Friday, October 26, 2012

Another Year

Another year has passed.  No it's not New Year's Day, it has been the anniversary of my birth.  I was born one year too early to be counted among the "baby boomers" since it was 1944.  Yep, that makes me sixty-eight!  Not ashamed to admit it, in fact, I'm kinda proud to have made it this far. 

This has been the year that I developed a deep spirituality while hiking in the woods.  I call hiking the act of entering the Temple of the Tall Trees.  I am grounded and centered while in the woods.  It doesn't matter if it is the flat terrain of Cooper North or the challenge of the Pimiteoui.  I get some of that same feeling when practicing Tai Chi.  I need to practice more often!

This year brought the birth of my fourth grandchild.  A beautiful little girl named Brianna.  She joins Angie, Evren and Milo as the lights of my life. 

This was the year that my oncologist said I didn't need to see him anymore.  Fifteen years cancer free!  I went into a state of panic.  I reminded him that he is the one that orders my other annual tests, biannual bone scan and my two prescriptions.  I was relieved to be scheduled for next year.  I don't care if I am seen by the Nurse Practitioner, it is reassuring to be in the office.

This was the year that I attended my 50th class reunion.  Fifty years since I graduated high school.  It does not seem possible!  I have made contact with some classmates through Facebook, but others I had not see for fifty years!  It was good to see people again.

This was the year that I joined the Riverplex.  Had I known how much I enjoy going to the gym, I might have joined long ago.  I do believe that things happen when they are meant to happen.  This was my time.  Since August 1st, I have missed three days.  Once I was out of town and twice, I was "under the weather",  Many days, I go more than once.  I'm back in my "skinny jeans" and feel great!

This was the year that I kept my commitment to volunteer at PAWS if I found that I did not have to go back to work.  I look forward to Friday mornings walking the dogs. 

I have so much to be grateful for, and I am!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

National Night Out Against Crime

The first Tuesday in August has been set aside as National Night Out for over 25 years and hosted in Peoria for 12 or 13 years.  Last night the occasion was marked in several neighborhoods throughout Peoria, including the East Bluff.  In years past, East Bluff neighborhoods held their own events, almost seeking bragging rights as to which could "do it best".  For the last couple of years, Serenity, Glen Oak and East Bluff United neighborhoods have joined forces to sponsor the event.  Still, the emphasis was on agencies passing out information and goodies (I am still using my pens from PDC last year), fire trucks, Armadillos, and food.  A block party for lots of blocks.

The media was there.  We had WMBD/Fox 43, PJS and Dennis Eggemeyer coordinating PCCEO's Captions coverage of events. 31/43 had nice coverage on the local news and PJS had a good photo of the diverse group that formed to "take it to the streets".  A commenter on PJS said the "gangbangers had a good laugh".  Perhaps they did, but it very well may not be the last laugh.  There are many of us in the East Bluff that are committed to change, positive change and transformation.

 Residents were joined by a number of dignitaries, area pastors, candidates and elected officials.  There was an announcement concerning the Peoria Reads' Don't Shoot initiative. Signs were made by the children at the Boys & Girls Club and by volunteers.  Everyone proudly donned their tee-shirts showing their commitment to the neighborhood.  Some people who were present were: States Attorney Jerry Brady, Sheriff Mike McCoy, Chief Steve Settingsgaard, Mayor Jim Ardis, Senator Dave Koehler, candidate for Senate Pat Sullivan, Councilman Tim Riggenbach, among others.

  Residents pledged to the East Bluff, determined to show "We Own It" marched behind our banner.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Detweiller Park

I have driven through Detweiller Park numerous times over the years.  I have taken pictures of beautiful fall colors there and stopped at the playground when I had little kids, but I had never hiked any of the trails.  "Back in the day", I wasn't doing any hiking.  I printed out the map of the trails, but forgot to take it with me.  I went on a fairly short hike, but there will be more to come.  I am glad that trail maps are available on the Peoria Park District website.

Entering the park from Route 29, a visitor sees the Korean War Veteran's Memorial and the remnant of an ancient tree.  From that point, I turned left to find the first of the trails I would walk.  I started with the River Overlook trail.  It is a short climb uphill that comes out on Detweiller Drive.  I did not know that it picks up on the other side of the road and turned around.  There was no view of the river on the part of the trail that I walked.  Will have to give it another try!

I drove on down toward the sand volleyball court where Dry Run Trail and the Pimiteoui Trail begin.  There are more trails to be explored and I am looking forward to the adventure.

Walk on!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Fort Creve Coeur

I must admit that I have lived in the area since 1980 and had never visited Fort Creve Coeur until today.  I learned about the trail yesterday (Sunday) while hiking Illinois Bluff Trail (Robinson Park - North).  In the midst of the approximately 6.5 miles walked, the Fort Creve Coeur trail was mentioned.  My curiosity was piqued and I decided to check it out.  At the end of Park Street, one will find the monument for the old fort that celebrates the early French settlers and heritage.  Near the monument is the trail that leads to the woods and ultimately to Fort Creve Coeur.

