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We joined the Illinois Prairie Path folks at North Central College in Naperville Monday for the official installation of the IPP archive. It’s an amazing collection of photos and filmstrips, some of which had starring roles in our Illinois Trail Corps campaign.

There was no bigger star than the shirtless Phil T. Hodge, the “crazy engineer” who designed and led the construction of Volunteer Bridge near mile marker 0 in downtown Wheaton. We were delighted to meet Phil, who drove up from Tennessee for the event, in person for the first time Monday. We brought Levi Borreson of Legacy Frameworks and the prototype Scout, a fast touring and trail bike Levi’s designing that Phil and Volunteer Bridge helped inspire, to let Phil take it for a spin.

After a quick tutorial on SRAM’s slick brake lever shifters (SRAM donated the group and 650b wheelset), Phil was off. As in gone. We lost him for about 6-7 minutes, long enough to nervously joke about him coming back. When he did, Phil was all smiles and thumbs up for the Scout.

(Levi, with help from Illinois Trail Corps donor Glen Sczypka, SRAM and Blue City Cycles, will donate the first production Scout to Trails for Illinois to sell in support of our trail work; more here. It will be christened the Phil T. Hodge with its own Illinois Trail Corps color and graphics, and hand built to fit the buyer. Please get in touch with us if you have room in your life for a beautiful, fast, and comfortable hand-built-in-Chicago trail machine.)

Teddy Roosevelt provided a guiding value statement for me, “Do your best, and do it now,” and Phil embodies this. He confirmed that although he was a civil engineer, he had never built a bridge before when he decided to  build Volunteer Bridge over active rail lines. Instead of asking permission, he decided to inform agencies about his actions. “I told them what I was doing, and told them what I needed from them. I never asked if it was okay.” Good luck and truly being ignorant about why he couldn’t build the bridge both played big roles as well, he admits.

Phil has his own engineering firm in Tennessee now, and he and his wife travel extensively worldwide. It was energizing to meet him, and to hear how he missed most of the end of our Illinois Trail Corps video because he was bent over laughing at the “Do we have to wear shirts?” line.

If you’d like to see the IPP archives, contact Kim Butler, North Central College archivist, kjbutler@noctrl.edu.

Beautiful canal!

Maple 1’s been rebuilding the 11-mile Illini Trail at Lake Shelbyville for nearly five weeks. They’ve had time to familiarize themselves with a range of trail building tools, to choose favorites…and to teach Army Corps staff some sweet moves! Learn more about Illinois Trail Corps at http://trailsforillinois.org/ILtrailcorps


Illinois Trail Corps: Halfway Mark, a set on Flickr.

Diane Banta (National Park Service Rivers, Trails, & Conservation Assistance) and I (Steve) spent July 18 with Illinois Trail Corps at Lake Shelbyville. We met Col. Anthony Mitchell, the new USACE - Saint Louis District commander, and spent some time bench cutting a new Illini Trail alignment with the team. To end the day, the General Dacey Trail group donated $10,000 towards Illinois Trail Corps. Diane hoovered it all up with her lens. Pretty good day. Only two ticks.
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Illinois Trail Corps: Halfway Mark, a set on Flickr.

Diane Banta (National Park Service Rivers, Trails, & Conservation Assistance) and I (Steve) spent July 18 with Illinois Trail Corps at Lake Shelbyville. We met Col. Anthony Mitchell, the new USACE - Saint Louis District commander, and spent some time bench cutting a new Illini Trail alignment with the team. To end the day, the General Dacey Trail group donated $10,000 towards Illinois Trail Corps. Diane hoovered it all up with her lens. Pretty good day. Only two ticks.

Guest Post: It’s More Than Trail Building

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By Andrew Chavis

A hiking trail can be a place of wholeness and peace; it can be a place where a mind can escape from emails, phone bills, gas prices or college history papers. A hiking trail is a niche for those who strive to see the outdoors, achieve clarity and escape the modern world if only for a while.

A trail is more than a trail to Trails for Illinois, as well as Maple 1. Maple 1 is a diverse team of eight adults ranging from 18- 24 representing the AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps. With all different backgrounds, skill sets, educations, goals and motives, they have chosen to dedicate ten months to serve the community. Having served assignments with Habitat For Humanity in Cedar Rapids, Iowa and Detroit Metro YMCA In Detroit, Michigan, the trail of service now brings us to Shelbyville, Illinois to assist Trails for Illinois in their vision of a trail by every doorstep.

