I went to the Natureland county park yesterday, a perfect day for a bike ride, and had the pleasure of meeting a very interesting person while there, a Korean War Vet. He introduced himself and went on to explain how he was temporarily homeless. At first I thought, how can this be possible, a decorated war veteran, 86 years old, without a home! He immediately clarified, saying, "Oh, don't feel sorry for me!". He went on to explain that he and his wife had recently sold their home and were temporarily living with a daughter and her husband in Lake Geneva. I felt a little embarrassed at my premature reaction.
Seeing my bike, he asked about my riding experience, which I proudly proclaimed as a Newbie middle-aged first time bike owner. He said that at his age, 86, he was just doing what he wanted, with the time he has left.
At length he told me he enjoyed trail hiking and mushroom hunting. He said his daughter gave him a map to the park, and after an inquiry at one stop, finally found it. He asked me about trails in the park so he could go morel mushroom hunting.
I told him I had just started coming back to this particular park after discovering it 2 years ago, while out on am evening ride with Mike and the kids.
I told him about one path that took visitors to a picnic area, with a small drainage pond, and we headed out to see what we could find.
We walked down a path that opened to the picnic area, and continued on to the opposite end of the area. The path continued on around, then took us to a clearing where we found a huge mound.
I am attempting to find out more and will keep you posted,but we need to go there soon, before the kids are out of school. We were there around 4:3O and were met with several cars full of high schoolers wanting to hang out. I'm not paranoid but it gets a little crowded when there are more than 4 cars full of teenagers, IMHO :-)
We returned to the parking area and lingered at the bridge for a while, not quite wanting to leave each others company just yet. We talked about his house hunting in Indiana, Illinois and lower Wisconsin, and his wish to find a parcel with 6 acres, so he could raise sheep. He dug out his camera and using an attached stylus, scrolled through his camera roll to show me pictures of a ranch somewhere in the area that raised Scottish Blackface sheep.
He asked my name and I, his, Edward and I shook hands. After a while, it was time to leave, so he asked me how to get back to Hwy 12, where he said he'd have no difficulty finding his way back to Lake Geneva. I told him I was going that way, and he could follow me back as far as Hwy ES. Reluctant to part company, I hopped on Stella, and we headed on down the highway. As I made my turnoff at Hwy H, I heard him honk a loud Thank You! Stella replied, Beep! Beep!
I wish we had more time to spend chatting, the old guy and I. It was one of those chance encounters I will remember every time I go back to my favorite retreat. Perhaps we'll see each other again, there at the park.
I'm taking Mike out there today to see Crane Island and the nesting White Cranes. He won't be able to see the mound, unable to walk the short distance with his bad hip, but its not that far.
Let's go take a ride!