Labor Day In a Prairie

Hi, everyone! I hope you all had an enjoyable long weekend. Julian and I decided to go on a little adventure and drove about an hour away to the Goose Lake Prairie State Natural Area. Near there is another prairie where you can see bison, but it was closed.

I started my Labor Day morning with an arm workout. I did a series of wall push-ups, floor push-ups, triceps dips, curls, chest presses, overheard lifts, lat pull-downs, various planks, and finished the workout with a run. When I got back, I made some cinnamon oat protein pancakes with fresh blueberries.

After getting ready, we stopped at a store to pick up some “road trip” snacks. I had the newer 3D Energy flavor (which is super-fruity) and some popcorn.

When we got close to the prairies, I wanted to stop off at a bathroom since we’d been driving for an hour and I was chugging water along with the energy drink. We pulled up to a public rest stop and I entered a single-person bathroom, which looked really dated and unkempt. It was extremely hot and hard to breathe in there, and there were several dragonflies buzzing around the ceiling, so I wanted to make it as quick as possible.

When I went to leave, the rusted lock had jammed in place and wouldn’t budge. I tried to move it several more times before I started panicking. I hadn’t taken my phone in with me and Julian was in the car with the music and air on, so even though I’d kicked the door several times, he couldn’t hear me. I started trying to pull the lock with all my strength and was working at it so hard that my fingers started bleeding. After several more kicks and fist slams to the lock, the door finally gave way and I collapsed to the ground like a crazy person. That was definitely the weirdest part of the day, and I am never locking a rusted door again!

It took me about twenty minutes to stop shaking, and we eventually found the entrance to the prairie. The whole area is surrounded by a river and wildlife areas, and we kept running into closed-off entrances. When we arrived, it seemed totally deserted. The visitor’s center was closed and there was only one other car in the parking lot. We found a trail of sorts and decided to walk along. The first thing we saw along the trail was a windmill and an old wagon.

There were signs along the trail that defined some of the wildlife and plants. The area was actually sculpted by glaciers and melted into a continuous grassland. It was a very peaceful and pretty area, and even though it was apparently surrounded by several power plants, the air seemed cleaner and easier to breathe than city air. The clouds were thick and fluffy, and the sky faded into a palette of blues.

As we made our way along the path, we ran into a historic cabin, known as the Cragg cabin, reconstructed from a cabin that was built by John Cragg in the 1830s. It was locked, but if you peered inside, you could see old furniture and dishes.

The only creatures we saw were rabbits, butterflies, frogs, and egrets, but the prairies is home to foxes, coyotes, deer, muskrats, beavers, badgers, owls, hawks, and more. We did see animal droppings with berries in it and guessed that it belonged to coyotes. The whole prairies was very quiet (aside from all of the buzzing insects).

We saw plenty of beautiful flowers and plants, and I can only imagine how pretty the prairies looks in the fall.

It was extremely hot and humid outside, which was surprising to me since it had been cool all weekend, but that’s Illinois weather for you. As we continued along the path, we ran into a little pond, and it was covered with frogs, turtles, and dragonflies.

After we got deeper into the path, it started feeling a little creepy since no one else was around. It was beautiful and very serene, but it was also totally quiet and we were pretty far from the car. I started making all kinds of crazy scenarios up in my head after my experience with the locked bathroom earlier, and after we got our fill of exploring, I decided to head back to the entrance. Luckily, we ran into two other people, but one of them was letting loose a stream of colorful language about prairie life, so it seemed that not everyone found it as peaceful as we did!

The whole atmosphere of the town was different. As silly as this sounds, I was fascinated by how many people drove pick-up trucks. I seriously counted about 10 per minute for a full mile. Most of the houses were located pretty far from each other, and there were rows and rows of corn and grass and land between a lot of the properties. I saw a couple barns and many tractors. It was a great change of scenery.

We decided to stop at a brewery in Grundy County on the way back for one drink. I ordered a ginger saison, but it tasted kind of stale and watery. Julian said the same about his drink, so we may have come on a bad day. I have always dreamed of living on a farm or being further away from the city, but the whole day had definitely been a new experience for me and I had a new appreciation for “country folk.” Either way, I always welcome any new adventures and I was glad I got to see such beauty!

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