Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas!

Our family of cousins who still reside in the Chicago area continue an 8 decade, 4 generation tradition of Christmas Eve celebration and fellowship...

Here's a brief video of our celebration yesterday...

And here are photos of the event...


Sunday, December 16, 2012

Christmas In The Village

The Village Church of Barrington (Illinois) again offered its Christmas gift to the community this weekend, a free concert of Christmas music featuring the 35 voice choir and 31 piece orchestra, directed by Worship Minister Tim Brubacher.

Five members of the Village Ringers bell choir entertained as people made their way into the sanctuary.

Here's a view from the back of the church. (Click to enlarge photos.)

And here's a photo I took from the back row in the bass section.  As you can see, all seats were filled both nights.

Monday, December 10, 2012

VCB Bell Choir

The Village Church of Barrington's "Village Ringers" hand bell choir was invited to perform at The Garlands of Barrington yesterday, as part of the Winter Wonderland celebration, and I was asked to photograph the occasion.  Here are a few of the pictures (click to enlarge)...

A few of our choir members and friends sang along with the Bell Choir on Handel's "Messiah!"

Village Singers Singing at Silverado

Yesterday, The Village Singers of Lake Zurich had the privilege of singing for the fine folks at the Silverado Senior Living Center in Lake Zurich.

Earl, our associate director, did another fine job filling in as director...

...and our extraordinary accompanist, Tara, kept us in the correct key...

In addition to singing nine of our concert pieces, our treasurer, Glynda, performed a solo and later led us all in singing Christmas carols with the residents...

Thanks for inviting us, Silverado.  It was a rocking good time for all!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Snippets from Village Singers of Lake Zurich Christmas Concert

The concerts this weekend were very well attended, with nearly 300 in the audience over the two nights.  Below is a video featuring highlights from each song... (Or go here for full screen view: http://youtu.be/KAC7N_A_1Bs)

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Village Singers Perform at Lake Zurich Tree Lighting

The Village Singers of Lake Zurich performed this afternoon for Lake Zurich's 25th annual tree lighting ceremony, singing five of the songs we'll be presenting at our concerts next weekend.  Our director, Sara, is in Italy for two weeks, singing at an opera competition, so our assistant director, Earl, led us tonight, with 20 of our 35 members able to join us...

As you can see in the photo of part of the audience below, there was a good turnout for the event, with lots of kids anxious for Santa to arrive on the fire truck...

Then after a few words from Lake Zurich Village President, Suzanne Branding, she introduced Santa and together they lit the Christmas tree...

...and then everyone went inside to enjoy cookies and hot chocolate (donated by CostCo) and to allow the children to visit with Santa.  The events were sponsored by the Lake Zurich Area Chamber of Commerce and the Village of Lake Zurich.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Wauconda Grass Fire

A grass fire in a wetland area bordering Liberty lakes subdivision was extinguished in about 45 minutes by the Wauconda Fire Department with assistance from Grayslake.  Here's a brief video of the fire...

Friday, November 9, 2012

Millennium Trail re-route - Route 176 Underpass now open

The re-route of the Millennium Trail is now complete with the opening of the Route 176 underpass.  Last month, the Fort Hill Trail re-route was completed and opened as shown here.

Below you see the new connection as you head south from Bonner Road toward Route 176.  The gravel trail to the right gives access to Wilson Avenue and the subdivisions around Bangs Lake.  The old Millennium Trail route had turned to the left at this point but is now buried under a new hill created using the earth excavated from the two underpass projects. (Click to enlarge photos.)

The entire re-route is paved surface as seen below as you head down to the tunnel.  The lights in the tunnel and the railing above the tunnel are not completed, but the re-route is open, is safe for travel, and represents yet another fine addition to the Millennium Trail by our wonderful Lake County Forest Preserve District.

The southern approach to the tunnel had been completed first and the grass is already pretty well established on this side as seen here...

The trail winds over several small hills, alongside some ponds, and then between the two fishing lakes, Banana Lake and Taylor Lake. That this is a delightful scenic area is demonstrated by the fact that there were two different artists with easels who were painting canvases of the landscape.

At the top of the final hill, you pass a pavilion and then re-connect to the existing Millennium Trail where it descends to the Fairfield Road underpass, and from there south through the loveliest (and hilliest ) section of Lakewood Forest Preserve.

Check it out!  You'll be glad you did!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Ft. Hill Trail Underpass is Open

Two Route 176 underpasses have been under construction all summer, and as of a few days ago, the Fort Hill Trail (Lakewood Forest Preserve) underpass is completed and open.  Previously, the trail began at the intersection of Route 176 and Fairfield Road, from which point it left the Millennium Trail, crossed Fairfield, ran alongside the dog exercise area, then to and through the former Four Winds Golf Course, and then into Ray Lake Forest Preserve.

