Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Hiking the Effigy Tumuli Trail

This last weekend, I had the bright idea of heading down to Starved Rock State Park, camping the night and doing some canyon hiking. Unfortunately, many many other people had the same idea - their ENORMOUS parking lot was filled to capacity, with overflow lots parked up as well. Completely not what I had in mind, so I turned around and drove out, really disappointed. I decided to make the most of it and check out a few other state parks, as they were on the way home anyway. I also swung by to take a look at a farm for sale - 40 acres and a mule, a dream long held that I am going to make happen sooner rather than later. I drove to the other parks but they were either crowded or didn't have much going for them, beyond offering space for people to park their camper trailers. Not really my scene, at least not what I was in the mood for.

Effigy Tumuli Trail

In the spirit of trying stuff, I did get to do is to finally hike the Effigy Tumuli Trail located in Buffalo Rock State Park - this is a path that takes in the earthworks created by Michael Heizer in the early 80's, to reclaim land used for mining (and also by a religious sect for camp meetings, and later a a tuberculosis sanatorium). Heizer created five abstract animal forms (a snake, catfish, turtle, frog, and a water strider) reminiscent of Indian mounds that can be found throughout the Midwest. I've wanted to hike this trail for many years, but the other 2 opportunities found the path closed.

Effigy Tumuli Trail

I was expecting to stroll the path, orient myself to the earthworks, and see them maybe from a tall observation point. Instead, the gravel path wends its way through the earthworks, which are now overgrown with grasses, trees, and small bushes. It's pretty obvious where the mounds are, though it's not obvious what one is looking at. At this point, it's reminiscent of a links-style golf course, with undulating grassy mounds. Many of the descriptive signs are gone, taken by vandals or perhaps art collectors, so even the educational aspect has been lessened with time. I will say it is a beautiful area, with gorgeous views of the Illinois River and a calming path to walk. It really isn't the best way to see the earthworks, however - for that you need a plane.

Effigy Tumuli Trail

Buffalo Rock State Park is located approximately 3 miles west of Ottawa in LaSalle County, around 90 minutes or so from Chicago. It's worth a visit (especially if you're headed for Starved Rock) to hike the paths, have a picnic overlooking the river, and check out the pair of buffalo who make a park enclosure their home.

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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Gleaming the Cube

Gleaming the Cube

Maybe it's a midlife crisis, maybe it's the exhortation that Omniten wannabes should be out there trying stuff, but I've been enjoying planning and doing things just because I want to and not putting them off anymore. If you don't get the title of this post, "Gleaming the Cube" is the name of a skateboarding movie from my youth and the title is supposed to reference skateboarding lingo, though I've never before or since heard a skateboarder use the phrase. Oh well.

Anyway, last week or weekend I watched  a documentary about the Powell-Peralta skateboard team, the infamous Bones Brigade. These guys were the heroes of my youth, doing athletic things that I could only dream about. The documentary brought back how much I loved skateboarding when I was younger, jumping fences to board empty pools in the back of vacant houses or hotels, or finding sloped walls or paved berms that allowed us to practice tricks and just hang out in our little outcast group. It was incredibly inspiring.

Gleaming the Cube

Last week I grabbed the Little Worker and his scoot bike, a skateboard I usually only ride around in my driveway, and headed for a local skatepark to relive a bit of my youth. At age 48, things were not as smooth and easy as I remembered, but I had a blast anyway. Practicing fakies (riding forwards and backwards in the pool) and also basic kick turns,  it was tough to overcome the basic fear of falling and breaking a hip, but I did it. Truly trying stuff. I'm planning on going back - the act of balancing on a board and riding on uneven, sometimes vertical, surfaces can only help me in my other athletic endeavors. Well, as long as I don't break a hip.

What's a joy from your youth you've returned to (or thought about)?

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Thursday, October 16, 2014

TTT: Breathing Fire, River to River Trail, Garmin 920XT

learning to breathe fire

Learning to Breathe Fire: The Rise of CrossFit and the Primal Future of Fitness, by J.C. Herz, is, at its core, a history of CrossFit. At the same time, however, the individuals and events explicated expand on a simple recitation of facts and dates. Herz also explores the draw, effectiveness, and allure of CrossFit in a world of gyms more intent on taking your money than any interest in your health. After reading this book, I would be surprised if trying CrossFit wasn't one result - a very inspiring and complete effort.

River to River Trail Pocket Guide

A few days ago, I ordered the River to River Trail Pocket Guide. The River to River Trail spans 160 miles of Illinois from Battery Rock on the Ohio River to Devil’s Backbone Park in Grand Tower Illinois on the Mississippi River. The River to River trail is part of the American Discovery Trail that extends coast to coast from Cape Henlopen State Park in Delaware to Point Reyes National Seashore in California and spans more than 5,000 miles. I'd love to find time to either hike or run this trail, but I'm not sure when that might happen. For Thanksgiving weekend, I'm thinking of hiking and camping a portion of it - if I can convince the family to come along, then it'll be more reconnoitering and less hiking, but would love to see the Garden of the Gods with the kids anyways!


Besides being the best-looking Garmin to date (check out those big numbers on the display, perfect for these older eyes!), the 920XT is optimized for a multisport life, usable in the water, on the bike, running, even connecting to your action cam. For ultra running or hiking, the battery life of this watch can be extended up to 40 hours, definitely a huge improvement over earlier watches. At $500 for the heart rate bundle, it's unlikely I'll be getting this anytime soon, but it's a definite covet.

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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

You Are What You Eat

You Are What You Eat

Not sure where this semi-Paleo journey will take me, but I do know that I'm loving eating whole foods and scouring cookbooks and the Internet for interesting dishes. The few times I've had prepared foods (frozen, relatively healthy, from the store), I just have not felt that great after - I can't even imagine what it would be like to eat full on fast food. I'm definitely still finding my way and learning how to balance the meat-fest that Paleo can become (yum), with the fruits and veggies I should focus on.

You are what you eat. Simple to say, but a lot more difficult to achieve in this quick gratification, anti-DIY world we have found ourselves in. Planning, cooking, sharing with the family - that's my path and I'm sticking to it. Trying stuff is more than just new things for new things sake.

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Running, Skiing, and Endurance Sports - Patagonia.com

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