Morton Times-News reporter Christina Smith takes a look at the Ulrich Wildlife Preserve in Morton where the village plans to add parking spaces and maybe bike trails to the location to give it more visibility.
After spending a few hours Friday and Monday afternoon trying to find the Ulrich Wildlife Preserve in Morton, I finally received a map and directions to its location from zoning officer Roger Spangler Monday afternoon.
Located off Veterans Road in Morton, the wildlife preserve is east of Hawthorn Subdivision, which is marked by a sign for Hawthorn Road.
Once I talked to Spangler, I felt better knowing I had been driving around in the right general vicinity of the wildlife preserve.
To access the preserve, I drove up a gravel road and parked in front of a work trailer where construction workers are building the new Trail at Timber Oaks subdivision.
Not knowing what to expect, I arrived wearing a skirt and flip flops, instead of my normal hiking gear of long pants and tennis shoes.
Upon stepping off the gravel drive, I realized that I was not in appropriate attire and soon had about 2 inches of mud stuck to the bottom of my shoes.
Being on deadline and having an editor relying on me caused me to forge ahead, despite the improper footwear.
One of the first things I heard was the sound of several birds and insects.
I thought the area looked like a little slice of paradise surrounded by houses and new developments.
I heard a bird’s call I could not identify because I have never heard it before. It almost sounded like something squeaky and metallic was being dragged across a floor.
A few butterflies fluttered past as I continued exploring the immediate area.
While my shoes did not prevent me from getting into the preserve, they did keep me from seeing much of the almost 75 acres in it.
I felt like a modern-day Meriwether Lewis or William Clark, exploring a place that people know little or nothing about.
That feeling lasted until I looked down and spotted an old beer can and then a plastic bottle.
As I walk around a small pond, I wonder what I will see or find around the next bend in the road.
I want to explore, not only what is in front of and around me, but I find myself looking down to see what lies near my feet.
Like one of my heroes, Ansel Adams, I hope to capture an image of something that most people miss or ignore.
Looking down, I spot a purple thistle and take a quick photograph.
A few minutes later, I see some small, yellow flowers.
I hear what sounds like someone snapping a rubber band near the pond and think it might be a frog.
By now, I find myself wishing I had bug spray, tennis shoes and pants with me to make my trek more enjoyable.
I continue seeing ripples on the pond, but am not able to see what is causing the ripples.
When I come behind the pond, I see four black and white dotted dragonflies soar past me and try to capture them with my camera.
I walk a little farther and see at least a dozen dragonflies, some of which are small and light blue.
I cannot remember the last time I saw so many dragonflies in one place.
Although the sounds of cars and people working can be heard, the noise seems faint and distant.
Despite the heat and mud, I find myself wishing I could spend the rest of my afternoon here, just listening and watching nature.
As I leave, I hope to come back better dressed and prepared to explore the remaining several acres I could not see today.
Maybe I will even get a photo of one of the many birds I heard, but could not see.
I think residents and even out-of-town visitors would enjoy getting to visit the wildlife preserve, which could happen if Morton officials decide to build a parking lot, install signs and advertise where the Ulrich Wildlife Preserve is located in Morton.
Spangler said he thinks the preserve would be a good addition to the village. He should know, since he found several mushrooms there recently.
For those interested in exploring the preserve in the future, Spangler warns there are 80-foot ravines on either side of the railroad that splits the preserve in half.