This morning I drove out to a trail through a forest preserve not to go for a run, but to climb a hill next to the trail and take in the morning sunshine.
I’ve run and cycled past this hill on many occasions. It runs parallel to the trail, rising thirty or so feet above the surrounding forest bottom. So it’s not a huge hill. But it is a significant hill.
That’s because this hill is the product of glacial activity here in Illinois. The long mound runs east to west and covers perhaps 400 meters. Behind it to the south runs a small stream headed southeast to the Fox River.
The hill was dumped here as a gravel skein 10,000 or so years ago during the Ice Age in the Midwest. The hill is a terminal moraine of a sort, the place where a glacier pushed gravel and then melted back and away, leaving the mound of stone and dirt to last for millennia.
On the far west end of the moraine a shooting range is dug into the hill leaving a large, U-shaped gouge down to the surrounding ground level. For decades that site served as a sportsman’s club where marksman gathered to plug targets with their various weapons. How much dead ordinance is now buried in the haunches of that hill would be an interesting study indeed.
But mostly, the hill is composed of tumbled gravel and stones. There are small piles of them atop the hill. People have tromped a narrow path along the ridge, which is now covered with spring wildflowers. While walking, I encountered a pair of volunteer botanists doing surveys for the county forest preserve district. We compared notes about what we’d seen and shared a mutual appreciation for the unique topography.
As I stated, I’ve been past that ridge many times and decided to finally go up on the hill and look around. There were few birds about, but a temporary pool at the southern base of the moraine had a choir of chorus frogs singing after our recent rains. That sound is even more ancient than the gravel dumped her ten thousand years ago.
Following the ridge east, I reached the end where the ground dips down toward the stream. That’s where the path also crosses the stream. So I walked back to the car with phone in hand, taking pictures as I went. With my big camera in hand as well, I noticed the ears of a raccoon sticking up inside a hole thirty foot up in a tree. The creature was no doubt settling in for a day’s sleep after roaming the territory all night in search of food.
Now that I’ve walked the ridge that stretch of trail will feel more complete in my mind. I’ve always been a wanderer of woods and walker of trails. There’s no reason to change, especially in this period in history where nature is the only real refuge from human insanity. There’s a place on the hill for you too, if you care to go.