and Ellen has joined the group this year! Jeannine is working us hard in preparation for our annual Christmas Concerts on Saturday, December 6th, 2008 at 7:00 pm and Sunday, December 7th, at 3 pm, and we are responding with excellent results (she says!)

We even split into sectionals in order to make the best use of our limited rehearsal time so we can master the new songs. Here are the tenors and basses under the able direction of assistant director Fred and accompanist Tara...

More Quotes of Import

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

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.

My moments of keenest satisfaction and most complete mental peace have been those when the grandeur of nature's artistry has cast its spell over me. -- Clarence Mills

A man who will not lie to a woman has very little consideration for her feelings. -- Olin Miller

A critic is a man who knows the way but can't drive the car. -- Kenneth Tynan

If future generations are to remember us more with gratitude than sorrow, then we must achieve more than just the miracles of technology. We must also leave them a glimpse of the world as it was created, not just as it looked when we got through with it. -- Lyndon Baines Johnson

One that would have the fruit must climb the tree. -- Fuller

We understand and believe vastly more than we know. -- Blaise Pascal

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Daddy, how was I born?

A little boy goes to his father and asks, "Daddy, how was I born?"

The father answers, "Well, son, I guess one day you will need to find out anyway!"

Your Mom and I first got together in a chat room on Yahoo. Then I set up a date via e-mail with your Mom, and we met at a cyber-cafe. We sneaked into a secluded room, where your mother agreed to a download from my hard drive. As soon as I was ready to upload, we discovered that neither one of us had used a firewall, and since it was too late to hit the delete button, nine months later a little Pop-Up appeared that said: 

"You got Male!"

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Bikin' Busse

On the way to the birthday party today, we biked 15 miles at Busse Woods. The colors are intensifying, but the leaves are falling, so it's a race between colorful palate and baldness as seen in this picture ...

Of course we stopped at the elk compound, and as I was snapping shots, the big bull elk on the right took umbrage and charged me, butting the fence with his rack. Sorry, but I didn't get a good picture of his charge because I was quickly backing away since the tines of the rack were coming through the chain link interstices! He was also bugling loudly -- probably since it's rutting season and he was defending his harem.

Birthday Party!

After biking, we went to the birthday party at Linda and Phil's for the 3 October birthday honorees -- Linda, Ellen, and Chuck. After the meal of Chinese dishes...

... it was time to open the cards and presents...

... and then we saw Kasia and Steve's vacation pictures from New England, and Ellen and Chuck's pictures from their Green River canoe trip and their backpack in Arizona's Canyon de Chelly. Ellen also presented the wreaths she made using sage from her garden and various wildflowers from Arkansas.

"Growing Older By Design" by Maya Angelou

Dr. Maya Angelou, now 80, is one of my favorite authors and poets, and recently composed this poem honoring AARP's 50th anniversary. To us older folks it speaks volumes for we have shared the road of life with her, and to you youngsters it should speak volumes, showing you how to relate to us and how to prepare yourself for your trip down the road of life.

This poem was taken from AARP's website which stated: "She is a national treasure, and one of the great voices of contemporary literature. The poet, author, actress, dancer, and activist recently spoke at AARP's National Event and introduced the poem she had written specially for the occasion."

Growing Older By Design

When you see me
Sitting quietly like a sack
Left on a shelf
Don't think I need
Your chattering
I'm listening to myself.

At first the seasons arrive
Slowly dragging themselves
Over our wishes for a hasty departure
Ebbing slowly, staying, hovering
Above our lives
Like heavy clouds
Each threatening to remain
Past its appointed time
Giving way, grudgingly
To another year
Which promises to be even
Slower, more tedious

"Wait two months
Until summer"
Two whole months?
Then summer
Will never come
"Wait two months
Until Christmas"
Two whole months?
Then Christmas
Will never come
Childhood lasts a lifetime
Hear it dragging its drum
Across the floor

Then there is a subtle increase

In the march
We welcome the acceleration
We snap our fingers
And match the tempo,
We are in joint,
This is our time,
Our muscles and bones
Our eyes and skin
Are at last one with
The space we are living in