The trail starts with a few steps, then a path and then a lot more steps!  On the way back, I counted the steps.  There are 197 of them.  It wasn't bad going down them, but we won't talk about going back up!  At the bottom of the steps the trail continues to a dry creek bed that serves as the crossing to the trail that then begins to go up hill.

From the trail head, there is no indication as to how many steps there will be.  They just keep going and going! 

The path is well marked.  After crossing the dry creek bed where a remnants indicate a bridge once was, the trail begins to climb the opposite side of the gully.  It is a very nice wooded area .  There are several types of wildflowers and native grasses along the way.  Large power lines cross the trail and allow a view of the Illinois River with Peoria in the distance.

The trail continues climbing until it ultimately comes out onto a well maintained grassy area.  Looking to the left, Fort Creve Coeur comes into view!  The fort was open.  Inside there were four small "lean-to's".  There appeared to be an area for horses and another for bunk beds.  It is too bad that a small amount of graffiti marked each lean-to.  There was no view of the river from the fort although there may have been at one time.

Going back the way I came, I took a side trail right before the dry creek bed.  The trail led to the railroad tracks where a long coal hauling train sat waiting for the signal to go.  The Chicago & Illinois Midland engines were brightly painted and appeared in good shape.  Round trip for the walk was approximately 1.6 miles and actually a pretty mild, but enjoyable hike.  After returning to the car, I decided to take a little drive.

I drove along Wesley Road and found a little park on the opposite side of the train tracks that had benches, grills and picnic tables.  It provided a great area to sit near the Illinois River and contemplate the state of the world.  The park also offered a visit to the past.  It has an old two-swing swing set.  The seats were weathered wood and all the metal parts looked really old.  From the park, you can look to the right and see Peoria in the distance or to the left and see barges, the lock & dam area and the I474 bridge in the distance.

This was a really pleasant way to spend a Monday morning!  I have to wonder what other trails I have not discovered.  Any suggestions?

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

An Unknown Treasure

The locals probably knew about the trail at Cooper North Park along Route 29 in East Peoria, but I didn't.  I went looking for a different place to walk and found nothing that looked interesting.  I was on my way back to the house when I decided to pull into the park.  It has a nice parking lot and picnic area, but did not give much of a hint as to the adventure to come.  Toward the Illinois River, there is a choice.  To the left, a trail leads to an area near Jonah's Seafood restaurant.  Straight ahead, the trail leads directly to the river's edge.  I chose the trail to the right.

The trail goes through the woods and is wide enough for a vehicle.  It is mostly gravel.  I do not necessarily like walking on gravel, but it wasn't too bad.  Since the trail is near the Illinois River, the topography is pretty flat.  About half way to the end of the trail, there is a boardwalk that takes the hiker over marshland and backwater from the river.

The boardwalk is fairly long.  There are some views of the river along the way.  Other than guessing how far the boardwalk goes, it was interesting to see the wildflowers and the water plants that grow in the marsh.  The trail and the walkway are a pleasant walk.  I had no idea where I would come out.  As I would discover, the end of the boardwalk ended at the parking lot for Spindler Marina.  I decided to keep going.  Through the parking lot and the campground to the trails north of the campground.

These trails were compacted sand that were little more than ruts from the golf carts in the campground.  The best part was taking the side trails to the Illinois River.  Hard to believe that there are beautiful sandy beaches along the river.  There were quite a few geese, both on the beach and in the water.  Even though they leave a mess, they are beautiful to look at.  It has been a long time since I had walked along a beach.  Sand and tennis shoes do not necessarily go together.  I took the side trails to the river as often as I found them.  It was so peaceful and quiet.  Although I had seen some people biking and hiking along the boardwalk, I did not
see anyone on the Spindler Marina trails, just me, the woods, the sand
and the geese.
The McClugage Bridge was seen at a distance.  I kept walking in a northerly direction and eventually reached the bridge.  Standing under the bridge spans is a whole different perspective.  The trail continues going north, but I stopped at the bridge and went back the way I had come.  By the time I reached the bridge, I was ready to sit a spell, but there was no chair in sight!  Next time I will park at Spindler Marina and keep going on the trail to see where it goes. 

What a great walk!  It was different walking on flat land since I usually hike where there are steep climbs.  It was a nice change of pace.  As much as I would like to walk these trails again, I will probably wait until the heat subsides a bit.  Otherwise, I would have to start very early in the morning.  Walking is great exercise, but it is also good for the soul.  I refer to my hikes as going to the Temple of the Tall Trees.

