July 21st – Walk postponed, on the water

The day dawned clear, breezy, and cool, and we were getting our gear gathered. The Mrs told me her ankle was not feeling 100% and the more we discuss her symptoms we decided not to risk an injury. We postponed our long walk for a day and I focused on pulling all the Hilu equipment out of winter storage and began prepping it for launch….

Prepping the Hilu
Prepping the Hilu

A year ago in the spring I had ordered a few replacement parts for the Hilu but never installed them due to retinopathy issues, but the time was now. I replaced the halyard and the mainsheet and added a halyard camlock. I reinstalled the trampoline which I am pleased to say to made/sewed myself last spring because the original one was rotted and torn. In no time at all she was rigged and begging to get out on the water. A steady 10 – 12 mph wind was blowing out of the north.

Hilu rigged
Hilu rigged

Hilu 2

With the wind blowing out of the north, this was a very easy launch and I was immediately cruising along at a good clip across the water. I did a quick calculation of my course using MapMyRun and it calculated I went just under 3 miles. My little loop is posted below…

Hilu Lake LoopI was going to do the loop a second time but the lake was starting to get busy, mostly with power boats pulling tubers and skiers. The majority of these do not give right-of-way to sail craft so I decided to call it a day and go out again when the lake was quieter. It was certainly nice to get out on the water under sail again!!!

So then, late afternoon, The Mrs said she was going to take her pontoon out for bit and invited me to join her. I agreed since it was still such a perfect day and being on the water sounded nicer than doing chores. We puttered around for quite a while with no particular plan or destination and then headed back to the dock. As we were approaching the nearby cove, a man in a fishing boat zoomed by then slowed and threw a line in water and starting trolling near our dock. The Mrs stopped while the fisherman blocked our dock. After he cleared the dock we moved forward slowly, but the north wind and the wavy water put us a bit of course and we hit the dock, and the motor stalled. When The Mrs tried to restart the motor, the starter made a horrible grinding noise and wouldn’t turn the motor over. And so we drifted away from the dock, blown south towards the cove. I pulled the paddles out from under the seat and started trying to paddle back to the dock, but the wind was more intent on sending us into the cove. The fisherman asked if he could help, so I threw him a bowline. He tried to turn us around and pull us, but he only had a 25 hp motor, and the pontoon was probably 2 or 3 times heavier… I told him we would drift to the end of the cove and tie up to our neighbor’s dock. I got the brilliant idea as we drifted near the shoreline to do a modified “African QueenBogieand jumped off the boat with bowline in hand and started pulling the boat back towards home. The Mrs used the paddle to keep the pontoons off the rip-rap as I tugged. As we got to the next door neighbor’s dock, I walked out onto his dock, then “balance-beamed” across his boat lift, leapt onto his wave-runner dock, and as the pontoon was passing by me, I jumped back on board. All that was left was for The Mrs and me to paddle furiously back to our dock. Mission Accomplished!

July 16th ~ Lincoln Memorial Gardens

This made 2 days in a row for our hiking workout, as yesterday was a moderately long hike followed by a somewhat shorter hike. We drove to Lincoln Memorial Gardens for a fairly easy walk on soft mulch covered trails through woods and along the lake. Believe it or not, our first stop was at the main building for a quick use of the restrooms… Then off we started, making a big perimeter loop (LMG Trails Map) . We had been to a trail walk a few weeks ago led by one of The Mrs’ dearest friends, Erica. Erica had written an historical overview of the Gardens and then proposed to present it as a historical walk to the Board of the Gardens. They approved it, and Erica did the walk  6 times I think. We got to go on the last one. It was fascinating, a wonderful way to get familiar with the Gardens, and Erica did such a great job of presenting her talk. Our goal this day was to walk 5 or 6 miles depending on our pace and the weather… A storm looked to be rolling towards us, but The Mrs’ weather app predicted we had HOURS before the storm reached us.

