Thursday, August 15, 2013

Brief: Allerton Park

     August has been a good month so far.  A few days ago, Agatha and I returned from a nine day tour of Southwestern Wisconsin and the Driftless Region.   I will get around to posting some photos and stories of that trip at some point, but for now I will just say we had an excellent time with nice weather and no mechanicals.  I could easily see myself living up in the La Crosse/Eau Claire/MPLS area someday.  

     Currently I am home visiting my family before things get busy with school again.  My younger brother heads off to college next week and my parents will finally have succeeded in getting both kids out of the house, so I'm just spending some time helping pack things up and move stuff around.  I brought my bike with me as I knew I'd be home for a few days and at this point in life I find it difficult to function without the conveniences of a bicycle even for short periods.  Yesterday I headed out to Allerton Park, a location I have mentioned before.  The park is only about four miles from my front door, and this time I went there with extra time to spare and rode just about all the trails in the park, close to fifteen miles in total.  They were a little rough on the Casseroll with it's 700x35 tires but still fun, and I imagine with an actual mountain bike they'd be a blast.  The trails are intended for hiking so they are nice and wide but full of rocks, bumps, and roots.  Allerton Park is a wonderful piece of natural history tucked away in the middle of nowhere, Piatt County IL.  It contains undisturbed river bottoms, flood plains, upland forests, and even some tall grass prairie remnants.  The Sangamon river, which lazily flows through my parents backyard, also passes through Allerton.  It is a beautiful snapshot of what the landscape where I grew up would have once looked like.

Prairie restoration project

Big Bluestem, a now rare native prairie grass.  

Double track and big trees in the bottoms

Spotted some vibrant orange shelf fungus not far off the trail... Could not ID it, but I think this stuff is close to what some people call Chicken/Hen of the Woods?  I did not take my chances by trying any.

Allerton is also home to some pretty eclectic art collections.  The story is that the original owner and namesake of the park, Robert Allerton, made his fortune carpet-bagging in the south following the Civil War.  He then returned to Illinois and bought the property on which the park now stands.  Aside from the natural beauty that has been preserved in the park, he built a huge mansion, many formal gardens, and filled the park with various statues and sculptures.  It is kind of eerie when you are just riding through the woods and come up on a clearing with some pagoda or life size centaur.  Very cool place.

Fu Dog

Cool cut banks and small bluffs along the Sangamon.

Once a paved road, now abandoned and nature easily begins the process of reclamation.  Water in soil freezes and expands, cracks form, plants grow... The cycle continues.

The Sun Singer

All the trail maps in Allerton are oriented north.  That seems like a really smart idea, but one I don't think I've noticed in other locations.

     Riding around Allerton was a good use of the beautiful weather we've been having.  Riding offroad like that just always reminds me how much use I think I'd get out of a mountain bike.  Hopefully a nearby shop will build up an XL Surly ECR for me to test out sometime soon.  That bike gets me really excited.