October 11, 2008

On the edge

Nothing like a trek around Pallisades State Park near Savannah, IL to get your heart racing. Just hope the rock holds.

In view of the worsening financial crash, there may be some who seek out such spots in the near future. After all, sky scrapers don't have the old sash windows anymore. Hope not.

Explored the park yesterday and it was a wonderful day. I couldn't stop marvelling at how in the hell they'd ever managed to grade and pave the incredibly steep roads to the summits along the bluff, and run fresh water and electricity up there as well. A really remarkable achievement, as were all of the incredible park projects first undertaken under the WPA and CCC of the New Deal.

Their work can still be seen, including the lodges at Black Hawk and Starved Rock, White Pines, Perre Marquette, and many other state parks.

Interestingly enough, while researching the role of the CCC program in Illinois State Parks, I came across a DNR page on the topic which begins:
Although the Emergency Conservation Work Program popularly known as the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) started in 1933, the events that led to its formation started in the 1920s and culminated in the Great Depression of 1929- circa 1942. The "Roaring '20s" were years of tremendous prosperity for a small segment of society. Technological advances made possible production increases of about 32%, resulting in a flood of goods on the market and increased profit for factory owners. Unfortunately, the same period saw wage increases of only 8% for the average worker. The technological advances meant that as many as 200,000 workers lost their jobs to automatic or semiautomatic machinery. While the well-to-do were increasingly speculating on the stock market, the other three-quarters of the population were spending practically their entire salary on goods and services. Food, radios, clothes, and cars were increasingly being bought on credit, the workers "banking" on the continuity of their jobs. Indeed about 80% of Americans had no savings at all, while the elite 0.1% held over one-third of all savings and paid less and less taxes.

Sound familiar? Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

The fact that government was far-sighted enough to preserve such glorious areas of nature and make them available to all citizens is all the more precious in light of the fact that park budgets are proposed to be slashed and are usually the first to fall in tight economic times.

But on the right day, at the right time, you can lay on your back in the midst of a tall stand of pines and peer into the infinite blue sky and for a moment, you could be back in simpler times... if it wasn't for high-tech jetliners burning thousands of gallons of fuel an hour leaving their artificial clouds as tracers across the blue.

And you see some funny things in the woods.

Like these fungi poking out of a hole where a tree limb once was. They reminded me of some sort of George Jetson condos.

Sadly, all the trees of this type were dead or dying. Unfortunately, I'm not sure what kind of tree they are, but they have very rough and deeply creased bark. And every single one of them were being killed or dead, likely from some sort of parasite. It was a bit sad to walk along and see all the rest of the trees doing well, but only one species being utterly wiped out for some reason. And they were some of the biggest, oldest, and tallest trees in the woods.

It may be related to this huge "infection" on one of these trees. I think they call it a gall.

But life easily appaears to outweigh death in the woods. These brilliant red berrys were like little lights among the green. There's a little bug going about his business too. (as with all pics, click to enlarge)

We'd taken the trip hoping to see some fall colors, but we were a little early. But, see, all was not lost.

Can you spot the beaver lodge out in the water lily field?


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