Bangert Island

   I had the day off today, and didn't want to waste a winter afternoon in the 40s.  The sun was kind of going in and out, but it was pleasant out, so I layered up (long-sleeved wicking shirt, a fleece, and a mid-weight fall jacket, as well as stuffing an emergency hat and gloves in my pack) and headed out to a place I haven't visited before, Bangert Island. This was not in my last edition of 60 Hikes (and is apparently only an "island" when it floods, I guess), but seemed fairly close by and a reasonable length for someone who has NOT been hiking enough recently.  The trail runs about 4 miles (though it is a series of loops that allow for much shorter hikes if you are looking for something a little more easy going), and the trails were very easy. Parking is confusing though. The trailhead and the book both say you can "park on either side of Old South River Road," but there aren't any signs indicating whether this is true or not. There are a few areas on the road that look like you can pull off onto them to park, but since there were no other cars there, I was nervous. There is also a tiny parking lot that isn't clear whether it's for the trail or for the police station. I parked there and was not ticketed.

   This is clearly a popular biking trail.  Most of the people I saw on the trail were bike riders, and most of the tracks I saw were from bikes as well. This may also have to do with the fact that you actually have to cross the Katy Trail in order to get the Bangert Island trailhead.   The trail was VERY muddy, for the most part, and I imagine in the summer time there would be lots and lots of mosquitoes (though I bet it would be extremely pretty and green).  In the winter, bugs are certainly not an issue. The landscape is eerie, but in a very beautiful way. There is something very special and different about winter hiking. All the greenery and flowers and colors have been sapped, but there is still a lot of beauty. There were so many trees on this hike, just rising up out of the gray mass of leaves on the ground, and lots of tangling vines that crawled up trees and created canopies and masses of mazes above my head. And so many of the trails take you so close to the river that at times you can hear the tiny waves lapping up on the sand, the birds sitting on the dead trees floating in the shallows, and the barges that occasionally pass by.

   I have to say one of the drawbacks of this hike was the proximity to highway 70.  Granted, I think it is near impossible to get away completely from the noises of civilization... airplanes, for instance, will follow you everywhere, and there are always dogs barking or very distant car honks, even on some of the more remote trails I've been on. But the highway was the main sound for the entire first trail, the 1 mile Kurtz trail. The river view you were met with was beautiful, but flanked by the highway to my left, and the large and slightly garish casino across the water. Not exactly the views I had been hoping for, but I guess you do what you can when you're in the middle of civilization.

 However the other two trails were much quieter. The Sandy Loop (1.3 miles) was, as the name suggests, sandier. This was actually great, since it meant far less mud and so a much more pleasant walk. This was my favorite trail of the whole hike. This is where the vines went just crazy, creating an almost fairytale look. For half the trail, you walk right up near the water's edge (I actually sat on a log and ate my lunch while watching the river), and the highway gets distant enough that you can barely hear it for most of the trail. It was truly a peaceful, very pretty trail. The last trail, the Slough Loop (1.5 miles) was very muddy and gray again, but still very pretty in that eerie winter woods way. Parts of it were a bit quieter (a bit of this trail runs almost parallel to the Sandy Loop practically in viewing distance), and parts of it were noisier with the highway and the busy streets of St. Charles nearby coming back into view. 

Overall, despite the noise pollution, I liked this trail a lot. I'd be curious to see what it looked like with actual leaves and plants that were alive. This is the first hike I've taken for awhile, and even longer since I've done a hike solo. It gave me time to try to relax my mind and get some fresh air, of which I'm grateful.