July 23rd – Another day, another cemetery…

Overnight temperatures had dropped to the low 60’s so we both got up early, I cooked up some healthy steel-cut oatmeal w/ raisins & craisins, restocked our snack pockets in the packs, and drove to Lincoln Memorial Garden. Our plan today was to make a “warm-up” loop around the perimeter of the Garden then head south to the KOA Campground. The Mrs uses Map My Run on her iPhone to track our course mileage and times, which works okay most of the time. This morning, 30 seconds into our walk, it suspended its tracking and it wasn’t until we were over half way around the perimeter loop that we realized what had happened. oh, pooh…. So we completed our first loop, stopped at the Main Building for a potty-stop, then did another loop so we would know what our distance was… No big deal! The Garden was awash with children who, once they got out in the woods, were hootin’ & hollarin’ as kids do so we were glad to finish the warm-up laps and headed out to the road in search of Brunk Road. Brunk Road is almost right at the property line between Lincoln Memorial Garden and Villa Marie Retreat Center.

008We took Brunk Road east to Lake Service Road, then south on LSR to KOA Road. Walking on LSR we went past a Morgan Horse Farm on the west side of the road, and an old ruin of a big old brick farm building on the east side. A little research enlightened me that this is the Brunk Farmstead  aka Cotton Hill Farmstead. The Farmstead was posted to the National Register of Historic Places on December 17, 1999. In 1893, Joseph Brunk established a Morgan horse line named the Brunk Line, one of the more influential lines it turns out! The Morgan horse breed is honored as the First American Horse Breed!!

As we walked along KOA Road, we came to the intersection with Brunk Cemetery Road. I asked The Mrs if she would like to check it out and she agreed. We walked along the road which at one point had been paved over with asphalt, and was now a mix of asphalt, crumbled asphalt, and dirt. Our exploration took us to the gates of the Joe Brunk Cemetery.

Brunk Cemetery Road

Joe Brunk CemeteryAt the time we knew NOTHING about the Brunk story or family, other than they have a road and cemetery named after them. We decided we should look for the biggest and oldest looking grave-marker to find the Brunks… It didn’t take us too long to see a promising marker in the northeast corner of the cemetery. We wandered that direction, stopping to read numerous tombstones along the way.

George BrunkIt was George Brunk III’s (1804-1868) grave marker we found, well, George and his 3 wives. #1 – Mary Boyd (d. 1847); #2 – Eliza Armstrong (d. 1860); #3 – Emily Talbott (d. 1903).

Geo Brunk

Just to the west of the Geo. Brunk family plot The Mrs pointed out a marker for a member of the Civil War unit – 114th Illinois Volunteer Regiment, Co. E.  Near that was a marker for a Revolutionary War veteran Thomas Royal, who also fought in the War of 1812. I am a member of the 114th Illinois Volunteer Regiment, Reactivated (Co. A & Co. G) so I feel a special affinity to the  past members of the 19th century 114th…

114th Co ERev War Vet

It appears, from the sources I have at hand, that Thomas Royal was the 2nd husband of Eleanor “Ellen” McCue,  the widow of George Brunk II. I’ll have to return to this cemetery to do more research!!!

We returned back down the hill and road to KOA Road and marveled at the beautiful assortment of native flowers, and the standing water in the ditches and fields to either side of us. It was quite pretty almost the whole way to the campground.

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The KOA is a nice campsite, the sign was easy see!!!The Mrs at KOA entrance

We walked around the campgrounds checking it out, then went into the office to get a cold drink and chat with the owner. She told me they have been busy since Father’s Day weekend, which they are quite pleased with. We wished them well, and headed back down the road back to the Lincoln Memorial Garden.

deerWe got back to the Garden and decided on another perimeter loop was in order to wrap up the day. It was much quieter now, the children were either snacking or sleeping or gone or some thing or another. We came upon a doe and her fawn… They walked up a pathway to the left, we took the path to the right.

Our last mandatory event was to stop at the 1787 oak tree and pay our respects and take a break on the nearby bench enjoying the great breeze blowing in off the lake. After a snack of fig bars and water we walked back to our car and clocked out with 8 1/2 miles under our feet this day.

