The Ice Queen visits

My energy is coming back and some good things have been kicked off, but I still need to ease into a normal routine.

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The Ice Queen paid a visit this weekend and left some lovely art behind.

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There is much beauty in this wintry scenery, though staying out very long is not an option.

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I’m reminded of Alicia Forestall-Boehm’s waxed cubes with these ‘drippy’ scultures.

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Makes me want to slather encaustic medium onto something.

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White beaches abound.

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Here’s to finding beauty in everything,

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being inspired,

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and celebrating health!

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Buffalo Rock State Park

On my last day of the Utica excursion I decided to give Buffalo State park another chance.

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I had visited it years before, excited about the earth sculptures, only to get hot in the harsh sun of the prairie landscape.

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To let a speeding truck pass me I pulled into the Illinois & Michigan Canal State Lock Entrance and snapped a selfie there.

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The birds-eye view can be perused from Starved Rock State Park.

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The Buffalo Rock State Park entrance on this road was different from what I remembered, (and later learned I had indeed come another way before).

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My trusty state park guide book was at home, and I went by the maps on signposts at each park this year, when before I always had everything mapped out ahead of time.

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With Geocaching more prevalent I’m sure there are phone apps by the forest districts, but I still prefer to walk the trails pretending to be disconnected, though knowing I have GPS on my phone is certainly comforting as a lone wanderer.

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I strolled down the overlook path, thinking it would give me the birds’eye view. Instead, it took me past the river, and a later sign clarified that this was a River Overlook. Four Pelicans flew over me at one point, which was awesome to watch.

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The Effigy Tumili were in the other direction of the river overlook, so I wandered back that way, just enjoying the prairie flower scents and cricket and bird sounds.

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I came upon the catfish and laughed at not being able to see the eye at all. It was just a mound, with a path that the sign said we were allowed to climb.

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Titled “Effigy Tumuli” in tribute to the Native American burial grounds that inspired it, Michael Heizer’s “earth art” depicts five sculptures native to the Illinois River.

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Sculptures of a snake, turtle, catfish, frog and a water strider were created into mounds hikers can climb and explore. On top of the catfish, I took a view around.

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This photo by L. Jenkins shows what the mound looks like:

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I crossed paths with other hikers, who shared my initial disappointment of not being able to ‘see’ the effigies. Even Google Earth doesn’t do it justice:

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The turtle was considered risky to climb, but I observed a pair of monarchs at the foot of the mound, both extremely camera shy. The grass was taller than me.

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I kept the insect-cam going and trusted my zoom lens a lot.

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If the snake is meant to be the exposed lime rock, it’s the easiest effigy to recognize.

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Limestone formations are so spectacular.

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Google Earth’s view:

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I wanted to linger but a mosquito urged me to move on. I had an allergic reaction to a bite on my arm, even though other bites were fine, so not having yet consulted my medical experts I was leery of inviting another sting of epic proportions. Next time Benadryl cream will be my companion, and a small container of vinegar.

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I pondered walking the whole length of the park’s path to the area I had entered last time, but it was getting hot and I had not brought my hat, so I figured I wouldn’t risk heat fatigue with a 2-hour drive ahead of me.

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I came upon a few of these “Say Anything” icons but am not sure what they mean…

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More critters crossed my path:

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Thus I wandered back the way I came, and startled when I noticed bison through a chain link fence.

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I suppose Buffalo Rock should have some buffalo!

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I switched into sandals and began the drive home. Most of it was easy except a stretch on I-55 where weavers crisscrossed all three lanes to violate the speed limit.

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Otherwise the ride home felt surprisingly short, making me think I should head into the I&M Canal’s territory more often this year.

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Other people’s gardens

Normally this time of the year I have plenty of butterfly snapshots, but they’ve been scarce thus far.

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I am pleased to see monarchs fluttering about, the cabbage whites are becoming more visible, and I’ve spotted a few admirals, but not as plentiful as seasons past.

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Those I do see are either too fast or too far away from my camera.

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Nonetheless, the gardens are vibrant with beautiful flowers and I love the scent of summer wafting along.

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I’ve focused on orange flowers in the past month for #TeamOranje, but the Lilies are abundant in other colors as well.

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Such stately flowers.

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They are so gorgeous standing tall in numerous groupings around my neighborhood.

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There are also other flowers whose names I don’t know, but their scents are lovely.

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A stroll after a downpour always brings out freshness and pretty droplets.

