Humiston Woods Nature Preserve

Thoughts from Humiston Woods

The following writings were done while on the trails at Humiston Woods Nature preserve near Pontiac, Illinois. They in no way attempt to compete with the writings of the great nature writers of past and present …merely a few thoughts while wandering in a nice section of prairie woodland which is has a prairie river, the Vermilion, running through it. See the photo gallery below.

September 5th, 1992

I often go to a place roughly 5-6 miles northwest of Pontiac, Illinois, called Humiston Woods. It’s a nature preserve located along the Vermilion River. It a beautiful place, with only an occasional aircraft to break the solitude of the surroundings. There are many paths going along the river and through the woods that are a joy to walk on. A way beyond the parking lot is a well-maintained pavilion area with firewood, tables, and grills. There’s a serenity in the woods you won’t find walking through town, unless it’s really late at night. And then someone might think you’re up to something!

A good number of birds make their home here, plus deer (which can be seen toward evening), raccoons, Eastern chipmunks, squirrels, muskrats, great blue heron, and several other types of water fowl. Beavers have also been sighted.

I am writing now sitting on a tree, which has fallen across the Coyote Trail. This trail runs along the south of Wolf Creek, and it is so peaceful walking along and escaping the madness of civilization for a time. It gives a person a chance to think about the eternal things that really matter, and to enjoy the creation of God.

I arrived here about 8:15 am, and there were several people fishing at the pond. One fellow agreed it was a beautiful place to spend some quiet time. I saw a great blue heron, several mallards, and a number of turtles sunning themselves on a rock in the river.

Leaving the Woods for a bit, allow me to go back to another time and place. The place is Oil City, a town of approximately 22,000 (at that time). It is situated in Venango County along the Allegheny River, which flows through the Allegheny Mountains in northwestern Pennsylvania. It is a typical American town. Oil City straddles the Allegheny River at the confluence of that river and Oil Creek, which is wider than the Vermilion River. This is my home town. I was one of the many “baby boomers” born at that time (1948). Being a native Pennsylvanian is why I appreciate a place like Humiston Woods.

I’m sitting on a high bluff overlooking the river and a cardinal just zipped by a couple of feet in front of me.

Sitting here, it seems that man has paid a high price for the comforts of civilization and the pursuit of an easier life. It is my opinion that as man has progressively “advanced” and has become enamored with material things and high-technological gimmickry, he has short-changed himself in the spiritual realm. (Another great blue heron just flew down the river on silent wings.)

The golden shafts of sunlight beaming through the tree canopy are another one of the pleasures of walking these trails. It is a simple thing, perhaps, and needs to be experienced to be truly appreciated. Here we see the dappled light filtering through the trees and made to dance on the path by the breeze in the treetops.

I’ve passed by a moss-covered fallen tree with a beautiful growth of shelf fungus. It’s a sort of light orange with really light orangish-yellow borders. It really stands out against the deep green of the moss.

September 7, 1992

While walking down the path leading to the pavilion area, I am struck by the stillness of the trees—no breeze in the canopy—just the lightest of cool zephyrs barely felt. A sense of calm pervades the woods. This particular path is covered with wood chips, making for silent walking. The sounds of the blue jays are heard, along with the inevitable insects; the distant cawing of crows lends to the morning background of avian music. Otherwise, all is still.

The sunlight beams through the trees creating patches of luminosity. What a wonderful place! The four wood footbridges across the shallow ravines add to the general sense of delightful calm.

Now sitting on a thoughtfully provided wood bench situated on a bluff overlooking the Vermilion River, I am struck by the thought that what the Lord has created is truly marvelous!

An odd sight along the River trail is a very fuzzy cream-colored caterpillar seemingly floating in the air. Of course, it is merely handing by a thread so fine you can’t see it unless the sunlight glints off it.

On the west side of the river now. I am traversing the Mushroom Trail, which begins just across the bridge on the blacktop that goes by the entrance to the Woods.

This trail has a different character, if trails can be said to have character. It’s a bit more adventurous than the ones on the east side of the river. More ravines, fallen trees across the path, and doesn’t seem to be used as much, perhaps because of it being more off the beaten path. (No pun intended!)

What makes me not a little vexed and disgusted are the people who fish along some of these trails that wind close to the river, and leave their empty containers strewn where they were fishing. What a blight on the pristine wilderness!

Poking along the river’s edge, you can see the turtles sliding off the rocks in alarm. Many freshwater clam and mussel shells litter the shore…mute evidence of night-time foraging of raccoons and other nocturnal creatures.

I think I like the Mushroom Trail better than the others, even though they too have their beauty. The trail travels up to a high ridge overlooking the river and at times drops down to the river. You can see the big carp lazing in the water.

Evidently the path ends across the river from where Wolf Creek empties into it. Sometime I’ll forge my own path further up the river and see what there is to see. But for now, time to head back. A most exhilarating walk!

And so, my friend, allow me to share with you what I learned from walking these trails: I learned not to use a walking stick to chase off mosquitoes, as I have a tendency to whack myself upside the head! <ouch>!

Humiston Woods Nature Center is located west of Pontiac, Illinois, between Livingston County roads 1100 East and 1200 East on 2100 North Road, about 6 miles west of exit #201 on I-55.


Bridge leading to the River Trail.


Red-buds along the Vermilion River


Along the River Trail


Fallen tree along the River Trail


Along the Coyote Trail.


Along the Deer Trail, an easy to walk interior trail where deer can be seen at dusk.


Along the River Trail.


Vermilion River.


Vermilion River viewed from the River Trail.


Vermilion River viewed from the River Trail.


Vermilion River viewed from the River Trail.


Prairie bluebells along the River Trail


Prairie bluebells along the River Trail


Untouched prairie grass area with a path made through it. This area borders on the east of the preserve, and is an fairly large area of untouched, prairie that has never been plowed. This is what the pioneers would see (minus the path) as they cross the Illinois prairies.


Another view of untouched prairie grass area. This area borders on the east of the preserve, and is an fairly large area of untouched, prairie that has never been plowed. This is what the pioneers would see as they cross the Illinois prairies.


Another view of the original, untouched prairie grass area. This shows the step going up to the deck overlooking the prairie grass.

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