Biking in the Woods…of Memories

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©Cindy Kennedy

The leaves crackle under our bike tires, burying the path underneath the trees.   There is a sense of golden aura, with splatters of rust and green throughout, as we wind along the trail flanking the river. The geese chatter, the slight scent of decay emanates throughout.

As we ride past the mirrored lake, the swing set adjacent, I am transported immediately to my past. I remember coming to these same Captain Daniel Wright Woods often as a child. We would spend the day with our neighbors, the boys and dads fishing, the girls running, laughing, chasing dragon flies, moms relaxing with a smile.

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Afterwards all we kids played together with new friends, made up games on the jungle gym. The picnic was unpacked onto long wooden tables, my mom offering up delicious pans of fried chicken still warm in foil, bowls of cut fruit, homemade chocolate cookies, the rare treat of a can of soda.

When I was in high school, my dad taught me to cross country ski on these snow filled paths. The woods turned magic, covered with sparkling snow, as we careened through the forest.

As we continued on our current bike ride , those memories morphed into later visits, when we brought my kids, their cousins, and our dogs to enjoy that same playground. We clomped over the bridge to a hidden pond for the kids to catch frogs, skip stones, and throw bread bits as the fish broke the surface again and again.

I hope that someday my kids will come visit here, and they will remember all the times we came to the forest preserve with poignant smiles. And better yet, I hope that they can create their own memories here with their friends or family.

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Weekend Photography Fun

Last Sunday was an incredibly beautiful autumn day in the Chicago suburbs.  With a few absolutely free hours, a bike, and my Pentax K-3, it was time for a workout and then some mind release.  What a way to get lost, while finding myself, biking in Lakewood Forest Preserve.

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Love testing the photography “rules” of shooting into the sun, unusual angles, etc.

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I HATE being lost. But, can you see the teeny path I followed to the silo?

As Seen on a Bike Ride

These are photos from yesterday’s bike ride along the Des Plaines River Trail in the Lake County Forest Preserves.  Our path took us through some happy memories of places we took our kids when they were younger and a few unknown miles. We traversed through woods, fields, a hotel, abreast a subdivision,  and along the Des Plaines River on a glorious Chicagoland morning.  All pics taken on my iPhone, since it was the only camera I had.

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Field of golden joy. (Half-Day Preserve)
Same spot as above, opposite side of path. Fall colors starting to arrive.


Captain Daniel Wright Woods. Buckthorn cleared out here–amazing.


Double-crested cormorants (I think).  So cool–wish I had the DSLR. 

  

Along the Des Plaines River Trail

A Morning Bike Ride

Our forest preserves, my tax dollars hard at work, are gorgeous.  We take advantage of them all year round–hiking, biking, sledding, dog park, cross country skiing, playgrounds when the kids were younger.  When I realized last night that we would have no kids this morning, the only thing I wanted to do on such a glorious summer day was take the bikes for a long ride on a new trail (for us) with no whining allowed, some exercise after what feels like three days of gluttony.  Speed, peace and beauty only.

The Milenium Path we took bordered on neighborhoods along the way, but it felt separate, not encroached on. Crossing our paths were a rainbow of butterflies, grasshoppers shocked at our spokes, goldfinch bobbing in the currents, hawks circling, crows seeking attention, the snowy egret shocking contrast to the pond, gnarled oaks cooling us from the sun.  It was a incredible day for a ride–to be anywhere outside–on nearly empty paths, gentle hills, flat plains, a spot for lunch along the way.

With three kids and full-time work, it is rare that we get an entire morning to do what we actually choose, and I miss the long bike rides, the hikes with no one complaining. I even miss the shorter family rides, but they take about three weeks to plan, it seems.  I will savor the peace this morning, and the whopping ten minutes I felt I had the house to myself. C

A Family Bike Ride

The Des Plaines River trail in the Lake County Forest Preserves was bustling on a stellar Sunday afternoon as we biked along the trail.  I believe that people are doing “staycations” (what a horrid word, linguistically!); I have never seen the trail so crowded.  It was wonderful to see so many shapes, sizes and contingents of groups along the way-babies in bike seats, the tag-along toddler seat, families, serious bikers-in-training, individuals, friends, hikers, dogs and their owners. 

 We were a group of 9, not one complaint during the 10 mile ride, the 8 and 9 year-old boys keeping up with the adults with no problem. I enjoy the combination of riding along the shaded river bank, clack-clack up-and-over on the bridges, then swooping under the busy roads, finally a long, lovely stretch bordered with river on one side and acres of wildflowers on the other. 

We reached our destination of Independence Grove, curving around the path to view the two man-made lakes from above.  I think it is the gem of the forest preserve, inviting and encouraging young and old to try something new.  While too busy on a weekend for the serious trainer, it is a beautifully laid out space where people can bike-walk-skate-skateboard around the lakes, rent boats, play on the newly constructed playground, swim, fish, take photos, play volleyball-baseball-soccer, fly a kite, have a picnic, take a nap, watch the bubbly clouds float across the sky.   

As my friend Kerry said, “Maybe there is hope for world peace.  Look at all the different people smiling and having fun.”  I think it would take many hours there before the kids give their “I’m bored” lament, and if you cannot find something you like to do here….there must be something wrong with your psyche.

Our kids ran on the playground after we ate our lunch, while we relaxed and chatted.  They then fed the seemingly 50-lb carp before we rode around the lakes to start our ride home. The girls decided we HAD to stop at Dairy Queen on our ride home, a remnant memory for the many times we did that when they were younger.  It was a welcome treat, after a gorgeous day spent outside, bickering and electronics absent.

What a relaxing way to spend one of the final summer Sundays before school and soccer games kick into gear.  I am already planning where we bike next weekend, should this amazing weather prevail. Slowing down and letting the trail lead us where it may, a welcome respite for all. C