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And OK, the World Cup may be done, but orange is still abundant…

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Bunnies are munching on the lawns.

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The “toddlers” are so adorable.

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It’s so good to love life, to enjoy old love and new love alike.

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So much prettiness makes my heart sing.

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Delicate yet strong.

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Life looks rosy from this angle.

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Rosyes

Flowers brighten up the grey.

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Here’s to more sunshine and flowers as summer continues.

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Overcast Waterfall Glen

Last week I defied the weather forecasts and drove up to Lemont determined to revisit Waterfall Glen. Fortunately the rain subsided on the way there and the predicted Thunderstorms passed us by.

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(Warning: slugs and millipedes in this post-if you don’t like them, don’t scroll down)
The droplets were gorgeous.

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Nature always has a way to give me perspective, and the lessons of that day started with a sign about a trail restoration project.

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The park district is removing buckthorn, honeysuckle and other select weedy, invasive trees and shrubs from Kettle Woods, and over time will replant native shrubs.

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“Before work began, nearly 85 percent of the trees and shrubs fewer than 4 inches in diameter that grew under Kettle Woods’ leafy canopy were nonnative invasives. Their dense foliage was some of the first to leaf out in the spring and the last to die back in the fall and prevented sunlight from reaching native plants below. In some areas, less than 5 percent of ambient light made it to the woodland floor.”

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“Perhaps more critically, young oak and hickory seedlings couldn’t soak up the moisture and light they needed to grow and replace older generations or compete against invasives.” The aftermath of the clearing is jarring.

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“By removing the weedy, invasive understory plants, however, the District can bring more moisture and sunlight to the ground, which will accelerate the growth of native flowers and grasses and secure the valuable soil during heavy rains”

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“These brighter conditions will also give rise to the next generation of oak and hickory seedlings, which will benefit wildlife and wildlife watchers for years to come. On a larger scale, the healthier, functional woodland will be able to respond better to potentially adverse effects of climate extremes, insect outbreaks and diseases.” A barren view before restoration.

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My takeaway was: Clearing out invasive opinions is important for one’s true nature to thrive (even if it looks a bit devastating in the interim)

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Naturally the rain drew out the slugs, and I watched a few cross paths. One blog states that as a hermaphrodite, the slug is “considered to embody both the Divine Masculine and Divine Feminine. Because of this, the slug is more a spiritual being than an earthly being. Great balance and strength is also a message that the slug can bring to its beholder.”

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I came upon a small brown butterfly but it was quite sensitive to my movements. A few of its genus fluttered along the path, but every time I stopped to snap a photo I was accosted by Mosquitos, so I didn’t get as many pictures as I liked.

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I resorted to waving my citronella stick around, since the multiple layers I had rubbed on throughout my hike had no effect on the pesky creatures. Waving one hand while trying to focus on a creature with the camera hand proved futile.

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It was ‘eat Maike’s left ear day’ for sure. Lin’s Domain says Mosquitos represent temporary irritants: “Rather than letting the temporary irritants take over our lives, focus on protecting our creative projects and our sense of joy and accomplishment. If Mosquito is truly becoming a constant pest, then we need to take serious look at our environment, both work and home. Something needs to change in it.”

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My change was to keep moving and not stop for photos as much. Ironically the creative project of nature photography was interrupted temporarily.

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I will concede that an overcast day with much moisture in the air does give mosquitos an advantage and ‘right-of-way’ when I visit their habitat.

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Psychically, “Damp environments are symbolic of creative, psychic, and emotional areas. …it’s important to find an environment supportive to their creative and psychic sensibilities, necessary for their health and well-being.” blog quote from Ted Andrews’ Animal-Wise.

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Away from the trees in the plains areas I was able to stop for other random insects. I’m not a fan of millipedes, but the red-striped variety is fascinating. Via one blog: Millipede sends the message that “successful movement in all endeavors will come with age— ‘late bloomers.’  … Many centipedes are also blind, and this an be a reminder to trust our inner perceptions and not outer appearances.”

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Being a lone singleton I sometimes feel that I am getting too set in my ways, but my friend recently told me “You are not ornery, you have stronger boundaries.” I love that thought since I always empathize to the point of giving in to others.

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When I saw this prickly thistle I pondered its beauty, and realized that having boundaries (or being ‘prickly’) isn’t ugly at all.

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The thistle was surrounded by plants that had heart-shaped seed pods, which I found another striking analogy. Love seemingly seeking out the thistle.

