Monthly Archives: November 2014

Fall in Love with Nature in Alton, Illinois

Sometimes you find something in this world that is just so beautiful, it feels almost magical, and you just want to lose yourself in the moment.  That’s the way I felt on my recent getaway to Illinois.

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Mother Nature has a majestic way of showing off her brilliance, especially during the fall season.

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Breathing in the crisp air as I hiked through the woodlands of The Nature Institute made me feel alive.  The colors popped more and more with each step deeper into the 450-acre preserve, and the only sounds were those of the fallen leaves beneath our feet.

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The Nature Institute is privately owned, but open to the public.  The mission of The Nature Institute is to preserve the natural integrity of the river bend and provide the general public a glimpse of the area’s untouched beauty.  For me, it was a beautiful escape.

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I also learned a lot about the area and the efforts to maintain the land.  Shortly into our hike, we came across a monument signifying the entry point to the Underground Railroad.

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It was during the hike that I learned of the role Alton, Illinois played in the Underground Railroad.  Bluff caves and woodlands provided good hiding places for runaway slaves.

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It’s crazy to think the woodlands we were hiking through once provided cover and escape for so many slaves.

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What began as a quick stroll to capture a glimpse of the area became a two and a half hour journey.  I didn’t mind at all; I was in my element and enjoying the peacefulness of being surrounded by nothing but nature.

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We continued along the path until we came to a tranquil stream, which would eventually lead us to Beaver Falls.  I only wish someone would have captured a photo of us climbing along fallen tree stumps to get to the falls.  Oh, the things we do for the perfect photo.

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Luckily, I made it through without making a splash.

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At this point in the hike, we could have turned around and gone back the way we came, but where’s the adventure in that?  Instead, we took a less defined path which took us completely around the preserve, into each of the three ecosystems; Woodlands, Prairie, and Savanna.  At one point, I wasn’t sure if we were ever going to make it back.  I wasn’t concerned with being lost, just that my phone and camera batteries were quickly dying.   Sometimes being lost is okay when it adds to the greater adventure.

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Soon we found ourselves on on the pathway home, back to the lodge.

I sure do love the great outdoors.  I probably could have spent another couple hours exploring The Nature Institute.

I love how peaceful it is; how the beauty of nature has the power to clear your head and make you feel energized.  And, when you find yourself lost among the trees, it’s okay.

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Home Sweet Home at The Green Tree Inn

The welcoming sense of coming home after a long day. Learning about local history from an area resident.  And a hearty breakfast to get the day started. Those are all the benefits of staying at a bed & breakfast.

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Prior to my trip to Alton, Illinois, I had never stayed in a bed & breakfast. Now, I before I check those online travel sites for hotels, I will do more research on bed & breakfast’s in the area.

Just a few miles from Alton lies the small, very small town of Elsah.  Well, it is actually referred to as a village, the Village of Elsah.

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I arrived at The Green Tree Inn in the evening, but could already tell this place was very unique, almost colonial.

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The next morning, as day broke, I emerged from the comforts of my bed and warmth of my single bedroom to explore the area.  It was as if I had been transported back in time.

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I was surrounded by peacefulness, and not only because I had limited cellphone service, but also because of the quaintness of the small village.

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The streets weren’t congested with traffic, the homes were all built of wood and stone, and everything just seemed so simple. And, despite the brisk fall air, I felt warm.

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I made my way to the living room where I was greeted by Connie, owner of the Inn, and the amazing aroma of a homemade breakfast.  I poured myself a cup of coffee as Connie began to serve breakfast. 

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Homemade muffins, Quiche, poached pears, eggs; this is just a sampling of some of the items you might be served at Green Tree Inn.  As I enjoyed breakfast, Connie pulled up a chair next to me and began to tell me more about the village and its history.

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The Village of Elsah was founded in 1853.  The landowner freely gave away lots of land to any who were willing to build their homes using stone from his quarry.  The small village then became a bustling shipping port where many goods produced by area farmers were transported along the Mississippi River.  The village is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and it is clear to see why.

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I was amazed by its beauty while taking a stroll along the quiet streets.  Even if you aren’t staying in Elsah, I would recommend taking a short tour of the village.

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 That’s my house there.  Right out of a Jane Austen novel; so charming.

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To book a room at The Green Tree Inn, be sure to visit their website.  Make it your home away from home while visiting Alton and the surrounding areas.

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Tough Mudder- Are You Tough Enough?

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It’s a big weekend here in Central Florida.  More than 10,000 people will visit the Kissimmee destination for Tough Mudder.  Yesterday, I was lucky enough to get a sneak peek at the course.  I wish everyone running this weekend good luck!

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Tough Mudder Central Florida is a 10 mile course with various challenges (obstacles) dispersed throughout the course.  We were able to see some of these obstacles demonstrated.

The first demonstration was ‘Walk the Plank’

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Followed by ‘Ladder to Hell’

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Doesn’t look too hard…

And finally, our last demonstration ‘Funky Monkey’

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Even I gave this one a try…

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It is crazy to think 10,000 people will fill these fields this weekend.

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And of course, before we make it back to the start, we pass by the infamous ‘Electro Shock,’ maximum voltage 7,500.

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Good luck with that everyone, it looks terrifying.

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After taking a behind the scenes tour of the Tough Mudder course, I was kind of regretting my decision not to participate, kind of.  I just know that if I did participate, I would get a lot dirtier than I got on the tour.

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