A Landing a Day

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McHenry, Illinois

Posted by graywacke on May 23, 2013

tFirst timer?  In this formerly once-a-day blog (and now pretty much a twice-a-week blog), I have my computer select a random latitude and longitude that puts me somewhere in the continental United States (the lower 48).  I call this “landing.”  I keep track of the watersheds I land in, as well as the town I land near.  I do some internet research to hopefully find something of interest about my landing location.  To find out more about A Landing A Day (like who “Dan” is and what the various numbers and abbreviations mean in the first paragraph), please see “About Landing,” (and “Abbreviations” and “Cryptic Numbers”) above.

 Landing number 2015; A Landing A Day blog post number 433.

Dan –  Putting me at 3/4 is my first landing in this USer since landing 1912 . . IL; 35/37; 4/10; 5; 152.3.  Here’s my regional landing map, showing that I landed not far from Chicago:

 mc landing 1

My closer-in map shows my proximity to the fair city of McHenry (pop 25,000; Wonderlake is much smaller (pop 1,300):

 mc landing 2

My Google Earth (GE) shot shows that I landed in a farm field, fairly close to a road that I was hoping had StreetView coverage:

 mc ge 1

And yes!  StreetView coverage indeed!

 mc ge streetview of landing

I love it when the big yellow push-pin shows up (and the cow doesn’t seem too upset about it)!

 The site drainage from the yellow push-pin is towards us in the above photo,  and on to Boone Ck; then on to the Fox R (2nd hit); to the Illinois R (17th hit); to the MM (793rd hit).

 Here’s a GE StreetView shot of the Fox River in McHenry:

 mc ge streetview of fox r

I zoomed way out on GE to give you a perspective of my landing (looking west) in reference to Chicago and Lake Michigan:

 mc chicago

I must tell you what happened as I realized that I landed near McHenry.  I was in front of my laptop on the kitchen table, with the Phillies vs. Pirates game on in the background.  When I realized where I landed, I let out an involuntary (and rather loud) “WHOA?!?!”

 Jody (my wife for those who don’t know me) was upstairs reading, and she yelled down “What happened?  Did the Phillies score?.”

 “No, I responded, but I’ll come upstairs and tell you where I landed.”

 So what’s the big deal?  I never lived there (although I did live in suburban Chicago; more about that later).  It turns out that I worked on a project near McHenry, but not just any project:  it was a class action lawsuit about an alleged cancer cluster in nearby McCullom Lake (see landing map, above).

 I hesitate to talk about this much.  The lawsuit is, of course, on the public record; and anyone can Google it and find out quite a bit.  Anyway, I was an expert hydrogeologist for the McCullom Lake Plaintiffs; and it was a very intense experience.  I think I’ll leave it there . . .

 Of my 35 landings in IL, this was only the third time I was even remotely close to Chicago.  Once, I landed west of Kankakee (50 mi south of Chicago), and once, near Mendota (75 mi west of Chicago).  But this landing, I was the closest yet, only about 40 miles NW. 

 So, while perusing GE, I couldn’t help but take a look at the old homestead:  the corner of East Ave. and Erie St. in Oak Park (a close-in western suburb of Chicago, where I lived from 1955 to 1960).  Our house faced East Avenue, and we looked across the street at the Oak Park River Forest High School.  Here’s the view from Erie:

 mc east and erie

No, that isn’t my house on the right.  That’s the house of my erstwhile best friend, Pete Stege (pronounced steg-ee).  My house was across the street . . . uh . . . right where the tennis court is . . .

 A German family lived in the gray house next to Pete (German accents and all; they had a son who was older who I didn’t play with).  I remember great excitement when the Dad bought a Volkswagen (first one we’d ever seen!) and gave Pete and me a ride in it.

 We played out in the street all the time (mostly on Erie between the Steges and the uh, tennis courts) because there wasn’t much traffic)  – baseball, kickball, kick the can, whatever.  Innocent times, those 1950s.

 Here’s another view from Erie, looking back the other way.  My house was on the right, and you can see the High School beyond the trees. 

 mc east and erie 2

Here’s another view looking back towards my house used to be that shows good ol’ East Avenue is pretty much gone, and has been replaced by a driveway / pedestrian walkway.  Change is good . . .

 mc east and erie 3

So far, this post has been all about me, and not much about McHenry.  But even though McHenry is a sizable community, it appears to be pretty much hookless (i.e., without a hook item of interest for me to write about).  However, heading northeast out of McHenry are many lakes, known collectively as the Chain O’Lakes.  The Chain O’Lakes are part of a larger lake system in this part of IL and neighboring WI:

 mc landing region of lakes

This, about Chain O’Lakes, from Wiki:

The Chain O’Lakes is a waterway system in northeast Illinois composed of 15 lakes connected by the Fox River and man-made channels. Encompassing more than 7,100 acres of water and  488 miles of shoreline, the Chain is the busiest inland recreational waterway per acre in the United States.   Located about an hour’s drive from the cities of ChicagoMilwaukee, and Rockford, the lakes are popular with boaters and fishermen drawing weekend crowds of 30,000 and holiday crowds of 100,000 people.

 Here’s a pretty soft geological explanation for the lakes, also from Wiki:

 The Chain O’Lakes were formed when the Wisconsin glacier melted, leaving behind many of the lakes now present in the Fox River Valley, including those in the Chain.

 I knew they were a result of the glaciers before Wiki told me so.  How, you might ask?  Let me digress a moment and talk about lake formation in general.  Geologically speaking (at least in the tectonically-stable eastern half of the country), lakes are unexpected interlopers on the geologic landscape, and they’re temporary, at that.

 You can start with any long-term geologically-formed landscape (un-glaciated), be it long eroded vestiges of former high mountains (like the Appalachians), a plateau (like the Allegheny Plateau of western Pennsylvania), or depositional landscapes, like coastal plains.  All of these landscapes have one thing in common:  they all have valleys and streams, but no lakes!  That’s because, as drainage patterns carve and shape the landscape, they naturally develop a drainage system whereby a drop of water continually runs downhill seeking the ocean (no lakes).

 Lakes only occur when something disrupts the natural drainage pattern, like a huge old glacier gouging out rock and dumping debris willy-nilly all over the landscape.  So, in the south, the only lakes are man-made.  But in the glaciated north, the landscape is strewn with lakes:  Minnesota, the land of 10,000 lakes!  The Great Lakes!  And, of course, the Chain O’Lakes!

 All lakes are temporary, because rivers and streams that flow into the lakes bring in sediment that is deposited in the lakes, slowly but surely filling them up.

Anyway, I’ll close with the sunset shot over nearby Wonderful Lake (not one of the Chain O’Lakes, but certainly a glacial lake); a Panoramio shot by WizFish:

 mc wizfish


That’ll do it.





© 2013 A Landing A Day

3 Responses to “McHenry, Illinois”

  1. Cher said

    So Gregoire
    It looks like its easier for me to continue my geological education in little bite size pieces …..like today’s post on the McHenry, IL , Chain O’ Lakes etc.
    I loved your short discourse on lakes and their beginnings. It’s amazing the obvious things (like no natural lakes in the South) that I had blindly missed.

    Anyway,you gave a great, simple explanation to that age old question, ” Mommy, where do lakes come from?”
    Between you and my brother, I may one day become a geo-geek.
    Keep on landing

  2. Jordan said

    Cool to see your childhood “home”

Leave a Reply to Jordan Cancel reply

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