July 22nd & Fairgrounds again

The day dawned clear and cool and we drove to the Fairgrounds and met up with Jill for a supposed easy stroll around the Fairgrounds, Lincoln Park, and Oak Ridge Cemetery again. No lost/stolen wallets to be found today… Jill didn’t bring her water bottle so we didn’t have to shuffle things around in the packs, The Mrs just assigned her one of her two bottles. We went around the horse track areas, cut through part of Conservation World, and walked all the way around The Arena. We were only going to cut across it, but there was only one gate open so we ended up walking the entire inner perimeter. Once we escaped the Arena trap, we stopped to take a picture of this interesting sign!

Jill & The Mrs
Jill & The Mrs

We walked across Lincoln Park, past the horseshoe pits, up through the woods along the Disk Golf course and across the street into Oak Ridge Cemetery through the restored Original Main Gate.

We walked past the GAR Memorial, which I had mentioned in a previous post. I lamented then that a number of the cannon balls had been taken from the memorial…. here is a picture of it from this walk…

004We walked areas we were not familiar with, primarily looking for hills, and Jill brought us to Baby Land. It is so sad to think about… We walked past the Lincoln Tomb, down the hill by the old Receiving Vault, and exited through the old Main Entrance again. We climbed a couple hills in Lincoln Park and returned to the Fairgrounds parking lot to our cars and ended our walk at just about 8 1/3 miles.

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!


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!

Lost Bridge Trail

We were planning to take this walk yesterday, rain was forecast… but we had thunderstorms and walking with the threat of lightening is not on my fun list. Today, however…. RAIN, but no t-storms….PERFECT. We have wanted to hike in the rain with our Frogg Togg rain suits, our new “waterproof” hiking boots, with our hiking packs encased in their rain suits. All so we could find any weaknesses in our rain preparations before our Wales trip. Our experiences in Great Britain are: if you are there for more than a couple hours, it is going to rain!

So we got geared up as the rain was falling steadily this morning (I slept in – got up at 6 am. The rain started about 6:30.) We drove over to the Lost Bridge Trail behind the DOT complex. And with a very steady and fairly strong rainfall to envelope us, we started walking.

010The LBT is an old rail-2-trail path that runs parallel to IL Rte 29 between Springfield and Rochester. We decided we would walk for an hour south towards Rochester then back because The Mrs had to work in the afternoon. We weren’t that focused on the distance as we were on spending time in the rain. So with 72 degrees F and a constant rain we moved along at The Mrs’ pace. We arrived at the the Tunnel that passes under Hilltop Road and had a water and snack break in the tunnel, out of the rain…

Hilltop Rd Tunnel
Hilltop Rd Tunnel

The Mrs happy and dry!

The Mrs in rain gear
The Mrs in rain gear

and me in my dry wet weather gear…The Mr

The Mr

We made good time as we walked, turning around at our 1 hour mark and headed back. The rain eased up a bit and we dropped our hoods for a while. We stopped at one point to admire how much rain water was flooding fields and what was normally grassy areas…

Lotsa water
Lotsa water

The banks of  Sugar Creek were flooded and the water was moving along rapidly in what is normally a lazy flowing little waterway.

Lost Bridge
Sugar Creek Bridge

We made really good time on return walk, and were back to the van at the 1 hour 44 minute mark. Total distance walked was 6.47 miles.  And best part of all… Boots – DRY inside. Rain suits – Waterproof (although not very breathable, so we did sweat a fair amount). Packs with rain covers -DRY.  We might consider GoreTex rain gear, but then, I don’t believe it will be this warm (mid to upper 70s) in the rain in Wales, so that may not be a major consideration.  (Time to email Yoda… er, I mean Charles!)

We might try this trail again in a few days if we can get a sunny day, and walk the entire 12+ miles just to get the distance under our belts. Our first day hiking the Pembrokeshire Coast Trail will be a 12 mile (or maybe 14?) day. And as our terrain dries up around here, we’ll start adding more hills to the mix.