Experience the joy of hiking in the wintertime

By: Brittany Kovach, Communications & Marketing Coordinator

As I was walking through the snow covered trails at LeRoy Oakes Forest Preserve, looking at the serene landscapes on a peaceful hike, I had an epiphany that winter hikes really are the best.

There’s so much to learn on a winter hike and you can choose your own adventure. I enjoyed watching the mallards dunking their heads and swimming in Ferson Creek. It was interesting seeing all of the animal tracks and trying to figure out which animal made them — thanks to an animal tracking program I attended at the District. Trekking up hills of snow to see beautiful tree branches covered in rime ice and stumbling upon a fun teepee for children to play in. Discovering several snowmen along the way, which my boys would have loved to see. The sounds of the creek rippling by was so calming, I could stay there for hours.

Not only did I relish in the fact that my hike was beautiful, but the added benefits of the exercise that I was getting from stomping through the snow made it all the more fantastic. Many people seem to avoid winter hikes because of the cold, but if you wear the right gear (warm boots, gloves, hat, etc.) you will actually start to warm up fast (and maybe even feel too warm!) from all the walking.

There are so many preserves in Kane County that have wonderful trails for hiking in the winter. To name a few: LeRoy Oakes Forest Preserve in St. Charles; Johnson’s Mound Forest Preserve in Elburn; Oakhurst Forest Preserve in Aurora; Les Arends Forest Preserve in Batavia; Bliss Woods Forest Preserve in Sugar Grove; Dick Young Forest Preserve in Batavia; Tekakwitha Woods Forest Preserve in St. Charles.

There is something about taking a hike through a wintry wonderland and watching the world around you covered in fresh snow. It truly makes you appreciate the way you feel about wintertime in Illinois.

Photos by Brittany Kovach

Winter in the Woodlands

On those cold winter days, many animals tend to stay out of the wind to keep warm. The woodlands help provide them with shelter. Join Forest Preserve District naturalists for a hike through the woods to see how our local animals survive the harsh Illinois winters.

This program is on Sunday, Jan. 17, from 10-11 a.m. at Campton Forest Preserve, located at 4N379 Town Hall Rd., St. Charles. To register for this free, all-ages program, call 630-444-3190 or email programs@kaneforest.com.

Masks are required at all nature programs. Group sizes will be limited and social distancing will take place. Stay home if you are sick or experiencing any COVID-19 related symptoms. Thank you for keeping yourself and others safe.

To see a full roster of upcoming winter programs, visit www.kaneforest.com. Find us on social media by searching @forestpreserve.

Photo by Forest Preserve District of Kane County Sign Specialist Steve Pyszka

Are you a Nature Enthusiast? Become a Kane County Certified Naturalist – Virtually!

Are you interested in learning more about nature? The mission of Kane County Certified Naturalist (KCCN) is to build a community of well-informed citizens who apply their ecological knowledge and sills to habitat restoration, environmental education, and community service. The program is an in-depth environmental education program for adults, combining both classroom (virtual) and field experiences in Kane County’s natural areas.

NEW this year, we have two options to take these classes.

Option #1: Virtual classes and in-person field trips: $300 (includes six core classes, reference materials, four field trips and 10 months of “Learn from the Experts” classes.)

Option #2: Virtual classes only: $150 (includes six core classes only and no field trips; this option will not include official KCCN certification.)

Virtual classes meet on Wednesdays, from 6-8:30 p.m. via Zoom.

Class dates are: Jan. 6, Jan. 13, Jan. 20, Jan. 27, Feb. 3 & Feb. 10.

The four field trips will be from April – June. Registration closes at 11:59 p.m. on December 28, 2020.

To register, visit http://www.genevaparks.org, call 630-232-4542, or register in-person at Sunset Community Center (710 Western Ave., Geneva) during regular open hours: Monday – Friday; 5:30 a.m. – 9:30 p.m., or Saturday – Sunday; 7 a.m. – 8 p.m. Registration section codes: Virtual classes and in-person field trips: 5411901-02 & Virtual classes only: 5411901-03. If you have questions, please call 630-444-3190 or email KCCN@kaneforest.com.

Little Saplings Nature Programs for 3-5 year olds

How cute are these young naturalists?! Our new program, “Little Saplings,” is a monthly program geared for 3-5 year olds. Each month, we’ll focus on a new theme and participants will get to explore nature. Sessions include a combination of stories, nature hikes, songs, games, and/or crafts.

During our “Insect Safari” theme in September, Naturalist Erica Lemon let the kids explore Creek Bend Nature Center, then showed them different insects. Everyone then headed outdoors for a fun game of pretending to be different insects. A story was read and then the children were able to explore the prairie with nets and try to catch different insects. A lot of milkweed bugs were found, but the children thought the coolest catch was the Praying mantis!

Register your child for our upcoming programs. In October, the theme will be “Spider Mania,” in November, the theme will be “Turkey Trot,” and in December, the theme will be “Dancing Snowflakes.”

Below is a list of our upcoming programs. A parent or caregiver must accompany child. The registration fee is $5/child/sesson. To register, call 630-444-3190 or email programs@kaneforest.com.

Thursday, Oct. 15; 9:30-10:30 a.m. “Spider Mania”

Thursday, Nov. 19; 9:30-10:30 a.m. “Turkey Trot”

Thursday, Dec. 17; 9:30-10:30 a.m. “Dancing Snowflakes”

These programs are located at Creek Bend Nature Center, which is within LeRoy Oakes Forest Preserve at 37W700 Dean St., St. Charles.

