"Woods Walk" participants still have plenty of time to head outside to complete the Forest Preserve’s annual self-paced hiking challenge.
Walk seven of 10 designated trails by the November 30 deadline, and turn in your travel log by December 31 to receive a collector’s medal. Travel logs can be completed and submitted online, mailed in or brought in to one of four visitor centers. Instructions are located in the "Woods Walk" hiking guide.
Also, a new incentive has been added. Anyone who walks all 10 trails and submits their travel log by the deadline (including those who have already submitted) will be entered into a drawing for a $50 Forest Preserve gift card. The card can be used to pay for Forest Preserve programs and rentals. Winners will be notified in January.
This year’s "Woods Walk" has brought out participants who tried to pack all 10 trails into one day and those who were competing in a national outdoor competition for the University of St. Francis in Joliet.
One group tried to repeat a feat accomplished by Coley O’Connell last year. The Lincoln-Way Community High School special education teacher walked all 10 trails in one very long day.
That’s what Caroline Portlock and her friends, Tina Pirc, Liz Costa, April Veerman and Rebecca Rice wanted to do in September, but weather interfered with their plan.
“We met that morning (it was pouring rain) and decided to grab breakfast and wait out the weather," Portlock said in an email. "This gave us a chance to plan out our route. The first stop was a brisk, chilly walk through Hammel Woods.”
The rain let up a bit so the women were able to maintain a good pace through Riverview Farmstead Preserve, Theodore Marsh and Prairie Bluff.
“By the time we made it to stop five, Hadley Valley, the sun was shining and the temperature was rising. It was the first time any of us had been at that location and, although we were starting to feel the miles, we were blown away by the peaceful views. … It is truly a beautiful oasis.”
Lake Chaminwood and McKinley Woods were the last two of the seven completed trails. Portlock said the group plans to finish all 10 trails before the program ends. The group's final three "Woods Walk" trail segments will be on the Hickory Creek Bikeway, Monee Reservoir Nature Trail and Wauponsee Glacial Trail.
“We were all so impressed with the signage, the facilities and the views at each location,” Portlock said.
The group's one-day trek covered 14.7 miles in 190 minutes.
“Woods Walk” also played a role in the University of St. Francis’ participation in the recently completed Campus Challenge 2019.
“I know quite a few faculty members, administrators and their families participated in the ('Woods Walk') program to help them log hikes for the campus challenge,” said Jerome Gabriel, an assistant professor in the college’s Department of Recreation and Sport Management.
Campus Challenge participants also hiked on Forest Preserve trails not included in this year's "Woods Walk," he added. The goal of the annual campus challenge is to encourage universities and their students, faculty, staff, administrators, alumni and community members to become more active in the outdoors, Gabriel said in an email.
“For a place like USF and the Joliet region, that means helping people to recognize many of the amazing outdoor spaces we have to recreate on locally,” he said.
USF’s Campus Challenge team members logged 4,090 outdoor activities over the four-week competition to be named No. 1 Outdoor School in the Nation for Division 2 and No. 1 Outdoor School in the Midwest.
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