Out of the Woods

For a large portion of the past three weeks or so I've been home sick with one ailment or another. When cold and flu season rears its ugly head apparently it can take anyone down, even if he's had a flu shot...

I was finally feeling up to moving about at the end of this week, and fate put me in Rockford with an afternoon largely untethered, so I headed out to Rock Cut State Park. With temps in the 40's for the past couple of days the hiking trails offered an... interesting mix of surfaces for the hiking boot to address. It turns out that the combination of ice and snow plus dirt in temperatures above freezing may not be the ideal recipe for traction.

Fortunately, I only fell on my ass once, and that event did not appear to occur in front of people.

I've made reference to Rock Cut here a couple of times. For a person who spends time in Rockford IL, and is looking for a bit of woodsy nature to take the edge off, it's a reliable port. Taking the opportunity to work one's way back into the deeper part of the woods during a melt does not disappoint, even with the risk of an occasional slip and fall.


I sent the picture above to MLW a few seconds after I took it. She asked if it was a picture from Walden, and I thought, more or less, yes. Rock Cut is not remote - there are few parts of the park in which one cannot hear traffic on nearby streets, even when one seems to be deep in the woods. But then neither was Thoreau's site at Walden Pond. He was within just a few miles of his own home and, if memory serves, living on land owned by a friend. It wasn't an exercise in harsh survivalism, just in retreat to nature.

It illustrates to me the differences that context can make. I've watched the snow and ice melt here at the homestead over the past few days, and mostly what it makes me think of is the mud with which we will be, and are, contending. At home it's a problem to be dealt with. Walking through through the trees at Rock Cut its an inconvenience to be tolerated, and this despite the fact that I'm much less likely to slip and fall at home.

Our homestead is a beautiful place most of the year - we have trees, and open space, and privacy. Still, one of the things the prairie offers very little of is anything that one might truly refer to as woods. There are stands of trees that one can see if one looks off in the distance. However, these are often narrow patches a couple of hundred yards wide, framing a stream of one sort or another - not the sort of thing that allows one to feel truly lost and removed from all else. Besides that, these are typically private property, most notably not mine and, oddly, not everyone is enamored with the idea of strangers marching around on their land.

There are actually similar options in the area. Just south of Mendota is a small, wooded park called Snyder's Grove. This was the site of many scout trips and picnics in my youth. The Little Vermillion River runs through it, and the park has hiking trails. The travel time to this location from my home is similar to the time that it used to take me to wind my way through the traffic and stop lights of greater Rockford to get to Rock Cut. And, of course, given all of that, how many times have I gone there in the nearly seven years that we've lived at the homestead?

That's right: zero