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The Blade – Recent Trek through Fugate Woods

The Fairbury area has many attractions – some that are not known to many of our residents. One of these quiet, “hidden” gems is Fugate Woods/Park north-east of Fairbury on 1000 Road. Prairie Lands Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting charitable community projects, periodically sponsors tours of these beautiful Woods.

Recently, one of our area residents, who was a bit skeptical of the Woods and his wife agreed to an individualized tour while the bluebells were in full bloom. Below is a brief, humorous recap of their interesting trek on May 8, 2014, led by Sara Hostetter, Steward of the Woods.

Skeptic and his wife encounter renegade Indians while breaking trail through the wilderness north-east of Fort Fairbury – rescued by famed Frontierswoman “Sara the Steward” on her horseless all-terrain carriage.

Seriously… We met Sara Hostetter, Steward of the Woods, at the south entrance of Fugate Woods at 5:25pm and after some introductions we proceeded on her modified ATV into the famous grounds of the Park, or the Woods, or the Preserve or (as I prefer) the Wilderness. Although this is normally a hiking trail, Sara had graciously offered an open-air ride on this warm Spring evening. Besides allowing us to travel over more of the trail, it afforded a comfortable time.

We were immediately introduced to a red tail hawk (as well as a few head of cattle off to the east) and a few other non-city feathered features as we headed into the depths of Mother Nature’s yawning mouth.

We went north, we went west, we went east, we went south, we went left, right, frontwards, backwards – ten minutes into the maze I was thinking in terms of maybe rolling one of those dead tree trunks into Indian Creek and then floating on it back to civilization.

Sara, it turns out, was extremely knowledgeable on the trails and the layout of the Woods, and she had a marvelous sense of direction so we were never in danger. I now see why she is “Steward of the Woods” – this lady knows her stuff! We saw the wild plant life on the floor of the Woods, both natural and invasive, and we heard about blue bells, butter cups, wild geraniums, a weird one called “jack in the pulpit” and one that I think she called Carrion because it smelled like something that had been dead for a while – eeew! We saw a muskrat swimming upstream, which means it was swimming south, and the wood ducks were AWOL.

Heard about eagles that have been in and out of the haven, river otters that passed through and were surprised to hear that foxes and coyotes weren’t that prevalent in that area. Here we go again – ready? – lions and tigers and bears, oh my! I could see them everywhere but I don’t think Sara was prepared to believe me so, I didn’t say anything.

She told me that fishing was allowed out there in their multiple waterways – Indian Creek and the South Fork of the Vermillion River, but it was “catch and release” only – I went fishing the very next day and I caught a 75 pound large-mouth bass but I couldn’t keep it as proof because I had to release it. What a perfect place to put your name in the record books – can’t believe no one else has figured that out. I can’t be sure but I think I saw “Nessie” (the Loch Ness Monster) around one of the bends in the Vermillion out there but I don’t think she was going to come any further south – she wouldn’t be able to get under the bridge.

Anyway, my wife enjoyed the tour immensely as well as the astute commentary (she could relate – I couldn’t), and we made it back to our car with all of our limbs intact, and she was none the worse for the wear. In all honesty, I was pleasantly impressed and I did (in hindsight) enjoy the mechanized hike (thank goodness for four wheels and a motor) and my hat is off to Sara – she is a genuine Expert of the Woods!

It was exceptionally nice of her to take the time to provide us with a memorable experience and if you’re talking to her please reinforce our thanks for making it that. It really is a place where the imagination can come alive – the wood ducks weren’t there but the wood fairies were, my wife and Sara didn’t see them, but I did – gave them a “thumbs up.”

(Note: Includes a bit of lively imagination, but the Woods are certainly an important attraction to our area and a benefit our residents can enjoy.)