Wednesday, March 03, 2004

Bog blog.

More than one correspondent has informed me that the naturalist, author and Grape-Nuts shill spelled his first name Euell, not Yul. Which only goes to demonstrate what happens when you are your own editor. I must have been thinking of the famously bald, Russian-born actor who starred in Westworld and some other fine movies.

From where we live, the Volo Bog was about a 25-minute drive, along surface roads into the semi-suburban, semi-rural Lake County, Illinois. Through some of the Barringtons, too -- a clutch of burgs that includes South Barrington, North Barrington, Lake Barrington, Barrington Hills and plain old Barrington. The name has cachet, since very rich people build very large houses in some of these towns (five-acre lots are the minimum in Barrington Hills, I think).

The bog is off U.S. 12 north of the Barringtons, along a little road. Not many people were there on Sunday. Probably not many people have heard of it. Next to the parking lot is a field of solid ground, not watery, with picnic tables. We had lunch there, and then visited the Visitors Center on the edge of the bog proper. It turned out to be a handsomely renovated dairy barn; hard to believe it was once a home for cows. Now it greets and educates those who wander in with a number of exhibits, stuffed animals, etc.

There was a row of microscopes at one table, with generic insect and animal parts in glass slides in boxes nearby. Lilly took to this as soon as I showed her how to use one of the microscopes, and she spent time looking at bug legs and other micro-curiosities. I was surprised to see that a newly hatched silkworm is bright red.

There's a short path (a half mile) that loops through the bog from the Visitors Center, and a much longer one (more than two miles). I'm happy to report that Lilly would have walked the longer one if we'd led her, but we had Ann and her stroller to consider, so we took the shorter one -- a wooden plank walkway. Ann was strapped into the stroller, so there wouldn't be any Baby in Bog headlines, and Lilly proved surefooted, though there was a moment or two when I wasn't sure. After we walked all the way through, Lilly announced that she wanted to do it again, so I went with her, around the loop, though in the opposite direction from our first time. Yuriko and Ann waited for us at the picnic grounds.

Here's where my feeble grasp of natural history comes into play. This is what I noticed, crossing the bog: A lot of plants, sprouting form damp ground or pools of water. Some of the plants were taller than me, and surrounded the walkway like paparazzi 'round a red carpet. Big, brown stalks stuck down into patches of water, the surface of which was sometimes layered with moss, or something moss-like, or maybe lily pad-like, though hibernating for the season. Elsewhere, the plants weren't so tall, but were still thick and brown. Other parts of the bog looked like little ponds, and still had a thin covering of ice. On the whole, Volo Bog was a good thing to do on a Sunday Leap Day.

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