Captain Daniel Wright Woods – A Little Bit of Hygge in Chicagoland

A few years ago when hygge became the design concept du jour, I jumped on board with enthusiasm and a multi-purpose lighter in my hand. What isn’t there to love about the feeling of cozy contentment while enjoying simple pleasures? Cozy blankets, layered warmth, and happiness – yes, please! The Danish concept of hygge is more than a design philosophy, it is a way of life for a population that consistently is considered one of the ‘happiest’ countries despite the notoriously harsh winters. I recently came across the book There’s No Such Thing as Bad Weather: A Scandinavian Mom’s Secrets for Raising Healthy, Resilient, and Confident Kids (from Friluftsliv to Hygge) by Linda Keson McGurk. While I didn’t find the book without it’s faults (e.g., I believe some rules are necessary and should be followed), I thoroughly believe in the importance of fresh air and the restorative power of nature – regardless of the weather.

Captain Daniel Woods Forest Preserve

We spent yesterday afternoon hiking in Captain Daniel Wright Woods, which is about a 20 minute drive from Fort Sheridan. This part of Chicagoland is filled with little pockets of preserved nature in between the typical suburban shopping centers and tree-lined neighborhoods. The Lake County Forest Preserves protects nearly 31,000 acres and is the second-largest preserve system in the state. Named after one of Lake County’s first settlers, Captain Daniel Wright Woods has 4 miles of trails within the preserve and also connects to both the Half Day Forest Preserve and the Des Plains River Trail, which opens up miles and miles of opportunity to explore.

Captain Daniel Woods Forest Preserve

We actually spent very little time on the main gravel trails in the preserve, instead choosing to go deeper into the woods using the more rustic trails, which is much more our speed. We managed to hike a little over 5 miles and while it wasn’t challenging by any means (we miss the scrambling we’d do in Virginia!), we thoroughly enjoyed hearing the leaves crunch underfoot and having the cool and crisp air rosy our cheeks.

This year more than ever I find myself reflecting on what I truly want out of life – I know I am not alone with my desire to gather my little family, pack up whatever we can carry on our backs, and escape to a land far, far, away. The military lifestyle slightly scratches that itch because we get the opportunity to start fresh every 1-3 years but at the end of the day, we live a pretty basic life. I am incredibly thankful that I have a partner who values curiosity, adventure, and understanding – the older we get, the less we care about our tangible displays of wealth and success and the more we appreciate the experiences that have taught us, nourished us, and challenged us. Perhaps that is why we enjoy walking in the woods so much – it strips down our existence to simply us and the world that we can and can’t see.

The Lake County Forest Preserve ensures that you never go too far in the Chicagoland region without the opportunity to get (sort of) lost in the woods. Should you find yourself stationed here or simply passing through, it’s worth a visit.

Captain Daniel Wright Woods, 24830 St. Mary’s Road, Mettawa, IL 60045