The heart's steady hum
Quickly changes again
The tempo speeds ahead
Our efforts are vain
To slow down the train
Of life's racing ways
Taking our youth
And shortening our days

They remember our bright plumage
Now thinning and grey
Youth wags its heads
Sadly saying
We have had our day

When you see me walking slowly
And my feet won't find the stair
I will only ask one favor
Don't bring me a rocking chair

The pace has heightened again
And the blood slows
In our veins
Slackened by age
We may stumble
And fumble and fall
We exchanged our place with time
For it races like light
Down a darkened hall

Please stop
Do not pity me
Please hold your sympathy
Understanding if you've got it
Otherwise I will do without it

When you see me moving slower
Don't study and get it wrong
Tired does not mean lazy
And each good bye is not gone

I am the same person
I was back then
A little less hair
A little less chin
Some less lung
And much less wind
I count myself lucky
I can still breathe in.
Hold, stop.
Don't pity me.

copyright Maya Angelou (2008)

Friday, October 17, 2008

Lakewood Forest Preserve hike

The 40 degree temps this morning changed our planned bike ride into a hike, and as autumn progresses, we'll no doubt be "flexible" more often, but our intention is to bike as many times as possible before winter hits. After our lengthy trip, it's good to be home again and hiking with Patti and Dave...

... and also good to be seeing the local fauna such as these deer and yesterday's sandhill cranes...

... as well as being able to enjoy the beauty of the flora as seen in these trees...

Tomorrow is our family triple birthday party at Linda and Phil's, and we hope to be able to bike Busse Reservoir near her house before the party starts. Check back to see if we are successful, and to see pictures of the family celebration.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Bikin' and Birds

After yesterday's rain, today proved to be a perfect Fall day -- mostly sunny and a crisp 58 degrees -- so after my weekly volunteer gig at church, we headed out on the Millennium Trail where our resident Sandhill Cranes...

... were perhaps munching a final meal before they depart for warmer climes. I hope they find their way back again next year because it's always a rush to see them again in the Spring and all through the summer.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Bran Muffins?

The couple were 85 years old and had been married for sixty years. Though they were far from rich, they managed to get by because they watched their pennies. And though not young, they were both in very good health, largely due to the wife's insistence on healthy foods, First Fitness Products and exercise for the last decade.

One day, their good health didn't help when they went on a rare vacation and their plane crashed, sending them off to Heaven. When they reached the pearly gates, St. Peter escorted them to a beautiful mansion furnished in gold and fine silks, with a fully stocked kitchen and a waterfall in the master bath. A maid could be seen hanging their favorite clothes in the closet.

They gasped in astonishment when he said, "Welcome to Heaven. This will be your home now."

The old man asked Peter, "How much is this going to cost us?"

"Why, nothing," Peter replied. "This is your reward in Heaven."

The old man looked out the window and saw a championship golf course, finer and more beautiful than any ever built on Earth. "Wow! But what are the greens fees?" he grumbled.

"This is heaven," St. Peter replied. "You can play for free, any day, every day."

Next they went to the clubhouse and saw the lavish buffet lunch with every imaginable cuisine laid out before them -- from seafood to steaks to exotic deserts and with free flowing beverages.

"Don't even ask," said St. Peter to the man. "This is Heaven and it's all free for you to enjoy."

The old man looked around and glanced nervously at his wife. "Well, where are the low fat and low cholesterol foods, and the decaffeinated tea?" he asked.

"That's the best part," St. Peter replied. "You can eat and drink as much as you like of whatever you like, and you will never get fat or sick. This is Heaven!"

The old man pushed, "No gym to work out at?"

"Not unless you want to," came the answer.

"No testing my sugar or blood pressure or..."

"No. never again. All you do here is enjoy yourself."

The old man glared at his wife and said, "You and your damn bran muffins! We could have been here ten years ago!"

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Moraine Hills Fall Colors

The majestic autumn colors...