We tromped the wonderfully soft (compared to concrete/asphalt roadways) paths and worked our way southwest towards the Ostermeier Prairie Center. We went up and down some hills, and through nice shady woods until we reached the prairie grass fields. The OPC is a 30 acre farm that was acquired by the Garden and restored with the fields planted with native prairie grasses. We found a nice picturesque walkway and bridge that crossed the pond …

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The pathway took us past the old farmhouse and a restroom building with picnic tables under a nice shady porch roof. We headed into the prairie field to the north and made a big counter-clockwise circuit of the fields. As we were returning to the farmhouse area, we saw a large beautiful sumac tree.

Sumac tree
Sumac tree

We continued on the pathway past the farm buildings and as we were walking past the restroom building, I told The Mrs I wanted to just check it out… It is a nice, clean,  and modern facility, and the toilet is a composting toilet! I have read alot about composting toilets on my sailing forums, but never got to use one until THIS HISTORIC DAY!

The Mrs
The Mrs

We worked our way back to the Garden trails and continued our counter-clockwise journey. Almost immediately we were rewarded with the serendipitous stumbling upon the Historic Chinquapin Oak tree (a species of white oak). This oak has stood here at least since 1700’s…

The Plaque
The Plaque

Note that the plaque signifies that this tree has been here since the signing of the Constitution of the United States in 1787… How is THAT for cool?!!

The Tree
The Tree

It is noteworthy that one can see the Vachel Lindsay Bridge from this area… The bridge was recently revamped and is quite a nice feature of the lake!

The Vachel Lindsey Bridge
The Vachel Lindsay Bridge

Shortly after we left the oak tree, we could hear thunder rumbling in the distance. We marched merrily along the pathway along the lake shore and discussed whether we would need to put on our rain gear in the “unlikely” event it would start to rain on us since the computer models clearly indicated we had hours before the storms arrived. We decided we wouldn’t need to because the day was getting quite warm, and a little rain would be cool and refreshing.The Lake Trail

And so we walked as the clouds moved in overhead. We followed The Lake Trail until it intersected with Fringe Tree Trail, which would lead us back towards the parking lot. We opted to head back, figuring we had enough mileage and it sure was looking like rain was going to be our reality in the very near future. We had barely gotten headed south again when we began hearing raindrops hitting the canopy of leaves above us. Then the clouds decided to let go of everything they had and we were slogging along in quite a heavy downpour!! We got soaked, but it truly WAS refreshing. We made it back to the van after about 5 minutes of this fun and loaded our wet selves and packs in the van.  We did manage to walk 5 miles, so not a bad day…

Around the Fairgrounds (again…)

July 15th ~ We met The Mrs’ friend, Jill, at the State Fairgrounds for a walk around the Fairgrounds then over and around Lincoln Park. A sunny and pleasant morning, perfect for our shorts & t-shirts gear. We moved water bottles around in our knapsacks so I could put Jill’s water bottle in one of The Mrs’ pack pockets. This allowed Jill to walk unencumbered by a free range water bottle. About 15 minutes into our walk as we walked past a parking lot on the north side of the fair grounds, Jill saw a billfold wallet lying in the gravel between two vehicles. I said something about how a politician’s eyes will ALWAYS notice a wallet (she is mayor of a little town nearby) but I was the only one who laughed… go figure!

The wallet had a checkbook, a few credit cards, no money, a DL, insurance cards, and a business card for the owner. Jill called the owner on her cell phone, and we made arrangements to meet her at the Coliseum where we gave her her wallet. She was thrilled! She said it looked like the only thing missing was cash… Non-traceable, cash is; unlike checks & credit cards. The owner told us someone had stolen 6 or 7 wallets from a number of the horse stall areas while people were working or showing their horses…

We walked back to the parking lot where we found the wallet and walked through it looking under vehicles and in dumpsters hoping to rescue more wallets, but found none. So we finished our big loop around the Fairgrounds and then walked through Lincoln Park into Calvary Cemetery. Jill gave us a tour of some interesting burial sites. We somehow found a way into Oak Ridge Cemetery without having to walk out onto N. 1st Street. We got to see Jill’s plot, situated on a hilltop near the Lincoln Tomb area. We walked past the GAR burial area for 97 Union soldiers of the Civil War who did not have other family plots in the cemetery. I was quite distressed to see that a few of the cannon balls that were cemented into a memorial stack had been broken out of the cement and taken…  We also walked past the Masonic burial grounds and I commented how it reminded me of the Nicolas Cage movie (National Treasure I believe) where he is following cryptic clues that take him to various locales trying to solve the puzzle of where the Founders hid the BIG TREASURE. We didn’t find that treasure either…

