It was a beautiful early September Saturday, so I decided to break from my normal walking routes and take a hike (literally) over to the Harms Woods Bike Trails — a popular walking and biking destination for our Northbrook and Glenview residents.
Making my editor Melynda proud, this new (in time on the job, definitely not in years!) protégé decided at the last minute to take along a little notepad, since you never know when you might just happen upon a story.
I should have brought along a bigger notepad.
I quickly found out a relaxing late summer stroll on the Harms Wood Trail can actually be anything but. Especially on a busy, crowded Saturday where I found the walking path to be about as hectic, nerve-rattling and dangerous as turn No. 4 at the Indy 500.
Don’t get me wrong: It’s an absolutely beautiful walk. But, just so you know, you best keep your head on a swivel or you could get run over by myriad transportation devices at any particular moment.
A few observations, now that I have regained my sanity and stability.
1. Bicyclists have no fear. Most of them speed through the crowded trails at alarming rates, often with a quick, perfunctory “on your left” to indicate passing. If you happen to not hear this warning or happen to veer out at the wrong moment, the result would likely end at the nearest hospital — maybe event a lead feature on the local 5 p.m. news.
Cyclists, I fully appreciate your need for speed and the wonderful feel of the wind in your face as you go cruising along, but maybe just a little bit of caution on behalf of us helpless pedestrians might not be the worst thing.
2. While we are on the topic of bicycles, there were a few parents trying to teach their young kids to ride their bikes. Although the effort is certainly appreciated, my conclusion would be that there are probably a hundred and one better places to teach your kid to bicycle than on the Harms Wood Trail on a crowded Saturday. Just saying.
3. This one is for the walkers, bikers and runners. What’s with the earbuds? A beautiful Saturday, with people all around, the birds signing, the wind whistling, and tree branches swirling about and you’re disappearing from it all with earbuds and music (or maybe your favorite podcast)?
I understand music on an early morning run or on some lonely quiet street, just to kill the boredom. But in a big crowd on a beautiful Saturday with people all around? Wouldn’t it be better to open your eyes and ears to the surroundings and take it all in? Relish in the wonders of nature? Just saying, part two
4. One of the real delights of a busy day on the trail is you see a veritable hodgepodge of humanity including folks of all ages, sizes, shapes, skin colors, sexes and dress choices. Kind of cool to see this mix all walking, riding and exercising in the same place.
5) My two favorite sightings? The little babies riding shotgun with smiles on their faces, and a few tiny dogs peeking their heads out from their picnic basket type carrier. Too cute. Bonus points to the two near-centurions I saw walking while holding hands (maybe a first date from online dating site?)
6) When it comes to dress, it is apparently anything goes for a Saturday stroll on the trail. I saw some truly unique color combinations, starting with the biking contingent who have some truly body-displaying daring styles to choose from. Add in some shorts too short, some shorts too long, colorful T-shirts and some really cool sun protector floppy hats and you have the North Shore clothing edition of “anything goes.”
Extra credit points for the couple that had sunglasses with a side view mirror built in (love the look), and minus points for the male species with their shirts off who maybe shouldn’t have.
7) Speaking of sun protection, I saw some true lobster looks out there. Protect yourself, gang, and go with the SPF 30, nothing stronger. Oh, and definitely go spray can over the much messier cream.
8) The Harms Woods Bike trail goes through numerous suburban communities. As such there are stops along the way at many 4-way light intersections. An interruption, no doubt, to the momentum built up from cruising bicycles and joggers. This does not, however, mean said joggers and cyclists can disregard the traffic lights, go across without hesitation, and make cars dangerously swerve to avoid you. Talking to you Golf and Waukegan Road intersection intruders.
9) Those ground pedal vehicles, you know the ones that look part car and part pedaling bicycle are actually kind of cool. Saw a few of them out there, and it looked like fun, but every one of the riders did seem to have that smug “I’ve got one and you don’t look” as they swished by me.
10) Mask wearing on the trail? My very unofficial count was about 30% with and 70% without. But it is outside, and people were reasonably spread out, so please don’t pass this on to Dr. Fauci.
11) Interesting sign spotted on park public facilities: “Washrooms are limited access only.” Hmm. Limited to whom? Register in advance? Only if you have to go really go bad? And who makes the ultimate judgment?
12) Finally, bring a water bottle. Finding a working drinking fountain these days is harder than eating spaghetti with a spoon. But you already knew that.
I probably could have had a few more to add here, but, well like I said at the beginning, I should have brought a bigger notepad.
Despite all the above — and my own admitted idiosyncrasies — the Harms Woods Bike Trail is more than worth the trip. What a luxury to have such a natural beauty right under our collective Northbrook and Glenview noses. And come autumn? When the leaves start to turn colors? The trail walks or rides becomes truly spectacular.
Maybe those speeding bicyclers might even slow down to take a look around.
• Jon Cohn of Glenview is a coach, retired PE teacher, sports official and just an all-around local sports fan. Any topics you’d like to see him tackle? Email email@example.com and include “Coach’s Corner” in the subject line.