A Little Time and a Keyboard: Rolling Trails and Mini Boulders at Hickory Grove Highlands in Cary, Illinois

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Rolling Trails and Mini Boulders at Hickory Grove Highlands in Cary, Illinois

Rolling Trails and Mini Boulders at Hickory Grove Highlands in Cary, Illinois

Rolling Trails and Mini Boulders at Hickory Grove Highlands in Cary, Illinois

Rolling trails, a smattering of small boulders and sweeping grassland views captivated us on an early winter hike at Hickory Grove Highlands in Cary, Illinois. With the golden winter sun just beginning to dip, we embarked on a hike on a December afternoon immediately greeted by a rolling trail.

Rolls in the trails at Hickory Grove Highlands provide an extra novelty to the tail.
Rolls in the trails at Hickory Grove Highlands provide an extra novelty to the trail.

Part of a larger preserve system including Hickory Grove Riverfront and Lyons Prairie and Marsh, Hickory Grove Highlands invites hikers to explore woodlands, savanna and wetlands. Deposits left by glaciers were quickly evident as we hiked the rolling trails discovering boulders and rocks here and there.

Charmed by Erratic Rocks Left by a Glacier

Erratic rocks of all shapes dotted the preserve floor.
Erratic rocks of all shapes dotted the preserve floor.

Known as erratics, these mini boulders stood out in the landscape. Erratics are pebbles, rocks or boulders that have been dropped by a melting glacier. These glacier remnants may have been carried hundreds of miles. After traveling, these unusual rocks become an intriguing part of the landscape. I wonder what stories they have to tell!

An erratic boulder folded in the landscape by rich brown leaves highlighted by the waning sun at Hickory Grove Highlands in Cary, Illinois
An erratic boulder folded in the landscape by rich brown leaves highlighted by the waning sun.

Hickory Grove Highlands holds an interpretive trail with details about the geology, history and nature of the preserve on plaques throughout. Additionally, a portion of the trail is solar lit so that adventurers can enjoy hiking or cross-country skiing at night. Even on the cold December day of our visit, we noted quite a number of hikers enjoying this nature oasis attesting how beloved the preserve is.

Woodlands run into grasslands at Hickory Grove Highlands in Cary, Illinois
Woodlands run into grasslands at Hickory Grove Highlands.

At a variety of points, we reached clearings with awe-inspiring sweeping views even in winter. Blue skies and the brilliant sun lit up the scene warming the amber and caramel hues of prairie grasses.

The Moon Emerges over the Grasslands

The moon emerges over caramelly grasses.
The moon emerges over caramelly grasses.

In some of the images, you can see the undulating nature of the landscape. Standing on the slightly higher ground provided for interesting views which included gentle folds in front of us. Hiking in late afternoon, we savored the unique angles of the waning sun and even saw the moon emerge above the whistling grasses.

Uneven ice and snow crafted interesting patterns in creeks.
Uneven ice and snow crafted interesting patterns in creeks.

Along our trek, we uncovered pockets of wetland. Hickory Grove Riverfront rests on the Fox River nearby. During our visit, the spindly creeks were partially frozen with ice and snow covering portions sculpting interesting sights.

A natural frame of the grassland at Hickory Grove Highlands.
A natural frame of the grassland at Hickory Grove Highlands.


Hickory Grove Highlands immediately captivated us on our winter visit. I look forward to exploring in different seasons to see this spectacular forest preserve in a variety of lights. I have actually never hiked a solar lit path in the evening, so this may be the one to try!

Rolling Trails and Mini Boulders at Hickory Grove Highlands in Cary, Illinois


 

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