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This place is quickly becoming of one of my favorite escapes.  Saw Wee Kee park is a mountain bike and hiking trail refuge next to the Fox River in Illinois where the rock, sand and dirt from a strip mine was dumped, making the berms and bumps there a perfect place for mountain biking.  The woods there are lush, nurtured by close proximity to the river.  The Chicago Area Mountain Bike Riders (CAMBR) have designed a trail system there, maintaining them so well that it truly is a worthwhile destination.

The trailhead entrance from the Saw Wee Kee park middle parking lot.  No, there is no Saw Wee Kee ghost in the picnic shelter.

The trailhead entrance from the Saw Wee Kee park middle parking lot. No, there is no Saw Wee Kee ghost in the picnic shelter.

I love it.  I’m hooked.  I should be too “old” to ride the technical, physically demanding trails — maybe another reason I like riding there so much.  During my rides and after my rides I feel the boy in me emerging.  It truly is refreshing and renewing.

A few hundred yards in.  It's tame at the beginning but gets challenging pretty early.  I tried taking a shot through the handlebars for perspective.

A few hundred yards in. It’s tame at the beginning but gets challenging pretty early. I tried taking a shot through the handlebars for perspective.

This morning’s ride was very good.  I took my camera along, snapped a few pictures before I started riding.  It was overcast, like it has been here the majority of the week in the Chicago area, but the sandy and rocky trails at this park dry quickly, so I knew that the trails would be reasonably rideable.  There were a lot of greasy spots on the trails, but they were rideable.

First small drop and log obstacle.  This picture, especially since it is overexposed, doesn't do the trail's steep drop justice.

First small drop and log obstacle. This picture, especially since it is overexposed, doesn’t do the trail’s steep drop justice.

 

I posted these pictures on my FB page earlier and I already have some of my younger friends challenging this old man to a ride.  They really don’t know what they are getting into.  If you have never been offroad on a bicycle, the trails at Saw Wee Kee will be scary.

A small portion of the trail right above the parking lot.  There are lots of quick little dips and jumps on this trail.

A small portion of the trail right above the parking lot. There are lots of quick little dips and jumps on this trail.

And I will kick your hiney.

I like to say ‘hiney’.  It’s sounds nicer that the A word, more nasty than saying ‘butt’.

I digress.

So I got a good two hour ride in this morning.  I met two young guys out in the middle of the trails, right after one of them had a good crash while attempting a large log obstacle.  I showed them the section of the park where there are sharp, long, steep drops followed by banked turns.  If you find the right flow, a rider can keep riding them until they have had enough.  The guys loved it, although a few of the lower drops had mud bogs at the bottom, real dangerous when flying down a fifty foot drop.

I came off the trails to the parking lot as a light rain began to fall, the sound on the leaves of the trees so soothing it was incredible.  Not ready to stop, I skirted down the road a few hundred yards and went back in to ride the rolling trail that goes back to the parking lot.  As I came back into the parking lot, my body heat resisting the cold rain, I stood there to soak in the quiet.  After a few moments of revelry, I reached into my back pack to retrieve my car keys, then raised the hatch on my PT Cruiser, the raised door creating a nice shelter from the rain.  I smiled as I watched the mud and filth wash off of my bicycle in the soaking rain, a reminder of the effort expended the past few hours, amused by the simplicity.  This was pure.  My view of the rising river through the trees was spectacular.

There needs to be more moments like the ones experienced this morning.  Knowing that there will be is a comfort.  I sat there and thanked God for the gift, unhurried.

Did any of you who read this blog realize that something so wonderful exists in the Chicago area?  It’s not all city and cornfields.  We have rivers, woods, all kinds of great places to enjoy.

And I am happy for it.

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