Monday, January 18, 2010

A brief hike in suburbia

Last Thursday I went out to St. Charles to buy birthday presents for Jonny, in particular a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles action figure. These could not be found in DeKalb, and the St. Charles Toys R Us only had a couple in stock, and only of Donatello. I guess he'll have to do. I also bought a "band in a bucket," in the hopes it may inspire a lifelong love of music.

After I was done with Toys R Us, I consulted the good ol' Rand McNally atlas, which lists every street and park in Chicago and suburbs, a veritable geographic tome, and found a section of the Illinois Prairie Path (Elgin Branch) nearby. I walked a little over an hour -- 4 miles total -- between mile markers 9 and 7 on this trail. I accessed the trail at Army Trail Road.

Most of it was far enough away from a road to keep traffic sounds at a minimum and give a slight sense of removal. This section is located in Wayne, a sleepy burb of horse farms and large lots. Later on in the hike I saw a couple horseback riders ahead of me on the trail. The only sound of civilization I heard in the snow-muffled world was the crackle of nearby power lines. But this sound comforts me for some reason.

I only crossed one road and one railroad track in this short section. This bit of trail has enough forest surrounding it that a few stealth camping spots could be eked out. On a scale of 5 boot prints, (1 meaning a hellish experience to be avoided at all costs and 5 a life list hike of epic proportions), I give this hike a 3.

The day was overcast and gray almost all day. No sun. But right at dusk, just before I got back to the truck, the sun dipped below the clouds and long shadows stretched before me for a couple minutes before further clouds or the horizon obscured the sun for good. That was a magical moment, to witness gradual darkening, then sunlight, then onto dark.

It is a mostly flat rail trail with many access points. Summer will see me return with a bike, or possibly on pack. I've already got a couple prime flat spots scouted out! Watch out Wayne yuppies. A hippie hiker may be in a woods near you!

[For more pictures, check out the various twitpic links on the right sidebar of my blog page. Facebook readers need to click on the original link to find these.]

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