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Then I came upon this lovely snail which was oblivious to my camera shutter as it navigated the gravel path. Its message: “Snail people are often loners, not very social and often timid. Their life lesson will be to learn to trust.  Learning to balance trust and protection is a difficult lesson. Snails also teach us to protect the inner child.” Interestingly a few books and interactions are urging me to honor the inner child, so I will keep working on that this summer.

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I chuckled at the last phrase of a prairie sign.

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On the way back to my car several swallows soared above me, representing objectivity and perspective per Lin’s Domain: “Rise above the small stuff and you will gain a better perspective on your life.”

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I doused my ear in vinegar when I got home, and the swelling went down after a few hours. I may have to eat and rub on some garlic or vinegar on the next humid hike.

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The walk did help me step through some things that had been bugging me, and allowed me take a break from the giant to-do and should-do lists awaiting me at home.

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The wind and moisture felt cleansing, and I will heed the insights this trail gave me as I make my moves throughout the summer.

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Life is Blossoming

So yeah, I’m the eccentric woman crouching in front of other people’s gardens these days.

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Only my photo time stamp tells me I do this for 40 minutes or so. Ooops.

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To me it feels like I only spend ten minutes snapping pretty petals.

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Oh well, call me crazy, but seeing these blooms fills my heart with joy.

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I’m not the only one anthromorphising flowers.

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We had our first barefoot day in the park.

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Though it was slightly too chilly to read for too long.

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The air is filled with floral fragrance.

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Dandelions are everywhere.

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I chuckled at this outlier.

OutlierOnion

Maria Sibylla Merian was on the brain again.

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What’s your favorite flower?

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This one’s mine:

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You can shop for pretty forget-me-nots on Etsy.

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Here’s to a warm summer.

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Winged Love

I was hoping to get some nature shots this week to break up the Maraviglia-heavy content these days, but the weather was (more than) nasty over the weekend.

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My indoor environs aren’t photogenic right now, so the intended respite from studio shots and creations had me flipping though my old photos instead.

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I am not ready to post other entries in the works (good news!), so it’s a light reading day for you.

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These beauties are from last year’s Butterflies and Blooms in the Chicago Botanic Garden.

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Have a bright day!

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Moving at half speed

To keep the body in good health is a duty…
otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear.
~ Buddha

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The one thing solopreneurship doesn’t really allow for is being sick, at least not for an artist on the cusp of holiday season.

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Since last weekend I’ve woken up sickly (sore throat, feeling weak), and even though I gave myself the full weekend of bed rest and I sleep in a little longer in the mornings, every time I felt better I would be reminded that I am not at full strength.

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So I am curbing my enthusiasm and allowing for long breaks between activities, and I hope that the gentleness will prevent a full-on illness. Here’s hoping that vitamins and healthy foods will drive out the bugs.

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Celebrate your health!

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Rest when you’re weary.
Refresh and renew yourself, your body, your mind, your spirit.
Then get back to work.
~ Ralph Marston

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A Crisp Day at Lowden State Park

My last day in Oregon (Illinois) was a chilly one. I was tempted to snooze in the cabin but had to check out by 11:30, so I enjoyed a pancake breakfast and then had the hostess nudge me toward Lowden State Park rather than Castle Rock for my next hike.

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I said goodbye to the tipi at White Pines Inn and enjoyed driving past the other tipis on my way to the Rock River.

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“Prancing in the Pines” by Jan Harvey of Polo, IL

Jan Harvey found the deer design in a gourd book and used the faux method to make the background look like deer skin with the hide rolled over the top.  The trail of Tipis was created in conjunction with the Oregon Trail Days Festival as a year round attraction showcasing 30 authentic tipis.

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The Sioux tipis were designed and hand painted by local artists and residents to act as a reminder of the rich Native American heritage in the area. During the annual July Oregon Trail Days Festival the tipis move to Lowden State Park to create an encampment that families can spend the night in.

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While I did (inadvertently) come upon the Oregon Trail on my way in, it doesn’t seem that the historic Oregon Trail reached into Illinois.

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I had been to Lowden years before, but had only visited the statue and not really walked the trails.

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The Black Hawk Statue, officially known as The Eternal Indian, was created by Lorado Taft and John G. Prasuhn, beginning in 1908.

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Inspired by the Souk Leader Black Hawk, though not his likeness, the monolith was dedicated in 1911.

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It is 48 feet tall. The hollow statue is reinforced with iron rods and 8 inches to 3 feet thick.

