Saturdays with Stella
A dog's-eye view of an Illinois state park.
Tuesday, May 7, 2013 - 20:04
Another great adventure in an Illinois state park. (All photos: Cy Tottleben)
My name is Stella.
I walk with my Mom several times a week, usually through the neighborhood, where I lead her around to see the buffet of trash cans and bird feeders other houses have to offer. We investigate creeks and do the local meet-and-greet with the other residents we pass, even if they are a bunch of smelly cats or the ever-elusive squirrel.
But that can be so lame. While I have a good time, I can get bored with the same old, same old.
I am, by nature, an explorer. I’ve spent several months trapped in the house, while the trees beckoned me outside to play, and the birds taunted me from my window. But no more. This weekend I dragged Mom to the Rock Island Trail State Park, which runs close to our house and weaves all the way to Alta, Ill. We were the only two using the trail, which added to our adventure, but also made me wonder just how many other dogs know about these opportunities.
The Rock Island Trail is completely free, which is fantastic, since I have a hard time saving money. I had to ask Mom to drive us, as I’m not quite tall enough to reach the pedals, but in Toulon and Wyoming we found excellent parking facilities. We hit the trail at mile marker 24 and turned back around when we hit mile 18. The whole park runs a total of 26 miles.
Since this land used to be owned by a railroad company and saw lots of train action, it is flat and wide enough to accommodate lots of people. While I am not fond of bicycles, and tend to get snappy when I see them, human puppies might find them entertaining. In fact, when the snow builds back up, they can even ride these cool things called skis through the park. But no horses. They aren’t allowed.
A bit of our walk was right next to the highway, which at times was noisy, but not too bad. The trees were old and very creepy looking, especially since they’re still naked from the winter, but full of birds that shouted at me the closer I came. As we got further away from Toulon, the trail weaved between cornfields and farmland, which offered an amazing array of fresh smells to sample. After awhile we became very isolated. This is one of the reasons I bring Mom along. When we’re all alone, I like to have her around to protect me from grizzly bears and serial killers. Also, she can read signs.
The best part of our day was, of course, the sniffing. I didn’t run into Bigfoot, but the woods are full of lots of critters that needed my attention. They are much more professional than I am and know how to hide. But I have a wonderful nose and can find them. This did result in a very harrowing incident with a chipmunk, but we both walked away unscathed, and now I know that small doesn’t necessarily mean weak. Or timid.
Overall, this was a good experience for both of us. We didn’t have to drive far — although now that I have mastered the buttons that roll down the windows, I don’t mind so much — and we even bumped into a woodpecker. The only downfall was the amount of litter humans have left on the trail. This made both Mom and I very sad.
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