Cook County Illinois Forest Preserve Hike Des Plaines River Trail

This was the last hike of the year for us, unfortunately, and I’ll explain later.  It was another interesting year with all the hip issues related to leg length, but that has improved greatly with the leg lifts.  Because of all the issues I was hoping to at least reach 1600 miles for the year, but I was able to coast well past that. 🙂  I was also hoping to reach 15,000 total miles accrued, and that was also surpassed. 🙂  All in all, a very nice year and I’m hoping to keep up this pace next year, but we’ll see.

The final tally for this year is as follows:

2019 Total Hikes:  271

2019 Hike Distance:  1881.4 miles  (average 6.94 miles/hike)

2019 Total Elevation Gain:  240,993 feet  (average 889 feet/hike)

Lifetime Hikes:  2048  (since 2008)

Lifetime Hike Distance:  15,299.40  (since 2008)

Lifetime Elevation Gain:  2,278,418 feet  (since 2008)

% of Lifetime Distance Goal:  61.20%  (This will obviously change after 25,000 miles is reached!)

The chart below shows how this year stacks up against previous years, and there’s no complaints here!

2019 Total Hiking Graph


And now on to the hike today!

Hike Distance: 6.7 miles      Yearly Hike Distance: 1881.4 miles

Elevation Gain: 307 feet      Yearly Elevation Gain: 240993 feet

This hike wasn’t supposed to happen.  At the last moment we had to cancel a five day vacation to Mt. Vernon, WA, just north of Seattle.   My mother-in-law passed away on Christmas Eve, and we needed to travel to Chicago for the funeral. 😦   This was a very stressful trip and we only had the chance to hike one time, on the Des Plaines River Trail.

The Des Plaines River Trail is an extensive 56 miles long, which is quite impressive, especially for the Chicago area!  We started at a very large parking area at Beck Lake, in Cook County, Illinois.  It is from this area that we took a spur trail and headed west to intersect the Des Plaines River Trail.  Once we intersected the Des Plaines River Trail we headed north until we reached the River Trails Nature Center.  It was a short hike but all we had time to complete, given our schedule to meet people and attend many mourning events for my mother-in-law.

Given the huge population of the Chicago area, this trail was surprisingly empty.  There were a few walkers and bike riders, but they were spaced out.  The weather today was on the warm side, but as you can see from the pictures, the mood is of desolation and very melancholy.  Everything looks dead, since very few evergreens are growing here.  I spent many years, as a teenager, taking black & white pictures of scenery like this.  Memories revisited.

The trail was in exceptional condition and very nice to walk upon.  There were some areas of mud but not a big deal.  If you’ve never been to the midwest, this place will look foreign.  I still find it depressing, much more than the cloudy winters of the PNW.  haha  The Des Plaines River looks as dark and muddy as ever.  Quite the contrast to the PNW where the water is mostly clear.  Even the Columbia River looks very clean compared to the mud laden waters in the midwest.  The mood definitely fit how we all felt, due to the death in the family. 😦

It’s a rare opportunity to get back to my childhood home, and it may not happen again.  I personally have no family left here, and this year saw the loss of both of my wife’s parents.  We have some good friends here, and are hoping they will visit us, but we will likely take a long break from visiting, if nothing else comes up.  Our real home has been in the PNW, for about 40 years, and plane flights are not our favorite, but we’ll see.  I attached a beautiful sunset photo, that I took from the plane, to signify the end to another year.  Happy new year (hopefully) to everyone!



Sunset While Flying Back Home

Willapa Hills Rails-to-Trails Hike

Hike Distance: 7.5 miles      Yearly Hike Distance: 1837.9 miles

Elevation Gain: 170 feet      Yearly Elevation Gain: 236404 feet

It’s been very wet and rainy in the Pacific Northwest, and I wanted to stay out in the open during the remainder of this storm.  My wife and I agreed that the Willapa Hills Rails-to-Trails hike, near Chehalis, WA was a great option.

