Not living in the country, I have to be a bit resourceful when it comes to nature rambles. Of course we see plenty of wildlife in our own back yard but walking around the garden a couple of times doesn’t really constitute a ramble, does it. Nor does going to the local parks, one of which is devoted mainly to sports and the other two which, although admittedly have ponds and a few trees, are just too open to the public gaze. Whip out a pair of binoculars or a camera and the walkers immediately think you’re up to no good. It’s not that I’m planning to do anything weird or subversive you understand. It’s just that if I want to get down on the ground and talk to a toad at eye level I don’t want someone reaching for the nearest phone and calling for the men in white coats to take me away. Nature ramblers, I’m sure, will understand this sentiment.
Even the Forest Preserves are not always conducive to nature rambles especially when you have to pick your way through Coke cans, used condoms and soiled diapers. I’m sure the people who leave these things strewn about are not nature lovers! We are lucky enough, however, to have several very nice nature centers in our area and Spring Valley is one of my favorites. It’s only about a fifteen minute drive away and the walk itself, once you get there, is just far enough to provide healthy exercise without having to send out for a rescue party.
The opportunities for photography are good too. Apart from the trees, fields, ponds and streams and the wildlife therein, there is a small farm where they keep cows, horses, pigs and, sometimes, sheep. Spring Valley is owned and maintained by the local park district and has, over the years, turned out to be quite a successful venture as far as I can tell. Best of all, it’s secluded enough that you can commune with nature without having to worry about a cyclist or roller-blader running up the back of your legs every five minutes.
A ramble through Spring Valley is always interesting at any time of the year and November is no exception. Autumn colors still linger and woodpeckers beat a tattoo among the branches as they look for any bugs that haven’t yet completed their life cycle. Although the frogs seem to have tucked themselves in for the winter, there are still a few ducks bobbing about on the water and the squirrels are dashing about among the leaves busily burying goodies for later consumption.
This is also the time of year when volunteers assemble to perform what is called, I believe, a controlled burn (something I do quite often , figuratively speaking, when I get particularly annoyed about something.) This process is very interesting to watch, from a secure distance. You would imagine that once something like this got started it would quickly get out of hand, but the people in charge know what they’re doing and the flames, having done their job of clearing the way for fresh growth next spring, are safely doused. Soon the winter will be here and the ice and snow will make it difficult to get around so I’ll make the most of these dwindling Autumn days and spend as much time as possible in this pleasant suburban sanctuary.