Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Biking the Fort Hill Trail of Lake County (Illinois)

The Fort Hill Trail commemorates a high knoll and historic landmark overlooking Peterson Road. You can access this trail from the Lakewood Forest Preserve Winter Sports Area on Fairfield Road at Ivanhoe, just a few hundred yards south of Illinois Route 176. The photo below shows the Millennium Trail going left towards Singing Hills Forest Preserve to the north and right towards Hawley Road. Straight ahead is the Fort Hill Trail, currently a two mile trail passing through Lakewood, going north to Ray Lake Preserve via an underpass at Gilmer Road, and ending on the loop trail that circumnavigates Ray Lake Preserve.

Future additions will make the Ft. Hill Trail a regional trail as it passes Fremont School, Saddlebrook Farms sub-division, the Lake County Fairgrounds, the Prairie Crossing sub-division, as well as its Metra Station. A second parking lot is open off Gilmer Road just east of Fairfield.

My favorite section of the trail is the loop trail that circles the former Four Winds Golf Course via the old golf cart path. As you bike the path, you'll be tempted to identify the old fairways, greens, and tee-off areas.

Just behind the biker is one of the bridges taking the golf cart path over a water hazard. They have since erected railings on both such bridges.

These photos are five years old and you can still see that grass from the old golf course is the dominant greenery. Today there are places where oak and maple saplings so densely grow that you couldn't walk through them, and prairie grasses have begun to replace the golfing grasses.

In the far distance you can make out the brown bridge that takes the Ft. Hill Trail over the water hazard. This is my favorite photography spot in the preserve. (I am standing on the golf cart path.)

Below you see some of the trees that five years later have voluntarily planted saplings as nature reclaims what is hers.

Fall is an especially lovely time to bike here.

A family of sandhill cranes has established summer residency here, and I am fortunate to see them regularly when biking here (which I do several times a week since I live right along the trail.)

I also regularly see deer and have seen numerous fawns each spring/early summer. With a minimum of humans using the trail, plenty of water and tree cover, and plentiful food sources, it's no wonder the critters love the area.

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