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The outer surface composed of cement, pink granite chips and screenings, is three inches thick.

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Black Hawk was a Sauk leader who attempted to reclaim his land with 1,000 members of his and the Fox tribes. His efforts led to the Black Hawk War, triggered by the Battle of Stillman’s Run.

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I’ve visited the Sam Houston Statue in Huntsville at least twice, but the technology was far more advanced to create that 67-foot statue than Taft had at his disposal in 1911.

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The first pour of the statue froze and had to be broken. The second pour on December 20 was done with insulation and steam piping and continued for 10 days around the clock.

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Lorado Taft has created a few familiar sculptures.

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I learned that this site used to be an artist retreat, and that a cabin is available to re-enact that bohemian gathering (though not as posh as the White Pines cabins).

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The Eagle’s Nest Colony was started by sculptor Lorado Taft and his friends when they were invited to camp on the Lowden State Park site by then-owner Wallace Heckman in 1898. The colony was populated by Chicago artists who had ties to the Chicago Art Institute or the University of Chicago art department.

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The original group included artists Ralph Clarkson, Charles Francis Browne and Oliver Dennet Grove; writers Hamlin Garland, Henry B. Fuller and Horace Spencer Fiske; architects Irving D. and Allen B. Pond; sculptors Lorado Taft and Nellie Walker; organist Clarence Dickinson; and University of Chicago Secretary James Spencer Dickerson.

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The colony ended in 1942. Margaret Fuller penned “Ganymede to his Eagle” here in 1843.

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Lowden Memorial State Park was designated in 1945, including the Eagle’s Nest property, to honor former Illinois Governor Frank Lowden. It has a few small trails, though I found the map’s drawings a bit off on my perusal.

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I walked the steep stairs down to the river and enjoyed a very short Black Hawk trail along the water.

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I was tempted to explore the reportedly more interesting Pines Trail, but hesitated to cross the busy road, so I will save that for another trip.

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The map indicated a turn but the path dead-ended instead.

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After getting winded and making use of two benches up the stairs (reportedly between 110 and 202 steps–I didn’t count), I walked the very short trail on the statue’s level.

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The less official-seeming trail led into the Lorado Taft Field Campus, at which point I turned around.

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With the air getting colder I decided to get back into my warm car and made my way down country roads toward home.

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It was lovely to be away, learn a bit more about Illinois history and reset my brain.

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Castle Rock is still on my list to (re)visit, but there are numerous other parks and forests as well, so we will see what next year brings travel-wise.

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The Sleepy Hollow Trail–pondering bravery

The most challenging trail at White Pines Inn is the Sleepy Hollow trail.

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It is aptly named as many trees look like creepy creatures even in the daytime.

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All trails close at sunset, and this is definitely not an area to violate that notion.

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Roots and rocks along the path make for tricky terrain.

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The stairs at the beginning of the trail make you think twice about whether to take on the challenge.

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Armed with my walking stick I felt confident at wandering here alone.

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I have two walking sticks but being the shutterbug I am one is more manageable.

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The trail had me thinking a lot about spookiness and monsters and nightmares both on the imaginary and figurative level.

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My new benchmark of challenging trails is the Samaria Gorge which I hiked with a group in May 2011.

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It was an amazing and grueling experience I’ll have to share with you soon.

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That 17-day Greek island-hopping trip without cell phone connection (due to a phone company glitch) had me overcome many fears associated with traveling alone, being in unfamiliar places without GPS and having a language barrier to boot.

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So compared to that I knew the creepy atmosphere and more tricky portions of the path were easy.

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The overlook’s erosion certainly is something to note and be cautious about.

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All White Pines trails form a loop, so as long as you stay on the path you also know where you come out, which adds more comfort.

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Incidentally, my phone’s GPS also gave out near White Pines, having me resort to the old-fashioned way of navigating how to get to my destination.

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The trails are clearly marked and stairs ensure no one slips down steep hills.

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It comes with a 5’4″ height requirement though. Taller people might lose their head if they don’t duck. 😉

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Before 2011 the potential of slipping into the creek would have deterred me from crossing the waters, but my walking stick gave me the needed support to keep going rather than turning around.

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This trail is a boon for bird-watchers, as many enjoyed the higher elevations to gather and hold chatty meetings.

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It also is the most interesting of the trails, as you get to experience different elevations, a nice overlook, and the crossing of creeks which makes for different scenery.

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This being a short trail, just over 1 mile, I wasn’t concerned with being lost.

