October 6, 2012
A blustery fall day is a perfect time to hike 6 miles in the prairie. The sun is just a bit warm and the wind carries a hint of winter. The grasses rustle as I walk on the closely mowed path. I feel great!
Goose Lake Prairie is much different from most other state parks. This is a central forest-grasslands transition ecoregion. Sandstone bedrock is interlaced with veins of coal. On top of that is a layer of clay. The clay was used by early European settlers to make pottery and the first settlement was known as Jugtown.
In 1890 a group of local farmers formed a drainage district and cooperated to drain Goose Lake. The drainage did not completely succeed and much wet pastureland was left. It is here that the original bit of prairie was saved. The Marsh Loop Trail traverses part of the bed of what was Goose Lake.
The State of Illinois first purchased 240 acres in 1969 for the park. Additional land acquisitions have brought the size of the current park to 2,537 acres. Goose Lake Prairie is the largest remnant of prairie left in Illinois. The park has several hiking trails: The Prairie View trail, the Marsh Loop, the Sagashka trail, the Handicapped Trail, and the Tall Grass nature Trail. The Tall Grass trail is lined with signs describing the flora, fauna, and ecology of the prairie. I found this information to be highly interesting and educational.
The park is also home to the reconstructed Cragg’s Cabin. Originally built in the 1830s, the cabin was moved to the park in the early 1980s from Mazon, IL. It is now a centerpiece of historical study and reenactments of period customs and crafts.
I used a ZPacks Blast 30 for today’s hike. I have got my pack weight down to 17 lbs, including my camera, mini-tripod and Joby ball head, 4 oz of alcohol, 2 days food, and 1 liter of water. The pack is very comfortable and rides well with such a low weight.
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