Tuesday, June 28, 2016

"Hiking" at Hickory Knolls

Hickory Knolls Discovery Center is less than fifteen minutes from our home in Saint Charles. There is so much going on there: a learning center, community gardens, bee hives, a dog park, and several trails. I chose the longest trail for my photo safari, and went as far as I could, until I ran into trouble.

This is the second "hiking trail" I've been on in Illinois. Is it really hiking if there are no mountains or rocks or dirt paths? Hiking at an elevation of 735 feet has been an easy adjustment for this former Utahn, but I don't think I will ever get used to hiking on mown trails. The path was a green carpet of clover; there were no rocks on the path. It's  very lush and beautiful; just so foreign to me.

There were rolling hills of wildflowers. The trail I had chosen was supposed to be 2.2 miles, which would have been perfect for a morning trek through the woods.

EXCEPT. Except that as soon as I came upon a puddle of standing water in the wheel ruts on the trail, the mosquitoes swarmed around me, and began attacking with a vengeance. 

My text to Chuck: Wishing for bug spray right about now.

Chuck: I thought you bought bug spray.

(Well, I did, but buying it, and remembering to use it, are two different things.) Those pesky critters were biting my neck and arms, through my shirt on my back, and several screamed inside my ears. I told myself they were probably just concentrated near the water, and to keep pushing on. The little bloodsuckers seemed to fade away for a brief period of time, and then there seemed to be a resurgence. I was swatting them in a frenzy. At that point, I turned around and ran back through the woods.

Text to Chuck while running: Forgot (You can tell I was distracted; I did not have time to type a period.)

And later, when I paused to catch my breath: Apparently, bug spray's effectiveness is lessened if it stays at home on the counter. 

Chuck suggested that if I'd brought the can, it might work if I threw the can at the bugs. He has seen me throw. We both know that would never happen.

Why did I run? I was hoping that the land speed of a determined middle-aged woman would be faster than the airspeed of a demonic insect. HOPING. The frequency of bites seemed to lessen as I ran back down the trail, so indulge me in that little fantasy, please.

I would like it duly noted that I had begged Illinois for a break in the heat and humidity, and today, she delivered. It was cool in the mid-sixties (Fahrenheit), and relatively un-humid. (I can't bring myself to use the word arid. I just don't think it ever applies to weather in the midwest.) The skies were overcast, and the soft breezes made the air seem most pleasant.

There was a group of schoolchildren taking a nature class I passed on the trail soon after I started walking. A couple of the kids noticed my big lens, and stepped back to let me pass. As I came back down the hill, one of the little boys asked, "So, how did your pictures go?"

"Great," I said. He made me smile. I don't get to interact with children near enough these days.  

Whether it's considered hiking, or simply strolling along lush trails of clover, Illinois has beautiful landscapes of her own, and I am determined to see them. It was a perfect summer day in Illinois, and I'm so glad I took the time to get out and enjoy it. I learned an important lesson; pack the bug spray in my backpack before my next adventure.

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