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gnarlyness

I drew the line at crossing this area by myself though, which was a branch off the trail and likely has a more accessible entry on the other side).

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On a weekday I had the trail to myself, which meant I didn’t have to worry about the intentions of other humans along the way.

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From the cabin area interactions this park attracts the type of people who just want to be in nature and relax, so in general this park feels safe to a lone traveler. (During holidays parks crowded with visitors tend to have a less peaceful vibe to me).

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Mid-October is a lovely time to take in all the fall colors, observe leaves falling and see the seasonal transition up close.

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leaves

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After a few creek crossings, some climbs and descends, you come back to the beginning.

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Some lovely vistas reward the exercise.

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Fire safety is prominent as well.

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And multiple locks keep a lone traveler safe in the cabin.

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You don’t have to stay at the White Pines Inn to hike the park, by the way.

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There are picnic areas and parking for day-trip visitors as well.

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I look forward to returning here soon.

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If you’re a lone lady pondering a solo trip but not sure if you have the moxie, the lovely Wanderlust and Lipstick web site will help you along (their book was my guidepost during my first solo road trip across 6 states).

 

A short cabin getaway

On the heels of 2 openings and an intense week prior, I decided to go off on a little cabin retreat.

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My home is a disaster area from the flurry of creating and continuous appointments, and I had no energy to clean, but I also couldn’t think or process amid all the clutter.

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So the best thing to do was to get away and allow my brain to re-set before facing the chaos and getting organized again.

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A few years ago I happened upon the perfect log cabin getaway near Chicago, the White Pines Inn.

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I had stayed at a lovely B&B in Oregon (Illinois) to visit the state parks nearby, and I promptly took a brochure from the White Pines Forest Inn on my last day of that 2005 visit.

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This settlement was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps, offering an employment program for young men during the Great Depression while also implementing a nature conservation program.

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The cabins are nestled in the woods, offering a lovely peaceful setting.

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They all have (shower) bathrooms with a fridge, heat and A/C, a gas fireplace, cable TV and DVD player and fully furnished bedding (which I upgraded to cozy flannel sheets).

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A far cry from the AOK log cabin retreat I took on another outing where I was basically camping in something more sturdy than a tent.

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The trails are all a mile or less long and loop around the cabin ’settlement’ so even if you inadvertently traverse a different-colored path, you eventually end up at base camp again, perfect for the lone wanderer.

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Some are more difficult than others so I highly recommend sturdy boots and a walking stick to explore the forest.

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Day one was glorious so I snapped oodles of photos to catch the light.

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I gave up on this photo-op.

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The colors were magnificent, and some unexpected.

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There is a restaurant just steps from the cabin circle, where hearty breakfast, lunch and dinner are served, for under $15.

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The chicken pot pie was delicious (as were the meat loaf and the pancakes, which don’t look as great on camera).

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It offers senior discounts so you see many retirees having their meals here.

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I was tempted to crash the fire pit party of another visiting couple, but they forgot the S’Mores ingredients (they also come four times a year–great idea!).

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The scenery and the safe surroundings were a balm to my Autumn-loving soul.

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goddess

The next day I spent the rainy morning getting a hot stone massage in a cabin just outside of the forest.

Massage

After that I was determined to get more walking in to continue loosening my limbs, and the drizzle wasn’t a deterrent with rainboots and a rain coat.

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One section of the park has a tree identification area, which is more illuminating in the spring or summer, but still taught me a lot.

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The Grey Squirrel Trail gets a bit narrow at times (just the width of one’s feet), so I recommend a walking stick with this one.

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Stairs are plentiful along the trails as well.

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Along with well-placed resting areas. There is also a handicapped-accessible trail and some cabins offer handicapped accommodations.

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I came upon some spectacular mushrooms.

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shroomsflower

 

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In the afternoon it was clear enough to take the aptly named Sleepy Hollow trail, which warrants a separate post.

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I was showered in gold several times.

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pines

Here is a lovely article on what makes leaves drop.

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After my muscles were thoroughly stretched I settled into an adirondack chair for some reading.

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I continued cozied up by the fireplace into the night.

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The next day temperatures were much cooler, and though I was tempted to spend another night, I packed my belongings and moved on to Lowden State Park (which I will report on in an upcoming post).

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Next time I’ll definitely do a 3-night stay, as getting away from the hustle and bustle (and only having WiFi in the restaurant) did help me get back to being in the moment, rather than continuously thinking of what’s next.

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