A Wilson Times Co. publication · Serving Southern Nash County Since 1947

A Windy City oasis

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I don’t know if I could handle big cities for more than a few days. The concrete jungle just wears me down.

I know, a lot of people would disagree and think large cities are great. They like the hustle and noise and atmosphere of the towering buildings, concrete roads, and covered vehicles resting bumper to bumper going nowhere. As for me, I cannot get into it.

Maybe it is part because I am naturally introverted. Large crowds make me feel uncomfortable. I have had to train myself over the years to where it doesn’t show and I can perform my work, whether training, lecturing, or even mingling amongst others in order to get to where I wanted to be in life. Big cities though, I know after a short amount of time it would absolutely drive me insane.

I just finished a few days in Chicago on a business trip, my first time ever going there. I was mesmerized by the large, vast structures along the lakefront. However, after just a few hours, the awe wore off and the anxiety began.

Just north of Chicago, on the Wisconsin side, I began noticing government-controlled natural areas. They are wooded areas with cleared underbrush. There are several spots checkered throughout where small bushes and grasses had grown, but they are not manicured circular patches. They are real natural spots.

Several walking trails could be seen throughout, but even the walking trails are nothing more than designated cleared areas that were still muddy and sometimes flooded from the recent rains.

The best part though, was I saw people using them. There were non-uniformed people having controlled burns. There were others clearing fallen trees. Then there were those that were just there to use the land and intermingle with it. Hiking, looking, jogging — it was refreshing to see.

Adjacent to one parcel, there was a clearing which at first, I thought was for parking. It turned out that I was wrong. On the backside of the lot were roughly a dozen targets set for an archery range. A public archery range, mind you.

Then, a little further along my drive, just before crossing one of the small rivers, another clearing opened up beside yet another designated natural area. Here was a small boat launch, clearly designed for kayaks or canoes and not motorized boats. And best of all, even with the still-frigid waters, there were people fishing from both kayaks and canoes in the slow moving river, as well as several holding ponds connected to the river.

As I returned back into the more localized Chicago area, now that my attention had shifted, I began to notice the counties of Illinois also had these designated natural areas. Again, they were not just patches of unmaintained woods, but true natural areas that were maintained but not groomed. They were not parks with concrete walkways and benches, but wooded areas with properly cleared grounds that allow for nature to be, well, nature.

Birds could be birds. Field mice could be field mice. And even the biggest muskrat I can remember seeing (think just slightly smaller than a nutria) could swim from shore to shore and scurry along the shoreline of the stream. It was perfect habitat for something like quail or pheasant. However, I have no idea if there were any that existed there. 

And they were all within several miles of one of the largest cities in North America.

If I was ever stuck for a long period in a big city, I probably need to see if that city had areas such as this. At least that way I could function for more than just a few days without losing my mind, or my soul.

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Bill Howard is an avid bowhunter and outdoorsman. He teaches hunter education (IHEA) and bowhunter education (IBEP) in North Carolina. He is a member of North Carolina Bowhunters Association and Pope & Young, and is an official measurer for both.