This pond can be seen from the Wetlands area, which is one of my favorite locations in the preserve. Here's the wetlands path in two seasons.
It looked so different today from my April visit, when foliage were dried, flattened stalks. The variety and wild abundance of plants today was impressive.
You couldn't see anything over this wall of foliage. I think the pond was behind there--in the spring it looked something like this.
I love the North Park Village wetlands in their wintry state, too, though. On mild days in the winter and spring, it's the sunniest, warmest place around.
Around the education center in the Woodland area, near the bird blind, the cicadas were out in force. I never noticed this bird blind before.
Near it are feeders, and inside it are signs about different bird types and behaviors you might see according to season.
When I visited in April, there had been abundant rain, and the west side of the woodland area had flooded.
It was much friendlier looking today.
Deer are often visible in the woodlands area. I know they're very common--a pest in many areas, a danger because of road collisions--but I still find them majestic and calming. You can see them any time of year. Look carefully: there are two visible in each picture. I wonder if they are the same two?
The Nature Reserve is a real respite from concrete, but we are still in the city, hemmed in on the west and the north by busy thoroughfares, and the traffic sounds are intrusive, especially near the woodland area. My eyes need to not-see concrete, and I love coming to the preserve for that. But my ears need to not-hear city din, and that's harder to accomplish in Chicago.
The Oak Savannah area hosts my favorite tree. I always make sure to go by and say hello.
This time, it was lushly dressed.
I didn't see any snakes this time, as I had in April. When I was a kid, I loved finding pretty, sweet little garter snakes in our tiny front yard. At North Park, a lady walking by pointed this one out.
I picked it up gently, assuring a family watching nearby that it wouldn't bite, and one girl bravely held it herself--those are her hands in the picture. A month after this walk I participated in a restoration project in McHenry County, where the garter snakes are significantly more feisty, apparently, because I picked one up and it nipped me, drawing blood. I'm really glad I didn't get those kids bitten by a snake. That would have been embarrassing.
There are interpretive signs throughout the reserve, though some are quite weathered, and information about volunteers' restoration efforts.
The Center also supports new, independent program ideas--Sean told me one woman organized some open-play mornings for children, in the middle of winter. Everyone was a little anxious about the lack of structure and the freezing temperatures, but the children found plenty to do and weren't bothered at all by the cold.
Community activities for adults abound, as well. There are yoga, fly-fishing, and art classes, story-guild nights and lectures.
I love coming to this urban Island of Children Playing in the Woods. Wouldn't it be amazing if this were what our classrooms looked like? What if kids of all ages read and wrote about seasons, used trees and hills to measure and calculate, leaves and breeze to learn about gravity and friction?