Thursday, June 14, 2012


I accomplished one of my goals for this Summer season (even though it is still Spring for a few more days).  I walked the Pimiteoui Trail from Grandview Drive to Forest Park and back this evening.  The temperature was comfortable and most of the time there was a gentle breeze blowing.  From Grandview Drive, steps lead down to the path.  One continues going down a slope for some distance.  The trail finally reaches the bottom of the valley and off to the right is an open area that I originally hoped was near the end of the trail.  Nope, no luck with that thought.

A look to the left shows steps made of timbers that go up at a fairly steep incline.  Most hikers seem to have worn a path beside the steps.  The path is easier.  Avoid the steps whenever you can.  After climbing for awhile, there is a bench called a Listening Point.  It is more like a collapsing spot.  From the bench, you look across the valley at the Peoria Heights Water Tower.  After a brief rest, my walking stick and I continued on the path.  It meanders around, a little up and down, but relatively easy for a bit.  I had gotten to this area when I tried the trail from the Nature Center trailhead, so I knew what to expect from there.

The path begins to descend.  Eventually you can see the street and traffic.  Ultimately, you come out of the woods on Forest Park Drive across from the entrance to the Nature Center.  I had originally thought of walking the trail with someone and leaving a vehicle at one end or the other and only hiking one way.  Ultimately, I decided there was not much challenge in that.  After a couple of quick photos, it was time to turn around and back track toward Grandview Drive.  This time, I did not take advantage of the Listening Point, but rather made use of a couple of large rocks and a downed tree or two to rest a few moments.

The return trip gives a different perspective.  Things that were not noticed going one way, were obvious upon the return trip.  For a brief moment, there is a glimpse of the Illinois River and one of the hotels near the Paradise Casino. It seems there are more wildflowers seen on the return trip, especially purple cone flowers.  The return trip is rather uneventful.  Up, down, around and over until.....until one reaches the cement steps leading up to Grandview Drive.  There are two flights of steps going up.  By this time, the legs are tired and it seems the steps will never end.

They do end though.  What a wonderful feeling to have accomplished the goal.  The round trip feels like more than 2.5 miles.  It took me about an hour and twenty minutes to complete the trip and that includes resting time perched on the bench or a rock or fallen tree.  So it wasn't any more time than most of my hikes are, but the reward is standing at the lookout on Grandview Drive and enjoying what is probably one of the best views in Peoria, if not all of Central Illinois.  It produces an overwhelming sense of gratitude and peace to have spent time in a natural setting, to have accomplished  a goal and look out over the magnificent view.  I will sleep well tonight.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

She Crossed the Rainbow Bridge

I lost a friend today.  My oldest cat, Harriet, chose to take the decision out of my hands and passed away on the way to the Vet's office.  Harriet had cancer.  A malignant lump had been removed.  A second lump grew and was removed.  I did not have that one tested and assumed that it would also be malignant.  The decision was made to watch her quality of life and make the difficult decision when the time came.

Harriet came into our home as a kitten in 1994.  I found her at Harrison Homes as we were preparing for PHA Day.  Someone had used a marker to put a red "X" on the top of her head.  I thought that if she survived the traffic of PHA Day, she would not survive the target on her head.  I took her home.  She had enough Siamese in her heritage to have beautiful blue eyes.  She grew into a very loving companion.  She made friends with everyone - human and animal.

Back in the day when computer monitors were large, she would curl up on top where it was warm.  After the flat panel monitor arrived, I would often find her on top of the stove near the pilot lights (since I seldom cook much, I would just clean the top before I did).  The new stove I bought has raised grates and make it impossible for her to rest there.  She found that the DISH receiver, ROKU and DVD player gave off a good amount of warmth.  She could often be found on top of them.

Until about a week ago, there had been little or no change in her behavior or status.  I began to notice that she was spending a great deal of time sleeping in the bottom of the cat condo.  She would come out when petted.  She stopped eating.  I tempted her with canned cat food, cat treats, milk and yogurt.  These were all things she had loved, but she wasn't tempted to eat.  She left the cat condo and began to sleep on the back porch.  She seldom left the area.

I knew last Friday that decision time was drawing close.  The Vet's office was closed yesterday (Memorial Day) so I called early this morning to do the last thing I could do to bring an end to her suffering.  At 8:00 A.M. I was on the way to the office.  The office is a short trip from the house, but Harriet did not tolerate the ride.  She exerted too much energy climbing out of the box and died quite peacefully while in the parking lot.  I took her inside, she was checked and there was no heartbeat.  She had chosen her own time and in her last act of love, took the decision out of my hands.

I have re-read "The Feline Spirit" several times today.  I think of Harriet, but also Smokey, Leo, Skyler and Libby.  They all were wonderful companions.  My home still has feline occupants, each special in their own way.  Just like humans, each has their own personality.

Rest in Peace, Harriet.  As you crossed the Rainbow Bridge, I hope Smokey, Leo, Skyler and Libby were waiting for you along with Cinnamon (your dachshund buddy from years ago).