08 October 2006

Illinois & Michigan Canal State Trail and National Heritage Corridor: Where I GIT back on track

[In progress, but at least now all the figures have captions.]

Just when I seriously start to think "screw it, I should move to Arizona," the fickle midwest weather finally gives us one last warm spell, giving me one more chance to stop whining about cars and hit the Grand Illinois Trail again. So I biked up to LaSalle St. Station, rode the Metra Rock Island District line to Joliet (where I somehow managed to get lost), and wound my way over to the Illinois & Michigan Canal State Trail head at Brandon Road in Rockdale. I got as far as the Dresden Mule Barn before I finally forced myself to turn around and head back to Joliet (where I somehow managed to get lost again) just barely in time to catch my train back to Chicago. A splendid trail, a gorgeous day, a perfect way to end the "summer"--I think now I can come to terms with the fact that the warm, sunny weekends are gone for good until spring and start looking around for a cheap old mountain bike to trick out with fenders and a carrying basket so I can go around talking about how "brisk" it is outside. Grrrrrr... Hopefully next summer I'll get a chance to explore the rest of the trail.

This is the trail head at Brandon Road, where I let out a "woo" of excitement because I'd been trying to get out there since early spring.

The information kiosk at the trail head included the best map I've seen of the I & M Canal National Heritage Corridor, so I took a picture of it for reference. Unfortunately, it doesn't appear to be in print or online anywhere. [Note to self: Re-upload this inage from home; it will be larger and hence show more detail.]

I took a close-up of the section of trail that I'd be traveling on for lack of a better map. It's cartoonish and not to scale, but it does show more detail as far as landmarks go.

Is this a blue heron?

The Grand Illinois Trail is more than just a big loop around northern Illinois. Well, formally, I suppose it is, but I like to think of it as an even larger network of interconnected trails. For example, from the I & M Canal Trail you can access the Rock Run Trail, managed by the Forest Preserve District of Will County. If I read my Chicagoland Bicycle Map correctly, it looks like there are several trails that loop through the area and several preserves that more or less link together as the Rock Run Greenway. I'm not very familiar with the area, though, so I guess I'll have to go back next year and figure this out. But anyway, it looks like a lovely preserve.

On my computer at home (and in real life) you can see some gorgeously red poison ivy twined around those trees ahead, but I see now that I must have the monitor's brightness set too high. Drat.

West of I-55 the area suddenly becomes heavily wooded, which is nice if you're out for a hike but makes for tricky riding on a bike. There were leaves and broken branches all over the trail (being autumn and all), and if you avoid getting a big stick caught in your chain drive there's still the possibility of skidding right off the trail and either crashing into a tree or two or falling right into the canal.

This is an enormous sycamore that's been hollowed out at the bottom (with my helmet hung on a low branch to better show the scale). The tree is in fact still alive, although there's really no way of telling that from this picture. I didn't look too closely, but inside it looked like it had been burned. I can only guess how or why.

[The following will be completed at some indeterminate future time.]

Historic locktender's house at lock number whatever it was at the state park in Channahon.

Another view of the lock.

Across the river. Is that the Illinois River or the Des Plains River? And if the river's right there, then why did they need to build a canal? I need to read about the history more carefully.

You know you're in the country when... you see a herd of goats.

Nonflatness! I believe those are the Kankakee Bluffs, but I'll have to get my topographic map out to confirm that.

Festive fall foliage in a flatness-free photograph. Say that five times fast.

Some pretty asters blooming in this view toward the river, whichever it is at that point.

Another view of the river. Where I grew up the Des Plains River spends most of its time as a marshy area that flows vaguely southward, but down here it can acommodate barge traffic.

Small plane towing a glider? I saw either swarms of these or the same one circling around and around all afternoon. I took a picture so that I could ask my coworker the aviation dude, and he found a glider club at a small airport in the area. So, probably.

Dresden Island Lock and/or Dam. At this point is is in fact the Illinois River.

Dresen Mule Barn across the canal. It's historic, but I can't find anything online about it.

Heading home.

I took another self-portrait.

Another in my series of Unidentified Waterfowl in Northern Illinois.

Ghost GIT dots from a GITAP gone by. Say that five times fast, too.


At 24 October, 2007 20:30, Blogger cuttlefish said...

Thanks for putting me in your blogroll! You could not know this, but I though you might like to... I bike to work every day--even through rain and snow (mostly because I am too cheap to buy a parking permit)--and my brother once got me a subscription to the "Auto-Free Times", the publication of the Alliance for a Paving Moratorium. I think the publication has gone belly-up, but I am still an enthusiastic supporter of bike commuting!

(yeah, I know this is off-topic. Feel free to delete this comment; I really just wanted to say hi and thanks.)


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