As the early morning sun came streaming through the trees in the Cook County Palos Forest Preserve angelic rays of sun illuminated a porta-potty that we affectionately dubbed, “The Holy Shitter”.
I felt a little bad about talking about my failure to meetup with the Mattheissen meetup.com group, so I thought I’d take this opportunity to share one of my meetup.com hiking excursions that ended up being amazingly fun.
Let me take you back a few weeks earlier to the beginning of September. I was itching to get out on a hike, and not just any hike but one that would be significantly longer than what I normally find myself doing with Rocket.
So I jumped on meetup.com to see what the various groups had to offer. Now something that has surprised me about meetup.com hiking groups is that they are not shy about stating the anticipated speed that they will be walking. I later learned that some groups have very rigid rules concerning who will be first and last during hikes.
All of which seem to be to ensure that people who attend the hikes can actually do them and that they don’t get lost. All fair things that I can respect. In fact there have been numerous hikes that I have skipped over because the stated walking speed was one that I questioned if I could maintain in an environment that actually had significant elevation change.
But on this occasion, I found a hike scheduled by “Mr. Bob”. It was to be nine miles and around 3.3-3.5 mph pace. This pace was definitely in my comfort zone, and Mr. Bob promised to take us on an exciting adventure which sounded great to me.
As we approached the hike date the meetup.com hike comments erupted in a bit of drama. A senior hiker that Bob had hiked with before that had trouble with a significantly lesser distance had asked if the hike course could be changed.
Bob expressed his apologies that it could not be changed at this late date and then suggested another future hike that would be more to her abilities. And then did something that surprised me, unaccepted this senior hiker’s RSVP.
At first I thought this was pretty damn ballsy, but the RSVP count was full, and people were wait listed. As you might expect it causes a bit of a stir, but ultimately the grumbles died down. Was Mr. Bob right to take this action if he knew this person was physically unable to do the hike in question based on his past experiences hiking with them?
Initially before that hike I was undecided. After completing the hike I can say without a doubt that Mr. Bob made the right decision. Why?
While this forest preserve did have well maintained trails in some locations, I would find that it had a lot of more primitive trails with many branches into isolated areas that frankly if I didn’t have the group to follow (as might be the case for a hiker that falls behind), I would have 100% gotten lost.
I believe in situations like this choosing safety should always be the right decision even if it results in someone’s pride being momentarily bruised.
As you can see we had a large group of people from the Chicago-land area turn out for this hike. Mr. Bob (in safety yellow) proved to be a fount of facts and trivia about this area and kept the hike lively and following a wild array of different trail systems as seen below.
Details Hike Stats: Garmin
This was my first time to this Palos Forest Preserve. I was excited to learn that it has 42.1 miles of trails and encompasses a whopping 15,000 acres, which for Illinois isn’t half bad! I always like it when places call out what should be common sense for those who might be new to an environment like this.
And during the many times I have seen people running and biking on a trail not following simple rules like this, it makes me wish every place would post something similar. And about three-fourths of the way through the hike I had an opportunity to yield myself to these amazing horses.
I won’t lie, we were at around seven miles at this point and I was feeling pretty jealous of these riders. They made it look to effortless and comfortable, and maybe it is once you are a seasoned rider but I couldn’t help thinking back to a horse ride I took in Colorado that left my thighs quivering and weak at the end of the hike.
One of the things that I really enjoyed about Mr. Bob’s route he took us on was the secluded nature of a majority of the trails we went on. They were less maintained and more off the beaten track but they afforded us many amazing nature sights to enjoy.
At one point we stopped for another of Mr. Bob’s interesting facts and learned that we were currently standing in the spot in Cook County that was the furthest distance from a road in any direction. It turns out that distance was only one mile, but it was a fun tidbit of knowledge none the less.
As we ended the hike back at our cars, my watch clocked in at 9.59 miles. I had forgot to start it tracking from the beginning, and others reported a distance of 9.9 or 10 miles. I was more tired that I thought I would be, and had a real respect for this group. They all could hike, and I definitely was the worst hiker there but they all were friendly and encouraging.
All in all, it was a good day for a hike!!