Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Fireside Chat

So, spoiler alert: I'm not the president, nor am I going to converse with the entire nation...though based on some things I've chatted about with people today, I might actually have something to say.

I *am* fireside.  I've got every candle in my room burning bright. It's pouring rain outside, and the wind is howling. It's finally chilly enough for the navajo blankets I tend to curl up under not to bring suspicious looks. It's getting dark earlier, which I always have at least a degree of trouble with, and the leaves are falling quickly.  In some ways I feel like fall may already be over, but in other ways it's like it's just beginning.

I've definitely always loved fall, and this year I was determined to get out and enjoy it as much as possible.  It's gorgeous...the entire world seems to turn to a cathedral of stained glass reds, yellows, greens and oranges set on fire by the autumn sun.

This year the colors have been amazing, and I've been lucky enough to take quite a few drives to see them at different state parks and forest preserves.  I've also had a great month or two for finding time to get together with friends and reconnect.  It's been great to take these drives with people I love and just admire it all.

I put together a little bucket list of "Fall Things" I wanted to do, and I've gotten to do almost all of them.

One of the ones that was a first for me was the corn maze. It was fun, actually. I started off with the intention of getting everyone lost. I was extremely successful in this endeavor, and then we needed the guidance of my friend Josh to get us UNlost.  Still, we had a great time, and I was happy that at the end, I was able to amble my way out of the maze first AND without the map they give you. (We initially decided not to use the map, then we realized, an hour in, that the map wasn't really all that useful, it was still a feat with or without it).

 Julie and Josh were my partners in crime at the maze, pictured above. :D

We did a whole family thing a week or two later. My mom and grandma and I went out to Kenosha to the pumpkin patch that I've been going to since I was a kid, and got our pumpkins (which I *still* need to carve) and indian corn and had dinner at a barbecue place. We did NOT get to Apple Holler, but apparently that's a really hard place to get in to this time of year. :D

That was a really nice full day with everyone.  Grandma and I got some alone time at Grant Forest Preserve in Round Lake waiting for Mom to get out of a meeting. We took a very short hike and stayed by the pond. Grandma told me Fall was her favorite season, and we spent a good amount of time just admiring the colors at sunset.  My grandma is completely and utterly awesome.

I've enjoyed all of it.   This past weekend I went to a birthday party of a friend's, and he and his wife always throw a huge Halloween inspired bash.  His heart's in film and he's won awards for his stop motion animation.  As a film buff, part of the party every year is screening films outside on a big projection screen while everyone sits around a nice big bonfire.  My coat still smells like campfire.  This year it was pretty cold, but they had plenty of blankets to pass around.  There was great food, apple cider, (some alcoholic thanks to another drink, apple bob), all kinds of decorations and silliness, and it was great.

This weekend will be a road trip, hopefully involving some more photography.  One thing fall has gotten me doing again is getting out and doing the things I love.  It's inspired me to write (sometimes to stay home under the covers and write, hehe) and I need to keep that fire lit.  So, whoever is out there reading this...keep me honest.
Keep me writing.

Keep enjoying fall, down to the very last drop of cider.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Embarassment of Riches

My heart may be in the desert, as anyone who knows me personally or has read this knows...
But one thing that I always loved about Illinois was fall out here.

The weather gets to that wonderful equillibrium where it's chilly but not too cold.  Time to break out the sweaters and cuddle under blankets, but still perfect for outdoor activities.   The mornings feel different.  Fall makes me nostalgic and cozy and warm.  I even enjoyed the recent rainy spell.  There's something about the chill in the air wafting in through the window with the rain falling softly on the roof that makes you want to just stay in bed and let the world pass by around you.

This morning,  I did a little of that, but then I went out to explore.  Fall is just beginning, and from the looks of's going to be fantastic.
I've been driving this way to work lately and it happens to run along the Des Plaines River trail which I was taking south for the first time today.  This tree literally makes me happy.  It's so insanely bright that it looks like it's on fire. It makes me excited for fall to kick in in full swing.

The south end of the trail doesn't follow the river as closely as the north, save for the beginning

But it does put you right in the heart of the woods and take you through some amazing prairies.

It's honestly hard to believe there's still places like this in the suburbs, and I'm so glad to be finding them.

Fall colors may not be in full splendor yet, but what I saw today was better than any stained glass window in any great cathedral. And honestly? That's what this kind of place is for own little sanctuary. Away from the cubicle, away from, the bike, the trail...fresh air and amazing sights. I left the music off this trip and listened to the wind moving through the woods, and the call of the birds, or rustle of the leaves when the squirrels would run past.   The smells were amazing too...riding through the prairie brought back all kinds of memories of when I'd go running through the fields in our backyard growing up, pants accumulating burrs, picking all sorts of plants to take back to my forts and "cook" with.

Getting out there alone on the trails feels like a vacation from everything. I am so, so glad I decided to go exploring today instead of staying in.  The bike ride today wasn't easy...there were some strong headwinds that you really had to push against, and the trail was pretty wet from the recent rains, so in places where the trail was particularly sandy, the wheels would either slip or kind of sink in, again making pedalling harder.  But it was worth it.

I can't wait to take this ride again in a week or two when the whole forest is bursting with color. I have a feeling that will be a longer ride with more frequent stops to take it all in.
Despite the riding challenges, I made it a full 12.19 miles. It would have been a bit longer a ride, too, as I wanted to make it to a favorite spot of mine in Mettawa, Daniel Wright Woods. 
I was somewhere in MacArthur woods when I saw a sign saying the underpass was closed, but I wasn't sure how long the sign had been up, so I decided to keep going.
When I got there, though, I immediately saw why...
Seems the Des Plaines River Trail is now just the Des Plaines River.
Initially I thought there was an easy way to get me and the bike around it, but there was heavy fencing for about a half a mile, and the workaround would put me about a mile out of my way in the end, so I turned back. I'm hoping this opens back up in a week or so, so I can see the rest of the trail.

It was an absolutely amazing trip, and even as my legs ache some from the long ride, I can honestly say I want to do it all again. The best part? This is all in my own backyard. Literally.