Red bridge detention area

Jackie and I went for a hike at Lake of the Woods yesterday. One thing I particularly wanted to do was get a new photo of the red bridge in the Japanese garden area, and use it to illustrate an Esperanto-language haiku.

We parked outside the Museum of the Grand Prairie, and walked around back, through the botanical garden, to where the Japanese garden was, only to find that it is currently being renovated. The red bridge is there, but seems to be under detention for some reason:

Red Bridge Detention Area

And it wasn’t the only thing in detention. There was another big detention area seemingly devoted to landscaping elements of various sorts. I didn’t get pictures of all of them, but among them were these rocks:

Landscaping rock detention are

We escaped the detention area without being detained ourselves and walked a ways along the bike path, only to come upon the red bridge’s big brother:

I’m suspecting plans underway to mount a prison break, but you didn’t hear it from me.

At about this point Jackie checked out the map for the Lake of the Woods, which suggested that, aside from the bike path (which is paved), there aren’t very many paths on that side of the forest preserve. And reminded me that she particularly wanted to walk on some non-paved paths that day.

So we turned around, spent a few minutes walking on the (unpaved) path in the Rayburn-Purnell Woods, then crossed the road to walk in the Buffalo Trace Prairie. It has lots of (unpaved) paths, with signage suggesting ways to arrange your walk to add up to a variety of distances, up to 5 miles. We just hiked the main loop around the perimeter of the prairie, to cover 2.6 miles.

One the trail we met a cute li’l pupper who was momentarily standoffish, but when we and the owner paused to converse for a minute, the dog decided we must be okay, and trotted up for pets from me and then from Jackie.

The image at the top is of a circle of standing stones at the edge of the botanical garden. While admitting that I did not check, I do not think they are sun-aligned.

A long walk on the Kickapoo Rail Trail

The Kickapoo Rail Trail had its ribbon-cutting Friday. Jackie and I attended as volunteers for the Champaign Forest Preserve District. We walked a short distance that evening, but our feet were tired after spending a couple of hours passing out flyers and listening to local dignitaries speak, so we cut that walk short.

We returned on Sunday to make a proper walk of it.

We parked at the Urbana WalMart (which has said that it’s okay for hikers and bikers to park there, as long as they park in the northwest corner, which is where you’d want to park anyway).

Then we hiked pretty much the whole trail: From High Cross Road to the end of the trail in St. Joseph and back again. We had lunch at the Wheelhouse, a pretty good restaurant in St. Joe that’s right there on the trail, and is appropriately cycling-themed. The only part of the trail that we didn’t hike is the short stretch west of High Cross Road that runs to Main Street where it nips up to University.

It’s a great trail. As Jackie and I discovered when we hiked the Kal-Haven trail, that crushed limestone is a great surface—hard enough for even a skinny-tired bicycle, soft enough to be gentle on feet that are going to be getting a pounding over a long hike, relatively cheap and easy to maintain.

There were a lot of cyclists out on the trail; they outnumbered the walkers by maybe 20 to 1. I guess that makes sense. The round trip is over 13 miles, which puts it up close to what I consider a very long walk (anything over 14 miles), but quite a modest distance for a bicyclist.

Sights along the trail include this spectacular view from the bridge over the Salt Fork:

There are supposedly river otters along the Salt Fork now, according to the text on this sign, but we didn’t see any. (“They hide from you,” says my brother.)

We will be back to bicycle the trail very soon. I don’t know if walking it will be a regular thing or not, but at a minimum we’ll get out to walk the stretch west of High Cross Road that we haven’t done yet.

My dad has fond memories of the old rail right-of-way from when he was a grad student (this would have been the late 1950s) and his advisor brought students out to there to see prairie remnants. Seeing this land properly preserved is wonderful, and I’m very much looking forward to the expansion of prairie species along the path that will follow with proper management.

We’re very excited about future plans for the trail. It’ll be years before it connects all the way to Danville, but there are bits that’ll probably get done sooner—trails heads at Weaver Park and Kolb Park, a short extension that will take it a few blocks further through St. Joseph (to the road to Homer Lake).

If you’re local, you should get out and bike or walk it at your next opportunity. It’s a wonderful trail.

This year’s long walks

Jackie and I have gotten back to our very long walks.

Last Saturday we went to Lake of the Woods and cobbled together their 5-mile prairie trail and their 3.3-mile bike path (together with a couple of jaunts down maintenance roads) into an 11-mile hike. (My goal had been “more than 10 miles.”)

It was great.

The prairie was full of these bluebird houses that had been occupied by tree swallows.

tree-swallows

The tree swallows daunted me briefly; I don’t remember having seen the species before (although I must have). I spent the whole prairie phase of our walk staring at them, thinking “They’re not bluebirds. They’re not indigo buntings. They’re not purple martins,” over and over again.

I’m sure they weren’t the only interesting species I saw, but they’re the only one that comes to mind now, a week later.

We parked near the Museum of the Grand Prairie, and ate our snack in the botanical garden, which brought to mind the day Steven and I bicycled to Lake of the Woods, which I’d remembered as last year, but which turns out to have been in 2011.

I’d earlier gotten a picture of Jackie and me at the picnic table where we’d later have our snack. I like to think of it as a modern reinterpretation of the Victorian portrait.

jackie-phil-victorian-portrait

Yesterday we did a longer hike. My goal this time was “more than 15 miles,” and we each hit it, although we separated around mile 13, after swinging by the Student Union in time for me to attend my Esperanto meeting. Jackie went on home after drinking some iced coffee. I stayed to speak some Esperanto, then walked on through the water amenities, downtown Champaign, and West Side Park.

Along the way we passed the university’s Agronomy building. We’d passed it a year ago, and I’d neglected to get a picture of the name over the door, and very much regretted it ever since. So this time I made a point of pausing for a photo-op:

agronomy buildingI like the harvest iconography on each side of the name. Very handsome.

To do the whole 33.5 miles during daylight, we’re going to have to set a pretty good pace.

Last summer we did okay when we didn’t have to spend too much time fiddling with things. (It’s surprising how many things need to be fiddled with on a long walk—socks, boot laces, packs and their contents, water bottles and the refilling thereof, intersections both with and without pedestrian walk signals. The list is all but endless, and on more than one hike it seemed like something needed to be fiddled with on virtually every mile, such that we’d get home and look at our speed and remember, “Oh, yes. That mile was slow because we stopped to get a snack, and that mile was slow we had to reapply suntan lotion, and that mile was slow because we stopped to use the restroom. . . .”) When we didn’t stop to fiddle with something, we often finished a mile in not much over 18 minutes, even late in a hike. However, even when we hustled right along, we never broke 18 minutes all summer long.

Last week we did do a sub-18 minute mile, and when we started out yesterday, our first mile came in under 18 minutes again. We were pleased with ourselves and decided to pick up the pace a bit more, and managed to beat our time for the second mile, and then again for the third. By then we were all warmed up and covering a stretch of the route where there was almost no interaction with traffic, so we decided to push the pace a bit more, and managed to do a sub-17 minute mile, which is pretty darned fast walking.

Here’s the Endomondo track of my version of the walk (Jackie’s is the same until we separated along about mile 13):

Up to now, we’ve pushed the distance rather quickly, since we’re just recovering distance that we were doing easily enough last summer. Our next walk, which will be around 20 miles, will be a new “longest walk ever” for each of us. After that, we’ll want to do perhaps 25 miles in late May and then the same (perhaps slightly more) in early June. I think that’s as long of a training walk as we’ll need to do. The whole point is to make 33.5 miles a special effort, something that would be undermined by doing the whole distance in training.