In the spring of 2009, I began my pursuit of the Century Hikers 1,000 Mile Society. The objective is to walk 1,000 miles within the McHenry County Conservation District and get my name on a plaque. It’s not a requirement, but I’ve decided to make it part of my goal to walk every trail in every MCCD site at least once. That means that, at some point, I needed to walk the Hebron Trail.
When the rain stopped on Saturday, September 11, I went for it. I parked in downtown Richmond, in front of a “holistic pet food” store. I walked a mile and a half north on the Prairie Trail, covering the same ground I’d walked last spring when I walked from my house to Wisconsin.
I got to the trail junction and started west. It was 1:00 pm. I thought this was the Hebron Trail, but I soon discovered it was an MCCD preserve called North Branch that links the Prairie Trail with the Hebron Trail. The path curved back and forth across a large prairie and took a mile and a half to go about half that distance.
Finally, after I’d been walking for three miles, I got to the start of the Hebron Trail — which forced me to make a decision. See, like I said, I thought the Hebron Trail began at the junction with the Prairie Trail, but it didn’t. And, when I’d looked on the Internet at home, the MCCD site said the Hebron Trail was 2.1 miles long. Now here I was at the start of the trail looking at a brochure that said the trail was 5.5 miles long. What I thought was going to be a 6-mile round trip now, all of a sudden, turned out to be more than 17 miles.
But I was there and it was a nice day and I had to walk the trail sometime. I decided to go for it.
The way was lined with corn and soybean fields, with a few marshes and and patches of woods along the way. The trail was built on an old railroad bed, so it ran dead straight most of the time. Every half mile or so, there was a warning sign telling me to watch for tractors driven by farmers wearing floppy hats.
This one had me wondering for a bit.
It was around 3:30 when I got to Hebron. I’ve heard of towns resting on past laurels, but Hebron takes this to a whole new level. The water tower is painted like a basketball with lettering proclaiming that the town is home to the 1952 State Champions.
1952! The guys on that team would now be 75 years old! The light posts in the downtown area are decorated with backboards, each with basketballs in the net.
The names of local businesses are painted on the backboards, including one that reads “Grampy’s Antiques.” I think Grampy might have been the point guard on the ’52 team.
I walked into town to get some refreshment. The action in the small downtown area centered around an ice-cream stand called The Dari.
I ordered a corn dog and chocolate milkshake. (You can get awfully healthy walking 18 miles — I needed to do something to balance it.) My server was a VERY friendly young lady who gave me enough mustard to drown a horse. The shake was tasty. The corn dog was mediocre.
It was gray and cool when I left Richmond, but by the time I got to Hebron, it was sunny and beautiful. From the start of the Hebron Trail, all the way to Hebron and back to downtown Richmond — 15 miles in total — I had the trail totally to myself.
I got back to Richmond at 6:30, five-and-a-half hours after I’d started. I’d gone 18.3 miles total. My overall pace was 3.3 mph, which includes the 15 minutes or so I was at The Dari. This brings my total for the Century Hikers Club to 307.2 miles. I only have to do today’s walk 38 more times and I’ll be done!
Here, for your viewing enjoyment, is a slideshow of the scenery along the trail. You may think you’re seeing the same photo over and over, but I assure you, they’re all different — even all the tractor signs.