Over the past year, Liam Durnan has stitched together 70,000 acres of jigsaw puzzles.
Step by step through the woods, swamps and prairie, he continues to hike Cook County Forest Reserve A trail with a mission to walk the last one over 350 miles of the system.
Scratch it. “Mission” is not the correct word. It is neither a “project” nor a “journey”.
“Too expensive Faltin,” said Darnan. “I call it” caper “. I didn’t get a bumper sticker. It’s just a caper. ”
Caper inspired by coronavirus quarantine, That is.
In a typical year, Darnan and his wife, Delia, would have spent their vacation in a national park packed with camping equipment. But in 2020, travel was not an option. The canoe and kayak rental business, Darnan, is similarly stagnant, and like many, we find that we have unexpected surplus time and no place to go.
Reserves have replaced more exotic vacations. Orlando Grassland Land and Nature Reserve.. At some point, Caper’s idea was solidified.
“It saved me from staring at the wall,” said Darnan, who managed to stop not only the COVID-19 cabin fever but also the winter blue.
“Every day in January, I was just walking around in the snow,” he said. “When it comes to mental and physical health, it was incredibly good.”
Each completed hike will be colored with a red marker in one of Darnan’s stashes. Forest protection map And he entered in a document that tracks his progress. At this point, there are far more reds than they wouldn’t. He estimates that he soloed half of the trek and set aside Delia for half, creating many trails that he walked many times, thanks to the round-trip nature of most trails.
“Suppose I’m stretching the Des Plaines River Trail. You’ll have to walk 10 steps to mark it 5 miles away,” he said.
By double-backing, wandering the trails and visiting the same reserve in different seasons, Darnan eventually records well over 350 miles. He said the Proclaimers hit “I’m Gonna Be (500Miles)” came to mind.
It should be noted that Darnan is a little wanderer in his mind. Originally from Scotland, he left home after quitting his apprenticeship to find out what the world was like outside of Glasgow. He first went to France and finally to Kibbutz, Israel. Chicago has been his hometown since 1982 and is home to exploring the vast United States.
Ironically, Kaper never thinks twice about heading nationwide to places like Death Valley or the isolated Big Bend National Park in Texas, but he’s a 40-mile drive from Cook County Reserve. A house on the north side of Chicago in Chicago will give him a pause. He thought that there were too many exaggerations because the rewards were too low.
Since then, he has come across another way of thinking.
“It’s an admission fee, it’s an investment you make,” Darnan said. “It’s worth it to go that far. When people imagine the nearest forest reserve, most people think it’s a picnic grove. They don’t know how big this is. I can’t believe it. “
75 miles separates Cook County’s southernmost reserve from its northern reserve, covering a surprisingly diverse geography, if not terrain. The Midwestern landscape may be more subtle than what you’ll find elsewhere, but road hills and curves are two things Darnan misses most about Scotland. Every hike has what he called a “magic piece”.
“Honestly, I don’t think there were any unexploded ordnance,” he said.
For Darnan, it’s all a matter of perspective. Thanks for what the jam has to offer, not what it doesn’t.
If you don’t have mountains or canyons to scale, you don’t need any special gear, which means it’s naturally accessible to people of all fitness levels and ages.
So what if the path suddenly leaves the forest and causes people to stranded on the shores of a busy road? You have to cross the lane to pick up the road on the other side. Instead of complaining about the highways through the park, he said, admire the fact that the immediate vicinity of the busy roads is an incredible natural area.
The moment he praises the beauty of his surroundings and realizes he is walking with his mouth open, Darnan stops and rotates 360 degrees. He likes to play small games while gazing at the scenery. “If you blindfold someone and ask where you are, do you think it’s Cook County?”
Darnan uses maps for navigation, which is the scope of the research he is doing before the hike. The more he doesn’t know about the place, the more he can maintain a sense of spontaneous discovery.
Like when he and Delia pulled in Oak Forest Heritage Preserve I was scratching my head after the troublesome construction of I-57. “Why is this called a” heritage reserve “? “
The place they learned through the signboard of the interpreter was once a tuberculosis hospital, with a ceramist’s field with tombs of about 90,000 people.
“They commemorated it,” Darnan said. “This place was very gorgeous.”
“Gorgeous” and “incredible” are words that Darnan goes around again and again to describe his experience during Caper’s year.
He saw eagle nests and wild turkeys and learned to identify coyote droppings. Once, while hiking in the Paros region, he came across a “golden retriever-sized” pelican.
He trampled on the spring forest, where the leaves were just beginning to fall, and spy on hints of his home lake in the swamps of the area. “All this farmland was like the Everglades,” Darnan said.
Darnan calls the 22-year-old Ford Explorer Tardis after Doctor Who’s timeship. It’s mostly an internal joke, but in reality, reserves are often a remnant of pre-settlement, where the Chicago area looked like it used to be. Stepping into a swamp is a bit like time travel.
When Caper settles down, Darnan is still puzzled by two major mysteries in the reserve.
One: Why are there so many fireball littering passes? This is a question he seriously asked while hiking with this reporter on a spring afternoon. Where the trail is bisected by the road, you will always find a container of discarded fireballs.Like a signal, an empty bottle came up at my feet that moment. Darnan stopped examining it like an archaeological find. He said it was always a fireball.
Second mystery: where are you guys?
Darnan has been quite far away.He and Delia once Barry Goldwater Air Force RangeThe nearly undisturbed 2.7 million acres of wilderness on the Arizona-Mexico border. It’s a place where you can naturally expect people not to meet other people.
But what about Cook County’s forest reserve with a population of 5 million?
“On some of these roads, no one will be able to see,” Darnan said.
To prove his claim, Darnan arranged to meet this reporter, one of Caper’s great revelations. Spring Lake Nature Reserve, Located at the northwestern end of the county.
“It’s like a spaghetti bowl, with hundreds of trails,” Darnan said of the 45-mile unmarked trail in the reserve. “I’m pretty sure we won’t see the soul, and this is a local park.”
Four hours later, Darnan’s prediction was right. And not only because it was a weekday afternoon, he said. He always had his place, day and night.
“I don’t think people are aware that it’s here,” he said.
A year ago, Darnan was one of them.
Indeed, there are commonly used reserves and areas that attract crowds. Darnan rents boats in some of the most popular places like Buswoods. (The forest reserve is essentially his landlord, but he said it had no effect on Caper.)
However, most of the reserves are overlooked and underestimated. If Caper is to have a purpose beyond Darnan, it is probably encouraging more people to explore those “magic bits” in every corner of the system.
With Darnan nearing the end of the proverbial path and only a few miles left to complete, he is not necessarily thinking about important questions such as “what did that all mean?” He was thinking about how to commemorate the opportunity and came up with the perfect way to celebrate.
He toasts the end of the caper with a fireball shot.
Contact Patty Wetli: @pattywetli | (773) 509-5623 | [email protected]
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