Category Archives: Road trips

Making A Living Out Of Living (Off the Grid In The Wilderness)

A glimpse into two households living off the grid in the American wilderness. (First published at PsychologyToday.com on 4/16/2013 by Brad Waters)

iStock_000006532086XSmall“When the sun sets on Charlie Larson’s cabin, he does not flip a light switch- his cabin doesn’t have electricity. It takes several moments longer to reach for his kerosene lamp, strike a match, and adjust the burning mantle to shed a dull light on the walls of the single-room cabin. A curl of smoke rolls inside the chimney of the lamp before the heat makes the fuel burn clean.

Living by lantern light – the nearest power line nearly three miles away – can be one person’s vision of paradise while another’s anxiety-provoking nightmare. No TV? No microwave? No Internet? Nobody lives like that anymore, right?” Read the rest of the article here…

Advertisements

Chicago’s Favorite Fast and Free Flora and Fauna

Having lived my first 20 years in the sparseness of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, it’s no surprise that I get a little stir-crazy in the big city. Add to that several weeks of recent cold weather and this hibernation has me thinking a head of lettuce looks like the great outdoors.

But despite the weather, and perhaps armed with the optimism that the days are getting longer with a prediction of 60 degrees tomorrow, we ventured out this past weekend to get a much-needed dose of nature. We heard there have been Great Horned Owl sighting at Busse Woods, so we drove up to Elk Grove Village. This is what we saw:

photo (60)

 If you’ve never visited the elk grove, it’s a quick and easy way to see some “wildlife” – granted they’re fenced in on a slice of acreage at Busse Woods. The elk are supervised and fed by the Forest Preserve District of Cook County.
After you visit the elk, follow their fence to the trail along the tree line. It makes for an easy hike with plenty to see- fields with picnic areas and pavilions if you’re looking for a  family outing. Or if you want to get your shoes in the snow/dirt, continue walking past the fields toward the small lake. You’re sure to see birds no matter the season. When we were there this past weekend it was cold but the trees were alive with tapping woodpeckers. We also saw several hawks and at least five deer. But, alas, no owls. On the back trails there were very few people, so chances are you’ll be able to enjoy a good stretch of quiet.
 
If you’ve already done the elk thing, another quick stop off for nature can be found along the city’s lakeshore. Did you know we have several bird sanctuaries on the edge of downtown? Montrose Point is an impressive place for bird watching and it’s particularly quiet and peaceful in the winter. Last year it gained attention for being a stopover for snowy owls. This year I haven’t seen any owls, but the cardinals are stunning against the dull brownness of this year’s winter.
owl1
 
If it’s too cold, or in the case of today, too rainy, you can get your nature fix indoors. The  Garfield Park Conservatory, as I’ve said before, is one of the biggest and best in the country. You’re imagination can get lost in the Jurassic-esque tropical foliage swooping down over the brick paths. If it weren’t for the warm humidity, you’d forget you’re under a canopy of glass a few minutes from The Loop. The conservatory is always free (unless you live here, then you pay a pretty handsome city tax) so visit and visit often.
 
A final winter favorite is spending a day in Lincoln Park. Although the butterfly haven atop the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, requires an admission fee, it’s a pretty special place for both kids and adults. Just as fun as the 1,000 free-flight butterflies are the tiny button quail scurrying around under the trees and shrubs. If you sit quietly, they’ll probably come quite close. Intriguing little birds and I think I want one!

While you’re at Notebaert, stop by the nearby Lincoln Park Conservatory or the Lincoln Park Zoo’s petting farm. Both of which are free. Fast ways to get out of the house this winter and get your hands on some flora and fauna. To me that’s great therapy.

If you know of any other fast or free nature destinations in Chicagoland, especially for quick winter getaways, please feel welcome to share below.

Looks Like A Road Trip, Chicago!

After reading this blog post about fossil digging in Braidwood, IL, I took a look on the map and realized there would be enough outdoor attractions nearby to make a weekend out of it. Check out some of these great sites that are only an hour and a half southwest of Chicago:

Fossil Digging in Braidwood/Mazonia State Fish & Wildlife Area (includes link to fossil collecting permit)

Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie (restored from the old Joliet Army Ammunition Plant site) and Grant Creek Nature Area

Des Plaines Dolomite Prairies

Braidwood Dunes and Savanna, Sand Ridge Savanna, and Wilmington Shrub Prairie Nature Preserves (visit some of the last remaining shrub prairie at Wilmington, and cacti and lizards at Braidwood Dunes)

Goose Lake Prairie State Natural Area

 

 

 

 

Have you spent time in this area? What’s a must see and what have I missed?