Central Illinois and Hiking, an oxymoron?

Hiking at Forest Park Nature Preserve

   Not quite, 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 are 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 to hike:

I have high hopes for:

The Emiquon restoration

    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.