Experience the Great Outdoors (sans bears) with REI!

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Yo, did you notice the leaves are changing color and the Chi temp is dropping?  Yup, Fall is falling on us.  Relaaaaaax….you don’t have to hibernate just yet.  Fall is an awesome time to get in touch with your naturalist side (and not your running naked down the street naturalistic side, mmk).  It’s not sweatingly hot and Mr. Misquito is making his retreat which makes this season a lot more pleasant for outdoor adventures.

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Two weeks ago, we got the opportunity to take a lil’ hiking roadtrip, aptly titled Hikes and Hops, to Matthieson State Park and Starved Rock Lodge with the Chicago REI Outdoor School.  For those of you who don’t catch fish with your bare hands, REI is a leading seller of outdoor goods but also does outreach to help us city dwellers up our survival skills.

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First, all class members got treated to the eye opening induction of Starbucks coffee and snacks as we got organized outside the Lincoln Park REI store.  The class maxed out at 10 people which was an intimate way to get to know other group members.  Our REI guides, Marisa and Chuck, were friendly fitness enthusiasts.  Both teach stand up paddleboarding in the summer and Marisa also leads SUP yoga.  As we took the relaxing 1.5 hour ride in a comfy blue 12 passenger van towards Ottawa, IL, Chuck and Marisa told us fun facts about the area and shared wildlife books to prepare us for the resident park creatures.  Luckily gators aren’t native Central Illinois-ans.

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Once we got to Mathissen State Park, we made formal intros and did a circle share of what we wanted from the day.  Most group members echoed wishes for beautiful weather and animal sightings.  We were treated to both!  During our 70 degree day, we meandered past waterfalls and sandstone cliffs.  We saw frogs and toads (Marisa’s toad sighting wish was granted) while in the company of a diverse bunch of travellers, including a college professor/amateur astronomer, book reviewer/yoga teacher and systems manager/geologist.  Needless to say, we had really stimulating conversation, some which centered around how to manage a zombie apocolypse as we trekked through the quiet woods.

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Mid day we ended up at the bottom of the lower vale and explored some hidden cove type areas.  Our guides then busted out a machete (or maybe it was just a kitchen knife) and skillfully ninja-ed up a watermelon and fancy cheddar cheese for us to munch on.

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On the last leg of the day, the scenary changed and we entered a lulling prairie with yellow butterflies and waving native grasses.  We embraced the quiet moments of the trip as well as our surroundings lended themselves to reflection and private thoughts.

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At the end of our hike, we were treated to entrees and drinks at the Starved Rock Lodge, hence the Hops came into play.  We split a tasty helping of  panko breaded avocado fries with a spicy red chimi sauce before our main meal.  Monica picked a light and fluffy mushroom polenta while Kate ate a BBQ pulled pork with crispy waffle cut sweet potato fries.  Even with all that hiking, we were so full we had to skip out on the homemade ice cream and possibility of flourless chocolate cake.

So we can tell you are feeling slightly jealous of our beautiful day.  Why not have your own?  REI school has upcoming Hike and Hop classes as well as Urban Kayaking.  If you are new to nature, you can do basic bike riding classes, survival skills (for those “walker” attacks!) or even map reading.  We are especially partial to the Bike and Beans class.  Get caffienated while toodling on a bike at various Chicago micro-roasters?  Yes sir!  Sign up for an REI class ASAP! Your life may depend on it ;).

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Loving Summer in Chicago: Upcoming Fun, Food and Fitness Events

Ok so our weather still isn’t too summery but the events in Chicago are in full swing!  We wanted to share all the summer goodness with ya’ll instead of keeping it for ourselves.  Here’s just a few fun, free events to keep you fit and entertained this summer.

Bikini Blast Time

Looking to get your muscles tight for your new polka dot bikini (or speedo)?  Join the Old Town Purre Barre team for a grand opening party on Thursday, June 19th from 6-8 p.m.  Pure Barre gives clients a chance to sculpt and lengthen their muscles by alternating tiny shake inducing muscle movements with stretching sequences.  Believe us, you will tighten your problem areas and wonder why such little movements can be so sweat provoking.  The grand opening party will feature drinks, light snacks, raffles as well as retail and class specials so this would be a perfect opportunity to snag a deal and step to the barre.  See the Purre Barre website for class information and more details.

Pure Barre Old Town

1350 N. Wells Street, Suite 4

Chicago, IL 60610

oldtown@purebarre.com

312.642.2922

Free Parking in the Self Park lot behind Cobbler Square is available.

 

Getting in Touch with Nature

Are you a city kid with country dreams?  The North Face, the well known outdoor clothing brand, and our beloved Chicago Park District are doing outreach to help us urbanites learn to camp in under our unforgettable Chicago skyline.  Events may feature camping basics, fishing skills and  nature hikes, or even spooky campfire tales lead by Chicago Park District staff.  Visit the website to register and more information.  Registration is mandatory to attend.

There are several spots to learn and set your gear down throughout the summer:

  • July 26-27: Northerly Island
  • August 9-10: Garfield Park Conservatory
  • August 16-17: Calumet Park
  • September 13-14: Gompers Park
  • September 20-21: CCFP Bullfrog Lake
  • September 27-28: Northerly Island
  • October 11: Family Adventure Day

Activity Guides from North Face are also available to give you the low down on other fun park events.

http://exploreyourparks.com/pdf/Chicago_EYP_Download.pdf

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Relax and Recharge in the Burbs

Grab some mini massages, snacks, and behind the scenes tours (OH MY!)  of the brand new Massage Envy Spa Mount Prospect, at their Grand Opening event on Tuesday, June 17 from 5-6:30 p.m.  Email massageenvy@heronpr.com to RSVP to the event.  (Text modified from Heron PR)

Movies and More under the Stars

Chicago Park District continues to bring free Movies in the Parks until early fall and that includes our beloved Millennium Park every Tuesday evenings and one bonus movie on Sunday, June 29th.  Click here to search the nearest park in Chicago.  This year Chicago Park District will also showcase the first Chicago on Screen which will feature locally-produced independent, documentary and short films around Chicago.
Wanna snuggle with a Lion during your show?  Ok that might be dangerous, but you can get up close and personal with the animals of Lincoln Park zoo and then catch a flick afterwards with Zoovies!  General admission is free but you can upgrade to VIP package for snacks, drinks and surprises.
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Photo Credit: MLK Photographs

Summer Bites

Chicago’s most romantic restaurant Geja’s Café will celebrate its 49th Anniversary Sunday, June 29 through Friday, July 4.  Guests will receive 49% off all food bills and can take part in Geja’s 5th annual recipe contest and 4th annual poetry challenge during the 6-day anniversary celebration. Guests are encouraged to compose original poetry about their experiences at Geja’s over the years.  Aspiring fondue foodies are invited to submit an original dipping sauce to accompany Geja’s signature meats and seafood entrée.  The winners from each contest will win a dinner for 6 with selected premium wines.  For more information or to make a reservation, visit www.gejascafe.com.  (Text provided by Heron PR)