Saturday, September 18, 2010

Of Otter Things - Hanover Bluff

Yesterday, Belle and I took a day off from agility, and went bumming with my DH.  We began our roadtrip by hitting two resale shops where I managed to snag a few items for one of my other hobbies--quilting.  Then we went to an Illinois DNR holding, Hanover Bluff.  My first visit to Hanover Bluff was almost four years ago.  Little did I know that two surprises were waiting for us today.

I am what my Wisconsin neighbors call a "Flatlander."  I spent most of my life in northeastern Illinois.  There are flatter sections in the state, but when I was growing up in Chicago, we considered the section of Foster Avenue just east of our grammar school to be a hill--the grade was somewhere between 5 to 10 degrees.

Anyway, now I live in northwestern Illinois, and the countryside is quite scenic and in many places not very flat.  Additionally, there is no extensive system of county forest preserves out here.  This makes finding a scenic place to hike for my poor aging body challenging to say the least.  The closest state park is the Mississippi Palisades.  It is a beautiful park with many scenic views of the Mississippi.  However, "Palisades" is part of the name for a reason.  I am just to old to find joy in hiking grades that approach 35 degrees in areas.  

There are a few flat trails along the Mississippi, but their layouts are a little lacking in imagination.  Flat, but depressingly straight.  (I'm starting to sound like Goldilocks, aren't I?)  Some of them are excellent places to find birds during migration or to let Belle run, but none are spots that I would be excited to visit week after week.

Hanover Bluff though is another story.  The total site is 300+ acres, some of it being extremely steep and heavily wooded.  However, entering from South Hanover Road, you avoid the steep section.  There is a single track into the site that leads to a 16-acre lake.

View Larger Map

Once or twice, Ed and I have tried taking one of the small trails that we encountered along the single-track, but we always ended up back on the single-track either because that is where the side trail lead or because it was just to wet to continue on.

Yesterday, I spotted a sign indicating a trail that lead to the North Dam or some such thing.  (Never did find anything we could call a dam.)  We took the trail and for the first time ever we were able to hike right along the northern and eastern shore of the lake.

We had a great time hiking, and Belle had a great time swimming.  It was about 75 degrees, low humidity, sunny with a breeze--in short a perfect day.  But the most wonderful part of this hike was our spotting of a river otter!!!  I have only seen a river otter in the wild once (while canoeing on the Flambeau in Wisconsin).

When I spotted this guy, I thought it was a muskrat or a beaver, but it was making grunting noises and although it saw us, it didn't disappear.  Ed made noises back at the otter and it swam toward us, coming quite close!  How cool.  I had my camera so here are a couple of pictures.

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