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Greetings, DuPagers! I’m back again with another DuPage forest preserve hike as part of my
continuing project to do all-seasons coverage of trail-accessible DuPage County forest preserves
on foot. If it’s got semi-convenient parking and a designated trail, I will be there and I will blog
about it. My inaugural hike for this project was Hidden Lake, and I’m back now with its sister
lake, Eagle Lake.

As I mentioned when I was doing Hidden Lake, I got a bit of a late start that day and was kind of
rushed, so I only did the loop around the Hidden Lake itself, which worked out to about 1.3
miles – very short, totally do-able, and a great lunchtime strolling spot.
But if you enter the Hidden Lake forest preserve, turn to the right to park, and then walk right
instead of left at the Information board, you’ll be walking a crushed limestone trail that hugs
Eagle Lake, which I like to think of as Hidden Lake’s sister lake. It’s a lovely little walk, roughly
the same lake as its partner across the bridge, and I had a lovely time on a late Friday morning
that I opted not to head into the office.

I had barely known that the aptly-named Hidden Lake was right there, on Route 53, across from
the Walmart and just north of the Arboretum, and I definitely didn’t know that Eagle Lake was
there. If you’re of a mind to check this spot out, head to Hidden Lake and park in the lot on the right.
Turn right at the Information board and you’ll see a bridge that flows over the DuPage river.

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The bridge is fully accessible to anyone who may be differently abled, and is quite wide. It was a
brisk fall day, not too cold, so I stood for there for a while and just enjoyed the view of the river.

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I could easily hear the traffic on Route 53, but the babbling and rushing sound of the river did
drown it out somewhat. That’s what I love about most forest preserves: even if you’re still very
much in the heart of civilization, it’s just quieter. It’s a relief.

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After a while, I crossed the bridge and moved along. It was a late Friday morning, just before
lunch, and I was in that sweet spot where the morning walkers had gone home (or to work), and
the lunchtime walkers were still at their desks, eyeing the clock and eager for lunch. As for me,
my boss (our senior attorney at the small law firm I work at) was away for a few days attending
to one of our federal cases in Minnesota. As his senior associate, I had the con, which I always
do when he’s away. He had told me that being at our south suburban office that week was
optional for me, and I had decided to go file some motions in DuPage that Friday and then head
back home.

After a weirdly tense breakfast at Buttermilk (that place is always so loud and busy and hectic!),
I found myself at the entrance to the Eagle Lake trail.

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I saw less than a handful of people on the trail. There were the two elderly men, each wearing
baseball caps and brightly colored down vest jackets, who were out for a companionable walk
together. There was the young woman in leggings and a tank top, jogging gamely on the crushed
limestone and gravel trail. And there was a man dressed all in olive green, carrying a fishing
pole, who offered me a smile that warmed up when he realized I had no intention of stopping
anywhere near him, and was happy to pass him by and leave him in his solitude.
In theory, forest preserves seem to be about community – walking and playing sports and
barbecuing and boating – but whenever I’m there, I want peace and quiet. And I seem to mostly
run into folks who want the same.

The trail itself is about 1.2 miles long, so it’s a pretty short walk. If you want to actually feel like
you’re walking, consider combining it with the loop trail around Hidden Lake. I’d already done
Hidden Lake, and this day I just wanted to take my time walking around, noting the different
trees and plants and animal droppings (coyote!!) and enjoying the lake and the fall foliage while
practicing my iPhone photography skills.
The trail itself is flat, but on the right side of the loop (running long Route 53), there is a very
steep drop off to the lake below. There are several spots where the brush is clear such that you
can stand on the edge and look at the other side. One or two spots even have a little bench where
you can sit and admire the view. I found myself doing that often, just watching the lake and the
trees on the opposite side.

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I turned the loop and rounded out to the eastern side of the trail. The trees were in full bloom,
and whereas most of the western side of the trail was a muted orange-brown in terms of foliage,
the loop was alive in color.

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I am such a sucker for red leaves – maple, sumac, you name it, I love it. But as I passed the curve
and hit the part that abuts the Morton Arboretum, I had to stop and stare, because all of a sudden
it felt like I’d passed the rainbow and found the gold at both ends.

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Golden yellow trees are very special to me. I have never liked autumn – most people who know
me know that. I find it a gloomy precursor to winter. Winters are always difficult for me.
But last year, I had the good fortune of being in the Smoky Mountains, my favorite place in the
country, during autumn. The trees were insane. And at the Gatlinburg entrance to the park, once
you get out of the kitschiness of the town, there’s a spot where, all of a sudden, there are no more
city sounds, and you feel like you’ve hit a wall of peace and silence and stillness. Slammed right
into it. That’s the only way I can describe it.
And when I hit that wall in autumn of 2017, I stopped and looked around and all the trees were
golden yellow. As far as I could see, all around me, there was no other color than golden yellow.
That’s why, when I was walking this short, humble, one-mile loop trail, and I suddenly saw so
much yellow, I had to stop for a good while just to admire it.

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The drop off to the lake on this side of the trail is not that steep. There are several spots carved
out where a few steps will take you right to the water’s edge. That being said, although the trail
is flat, Eagle Lake is not accessible to wheelchairs. You will not be able to get your wheels wet
here – although you can at Hidden Lake, where the two carry-in spots are wheelchair accessible.
Here, the walk-in spots are still slightly steep, and very narrow, often framed with roots or rocks
acting as steps.
I did find a cool rock to sit on for a bit, where I could listen to the light waves on the rocky,
sandy shore and watch the ripples whipped up by a good fall breeze.

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There are several spots around the lake where there are little benches, the same kind you’ve
doubtless seen at other DuPage County forest preserves. Seeing them, I was a little disappointed
that I hadn’t thought to bring my road trip journal (to catch up on entries from my recent
sojourns), or a great book I’m reading about a gentleman who did a thru-hike of the Appalachian
Trail.

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The rock isn’t far from the end of the trail, and I was soon back at the little bridge that brought
me to Eagle Lake. I was disappointed – 1 mile is not much of a walk, even when one dawdles
like I was, enjoying the scenery and stopping to admire a pretty leaf and scratch a design into the
gravel.

Still, it’s nice to have two lovely little lakes so close by, and if I worked nearby I am sure I’d
often find myself here when the weather was even somewhat tolerable. Although I was never far
from busy Route 53 and the Walmart across the way, for a while there, I did feel as if I was transported to somewhere slower, quieter, safer. And I think that’s what many of us hope for
when we venture into a forest preserve.

See you next time, my fellow DuPagers, when I do the lovely 6 mile loop at Green Valley with
our Sustain DuPage founder and president, Andrew Van Gorp. Afterward, we are totally
grabbing chicken wings.

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