On Sunday afternoon, my wife and one of her fellow geology instructors planned to visit Lake of the Woods Forest Preserve (in Mahomet, IL) to scout for a class field trip. I was a warm, gorgeous afternoon, so the kid and I decided to tag along for the trip. He’d been gone for a week visiting his grandparents; some time outdoors would be a good opportunity to reconnect.
While the two geologists headed off in search of teachable moments, my son and I headed the opposite direction towards the woods along the Sangamon River.
The woodland floor along the first part of our path was covered with the glossy umbrellas of mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum). A quick peek under the foliage told me we’re a few days away from bloom on these understory spring favorites.
The first blooming wildflowers we found were the wild blue phlox (Phlox divaricata) growing in the grass along the edge of the woods.
As soon as my son caught sight of the covered bridge that spans the Sangamon, he yelled, “Let’s play Pooh sticks!” and ran towards the upriver side of the bridge. I found a couple of twigs on the ground and we launched the first of several Pooh stick challenges over the edge. Leaning over the wooden railing, we watched the sticks slowly disappear under the bridge, then dashed to the other side to will our stick into victory lane. Dashing was a bit of overkill, as the Sangamon was barely flowing. We exercised our patience as we waited for the sticks to emerge.
The sunny, windless afternoon brought the surface of the water alive with reflection. A towering Sycamore (Plantanus occidentalis) growing near the bank cast a near perfect image in the Sangamon.
Downstream, new growth in the trees emerged in stark contrast to the trees whose fate now drowns in the river.
We decided to walk along the river’s edge to find our Pooh Sticks. Along one stretch, bluebells (Mertensia virginica) covered the ground.
We stopped several hundred yards downstream where the Sangamon bends to the southwest. The late afternoon sun glistened off the new foliage on the trees.
The view upstream was magical. We stood at this spot for what seemed like forever, wondering aloud if we saw our Pooh sticks drifting toward us. It was just the two of us, father and son, surrounded by nature’s finest artistry. We alternated between conversation and silence, waiting for the sticks that never arrived.
It didn’t matter. We were together again. Reconnected.