Five reasons to get outside!


Since about this time last year I have been involved (on and off) in a hiking group in the Chicagoland area. This isn’t my first time hiking either; if you look back at earlier posts of mine, I did a lot of hiking in England as well. So, I think I can fairly tell you that you should get outside and do the same! Here are my reasons, along with a brief review of some recent hikes.

Reason #1: Meet new people

Every time I go on a hike I meet new people. Some of them I may see again on another hike, and some of them I may never meet again. I’ve had the good fortune of meeting many friendly people and having quality conversations, whether we discover we have a common interest in history, or travel and photography etc.

What a great group of people on a winter hike!

What a great group of people on a winter hike!

Reason #2: Learn a new skill

Sometimes I get the opportunity to learn a new skill, or practice an old one. I got a nice refresher course this weekend on cross country skiing, which I’m sure I hadn’t done in 10 years. I have yet to go on one of the rock climbing trips, or mountain climbing trips :-s

Friendly faces on a cross country skiing outing.

Friendly faces on a cross country skiing outing.

Reason #3: Find out how interesting your neighborhood is

Hiking around forest preserves or parks with someone who knows it better than you can be an education. A Thanksgiving Day hike was my motivation to visit the local arboretum for the very first time – only a 20 minute drive from my house. And a hike in the near-west suburbs of Chicago revealed the city’s very own ‘Fountain of Youth’ – locals come with their empty jugs to fill up on the good stuff – see the link to the article below!

http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1986-10-24/news/8603200029_1_drinking-water-pump-taps

"The Fountain of Youth", in a neighborhood near you!

A water pump in a forest preserve is locally viewed as a ‘Fountain of Youth’! My photo.

Reason #4: Get in shape

This is an obvious one. Getting outside and hiking, or whatever it is you want to do, is good for your health. My only mistake has been starting with something that was too challenging for me, but I enjoyed the exercise even then. Last year I did a 22 mile hike around Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, and although I was sore for several days after, I felt so proud of what I’d accomplished!

How about getting in shape in beautiful surroundings?

How about getting in shape in beautiful surroundings? My photo.

Reason #5: Outside is better than the gym

Honestly, there are things you can see and do outside that you will never experience if you just go to the gym. Wildlife is a big one for me, like deer, beavers, or eagles (on occasion). And as you’ll notice from the pictures, winter weather doesn’t have to keep you from going outside. In fact, its a good reason to go out and get your vitamin D…

Something else you may see if you venture outside.

Something else you may see if you venture outside.

Photos are courtesy of the meetup group contributors, unless otherwise noted.

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Lake Geneva, Wisconsin: 22 mile hike


So, of course with the new year, there have to be new adventures! I decided that if I were to make any new years resolutions that they would have to be simple: if I can make 2013 even half as exciting as last year, I will have succeeded. And another thing! I have been here before, that is, the place of unemployed or underemployed, and it tends to make me rather tense. I vow not to live like I’m waiting, waiting for life to sort itself out. I don’t know where I’ll be or what I’ll be doing in a few months time, but that’s no reason to live like I’m waiting. Enough said.

This month I decided to join the ‘Chicago Hiking, Outdoor, and Social Group’ on Meetup.com, and sign up for a hike. I’ve done a lot of hiking in the past year, and a walk around Lake Geneva in Wisconsin sounded like just the thing on a bright, cold Saturday in January. I didn’t think much about the 22 miles part of it, but the sign pictured below gives a vague idea of the historic nature of the route. As a group of about 15, we started from the public library, heading counter-clockwise.

The beginning of our epic 22 mile hike around the lake.

The beginning of our epic 22 mile hike around the lake.

Perhaps some of the most impressive houses on the lake were the ones we passed in the first two hours. We had to keep a very brisk pace in order to make it all the way around before dark, but one must always find time to take pictures! I haven’t figured out if the house below belonged to some famous Chicago family, but I would think so. You don’t see these kinds of places everyday.

One of the most impressive houses on the lake.

One of the most impressive houses on the lake.

Take a walk off the end of the pier, why don't ya!

Take a walk off the end of the pier, why don’t ya!

At about two thirds of the way through our hike, we stopped for a water break outside the lovely house pictured below. Just when you think you’ve seen all the pretty houses, there are more. It is a strange sensation to be walking through so many people’s backyards, especially when some were out in their yards or on their decks. All the wooden posts for the piers were strewn on the lawns, and across the path, and I wonder what the hike would be like in warmer weather. By this time I was also beginning to be in quite a bit of pain… 22 miles is no easy thing. And it would be getting dark soon!

We had lunch sitting in their "backyard".

We had lunch sitting in their “backyard”.

Already dark as we finished up our hike in downtown Lake Geneva.

Already dark as we finished up our hike in downtown Lake Geneva.

In the end, we did not make it back into town before it turned dark, and quite windy. Some of the last houses we passed would have been astounding if we had seen them in the light. But the hike ended up taking us about seven hours to complete. And as a reward for finishing, we had dinner at a Lake Geneva favorite, Popeye’s, pictured below. I imagine Popeye’s would be a heaving place in summer-time, but for us it was the perfect end to a long day. And for what it’s worth, I was sore for two days after.

And the end of our story, at Popeye's Restaurant!

And the end of our story, at Popeye’s Restaurant!