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Friday, November 27, 2015

REI #OptOutside Day: Walking to REI!

REI is closed today, Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving. They are urging people to go outside today rather than shop. It's a good idea (and probably a good marketing stunt).

People spend much less time outdoors than they used to -- few of us are farmers, more of us work in offices, we live in climate-controlled houses, and kids play video games rather than pickup games at the playground.  So we forget. And we forget that there's outside, and there's OUTSIDE.

So, I decided to walk to REI today. It's about a five mile round trip.  I'm going to walk there the way that provides the most contact with nature, and walk back the way I'd drive there. Let's see the contrast.


Going there the natural way

So here I am in front of the condo. I'm in fleece with an REI windbreaker made for cycling.  The rain has just stopped and it's in the 30's. I hope REI orders better weather for OptOutside day next year.

I quickly get to a city park, with a path around the lake.
There's a bird's nest in a tree next to the path. I wonder where those birds are now.

There are few other people out.
 But there are more ducks! (and geese and seagulls). I don't see any blue herons or egrets today, though.
 I cross the tracks at the station (after the train passes).
 Just south of the station there's another path to the east.
 This is the Navy Ditch, which drains the lake above into the river.

The drain from the lake to the ditch is busy today, since we've had quite a bit of rain in the last 24 hours.


On the right, the path passes a light industrial area.

 Intersecting paths, arrows not quite pointing in the right direction, and no map.  The signage could use some improvement, but is adequate.
 Here;'s why the sign above says "low water crossing only". Can't cross here, even with waterproof boots!

But I hack through the underbrush and find a crossing point.
 The path continues.
 Now, on the right, there's a golf course connected to a condo development.
 Even on this "woodland" path, there's a reminder that this is not really a natural environment. There's no real wilderness in the Chicago area. Even the natural areas require care to keep invasive species such as buckthorn under control.
 We're at the river, and we'll walk around a flood control basin.  This is 1.25 miles around and basically is a big hole in the ground. Ordinarily it's empty except for a small pond below the spillway.

The river ordinarily goes through culverts under the yellow fence.  But only so much river is allowed through


The rest of the water is diverted passively over this spillway and into the big hole.



Here it is from the other side.  Does it ever fill up? Yes. What then? It overflows. How does the water get out? It gets pumped back into the river after the river levels go back down. UPDATE: what does this area look like 48 hours later?

There's a recreational path around the basin, and a playground.  A trailer park is behind the playground.
Now we'll cut through a subdivision and cross to the shopping center REI is in.

 This might be called a "God and Mammon" shot.  This whole area used to be a farm for the Divine Word Missionary Priests, whose monastery is in the background.  But in order to generate funds, they are now leasing the land for corporate headquarters (Kraft, Crate and Barrel), subdivisions, and this shopping center.
 Lots of cars in the parking lot today -- except here.

Returning on the Roads


Now, we'll return home by walking next the roads I'd use if I was driving here. The roads aren't particularly ugly -- this is a wealthier area that has paid a lot of attention to improving appearance.  But it's still a combination of strip malls, residential developments screened off from the road, some car dealers, and auto repair.



 This is the front side of the trailer park.
 Lots of salons, nail and pedicure, yoga, tutoring, and some fast food. Pretty much suburbia.
 The residential developments are screened off from this busy road, and can't be seen. The first one is the development with the golf course we saw earlier, from the other side.






Yep, two yoga studios in the same block.

 Crossing the tracks again.


And back home.

So what am I trying to say here?

First, that getting outdoors, even on a bad weather day, can be fun.

Second, that the choice of your route is important.  Of course, every cyclist is well aware of this. You usually don't cycle or walk using the same route you drive. It's a matter of safety and enjoyment to choose a route that's better suited to cycling or walking. Get out and explore your own neighborhood!