This past weekend I spent my time out on the trails on my family’s property in semi-southern Illinois.  I don’t know if it’s still technically central Illinois or southern but then I guess it all depends where you’re from in Illinois.  To those in Chicago, Peoria is practically Alabama.

Anyway, it was my family’s annual fall cookout in which we gather to cook over a campfire, enjoy nature and each other’s company, and eat way too much.  What’s better than that?

There was 12 of us and enough meat for 30. That’s about how it should be.

My love for the outdoors stems from growing up spending my weekends on those 20 acres in the woods.  I also spent a great deal of time in the creek in the neighborhood I grew up in.

One of the things I’m most grateful for in my life is to have grown up in the 1970s and 80s when kids still played outdoors and parents expected demanded them to do so.  I remember my mom (and all the moms of my friends) pretty much kicking us out of the house and telling us to be back by dark.

What a thrill it was to wait for the first streetlights to turn on and begin humming.  What a fast walk it was to get back in the house before all the lights were humming and the sun was totally hidden below the horizon.

I can still remember the glance over from my mom as I walked through the front door.  If I was lucky I had made it by 1 1/2 streetlights that hadn’t turned on yet.  If I didn’t, I knew in an instant by the look on her face.

Those really were the days. No computers, no internet, no cell phones, no smartphones, no social media, no 900 channels of nothing worth watching, no Netflix, no online shopping, no video games, no online political rants, no virtual unfriending, and lots of other things I’m sure I’m forgetting.

That doesn’t mean I don’t like technology because obviously I do!

Technology isn’t bad. We just have to learn how to use it in ways that doesn’t define who we are and what we do with most of our free time.

So, going back to my family’s property as a 40-something year old and hiking the same trails I did when I was 10 puts everything back into perspective.

It’s impossible to spend a weekend in that little cabin, heated by a wood stove with no internet, phone line, and usually no smartphone signal, and not regain your senses.

Now my brothers and I know why my mom bought the land over 40 years ago with the income she earned from a part-time job.  She gave us something that will stay in the family for generations – a place to find ourselves again.



She passed away 14 years ago but she’s till making things right for us.  That’s what moms do, whether they’re still with us or not.

So, I though I’d just share some photos of my hike that was shortened by very high winds.  Wind gusts were close to 50 mph at times so it really wasn’t a good idea to hike in the woods.  Actually, it was a dumb idea.

The sound of cracking trees and branches was frightening.  The sound of large branches breaking is loud – unbelievably loud.  The roar of the wind through the trees was unnerving.

I tried to find the safest route and I figured that would be the creek since it’s obviously the lowest elevation.  Figuring the surrounding hills would stop some of the wind, I thought it was my best bet. Well, the wind wasn’t as bad there but I soon was frantically climbing up a slick and muddy creek bank, holding onto fragile roots, as the sickening sound of cracking limbs exploded in the distance.

I can hear my mom now.  Not my brightest moment but I lived to tell.

And yes, I was testing out a couple smartwatches – the Apple Watch Series 4 against the Samsung Gear Sport. That comparison will be coming soon.

Okay, so it wasn’t a technology-free hike but you know me.  My pounding heart was recorded.  My route was recorded on a map and if a tree had landed on me, the exact spot and time of my demise would have been recorded as well.

Isn’t technology great!

Below: A natural log jam along the little creek that can obviously grow into quite a powerful stream by the size of the trees it can carry.

log jam


Just a small stream of water was flowing making a perfect a hiking trail.

small creek


Can’t help but think of those river morphology and riparian ecosystem classes I took in college when seeing this. Basically, don’t cut trees and vegetation along creeks unless you want your soil and land flowing away. It would be a dumb thing to do.



This log in the stream was a large and beautiful maple that I played under many years ago. It fell into the creek almost 20 years ago but has created a pool of water for fish and wildlife.

natural dam


Below: The log I hid under when the winds got crazy.

Still had time to pay attention to the amazing life around me.

Well, one page in my book of journeys.  I hope there’s many more interesting pages to come.

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Last Update: October 23, 2018