Joy is being in nature…

I just returned from a two-day photography outing in northwestern Illinois. I had no idea how badly I needed this weekend until I was standing under the brilliant blue sky along the Mississippi River shooting eagles. From the quiet trails of Franklin Grove Nature Preserve to spotting Buffalo at Nachusa Grasslands to the sunset over the Mississippi, this weekend reminded me how easy it is for nature to rebot my soul.

Back in December a photography friend announced that he was partnering up with a guy, who owns and adventure company. They were going to put together a photography outing and would I be interested in giving it a try. What the heck. I never get out with my camera as much as I want to in the winter. Keith is a long-time photographer in the Elgin area, who has in the past few years started coordinating photography weekend outings. Aaron started his company Adventures Accessed ten months ago, when he decided to follow his dream of being out in nature as much as possible and trying to get others out there with him. They made a great team for this event. Keith provided the photography expertise and Aaron got us out into nature.

We started the day in search of snowy owls, but the stars were not aligned. It actually worked out for the best. We got some quality time in the van (aka The Blue Whale) getting to know each other.

From there we headed to Franklin Grove and did a bit of hiking around a nature preserve. The area was really pretty and it was great to get out and breathe the brisk winter air. The sky was a glorious blue and the trails provided a lot of opportunities for photography.

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After a bit of time on the trails, we got back into the van and headed off to Davenport, Iowa, to Lock & Dam 14. We were in search of bald eagles and we were not disappointed. When we arrived there were easily one hundred photographers of all abilities already set up along the water. We nudged our way past people with everything from point and shoot cameras to lenses that cost more than my car. This was my third trip down to L&D 14 and I got some of my best ever shots. The light in the after was stunning and it just painted the eagles.

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We were even treated to a lone pelican, that was bobbing his way down the river. It was so amusing to see him just floating there (as well as a few flocks of different ducks) as these gigantic birds of prey would swoop down and skewer a fish with their razor sharp tallons.

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Keith had scoped out a spot for us to capture the sunset over the Mississippi River. We camped out on the side of the road with a gorgeous suspension bridge silhouetted by the setting sun. I still maintain that Midwest sunsets are some of the most stunning I have ever seen.

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After a delicious dinner, we headed back to our cabin, where Aaron from Adventures Accessed built us an awesome camp fire. It is so easy to scoff at winter bon fires at home. Who sits by a fire in January? It was heavenly!

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Sunday morning we all got up and packed up our gear for the second day of our adventure. Day two was going to be focused on Nachusa Grasslands in search of buffalo. As it turned out, the buffalo are in an area that is no longer accessible to the public. No worries, we still got an awesome hike in around grasslands. I made the decision to switch over to my macro. It was very relaxing and almost meditative to search for the small gems along our hike. There were a lot of trees that had been cut down or had toppled. There were so many that had shards of trunk that looked like little skylines. We spotted copious amounts of mushrooms growing throughout the forest. The hiking trails were challenging, but we did not see a single other person the entire time we were out.

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I was more relaxed and content that I have been in a long time. I really did not want the weekend to end. I know I’ll talking about this trip for a long time.


Thanks Keith French and Aaron of Adventures Accessed for coordinating a fun weekend. It was truly joyful!





2 Responses

  1. Keith French

    Thanks Jen,
    You nailed it, there is so much JOY in nature. I often forget how lucky we are that we’re just a few hours from good solid nature locations. I am glad to hear our initial trip was such a treat for you. It was great having you along and furthering our friendship.
    Your feed back will definitely mold our upcoming trips and hope you get the opportunity to join us again soon. Thanks for blogging your experience.

  2. Jen

    Keith- I hope I can join you guys again in the future, too. Your trip came at a time when I was in desparate need of recharging of my batteries. Keep planning and keep inviting. I”ll get back out there again soon!

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