Monthly Archives: September 2012

It’s so Beautiful out There

The sun is lower in the sky every day, the days are getting shorter and we’ve had a few frosts out my way. The trees are starting to respond accordingly.

Some leaves have changed while others around them can’t be bothered.

The low angle of the light streaks through the trees. I liken it to stained glass. It will only get better as more yellow, orange and red appears.

There doesn’t seem to be any pattern to why some will have already turned bright red while the rest refuse to give up the green.

Around the corner from my house, one lone tree was in a hurry.

Not far from me is what I guess could be considered a prairie. While out at sunset the other day, I didn’t expect this.

From this prairie you can plan a route all the way to the Mississippi River, probably all the way into Iowa somewhere and never drive through a town of more than a thousand people. Out that way fields are being harvested. Corn and soy beans no doubt. You can feel the dust in the air and the dust does this to the sunsets.

In with the trees are more leaves that have turned bright red.

Stunningly beautiful the way they stand out against the green. The type of leaves you want to gather and bring home. Arrange in a vase with other leaves and maybe place them on the dining room table or kitchen counter. Liven up a room a bit.

There’s only one problem with these leaves. Gathering them would be a decision you would live to regret…

…they’re poison ivy.

More Things to do, Places to go

With the coming of the fall season, my last post was about Things to do, Places to go that are close to the Chicago area. This one branches out further, but there are still more things to do and places to go in the northern third of Illinois.

If you live in or near Chicago, fall can be deceiving. The dome of warmer air over Lake Michigan keeps you a little warmer this time of year, though it may not feel all that warm. Out my way, 15 miles southwest of Aurora, we’ve already had a few frosts with one of them being pretty heavy. The trees are responding accordingly.

On a recent walk around Silver Springs State Fish and Wildlife Area, it’s changing to fall. The lush green of the trees has started to fade. Yellows are beginning to appear. Some of the maples are getting a hint of gold and red.

I have no clue how the drought and dry weather will affect the fall colors, but there is always color. For the next three weekends, possibly four, it would be worth your while to do some exploring. Get out for a walk. Bring your camera and see what you can capture.

At the top is a tab called blogroll and if you go there you’ll see lists and links for a number of county forest preserves and park districts. These alone would keep you busy in your wanderings. There are a number of gems among these listings. You would never think taking a hike along Salt Creek in DuPage and Cook Counties would be worth your while, but look for anything that is up or down stream of York Road in Hinsdale. A fall hike through here would be time well spent.

For those willing to do a little traveling, following is a list of some of my personal favorites. Some I haven’t been to in years, while others are visited frequently. All are worth the effort. If you decide to do some traveling, do some research ahead of time. It’s well worth making a day of it and taking the back roads to these destinations. Small towns worth visiting, occasional farm stands worth a stop and you’ll even get to see some harvesting going on. That always fascinates me. If you stick around till sunset, all that dust being kicked up by the harvest turns the sunset into beautiful shades of gold.

Apple River Canyon State Park
Apple River Canyon State Park is my all time favorite. It’s a gem of a park that will make you wonder if you’re actually in Illinois. The ride out there alone is worth it.

Buffalo Rock State Park and Effigy Tumuli

Castle Rock State Park

Illinois and Michigan Canal State Trail
You’ll notice the I&M Canal State Trail is pretty extensive. I’ve wandered the trail where it cuts through Morris as well as many miles of the trail much further east. Nice leisurely walk on usually paved trails.

Kankakee River State Park
When you get to Kankakee River State Park, there’s another long trail on the opposite side of the river. No amenities there, but worth the hike.

Matthiessen State Park
My wife and I went out to Starved Rock State Park one time and didn’t feel like dealing with the crowds. Just down the road is Matthiesssen State Park. We enjoyed this park much more.

Mississippi Palisades State Park
The Palisades are gorgeous. If nothing else, go here.

Rock Cut State Park

Silver Springs State Fish and Wildlife Area

Starved Rock State Park

White Pines Forest State Park
I think the first time I went to White Pines was when I was 12, about 44 years ago. Still as beautiful as I remembered it and worth hiking along the bluff overlooking the creek.
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There are plenty of other state parks in the northern third of Illinois. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources website does a pretty good job of listing them all. Most I know nothing about, you can only go to so many, so you may have to do your own research.

State Parks in the northeast region of Illinois

State Parks in the northwest region of Illinois

With all this information on where to go this fall, it should be relatively easy to find one place you like. Why travel to Michigan or Wisconsin for fall colors. There are plenty of fall colors to enjoy within a short drive, right here in Illinois.

Things to do, Places to go

If you’re looking for things to do, places to go, first off, this coming weekend, September 22nd and 23rd:

Northern Illinois Hunting and Fishing Days

Our FREE family-fun event serves to educate our communities with the knowledge, safety skills, and experiences gained through the Outdoors. Sharing the experiences that make our sporting way of life a special privilege is quite possibly the most important thing we can do. Providing our role in history as conservationists is the way to carry on what Outdoorsmen and Women have fought for, for over 100 years to ensure our lands will continue to be in good hands.

We are dedicated to enhancing the outdoor experience for future generations by enjoying the recreational opportunities and symbiotic relationship to humanity that the outdoors provides.

I’ve been going to this event with my kids for at least 15 years. I highly recommend it. I’ll be manning the booth for Heartland Outdoors, so stop by if you get a chance.
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In order to survive as a freelance graphic artist, I have no choice but to rely on Chicago and it’s suburbs. That’s where those kinds of jobs are. In order to get to them, I have to drive north and east to get out of Yorkville. (You know where Aurora is? I’m 15 miles southwest of there).

