Illinois is flat – second only to Florida in the contest of being the flattest in the United States. The suburbs of Chicago boast very little topographical relief and the act of climbing uphill feels novel and exciting if you get so lucky. For this reason alone, northern Illinois will never be remembered as one of our favorite places to hike. But during our time being stationed on the other North Shore, we take to heart what Theodore Roosevelt so wisely stated, “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” And we did that yesterday in Deer Grove Forest Preserve.
The first day of spring in Chicagoland brought 50˚temperatures inland with cooler 40˚ temperatures along Lake Michigan, so we opted to forgo hiking near our house. We drove about 30 minutes inland to Deer Grove Forest Preserve, which is part of the Cook County Forest Preserve system. We have hiked in a handful of Lake County Forest Preserves (e.g. Captain Daniel Wright Woods, Ryserson Woods, and of course, Fort Sheridan Forest Preserve) but this was our first experience with a Cook County one. We’ve been impressed with the Illinois Nature Preserve System and appreciate the access to miles upon miles of trails.
Not all of the forest preserves are dog-friendly (womp womp), but Deer Grove is one of many that welcome dogs on the trails. Now that Teddy Girl is getting older, she can accompany us on our longer hikes. We didn’t go far yesterday – only about 5 miles – but it was enough for us to get our boots muddy and tire out a Labrador retriever puppy. Deer Grove has trails for hiking, cross-county skiing, biking, and horseback riding. There are also opportunities to sled, birdwatch, and fish. And camping is available year-round at Camp Reinberg.
We barely encountered anyone on the less accessible and muddy black and red trails (just the way we like it!) but the gravel-paved yellow and orange trails had more foot traffic due to the easier nature of the trails. If you’re wanting more of a true hiking experience (dodging branches, climbing over fallen trees, and splashing in the mud), I highly recommend the black and red trails!
We saw very little signs of spring on our hike, which I suppose is par for the course this time of year in northern Illinois. While we enjoy the winter months, the four of us are very much looking forward to warmer days and spending more time outside without multiple layers.
Our goal was to spend the first day of spring hiking and we accomplished this by spending a few hours in Deer Grove Forest Preserve. It wasn’t the most beautiful hike and it certainly wasn’t the most challenging, but it got us outside and a little bit muddy. How did you spend the first day of spring?