We knew that Seattle had gotten over three inches of rain but didn’t know how this area was affected.  We drove out to the Chehalis TH at SW Hillburger Road but never got there.  The Chehalis River was at flood stage, and the road to the TH was closed due to flooding!  In fact, all the lowlands in this area were heavily flooded, and we needed to rethink where to go.

We headed west and parked just off Hwy 6, and then walked west on the Willapa Hills Trail.  The rain eventually stopped and it was quite nice out.  We crossed over two large bridges spanning the Chehalis River, and the sediment filled, fast moving river was quite impressive!  One of the bridges actually contains an approx. 900 foot span, and the water was the width of this!!!  The sad part was that a small group of cows were stuck on a thin patch midway between this span, near a grove of trees, and they were in shallow water.  There was nowhere for them to go and I fear they’re lives are at risk if the water rises. 😦   Really tough to see but I can’t imagine how they could be rescued without endangering many people. 😦

The hike was a simple out and back, and between mileage markers 3 and 7 of the trail.  Just to refresh your knowledge of the Willapa Hills Trail, it has a length of about 56 miles and spans between Chehalis, Wa and South Bend, WA.  The surface type we walked on was predominantly asphalt.  There is little elevation gain, since it is part of a Rails-to-Trails network.

We had only three hours to hike, since we also needed two hours to drive out and back from our home.  The 7.5 miles is much longer than we expected!  A very nice day!

Forest Road Hike

Hike Distance: 7.4 miles      Yearly Hike Distance: 1811.2 miles

Elevation Gain: 1277 feet      Yearly Elevation Gain: 235144 feet

After yesterday’s interesting hike, at the Pioneer Bridle Trail, we just wanted an uneventful hike!  Thankfully, this hike fit the bill, and there were no issues, and no people, the entire day. 🙂  Nothing else to say about this hike as it was just a nice day!

Pioneer Bridle Trail to Still Creek Trail to Loop Via NF2612 Hike

Hike Distance: 10.0 miles      Yearly Hike Distance: 1803.8 miles

Elevation Gain: 1104 feet      Yearly Elevation Gain: 233867 feet

We decided to try a new location and headed out to the Pioneer Bridle Trail, just off Hwy26 near Rhododendron, OR.  It was a cold day but we were more than prepared.  We pulled in to the parking area and another car pulled next to us.  The driver of the other car got out and took a leak not 15 feet from us, with his back to us.  This was to set the tone for the entire day, which wasn’t good.

We headed NE on the Pioneer Bridle Trail and really enjoyed the cool air and beautiful forest.  No people on the trail, just like we like it.  The trail was probably empty due to everyone heading up for snow activities at Mt. Hood?  We crossed on a bridge over the ZigZag River and soon reached a point where we could go to the Camp Creek Campground.

We walked through the Camp Creek Campground and found the Still Creek Trail.  Walking on a bridge over Still Creek we walked along the creek for a short way.  The views of Still Creek are outstanding and gorgeous.  I took many photos!  We veered south on the trail and strolled through a dark mystical forest.  It was amazing…until…we came upon a couple.

The trail was empty and we expected to see nobody.  We came upon a couple that was evasive and very out of place.  There was an electronic device strapped to a tree, just off trail, and the man was taking a close-up photo of it.  I asked what the thing on the tree was and he acted like it didn’t exist, and said “What thing”.  I pointed to the device and said that thing.  He said, “Oh, that’s art”!  What flooded through my mind was what the hell is this guy trying to put over on us.  I said I was an electrical engineer and it looked like one of my projects.  He said, “I sure hope not”.

We made a little bit more small talk and wished them a good day and started to walk away.  He said that we’ll see you on the way back.  Well, my wife and I were talking and I basically said that we won’t be seeing them on the way back.  Being an electrical engineer I know what a device with lithium batteries, electrical charging/power circuit, wireless transmitter/receiver with the top cover off, looks like.  This wasn’t art and they appear to be up to no good!

