Little Red Schoolhouse Nature Center: Not Your Parents’ Little Red Schoolhouse

This blog often focuses on unique or off-the-beaten-path nature destinations, but there’s nothing secret, but a lot that’s special, about today's blog destination. The Little Red Schoolhouse Nature Center (LRSNC) in Willow Springs, Illinois, has been a school field trip destination for decades, and tens of thousands of people visit each year. But the LRSNC … Continue reading Little Red Schoolhouse Nature Center: Not Your Parents’ Little Red Schoolhouse

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New Book Spotlights 111 Off-the-Radar Destinations in Chicago

YOU WON'T FIND DEEP DISH PIZZA PLACES (okay, there’s one, but it’s a gem), Navy Pier, beef-sandwich joints, and Willis Tower (or Sears Tower, as it is still referred to by many lifelong Chicagoans) in 111 Places in Chicago That You Must Not Miss, by Amy Bizzarri. And that’s a good thing. I cringe when … Continue reading New Book Spotlights 111 Off-the-Radar Destinations in Chicago

Orland Grassland: A Respite From Malls, Motorways, and Modernity

  Where: 167th Street & South LaGrange Road--About 35 miles southwest of Chicago city-center Quick Summary: A large restored grassland complex with prairie, oak savannas, shrublands, ponds, wetlands, and woodlands. Perfect for hiking and birdwatching. THIS DOESN'T LOOK PROMISING, I thought to myself, as I drove south on LaGrange Road toward Orland Grassland. LaGrange Road would be … Continue reading Orland Grassland: A Respite From Malls, Motorways, and Modernity

Forest Preserves of Cook County Offers Photo Contest, But You Need to Act Fast

Do you love the Forest Preserves of Cook County (FPCC), Brookfield Zoo, and the Chicago Botanic Garden? Are you the next Ansel Adams? Do you want to earn some bragging rights and a bunch of free calendars? If so, you should enter the FPCC’s 6th Annual Photo Contest. All you have to do is submit … Continue reading Forest Preserves of Cook County Offers Photo Contest, But You Need to Act Fast

On the Joys of Carrying My Son

My first view of my son was in the delivery room on the day he was born. I looked down at my wife Amy lying on the hospital bed, and I saw the top of his head and a shock of his hair in the “delivery zone.” Would he ever come out, I wondered? My … Continue reading On the Joys of Carrying My Son

4 National Park Service Destinations Within 0 to 220 Miles of Chicago

Have you ever visited a national park, monument, or other National Park Service property? If not, the Labor Day weekend is a great time to start. According to the NPS, “the National Park System covers more than 84 million acres and is comprised of 417 sites with at least 19 different designations. These include 129 … Continue reading 4 National Park Service Destinations Within 0 to 220 Miles of Chicago

The Importance of Authenticity: On the Eclipse, Tom Skilling, Crying, and Being Oneself

We live in a world of Auto-Tune, Pollyannaish social media posts, and Z-list celebrities. A world that’s loaded with people looking the same, acting the same, and often thinking the same (lump me in there at times). Of reality TV- and social media-manufactured controversies and edginess. We crave authenticity, but we’re surrounded by cultural complicity. … Continue reading The Importance of Authenticity: On the Eclipse, Tom Skilling, Crying, and Being Oneself

Thoughts on The Great American Eclipse of 2017—and 10 Useful Websites to Learn More

The Great American Eclipse of 2017 is just two days away (August 21). In the path of totality, the moon will completely cover the sun. A black circle will appear in the sky where the sun once was, darkness will fall, the temperature will drop 10 to 15 degrees, flowers will close and animals will … Continue reading Thoughts on The Great American Eclipse of 2017—and 10 Useful Websites to Learn More

Effigy Mounds National Monument: Massive Bears, Stunning Views, and Thousands of Years of Native American History

Photo courtesy of the National Park Service.Marching Bear Group. Photo courtesy of the National Park Service.Where: Northeastern Iowa. The monument is located three miles north of Marquette, Iowa, on Highway 76. Phone: 563/873-3491, ext. 123 (visitor center front desk) Web, Facebook Distance From City-Center Chicago: 220 miles Travel Notes: The historic river town of Galena, Illinois, … Continue reading Effigy Mounds National Monument: Massive Bears, Stunning Views, and Thousands of Years of Native American History

Kohler-Andrae State Park: Camping, Surf and Sand, and Much More

“Will that cool sandbar still be at the lake like last year? Do you think the racoons will visit our campsite again? Can we make smores by the fire like last year?” These are just a few of the questions my seven-year-old peppered me with as we drove to Kohler-Andrae State Park, which is just … Continue reading Kohler-Andrae State Park: Camping, Surf and Sand, and Much More