I bitch and moan about it all the time, it can be a chore getting out of town. But living on the edge of civilization has it’s benefits. On a really clear night I can just make out the Milky Way directly over my house. The wild turkey wander down my street every morning. I have more birds in my neighborhood than I can identify. A great horned owl likes to roost in the tree outside my bedroom window and pretty soon, drifting over the Fox River a couple of blocks away, the bald eagles should show up.

To go north and east to the main roads, I drive back roads. Through huge tracts of corn and soybean fields.

Today I saw the first of the corn fields being harvested.

Fall is here whether we’re ready or not.

I’ll bet that if you’ve ever come hear to read anything, you’ve never looked at the column on the right. It’s not long lists, but you will find things to do and places to go, only they’ll have nothing to do with movies, restaurants, plays or anything that requires being indoors. They are all about the outdoors, enjoying and exploring them.

And that’s what you should be doing for the next six weeks. At least.

The weather has finally cooled down, making it worth getting out and wandering around. Each of the links to the right will have plenty of info on where to go to enjoy this fall season. Each of those links has even more links with still more resources.

The possibilities are endless and the fall season is too short.

You’ll notice that the bulk of the links take you to places within an hour drive of Chicago or one of it’s suburbs. As much as I like Galena and the Mississippi Palisades, they’re a good three hours away and with gas prices the way they are, why drive for three hours when one hour will get you to some very beautiful places to watch fall roll in.

My personal favorite would be a canoe trip down the lower stretches of the Fox River out of Ayers Landing. A little further drive, but worth it. If you don’t want to go that distance, you can always come to Yorkville and rent a canoe from Freeman Sports. Take one of the longer trips.

If it’s a hike you want, check out the Kane County Forest Preserve site. Look for the forest preserves along the west side of the Fox River just south of Batavia. A nice easy hike on a paved bike trail and well worth it.

No matter what, no excuses for not getting out. All the info you need is just to your right.

So, Where ya Been?

After a six month hiatus at ChicagoNow back in 2012, I went back to it in September 2012. Now eight months later, I’m wrapping it up and leaving again. This post makes no real sense from that standpoint, but I like what I had to say. The Too Much Info disease is still in place, but I no longer even care if my Give a Shitter is broke. That’s the epitome of not giving a shit, I guess.

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Back in February I put up a post here on ChicagoNow and then promptly let the powers that be know that I was done.

A week later I quit writing for a monthly Illinois outdoor magazine.

Around that time I told Dale Bowman, outdoor writer for the Chicago Sun Times, that I was done sending him fishing reports. Something I had been doing weekly for a dozen years. (That didn’t last. No one consistently sent him anything about the Fox River and since I was out fishing anyway, I may as well keep sending him something. He’s been good to me so it was the least I could do).

I then quit sending anything to an online magazine I got involved with.

Then, one day, Facebook unsubscribed me from 95% of the people that “Liked” me. I have no clue how or why that happened and tried to fix it, but failed. A week later, I fired up Facebook and instead of the 50 to 100 daily status updates, I had three. And they were from family.

I decided I liked it that way.

Then at the end of May, I decided to cut back on the amount of posts I was putting up on my own blog. Only put up 20 in the last three and a half months. Only three in July. In 15 years of putting things up on the internet, that was the least amount I’ve ever put up in a three month period.

And I liked it.

It then dawned on me that I was suffering from a severe case of Too Much Info Disease. I was trying to take in too much as well as contributing to the malady.

And then my Give a Shitter broke.

I slowly eliminated 95% of the blogs and writers I used to read.

And it felt good.

Now, I feel much better. I no longer feel the need to inundate myself with, well, everything.

And my Give a Shitter is slowly repairing itself.

So I decided to slowly start making a comeback here on ChicagoNow. I always liked it here.

I’m looking forward to starting over. A little rested, mind clearer, hopefully with something interesting to say and a new improved Give a Shitter.

Until I get rolling and consistently put something up, here’s a picture of a big fish being held by one ugly fisherman…

So, Where Were You?

The smallies are hitting out on the Fox River right now.

It’s the last hour or so of daylight and the sun is low on the horizon directly over the river. The reflection streaks across the water like a flame. The best damn sun glasses in the world won’t help you if you look directly into the sun. You’ll be temporarily blind when you look away.

Stand on a drought stricken gravel bar in water barely ankle deep. Below you a pool, maybe calf deep. Possibly your waist. Toss something in there and let it swim around. Let it drift and float and remember one thing, nothing in the river swims in perfectly straight lines.

You’ll hear it before you feel it, that distinctive thunk. The thunk of an aggressive predator impatient to eat. There will be no sipping, no tentative takes. You’ll hear the thunk and then it will go airborne.

Or left, or right or directly at you. You’re reel will hum with the sound of your drag and if you’re lucky you’ll land it and bring it to hand.

What the fuck, ace! What the hell was that all about and you’ll toss another one out there to swim around, drift and float and you’ll repeat this endlessly and sometimes you’ll be a bit luckier.

In the next hour you’ll repeat this 20 or more times. Sometimes you’ll land them and possibly not. In that hour your wrist will start to ache and hopefully your thumb will take on the texture of sand paper. A bunch of dink smallies no more than a foot and your wrist will still ache till you hear that next thunk.

If the weather gods are kind to us this will go on through October. Each day a different spot, each with the same result.

There’s only one caveat…

In order to participate you have to do one thing…

Meet the river half way…

Try showing up.