Cook County, Illinois is America's second-most populous county. But there are some respites from the sprawl, such as Cap Sauers Holding Nature Preserve west of Palos Park. It's named for Sauers, the longtime superintendent of the Cook County Forest Preserve District, he was easily the greatest Cook public servant ever.
While remote, the Sag Valley Trail traverses much of it. My cross country and track teammates at Carl Sandburg High School and I used to run through the Holding at least twice a week. Although when I last visited last weekend, I accessed Cap Sauers from state Route 83, instead of where we used to on 104th Street.
This is the Esker Trail, which sits atop a geological feature called, you guessed it, an esker. This crushed stone trail was an old access road for an old gravel quarry. When I was a kid, there was a sign here that said, "Take a walk on an old country lane." From my research, no one seems to care, despite the closed sign, if you walk on the trail, I believe the sign is there to keep cars, motorcycles, snowmobiles, and ATVs off of it.
A wetland along the trail.
A patch of mayapples--also known as the umbrella plant.
A mayapple blossom.
Volunteers have done a yeoman's task by clearing out invasive species in the nature preserve such as garlic mustard and European buckthorn.
Woodland, also known as common, phlox.
The terrain at Cap Sauers is quite hilly on Chicago area standards.
A red trillium.
Somewhere near this site--heck, it may be this spot--is the most remote place in Cook County--the farthest from any road. It's where the Esker Trail meets with what we called in high school the Ford Road Loop. When I was a freshman fear kept me from straying from the main pack of runners--I didn't want to get lost. This Cook County Forest Preserve Police alarm is coddling today's runners.
A wild geranium photographed near that remotest place.
More wild--a wild strawberry blossom with a few raindrops on its petals.
Spring was still emerging last week.
About ten miles northeast of Cap Sauers Holding is the Chicago Portage. The area was named "Chicagoua" by the Native Americans living in the area when the first European explorers traveled through the area--the portage was filled possibly this very plant, what we call the wild leek, or wild onion. I found this blooming member of the lily family across Route 83 from Cap Sauers.