The trail now begins at the winter sports parking area which is on Fairfield Road, just south of Route 176.  Here's the view from that parking lot.  The Millennium Trail runs from left to right and the Fort Hill Trail runs straight ahead in this photo...

...and then curves around some woods, and then you'll find yourself here...

The construction progress of the underpass was interesting to watch and was easily observed because the Ft. Hill Trail ran along the dog exercise area and took you right past the work site.

Here you see the Route 176 traffic has been moved to temporary lanes and the foundation for the northern half of the underpass has been poured (click to enlarge photos)...

Here work is progressing on the walls of the tunnel, and the foundations for the wing walls on each side have also been laid...

Forms for pouring the roof of the tunnel are being framed in here and you can see the worker atop the framing to the left of the red ladder.  Forms for the wing wall are also being erected...

The tunnel concrete has been poured in this shot, part of the left side wing wall is done, and the forms erected for the rest of the wing walls on both sides...

And finally, the concrete work is done here, and after the drainage was installed, gravel, dirt, and paving were applied onto the tunnel roof, traffic was moved over to the finished portion, and work began on the southern half of the underpass...

Monday, October 15, 2012

My Favorite Bike Trails in the USA

My Top 10 Biking Trails in the USA

  1. Hiawatha Trail (Idaho on the Montana border thru Bitterroot Mountains))
  2. Chicago Lakefront Path (IL)
  3. Des Plaines RiverTrail (60 miles through Lake & Cook County forest preserves, IL)
  4. Glenwood Canyon Trail (CO)
  5. Gateway Trail (Munger Trail - St. Paul, MN)
  6. Mickelsen Trail thru Black Hills (SD)
  7. Monon Trail, (Indianapolis, IN)
  8. Virginia Creeper Trail (Mt. Rogers Natl. Rec Area, VA)
  9. Cape Cod Trail/Nantucket/Martha's Vineyard Trails (MA)
  10. Acadia National Park carriage road system (ME)

My Top 10 Mountain Bike Trails

  1. Santos Trails (Ocala National Forest, FL)
  2. Wilderness Park Off-road Trail (Tampa, FL)
  3. Rim View Trail (Page, AZ)
  4. Killer 3 Trail in Manchester State Forest (SC)
  5. Deer Grove Forest Preserve (Cook County, IL)
  6. John Muir Trails in Kettle Moraine State Forest (WI)
  7. Munson Hills Loops in Apalachicola Natl. Forest (FL) 
  8. Ft. Clinch State Park  (FL)
  9. North Point Mtn. Bike Trails of Virginia Key (Miami, FL)
  10. Interurban Trail (Bellingham, WA)

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Driving Montana's Beartooth Pass

Beartooth Highway, U.S. Highway 212 between Montana's Red Lodge and Cooke City, is a National Scenic Byways All-American Road.  It features breathtaking views of the Absaroka and Beartooth Mountains, and delights everyone with its high alpine plateaus dotted with glacial lakes, forested valleys, waterfalls, and wildlife.  It traverses over a million acre wilderness since it is surrounded by three national forests (Shoshone, Custer, and Gallatin) and abuts Yellowstone National Park.  With over 20 peaks exceeding 12,000 feet in elevation, nearly all with glaciers on their north flanks, it is one of the most rugged areas in the contiguous United States.  It is also the highest elevation highway in the Northern Rockies at 10,947 feet.

Charles Kuralt called this "the most beautiful drive in America.  The pass is closed each year, generally from mid-May to mid-October, and it is already closed this year in early October. In the photo below (click to enlarge photos) you see the highway as it approaches the box canyon and is about to ascend in steep seemingly unending zigzag switchbacks taking you up well over 5000 feet.  And yes, I did see bikers pedaling up both sides of the pass.

In the photo above, you see the entire box canyon.  The highway takes you up and over the mountain on the left.  If you enlarge the photo above, you'll see the edges of a few switchbacks in the shadows...

The above photos were taken from a lookout point near the top.  There is plenty of parking, washrooms, and a path leading to a marvelous viewpoint.

At the top of the pass, you are far above tree line and have views like these of high mountain lakes below and mountain vistas in the distance. Snowstorms can even occur in the middle of summer, and high winds and thunderstorms are regular occurences.

In May of 2005, mudslides and rockslides in over a dozen locations covering 13 miles of road, damaged or destroyed and thereby closed the highway for the entire season.  An estimated 100,000 cubic yards of rock had to be removed from just a half-mile section near the top of the switchbacks, and crews drilled down to solid bedrock to support the rebuilt roadway.

