Week #8: Hike & Track: Walk with Wildlife
It’s the final week of the Take a Hike! Challenge, and this is your chance to better understand the animals that inhabit your nearby hiking trails. Elevate Your Hike with a “Hike & Track: Walk with Wildlife.”
The practice of animal tracking looks at footprints, digs, chews, beds, fur, bones, nests, feathers, tunnels and other signs left behind by animals as they go about their lives. As you hike, put the pieces together for clues about how these wild animals live and interact with each other in nature.
Check out these tips on How to Be a Nature Detective from the Naperville Park District and Knoch Knolls Nature Center and learn about what to look for, smell, feel and listen for during every season in Illinois.
Read this blog: How to make the most of your hike
Week #7: Connect With Nature: Forest Therapy
Elevate Your Hike this week by connecting with nature through forest therapy. Inspired by the Japanese practice of “forest bathing,” forest therapy is an outdoor healing practice that encourages you to experience the pleasures of nature through all your senses.
Nature has a calming effect. Many trees and plants release immunity-boosting organic compounds and oils into the air. Research suggests that spending time in nature may help lower stress, improve attention and lift your mood, among other benefits.
For this week’s hike, try to let go of the thoughts in your head, breathe in the fresh air and focus on the sights, smells and sounds around you.
To learn more about forest therapy, visit the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy Guides and Programs website.
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Week #6: Make it Mindful
For this week of the Take a Hike! Challenge, it’s time to calm it down and make this hike a mindful one. Aim for a relaxed, meandering walk that gives you time to breathe and take a break from the pace of everyday life.
Studies show that engaging the five senses can help promote feelings of calm and relaxation. Use this hike to practice mindfulness and focus on your senses of sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch.
Allow yourself to tune in to each sensation. Breathe deeply and match your pace to your breathing in a steady rhythm. Leave your phone in your backpack to avoid interruptions. Use this tip sheet for how to Make it a Mindful Hike.
Need some more inspiration and advice?
Week #5: Go Back in Time: Trail History
Are you intrigued when you visit a place with rich history? Would you like to learn more about the history of your local trails? This week, Elevate Your Hike by going back in time. Learn the history of your trail and post about it to inform your fellow hikers and friends.
Check out this DuPage County Trail History document from the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County for more information about the history of your local trails. Here are some examples:
The Fullersburg Woods Forest Preserve in Oak Brook has interesting history. The area around Fullersburg Woods was named after Jacob Fuller, and his son, Benjamin, who plotted the town in 1851. At the Fullersburg Woods Nature Education Center, you’ll find the only operating waterwheel gristmill in Illinois in its original spot. The nearby Ben Fuller House is made of small timber and one of the oldest balloon-frame structures in Illinois.
At St. James Farm Forest Preserve in Warrenville, the first Europeans to settle on this land were farmers, and several structures from late-1800 farmsteads remain, including a gabled-roof-and-wing farmhouse, one of the last of its kind in DuPage County.
Week #4: Fuel Your Body to Move
This week is all about fueling your body with healthy foods for your hike. Pack snacks to keep you nourished and energized. Examples include orange slices, bananas, apples, carrots, peanut butter crackers/sandwiches, protein bars and/or trail mix/nuts.
Check out our favorite Hiking Snacks for quick, nutritious, easy and non-perishable snack ideas.
Even better, create your own trail mix with this Healthy, Happy Trail Mix Builder.
And, of course, hydrate! Hydration is crucial before, during and after your hike. As you exercise, your body works harder and uses the fluids you take in at a higher rate. Aim for about a half liter of water per hour of moderate activity in moderate temperatures. Take frequent water breaks throughout your hike.
Now you’re all set to fuel your body to move! Grab a light blanket and pack a picnic for your hike. Don’t forget to bring a spare trash bag to clean up when you’re done.
For more tips, read this blog: Food as fuel before, during and after a workout
Week #3: Amp it Up! Dynamic Hike
This week is your chance to amp it up! Hiking works your entire body so Elevate Your Hike with a good workout!
Before your hike, take time to stretch your muscles. Move gradually and gently, breathe deeply and listen to your body. Then, turn your hike into an outdoor workout. Create a mini fitness challenge. This could be a fun one for kids!
Every 10-15 minutes, take a break from hiking and complete one of these exercises (or make up your own to suit your fitness level):
- 25 arm circles
- 20 jumping jacks
- 20 toe touches
- 20 squats
- 30 alternating lunges
- 30 controlled punches
- 20 high knees
Need more motivation? Read this blog: Get outside to meet your movement goal
Week #2: ID Those Trees, Plants & Flowers
This week, it’s time to connect with nature and learn about the trees, plants and flowers you encounter along the trail. Elevate Your Hike by putting your knowledge to the test and playing some fun games with your fellow hikers.
- Check out this Field Museum Prairies and Savannas Guide from the Chicago Park District to help you identify species of flowers, grasses, bird and butterflies.
- You could also play ID that tree! Bring binoculars and use this Common Trees of the Chicago Region Guide to help you identify the trees you see on your hike. Keep a checklist of the species you find. Apps like iNaturalist use image recognition technology to identify the plants/animals you spot.
- Grab the kids and go on a Wildflower Walk or try this Hiking Scavenger Hunt. Mark down what you see and hear along your hike, such as birds, butterflies, leaves, acorns, etc. You can search for items as a team or make it a contest to see who can find the most.
- Join our sponsor-partner, Forest Preserve District of DuPage County, on their guided Wildflower Walk scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 10 from 10-11 am at Fullersburg Woods. The cost is $5. Learn more and register here.
Week #1: HYOH: Hike Your Own Hike
Hiking is a fun and healthy outdoor activity for all ages. Hiking enthusiasts use the term “Hike Your Own Hike,” or HYOH. It means that every hiker is unique and should find their own hiking style that suits them. From a light stroll on a flat trail to a more challenging terrain, almost anyone can find a hike that suits their preferences.
Kick off the first week of the Take a Hike! Challenge by HYOH! If you’re going in a group, come up with some ground rules with your fellow hikers ahead of time. Before you hit the trail, here are some tips to get you started:
- Consult with your doctor to make sure you’re healthy enough for hiking.
- Check the local weather forecast to determine the best day and time of day to hike.
- Pick the right trail for your fitness level (and your hiking companions).
- Familiarize yourself with the trail on the map beforehand.
- Pack plenty of water (more than you need) and nourishing snacks.
- Bring essentials like a first aid kit, map, compass, waterproof matches/lighter, GPS tracker, etc.
- Dress for the weather, including lightweight, moisture-wicking clothes and comfortable shoes.
- Don’t forget sunglasses, sunscreen and insect repellent.
- If you’re hiking solo, let others know where you’ll be hiking and when you expect to return.
- You may want to bring a camera, journal or sketchbook to chronicle your hike.
Need more inspiration? Read this blog: 8 tips for a successful hike