... were accompanied by Fall weather today -- a sunny 65 degrees -- following 4 days in the 70s and 80s, temps we probably won't see again in Chicago for 6 months or more.

We biked the entire 13 miles of hills in the state park and sights such as these greeted us around every bend. I also experimented with the panorama setting on the new camera (Olympus 1030SW) which automatically takes 3 photos and then, within the camera, merges them into one shot representing about 120 degrees of the horizon. Below are 2 of these shots (click to enlarge.)

Monday, October 13, 2008

Des Plaines Trail Fall Colors

Two of the joys of living in the Chicago area are 1) the plethora of forest preserves that have bike trails, and 2) autumn's color change, and today these 2 joys combined as we revisited one of our favorite friends -- the Des Plaines River Trail -- and witnessed Nature's magnificent Fall palette beginning to appear...

We biked 16 miles south from Half Day, and as beautiful as it was, the next few weeks should reveal even better eye candy for bikers and hikers who venture off pavement...

... so get out there if you get the chance! You won't regret it.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

NICE Meeting today!

Our Elderhostel Alumni group's bi-monthly meeting in Grayslake (Northern Illinois Chapter of Elderhostel) featured several trip reports today. The first was Don's PowerPoint presentation on his recent sailing adventure out of Camden, Maine on the ketch "Angelique." They spent 6 nights aboard as they explored the waters of Penobscot Bay, visiting small towns, spotting waterfowl and seals, helping raise and lower sails, taking turns at the helm, and dining on tasty shipboard cuisine and even including a lobster bake on shore. You can see a photo of the craft on the poster behind Don. The naturalist and folklore specialists also added much to the educational component of this program.

We then viewed a professional DVD showing the boat and all its amenities, which along with Don's photos and descriptions had us all ready to sign up for the trip!

Then I showed photos of my recent 9 day trip canoeing Utah's Green River as well as his 6 day backpack trip in Arizona's Canyon de Chelly National Monument. The audience was amazed at the scenery but not anxious to do the seemingly straight-up climbs to reach the mesa tops!

Following the meeting, six of us adjourned to my place for lunch and a session of our writer's group (see next post.)

Writer's Group Meeting...

The writer's group re-assembled at my place after the NICE meeting and enjoyed a lunch...

... and stimulating conversation as we re-connected after a hiatus of several months...

... and then the readings of our latest literary masterpieces followed -- always a wonderful time as we learn more about each other and get ideas for future pieces we can write.

KC Bird also joined our group today, and though he attentively listened to all the readings, he never contributed any constructive comments!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Back Home and Bikin'

We made the long drive from Fayetteville to Wauconda yesterday, arriving home after 8 pm and then sorted through 8 weeks of accumulated mail. Today we unpacked the van, shopped for groceries, and then met Dave and Patti and Len and Marlene and biked 16 miles on the Fox River Trail after lunch at Panera Bread.

Next we picked up KC from the bird sitter...

... so now the cat and bird and the 2 of us are all back home. I yet have to deal with the important mail, read 8 weeks of magazines, re-organize the camping, backpacking, and paddling gear, but all in good time, because tomorrow will be even more hectic. Check tomorrow evening and see the adventures we have in store!

Monday, October 6, 2008

Sunset Rainbow in Fayetteville

We did a bike ride early since rain was predicted, and much of the rest of my day was spent revising web pages and transferring the pages and hundreds of photos to a new server since AOL is dumping all its members' hosted sites. As I was working, Ellen dashed into the den and breathlessly blurted, "There's a double rainbow out back!" so I grabbed my Nikon and followed her out to the patio to behold this sight... (Click to enlarge)

This photo is a merged panorama shot of what was 2 photos using Photoshop Elements. Close inspection will reveal 2 rainbows, with the outer one far less distinct but present at the 2 ends. This only the 2nd time I've seen a double, the first time being in Ouray, Colorado. I've had some people tell me they've seen triple rainbows, and that's what I'm really awaiting!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

My Loveable Losers...