We returned to the Fairgrounds because Jill is important and has a job that she has to attend to (unlike me!), and walked her to her car. The Mrs & I decided to continue our walk so we could rack up 10 miles for the day, and as we walked north again through the grounds, I directed us to the west when we got to a sign announcing Barrel Races the Weekend of July 17/18. The Arena was built and opened long after I stopped working at the State Fair, so it was new to me, and I was curious to see what it looked like. There were a number of grounds workers mowing and weed-whacking, obviously in preparation for the upcoming show.

The ArenaWe walked on the nice walkway to the covered Arena and sat down overlooking the huge field. We sat down in the chairs seen below, propped up our feet, and had a break. It was a glorious day!

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007008After relaxing, we went around to the front of the building. I figured that since we were only a couple days away from an event in this building/arena, the bathrooms would be open for the workers to clean/use.  The Men’s Room was locked, but The Mrs found the Women’s door open. I followed her in, it was dark, no lights… But The Mrs found the switch. It didn’t appear this restroom had been cleaned yet… there was standing water in the middle of the floor, and the seats on the stools were covered in black mold… A bit of hand sanitizer on toilet paper and the seats were usable. I was washing my hands when The Mrs announced we were locked in. I walked over to the door and verified she was right (you doubted her???). When I had entered, I let the door close behind me, whereas, it was propped slightly open at first. So I could see three lock tabs up and down the door, the spring-loaded kind that will snap back and block the door from opening when it closes. I was able to push the tabs away from the frame with the blade of my Scout Knife and yanked the door open….WHEW! 

Once free from our moldy prison, we headed west, then north again, and looped past the Dept of Ag main building and back to the van… We completed our 10 miles, had a wonderful walk, no blisters or even sore feet, and ALL WAS GOOD!

KOA Road – July 10th

Have 3 walks to catch up on… where does the time go? The thyme goes in the sauce, however.

July 10th – We decided to head out from home and walk to the KOA Campground  .  We have ridden our bikes there in the past so we figured it would not be too bad walking on the shoulder of East Lake Shore Drive for a bit.  Well, the traffic was worse than usual (but then usually we are in the car when on this road). But once we got onto Lake Service Road, we could walk down the middle of the road if we wanted because there was NO traffic.

Our first little side trip was to stop at the public restroom at the Vachel Lindsay Bridge boat ramps. It was such a glorious morning!

Lindsey Bridge dock

The water was so calm, and the air was still cool. We were able to walk on the grass all the way from parking lot near the ramps almost to the Henson-Robinson zoo. After passing the zoo we headed south on East Lake.

We took another wonderful side trip down Vivian Lane through a nice quiet little residential area with A HILL! We walked up the hill, admired our success and the view, then headed back to East Lake…

Vivian Lane from top of A HILLVivian Lane from top of A HILL

The day grew warmer as we walked, but once on Lake Service Road we had shade which made the walking easier. Once we got to KOA Road we took a snack break in the shade and discussed whether to continue on to the KOA or turn around. If we turned around, we would have our 12 miles in. If we continued on, we would easily add another couple miles. We opted to turn around and save the longer walk for another day when it was a bit cooler, and we had cash in our pocket to buy something at the KOA snack bar (assuming they have one!)

On our way back, we once again stopped at Lindsay Bridge Ramp restrooms. The geese were enjoying the day at the docks…

Geese at Lindsey Bridge Docks
Geese at Lindsay Bridge Docks

By the time we got home, we had covered just at 12 miles with very little to complain about!

