I'm a back roads sort of guy. It's one reason I do the job I do.
Put it this way, I have something like six different routes to reach Powerton Lake, the cooling lake outside of Pekin.
Back roads driving, that wonderful habit and window to wildlife, came from my dad. He's closing in on 80, but the one-time truck driver still has the back-roads itch.
When I saw on Prairie State Outdoors what looked like reliable reports of a black bear in Bureau County, I thought about driving out there and doing some back roads driving. The reports have been reliable enough that in the last couple weeks even sheriffs have been looking for it.
So I dropped PSO's Jeff Lampe a note saying I was thinking about a possible weekend quest for the black bear.
He emailed back a quip and a note. I'll leave out the saltier parts and just say he wrote: ``If that thing survives this weekend it will be a miracle.''
So I didn't make the drive and haven't heard anything more on the bear yet.
But I hope it survived and sticks around, as unlikely as that is.
The idea of looking for a black bear reminded me of some of the wilder quests I've done.
The wildest may have been looking for a great gray owl in late February, 2005, with hard-core birders and birding writers David Johnson and Joel Greenberg.
I did the driving, DeLorme open on the seat by me.
They did the searching as we tried to find the absolute northernmost back roads on a quest to find the first GGO in Illinois during the winter when those birds pushed far south into southern Wisconsin.
We drove to the Mississippi River then turned around and looped back. We saw plenty of eagles, hawks and owls, but no GGO.
And I found out Johnson was a Bob Dylan sort of guy.
Then, on New Year's Eve in 2005, I was doing a nap run with the baby on the border of Iroquois and Kankakee counties when I spotted, then photographed, a snowy owl.
That was the first documented instance of a snowy in Iroquois County. Some guys later sent me stuff indicating snowy owls had been spotted decades ago, but were not formally documented.
There's strange out there on the back roads.