... remain losers, extending their playoff ineptitude to 9 straight games, marking 2 consecutive years of winning the division title and then being swept out of the playoffs, and propelling their long-suffering fans into their second century without a World Series title.

Their potent offense, which led the league with 97 victories and 855 runs, managed a miserly 6 runs in the 3 games while the pitching allowed 20 runs, and they tied a playoff record with 4 errors in game 2 and 6 for the series. They managed only 5 hits in 28 at-bats with men in scoring position.

To quote my 2 favorite Cubbies of yore: the eternal optimist, Ernie Banks: "Wait'll next year!" and the realist, Ron Santo, "Man, oh, man..."

So join us next year as we endure our roller coaster into oblivion with our dear Flubbies...

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Bummer news from AOL

For 13 years, AOL has hosted my website, Chuck's Backpacking Bonanza, but they just announced they are getting out of the hosting business. Only about half my actual website data resides on AOL servers now because I long ago reached the maximum they allow. I have been uploading data the last few years onto my ComCast space, and more recently on my blog space, but that still leaves me with well over a hundred separate pages (all with numerous links to other pages on my site) as well as over 600 photos on AOL servers.

My options are to 1) discontinue the website and lose the 13 years of photos and info which now attract over 1500 visitors per month, or 2) revise 100+ pages with new links and then upload 700 files (100+ pages as well as 600 photos) individually, one at a time, to another server. I've tentatively begun the revision process, but that simply reinforces how much work the process would involve, so I'll see how it goes.

Meanwhile, as I work at the computer, Ellen is outside fertilizing the lawn following this morning's rain. For those who asked to see a photo of her house, here it it:

We leave Thursday for the long drive home. See y'all soon!

Friday, October 3, 2008

Arkansas and Missouri Railroad

Our excursion on the Arkansas and Missouri Railroad covered 137 miles round-trip from Springdale, Arkansas, traveling south through downtown Fayetteville, then up and over the magnificent Boston Mountains, past a number of small mountain communities, to Van Buren near Fort Smith, Arkansas, in the Arkansas River Basin.

This is a working railroad, one of the few commercial lines left in the United States that operates both freight and passenger service, meaning it relies on its average of 11 daily freight trains to pay the bills, and the passenger service is a side concern. For that reason, freight trains have the right-of-way (same as with Amtrak) and we therefore had a 45 minute delay in starting time waiting for a freight to pass the station, and a 30 minute layover on a siding in Chester, Arkansas (population 99) -- again to allow an oncoming freight train to pass. The photo above was taken during that wait and we were allowed off the train.

Our car was a Pullman Coach -- 1917 vintage -- which was meticulously refurbished from the wheels up with velvet bench seating and mahogany wood and inlay. It seats 68, but we only had 18 or so aboard.

The first class car was a a 1950 vintage Pullman Parlor Car with tables and lounge seating and a capacity of 38 passengers. For an additional fee, there was also a 1940s Small Orr Caboose with Copola seats with its own conductor (even though there were only 2 passengers in it today.)

Or route roughly paralleled I-540, and we traveled under it 5 times on the trip. We also crossed 3 trestles over 110 feet in height and went through the 1/3 mile-long Winslow Tunnel. Our dozens of creek crossings included 17 crossings of one creek. The photo below shows one of the creeks and the expressway, though we rarely saw the latter. In fact, the track was predominantly shrouded by tree foliage most of the trip and views like this were rare. You can also see the very beginnings of the Fall color change this 3rd day of October in 2008. I can only imagine the beauty in a few more weeks.

Except for the higher points in the mountains, we saw occasional pastures, fields, and livestock. Our conductor informed us that many farmers had harvested 4 crops of hay this year, so the animals should be well fed this winter!

The turn-around point was Van Buren, Arkansas, a quaint little town often used as a movie and tv show setting. We had over 2 hours there to have lunch, browse the stores, and explore the downtown which also had a lovely County building. Oh yeah -- the fudge shop and the ice cream shop are also worth a visit!

After the ride, we had a sumptuous supper at Red Lobster -- unlimited shrimp done 5 different ways!