Lincoln’s New Salem State Historic Site

Today, the day after Independence Day, we drove to Lincoln’s New Salem State Historic Site just south of Petersburg, IL for our walk. We left the house a bit late, around 9:00 am… but it was cool, a bit hazy, and a wonderful morning. We commenced our walk from the parking lot by the Visitor’s Center (information) building, and started by following the trail at the south end of the lot, Mentor Graham’s Footsteps. We crossed a small creek early on, and from that moment on we were escorted by huge swarms of mosquitoes and Buffalo gnats…

Creek on Mentor Graham trailAs we walked, we climbed a fairly steep but short hill, and then came upon a small cemetery with just a few headstones…

022And did I mention the Buffalo gnats???

029So we tromped merrily along until we came to State Highway 97, crossed it and entered Cardinal Ridge. We followed that through the woods until we came to Pritchetville Road. We decided to take a break from the breeze-free woods and swarms of skeeters and gnats for a while and walked on the road until we came to the Boat Ramp on the Sangamon River…

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In addition to a boat ramp leading to water, we found a beached paddle wheeler (The Talisman)…

The Talisman
The Talisman

We were a bit shy of a couple hours into our hike by this time, and just north of the boat ramp we found 2 important landmarks… First – Toilets!!! and Second – Picnic Shelters!!! A shelter served us well as a place to drop our packs, sit down for a bit on a bench, and in the case of The Mrs, take her boots off! But more importantly, we broke out our folding backpacker stoves, titanium mugs, and heated water for coffee (me) and tea (she).  How civilized we were!!!

Tea Time/Coffee Break!
Tea Time/Coffee Break!

Having rejuvenated ourselves, we pushed on traveling north on Damselfly Trail, which is adjacent to the west bank of the Sangamon. The path started out as a mostly old single-track asphalt paved track, but as we walked it became more overgrown. And boy did the skeeters seemed thrilled to have us all to themselves! Fortunately we each had sprayed on about a quart of insect repellent, so the little buggars only had limited spots on our body they chose to attack. Like our eyes! But as long as we kept moving, they were just a minor annoyance. At one point on the path, we came across three downed trees across the pathway, the first we had to crouch under, and the other two climb over… Quite a treat dontcha know!

Damselfly Trail
Damselfly Trail

We continued on until we reached the Grist Mill, except we were on the wrong bank from the mill, and to get to the other side, we would have had to slog through some very foul smelling and brackish water that was of unknown depth, and NOT AT ALL INVITING! We decided this was the end of the trail, did an about face, and headed back in the woods. We found a shortcut pretty quickly that led us out to IL 97 and the Grist Mill. Of course, this stretch of unused pathway had the densest populations of skeeter & gnats of our whole hike!

Looking at Damselfly Trail from the Mill
Looking at Damselfly Trail from the Mill
The Grist Mill
The Grist Mill

Once we got to the Grist Mill we walked around it and we quickly realized that the Damselfly Trail did continue on to just north of the Grist Mill… when the river wasn’t flooded!

From our vantage point on the Mill platform, we could see the trail where we had to turn around to avoid being swept away by the river… or at least sucked under by the mud.

Well, we found a side path that was an old old asphalt path? road? we were able to walk along at a good pace, staying one step ahead of the skeeter swarms. AND… The Mrs almost stepped on a Bull Snake! I pointed to it on the pathway and exclaimed, “Oh, look!” She thought it was just a stick until I said, “It’s a Bull Snake! WOW!!” She said she was happy she did not stomp on it!

So, from this point, our next direction was across the highway and back into the New Salem Site. To get across the highway, the State had built a pedestrian bridge/walkway so we didn’t even have to risk getting run over!

The Mrs climbing the stairs back to the Lincoln Site
The Mrs climbing the stairs back to the Lincoln Site.

From this point, our walk became much more of a tourist wandering through the Historic Site looking at the buildings, spending a few moments in the Gift Shop enjoying the Air Conditioning, and gradually making our way to the campgrounds area. We took a tour of the campgrounds marveling at the huge expansiveness of it, and the inviting nature of the grounds! The only thing left for us was to walk back to the van, and clocking our total hike for this day at 9 miles in 2 hours and 45 minutes.  We turned the clock off while on our Tea Break….