Yesterday was as good a day as any for taking a walk in the snow at Cooper Hawk Family Grove.
It’s never very crowded there, even in nicer weather, perhaps because there are no porta-potties or grills or water pumps. Yesterday was no exception, a Sunday afternoon in the middle of a Chicago-area winter.
But the sun was shining, a bonus. So I had to go.
At one time, like most of the Cook County Forest Preserves, Cooper Hawk Family Grove was farmland. I have found foundation remnants of at least one house, and in the spring one year, when the former fields heave up in the warmer weather, I found an old medicine bottle.
There is the usual wildlife that calls the grove home: rabbits, raccoon, coyote, and deer. I saw two deer on my hike. As I tried to take their picture, one stared me down before bounding off, its white tail bobbing in the bare trees.
A little further along I came to the ghost bicycle. The rider was hit by a car and died.
It turns out that he was not the first person to die in the area.
A little further up the trail are a grouping of lone graves, European settlers who made the area of 135th and Harlem (now Palos Heights) their home. The family plot was established close-by. Before that, there are probably the graves of Native Americans, who frequented the area.
On my return leg of the hike, there was an older man in a pork-pie hat with a big nose standing at a small bridge over a creek, a plastic grocery bag at his feet. He was sipping on a tan can of Schlitz. He nodded and said that the weather was warm enough for the beer after I said that what he was doing looked like a good idea.
Back past the Bat Roost and that was my hike in Cooper Hawk Family Grove, short but loaded with ghosts and one old man and a beer.