I knew another route out of this area that allowed us to avoid going back on this trail, but it would be much longer.  We moved quickly to forest road FS2612.  I was going to take a photo of their license plate, but the car wasn’t there, and was must have been parked away from the trailhead.

We turned right onto FS2612 and moved like our lives depended on it!  Our fear was that they would figure out we weren’t coming back, and we were afraid of the possibilities.  Our minds were imagining so many possible outcomes, and we were scared.  There were some cars occasionally coming down the road, and they were carrying newly cut Christmas trees on their roofs.  We were no longer sure if they were parked on this road.

We were moving so fast, and it was getting dark, but we couldn’t seem to get to the town of Rhododendron fast enough.  Suddenly, along came a small BMW car, and they were inside!  We waved and then took down the license plates!  A sigh of relief came to both of us. 🙂  You see, the story they gave us was very suspicious, and they acted deceptively.  That electronic device wasn’t art, and they could have said so many other things that could have been reasonable, but they didn’t.  We actually thought that our lives could have been in danger while we saw them.  They could have chosen millions of trees to place this device on (on the road or at their home or apartment or in the city …) , but they chose an obscure trail, in the middle of nowhere, that was likely to be devoid of people.  They were obviously not prepared for meeting hikers, and had a ridiculous response!

Just before we got into the town of Rhododendron we had to cross over a large suspension bridge, over the Zigzag River.  The bridge was a bit spooky, and undulated while walking some 60 feet above the river, in the dark!  Once we got to the town we walked along Hwy 26 until we reached the Pioneer Tollgate Campground.  We then cut into the campground a took a trail to our parked car.  It was very dark for this last portion of the hike, and we got in our car and turned on the heat.

Just as we started the car and group of four people, and two dogs, were coming quickly towards our car.  I thought they were going to ask for a ride, or more, but they parted and went around the car, and into the darkness of the campground area.  What a way to end this stressful day.

We finally got on the road and were looking for the fire department, which is all we aware of for emergency service, in the Rhododendron area.  They were closed but we rang the doorbell, and they gave us the Clackamas County sheriff dispatch.  We called them and they were kind, and indicated a deputy sheriff would call us back.

We stopped at Subway and had a quick dinner.  About an hour after our first call we finally got a phone call from a deputy sheriff.  We had about a twenty minute conversation, and went over the encounter in detail.  We gave them the coordinates of the tree, and the license plate of the car.  We also went over the details of the encounter and she agreed it was very suspicious.  We apologized if we seemed to be over-reacting but she was very supportive and thanked us for being responsible citizens, and that they prefer we report the type of behavior.  She mentioned they would check this ASAP, and send a bomb squad if necessary!

A terrifying day but we’ve already moved past the issue, as of the date of this trip report entry.  We’ve never, in over 2000+ hikes, ever had this experience, and hope never have to again.  Our main reason for being scared, and following through with reporting it, is that we’ve heard stories about events that can happen in the forest, but rarely do.  Please don’t fear going out on a hike in the forest, but it’s our best advice to stay on marked trails, and not venture off!  And let me be perfectly clear, we have gone on an average of about 200 (that’s about four hikes per week)  hikes per year for over 10 years and this type of incident has only happened once!!!  I am much more concerned about driving to and from a trailhead then having something happen on a trail!

Whipple Creek Regional Park Hike

Hike Distance: 5.1 miles      Yearly Hike Distance: 1793.8 miles

Elevation Gain: 719 feet      Yearly Elevation Gain: 232763 feet

I got out so late and just quickly hiked around the park.  I made a mistake in a previous Whipple Creek hike in that I said I fell then.  This is actually the day I fell, after getting out of the way of a mountain biker!  He was not at fault and I was just clumsy as I got out of the way. 😦  A nice sunset with some fog building up at ground level, at the end of the day!