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Month: May 2016

52 Hike Challenge – Hike 13 – Greene Valley Forest Preserve

52 Hike Challenge – Hike 13 – Greene Valley Forest Preserve

Hike 13 of my 52 hikes was another DuPage County Forest Preserve, this time at Greene Valley Oak Spur trail (1.7 miles out and back). It was especially important for me to get out for this hike on Saturday, May 14th because it was Hike Like a Girl weekend!

Unfortunately the weather for this hike was a mess. It was overcast, very windy and the wind chill was 31! I had packed for 70 degree weather (I was just visiting the area), so I put on a bunch of layers, made a makeshift hat and hiked at a brisk pace. I didn’t see much wildlife on this hike, I think due to the weather, although I did see quite a few birds. I was once again surprised by the very rich variety of birds in this park.

This trail is extremely close to roads, so there is a ton of traffic noise. This was pretty disappointing and it never got much quieter throughout the hike. I like quiet/nature noise when I hike, but the close proximity to roads/homes on this trail may be comforting to new hikers or those who worry about getting lost in the woods. However, the trail is very clearly marked with yellow blazes, and is a wide gravel covered path that’s hard to miss. The path weaves through open spaces and woods and is very pretty this time of year with wildflowers and flowering bushes full of blooms, and trees very lush and spring green.

After my hike I drove to the Scenic Overlook, a point on top of a retired landfill at an elevation of 880′. From this Overlook Point you can see DuPage County and the Chicago skyline far in the distance. I learned that methane given off by the landfill is used to power homes around the landfill. Cool!

Frankly, after a cold flat hike in gross weather I was happy to head home (with my favorite Chicagoland food – Portillo’s), but I was happy I got out and got moving, especially for Hike Like a Girl Weekend! Greene Valley has many more trails that I would love to try out, so I suspect this will be a repeat for me when I’m back in the area.

52 Hike Challenge – Hike 12 – Oldfield Oaks Forest Preserve

52 Hike Challenge – Hike 12 – Oldfield Oaks Forest Preserve

It’s so easy to miss nature in our everyday urban/suburban environment. While staying with a friend in Northern Illinois I wanted to get in a few hikes. I was shocked to learn that her house is near many DuPage County Forest Preserve sites. I’ve visitied this friend dozens of times and had no idea! For my 52 Hike Challenge Hike 12 I decided to visit Oldfield Oaks. The best part was I didn’t even have to drive. Oldfield Oaks is just a mile from where I was staying, turning this into a 3.7 mile hike.

Oldfield Oaks has two trails: North Loop (1.1 miles) and South Loop (0.6 mile). I hiked both, making a large loop around the Preserve. The trails are wonderfully wide, flat and covered in crushed limestone. You get a lot of bang for your mile here, passing through mature oak woodland, restored prairie and natural wetland.

All of the variety makes for great wildlife viewing. I was lucky to see quite a few critters on my hike. One that really caught my eye was the American Goldfinch.

These birds are hard to miss due to their bright yellow coloring, but hard to capture in a picture since I didn’t have my DSLR with me. I was lucky to be crossing the only footbridge on the trail just as a pair of ducks was floating by. I love the coloring of Mallard ducks and it was fun to get such a close look at these two.

They stopped close by to preen (clean) themselves, and I got a quick video:

The highlight of my trip, though, was the 20 minutes I spent with two deer who were chomping their way through some yummy spring  leaves in the forest. I stayed silent and motionless, and while they definitely noticed (smelled) me, they didn’t run. I remained glued to my spot on the trail until they had moved on to deeper cover in the woods. It was a beautiful moment, connecting with nature.

You can see the “lead” deer here, munching away:

I loved playing some hide and seek with the following deer. I see you!

The rest of the hike back to the trailhead was quick, flat and quiet, except for the western-most part of the loop, where you get quite close to the road and hear a lot of traffic noise. I did stop when I noticed some nut shells on the ground. Once I got home I could easily identify the tree they came from by the pictures I took of the shells and the very distinctive bark of the Shagbark Hickory.

There are three log benches evenly dispersed along the trail to stop and rest, or to take a break to watch some of the many bird species in the Preserve. Many wildflowers were blooming throughout the Preserve, adding pops of yellow, white and purple to the landscape.

This trail is in an area with ticks, and bug spray is essential. I hiked on a cool but muggy May day and the trail was already buggy. I can only imagine this will get worse as the temperature rises. I was surprised at how many birds there were in this Preserve! If you’re a bird watcher I think you would love this trail.

This was one of my favorite trails this year and if I lived closer it would be a repeat. Have you been surprised by finding a great trail close to home? Tell me about it in the comments!

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