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Spending time with Social Media - all kinds of comments pass before my eyes when I am on the computer, but when I saw The Wilderness Society tweet --
'If you put together a "top ten national parks list", what would make the cut?'
-- it caught my eye, because going to Parks and Forests all my life has had such an affect on my life that I cannot really measure it - it helped make me who I am.
So, I thought about it - and I decided to come up with my Top 10, but they cannot all be "National Parks" - because some of the most influential parks for me personally weren't those!
It all really started the summer when I was either 5 or 6 years old and our Summer Day Camp in Chicago, IL went for a hike in a local Forest Preserve of Cook County. I have never forgotten it because for some reason it made a huge impression on me and I have Loved Forests ever since that time!! ---- I can still remember being this small, little girl with all these other kids and the Camp Counselor who was leading us down this trail - showing us different plants - including the lesson I have never forgotten about: Poison Ivy and how to recognize it to avoid it (and I have never in my life missed recognizing Poison Ivy so I didn't get the rash LOL)!
But my Top 10 reflect certain times in my life. I am going to list them chronologically for me - as my life went along. This blog post will cover the first 3 of the 10 in the years before I went to the Western United States.
Ontonagon, Upper Peninsula of Michigan
I was a teenager and my family would go there for summer vacations - it was where on a family hike I had the experience of seeing Bear Cubs wild in the Forest - and then there was one August we could see the Northern Lights one night on a Lake Superior Beach somewhere around Ontonagon and Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park (southern part of the Keweenaw Peninsula of the Upper Peninsula of the State of Michigan). -- More unforgettable moments!
I was in College at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign when I went to some kind of orientation at "Allerton" where I was immediately impressed with the place - but it was some distance from the campus in the twin cities of Urbana-Champaign and it was some months before I got to go there a second time and just wander. -----------------Over the years from early 1971 until I moved away (to the St. Louis, MO area), I found ways to go there and explore all areas of what to me was at that time in my life a wonderous place to go walking as shown on this Map - over on the more "Formal Side" as I think of it, you see Works of Art literally out in the forest: Beautiful Sculptures such as The Centaur and The Sun Singer - then Adam, The Three Graces and The Girl are more right in the Formal Gardens - and then there is the Avenue of the Chinese Musicians playing all kinds of instruments, which I just loved; and the Walk to the "House of the Golden Buddhas" then over to the Fu Dog Garden - and then down a path to the Goldfish Pond (sort of in the woods) - you just have to go there to know how it is with the Artwork and the woods!! ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------But it was the other side of the Sangamon River - what I call the wild side - that I loved the "Green World" of that Illinois Plains Forest - I would spend hours walking around country roads to get over in there and walk around the paths! I was very lucky to have a friend who bought a 40 acre farm bordering Allerton's "wild side" - for years I would be visiting there and accessing the paths of Allerton's forest from that farm! This was my first experiences of hiking in real forest for more than just a short vacation and over and over down the same paths - sometimes alone - seeing all kinds of plants and wildlife: Raccoons and Snakes and Flowers such as "Jacks-in-the-Pulpit" - and, of course, the birds! Such fun it was for me - and in many ways enlightening. It was years later I learned that only a small portion of that "Wild Green World" was native, virgin forest - the other hundreds of acres of it were forest naturally regenerated through the work of Biologists from the University of Illinois Biology Dept.!
Going to the Shawnee National Forest was my second series of more adult experiences out in wild forest - hiking down paths in real forest. This was done on weekends when I could go with a friend when I was living and working in St. Louis, MO. Across the Mississippi River from St. Louis on the southern tip of Illinois, it was a lot of fun to go over there - especially when one of the ways going across the river, we took a ferry across the Mississippi! Driving down country roads was a favorite pass-time of me and a friend - we did some in Missouri, but it was the hiking in the Shawnee National Forest that was the "wildest" and I appreciated the most - and I remember driving down a road and stopping because of a Turtle sunbathing in the middle of the road!! Yes - we stopped for Wildlife!!
Well - this is it for now - To Be Continued .... the Top 10 Parks of my Life!