The 69 mile drive from Red Lodge to Cooke City takes over 2 hours, not counting whatever time you spend gawking from overlooks.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Biking the Teton National Forest's Flagstaff Road

Flagstaff Road is a gravel backroad off of Highway 287/26 just east of Togwatee Pass.  This remote forest service road is very lightly traveled, and since it begins near the pass, it loses about 1500 feet in elevation as you bike down it.  There are a couple uphill segments, but they are rare and not insurmountable, and the breathtaking alpine scenery you will experience makes it all worthwhile!  Here are a few photos to demonstrate what I mean...

Mountain vistas, dense stands of conifers, lush alpine meadows, wildflowers galore, and clean mountain air will enchant you as you follow Flagstaff Creek down the mountainsides past Lily Lake and over to Sagebrush Flats.

Keep your eyes open to the right, and when you see what looks like a seldom used double-track heading a bit uphill, take it to near the top, and you'll see an enticing single-track trail on your left.  Five of us in our group ventured onto it and were not sorry, as it took us through even more remote and beautiful scenery for about 4 miles. as seen in these two photos...

The single-track ends back at Flagstaff Road so you can meet up with less adventurous colleagues and continue your downhill ride.

Flagstaff Road ends at the same Highway 287/26 as you began at, right near the Blackrock Ranger Station.

Biking the Teton National Forest's Buffalo Fork Road

This ride takes you through magnificent wilderness of the Angle Mountains in the Bridger-Teton National Forest.  Begin at the intersection of Highway 287/26 and Turpin Meadows Ranch Road, east of Grand Teton National Park and nearly up to Togwatee Pass.  Ride down Turpin Meadows Ranch Road, a wide gravel backcountry road with marvelous scenery replete with alpine meadows, wetlands, mountain vistas, and wildflowers in every direction as seen in the photo below....

When you reach the ranch, the road crosses the Buffalo Fork River, and on your right is the US Forest Service's Turpin Meadow Campground (washroom and water available) and ahead to the left is the paved but lightly traveled Buffalo Valley Road which you then follow west, again mostly descending, until it ends back at Highway 287/26.

The ride is about 16 miles and will provide endless scenic wonders.

Biking the Teton Boundary Road

Boundary Road serves as the border between Grand Teton National Park and Bridger-Teton National Forest and offers spectacular views of the Teton Range as you pedal this forest service road.  A hybrid or mountain bike is required since the gravel road is a bit rough, but that also means it is rarely traveled by motor vehicles...

You admire unending sagebrush flats on the eastern slopes of the mountain range as you look for antelope and buffalo, all with the towering Teton Mountains to your west while you pedal at 8000 feet altitude looking down at the Jackson Hole Valley below.

After passing the obvious at-large camping area on the left in the national forest, you'll hit the paved Antelope Flats Road where you turn right (downhill) towards Highway 191, but when you see the structures, turn left onto Mormon Row and check out this historic location settled by 11 Mormon families a century ago.

The buildings had fallen into disrepair for years after the National Park Service took over the properties, but in the 1990s many of them were rehabilitated.  The famous Moulton barn and homestead below is reputed to be the most often photographed barn in the country, as it has been featured on many calendars over the years.

We then biked Mormon Row Road, turned left onto a gravel double-track, left again onto Gros Ventre Road for lunch at a nice pond after our 20+ mile ride.

Fall Colors in the Forest Preserves

Fall is 3 weeks early here in Chicagoland, but glorious nonetheless in the forest preserves...

Monday, October 8, 2012

Biking Teton National Park's Multi-Use Trail

Grand Teton National Park is one of the few that offers a bike trail, and this one is only a few years old and involved much controversy before it could be built.  The paved path runs 8 miles alongside the Teton Park Road from South Jenny Lake to the Moose Visitor Center, and then continues another 12 miles alongside Highway 191 to the Jackson, Wyoming Visitor Center and the town of Jackson.

Here is the trail map (click to enrage):

You are treated to views like these below for the entire ride...

The photo below is from the bridge over the Snake River near the junction of Teton Park Road and Highway 191 where an underpass takes you below 191 and then south to Jackson.

Near the southern end of the national park segment of trail you'll see a road to the east going a short distance to the Chapel of the Transfiguration.  It makes a nice stopping point to rest and enjoy the quaint structure with its marvelous view of the mountains from inside the chapel.

If you wish to lengthen your ride, you can begin at highway 191 and go left at the junction towards the Jackson Lake Dam on the Teton Park Road which has a bike lane as seen here...

...and then turn left onto the lovely and scenic one-way road past Jenny Lake Lodge to the South Jenny Lake Trailhead for the Teton Multi-Use Path...

Trail parking is available at Jenny Lake South, at any of the turnouts on the Teton Park Road, at Taggert Lake, at the Chapel of the Transfiguration, at the Moose Visitor Center, or even at Dornan's Store at the intersection of 191 and Teton Park Road.