Yesterday morning, I went for a hike at a new location, St. James Farm Forest Preserve in Warrenville, Illinois. It’s less than five miles from my house, about a ten-minute drive, and I had been there a couple of times, but I had never hiked. The parking lot was largely wide open when I arrived. Wednesday was s hot and humid, unseasonably warm HOT for mid-June which explained the parking lot.
St. James Farm and the adjacent Cantigny Park could be called an American “Downton Abbey.” Both were estates of the wealthy McCormick families and have roots in the American industrial and agriculture revolutions. St. James farm was the estate of Brooks McCormick, the great grandnephew of Cyrus McCormick, who sold the estate to the forest preserve in 2000 before he passed away in 2006. One of the stipulations to the sale was the mansion be demolished upon his death and before the transfer of ownership to the forest preserve in 2007.
The preserve encompasses 607 acres and was a country retreat for the McCormick family in the early 1900s. The barns and equestrian center of the original estate remain and are operated by the forest preserve. Fox hunts took place at the estate using the adjacent Cantigny Park, the estate of Robert McCormick, Brook’s cousin (I believe). The woods are mostly hardwoods and are the habitat of numerous bird and plant species. I could hear the birds singing throughout my hike.
One of the gifts of the pandemic, at least for me, has been the gift of nature and being present Before the pandemic, I would listen to a podcast or music when I walked or hiked. I have since made a conscious choice to unplug and plug in to the sounds of the world on my hikes. I do pack my phone and use it to take photos or video along the path.
I planned the hike to include stopping along the trail to perform some strength building exercises to help reach my fitness goals and I stretched before I began and then set off.
I encountered only a couple of other hikers along the way. One whom I believe was a birdwatcher, maybe next time I’ll bring my binoculars and look more and walk less.
I crossed a creek that had been restored and stopped to watch the trout play in the moving waters. While the trout played I did squats and inclined pushups against the bridge rail.
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It was an excellent hike, and I was glad to have made time to move purposefully in nature. And, I added to my forest preserve count – St. James Farm increased my count by one, to nine, and I yet more than 40 to go before visiting them all.
It was an amazing day and certainly made the day count in more ways than one. Today is promising to be another great day with the possibility of tomorrow being a million and six times better. But, I am going to focus on the present and move purposefully. Making the Days Count, one day at a time, moving purposefully and connected to nature.
What is a ‘gift’ the pandemic to you?