Maple 1 has been camping at Lake Shelbyville’s Lone Point Camping Site for two weeks now, and have grown accustom to the trials, tribulations and serene beauty of outdoor living. Luxuries for the team are a kitchen tent to cook food, tents to sleep in, a sink to wash dishes and electricity to run a refrigerator, coffee pot and to charge phones. Also two donated bikes are used to make trips to the showers close to half a mile away. Despite what would seem difficult living conditions the team has learned to make Lone Point their sanctuary. However, Maple 1 didn’t come to Shelbyville to camp, but to leave a legacy that anyone can enjoy. That legacy is trails, and hopefully eleven miles of it.

Tuesdays through Saturdays, 7am to 4pm you can find Maple 1 on the Chief Illini Trail, restoring this battered resource to a first-class hiking experience worthy of state pride. We dodge the Poison Ivy that snakes up trees, keep a sharp eye for sneaky ticks and enjoy the sweetness of water on hot Illinois days. Trail building requires a few team mates to cut low limbs, small trees and remove down limbs as we reroute and recut trail to eliminate problem areas and stop erosion. If a limb or tree is too big we’ll bring in our teams’ trained chain sawyers, and soon we’ll have an open path ready for trail construction.

Ideal tools for trail building are the Pulaski and the McLeod, which happen to be popular fire fighting tools. Using these tools the team will dig into the sides of hills and valleys, through roots and rock to make a long lasting trail. Doing a few hundred feet of trail can take hours, but the end result is so wonderful you just smile walking on it. So far we have completed three and half miles in our first two weeks [see the work map], and hope to create even more in the coming weeks.

Every day is an adventure when you have to hike miles in the wilderness to make trails, and then come back and camp only to do it again the next day. Here we will share that adventure with you so that others can learn the pride, sense of accomplishment and peace that comes along with trail building. 

When he puts down his Pulaski, Andrew is Maple 1’s media representative.  

Follow NCCC team Maple 1 at https://www.facebook.com/Maple1XX

Follow Trails for Illinois at https://www.facebook.com/trailsforillinois
https://twitter.com/Trails4Illinois

This is actually a prelude to a guest blog by Andrew Chavis, Maple 1’s media guy, that I’m about to post, to give the post context. The pics above are screen shots of the Illinois Trail Corps work plan and work plan map. Starting in the lower left, I marked in red where Americorps NCCC's team Maple 1, who arrived June 30 TOTALLY GREEN to trail work, has repaired and recovered the Illini Trail including trail redesign, rerouting, and bridge demolition & replacement. They're an amazing group.

On to Andrew…

GITy Up! 2014: Quad Cities, a set on Flickr.Rising waters, a last minute reroute, a midnight storm, emergency coffee run—GITy Up! 2014:Quad Cities rolled right over the top of it all, giving people a delicious bite-sized taste of overnight bicycle touring along the Great River Trail and the Mighty Mississippi. Enjoy the photos by Homewood, Illinois’ Thomas’ Photographic Services.
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GITy Up! 2014: Quad Cities, a set on Flickr.

Rising waters, a last minute reroute, a midnight storm, emergency coffee run—GITy Up! 2014:Quad Cities rolled right over the top of it all, giving people a delicious bite-sized taste of overnight bicycle touring along the Great River Trail and the Mighty Mississippi. Enjoy the photos by Homewood, Illinois’ Thomas’ Photographic Services.
National Park Service Rivers, Trails & Conservation Assistance program coordinator Diane Banta took these photos of the first two days of Americorps NCCC at Lake Shelbyville, IL. This beautiful crew of young adults will rebuild, reroute and repair dilapidated sections of the 11-mile Illini Trail over five weeks. Enjoy!

Pulaski donor Tall Tom Armstrong surprised us last night with photos of the bench he’s built for Elgin’s “Where’s Aldo?” celebration. Elgin asks residents and businesses to create artistic benches that draw from Leopold’s legacy to be placed around town until the auction during Elgin’s Art & Soul art festival, August 3. Ever the tall cool one, Tom got his bench installed at Rediscover Records.

We love that Illinois Trail Corps is inspiring people like Tom, and are honored and grateful to have his support. If you find our bench, enjoy a rest and send us the picture!

We will honor these donors with every swing, every load, every cut