Illinois and Hiking, an oxymoron?
but almost. I jokingly (somewhat) tell folks that when I
returned to Illinois after 12 years in Seattle, I spent the first two
years curled up in a ball on the floor of my living room. I felt like
there was no place where I could not pick up a rock, close my eyes,
spin, and toss the rock, without hearing someone yell "ouch!". The
population density and lack of natural areas was appalling to me. There
actually a few places in Central Illinois (49th in the list of states
in the US of A with respect
to amount of natural areas preservation) where a decent day hike may be
had. Backpacking in Illinois is just a word in the dictionary, though.
The average Central Illinoisan lacks any awareness of the concepts of
conservation, preservation, or reclamation of nature or the
environment. Not their fault, really, since most folks here grew up
around either pavement or corn and soybean fields, me included.
Luckily, world travel and living on the west coast of the US gave me an
understanding of these concepts. If you love nature, this is about the
last place in the
world that you want to be. For example, a member of the board of
directors of one of the few nature preserves in the region recently
built a house adjoining the nature preserve that he is responsible for
safeguarding. I don't think he even realizes how hypocritical and
irresponsible that action was. Welcome to conservation in Illinois!
Links to some of my favorite places
I have high hopes for:
An awkward balance with sport fishermen and
hunters had to be struck to make such an effort viable in a place like
Illinois, so it remains to be seen how hiker friendly the Emiquon will
become. As a vegetarian, I am not particularly enthused about sport
hunting and fishing, anyway. Hopefully, 11,000 acres will be enough to
accommodate both hikers and hunters, though my favorite time to hike is
winter, and most Illinoisans tend to stay indoors during the winter,
except for hunters, so I remain skeptical that this will be one of the
places that I will be able to do winter hiking.