OAKtober Programs for all-ages

The weather this week definitely feels like summer is over and fall is just beginning. This year, we have “OAK”tober programs for all-ages to celebrate Oak Awareness month in Illinois.

Oaks are a symbol of strength and resiliency. They help clean our air and reduce our energy use by shading buildings. They also help to reduce flooding and provide food and shelter for wildlife. It’s no surprise that the Illinois State Tree is the White Oak! Come celebrate the oaks and learn what you can do to support them in your community at our upcoming programs.

Welcome Autumn — Celebrate the arrival of autumn on this fun and informative hike. Find out the meaning of “equinox” and learn about the changes trees, including oaks, go through at this time of year. We’ll also discuss how local animals are preparing for the chilly temperatures ahead.

Tuesday, Sept. 22; 2:30-3:30 p.m. at Creek Bend Nature Center; 37W700 Dean St., St. Charles; FREE

Tree Seeds Hike — Savor this Saturday in autumn to search out seeds in preparation for OAKtober! We’ll discuss different types of tree seeds, their unique adaptations and the plants from which specific seeds arise.

Saturday, Sept. 26; 10-11 a.m. at Burnidge Forest Preserve; 14N035 Coombs Rd., Elgin; FREE

Acorn-to-Oaks Planting Workshop — The mightiest oaks start with a little acorn! Learn about our different native oak species and take a hike around LeRoy Oakes Forest Preserve to observe the unique characteristics of a variety of trees, including several oaks. Complete your experience by decorating a pot and planting your own oak tree to take home.

Sunday, Oct. 18; 10-11 a.m. at Creek Bend Nature Center; 37W700 Dean St., St. Charles; FREE

Witness Trees — Join us for a virtual program! Have you ever looked at a giant of a tree, perhaps a big oak, and wondered what historical events it experienced during its lifetime? Some of these impressive trees are called “witness trees” and they have a special place in the history of Illinois. Surveyors in the early 1800s relied on witness, or “bearing,” trees as landmarks for creating the earliest state land surveys and plat mats. During this webinar, we’ll share the history of Illinois’ witness trees and provide tools for you to discover witness trees in your own area.

Thursday, Nov. 19; 10-10:45 a.m. via Zoom Meeting; To register: https://kaneforest.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZUqc–rrDMjGdwLM7pc9QM-Rg7pWtJdPR6P

Nature’s Bounty — Autumn isn’t harvest time for just us humans. Our woodlands provide crucial sustenance for local wildlife just before the harsh winter hits. This informative hike will examine the fruits, nuts and other food sources animals find within our forest preserves.

Thursday, Nov. 19; 2:30-3:30 p.m. at Burnidge Forest Preserve; 38W235 Big Timber Rd., Elgin; FREE

To register for these programs, or for more information, call 630-444-3190 or email programs@kaneforest.com.

Look for things you’ve wanted to do outside, but didn’t have the time.

If you and your family are looking for things to do outside of the home, our Kane County forest preserves are currently open. Of course, you can always find fun things to do right in your own backyard, too! We encourage the community to go for a walk in the preserves, but most importantly, to use social distancing (six feet from each other) and good hygiene during this time.

Below are some suggestions on what activities you can do either in your own backyard, or out and about somewhere in nature.

  1. Build a “fort” outside with sticks or anything you can find in your yard.
  2. Go on a scavenger hunt at a preserve and see what items you can find. (Pine cones; skunk cabbage; maple trees; animal tracks, etc.)
  3. Construct a butterfly house.
  4. Start planning the native plants you want for your yard. *Note: You can order native plants from the Forest Preserve District online at: Native Plant Sale Order Form
  5. Bring your art supplies outside and make a painting.
  6. Measure trees and find the tallest one. *Note: We offer Tree Identification as well as the “Big Tree Program” nature programs that you can attend in the future. See our TreeLine Newsletter for upcoming events: The TreeLine Newsletter
  7. Blow bubbles and chase after them outside.
  8. Create a nature mask craft by using nature items you find in your backyard. (Feathers, leaves, seeds, etc.)
  9. Paint rocks (smooth stones) that you find.
  10. Go on a nature hike/walk as a family.
  11. Is it raining out? Put on your boots and jump in puddles.
  12. Draw with chalk on the driveway and sidewalk.
  13. Play classic outdoor games such as “Red Light, Green Light;” “Tag;” “Red Rover;” etc.
  14. Make homemade play-dough and play with it outside. Bonus: It’s less messy this way! Here’s a recipe: Homemade Play-dough Recipe
  15. Grab a good book and read under a tree.
  16. Take your phone or camera with you and play “photographer” and get some neat photos.
  17. Search for bugs.
  18. Make mud pies.
  19. Find what flowers are starting to surface.
  20. Sit on a bench and relax.

Do you have other fun outdoor activities that you could add to this list? Comment below! We’d love to hear your suggestions.

(Please be respectful of others on the trails and in the preserves, and exercise all guidelines that have been set forth by the CDC.)

Big Sky - LeRoy OakesPhoto by Naturalist Josh Libman

Enjoy the sweet taste of spring at Maple Sugaring Days, March 7 & 8

Discover the sweet secret of how to turn tree sap into syrup and enjoy samples in the Maple Cafe on March 7 and 8, from 12-3 p.m., when we host Maple Sugaring Days!

Forest Preserve Naturalists will show how to tap a maple tree, and you’ll have the opportunity to try drilling and setting a tap. We’ll simmer sap over an open fire and watch as it thickens to syrup. Join us on a hike to learn how to distinguish maples from other species of hardwood trees. Don’t forget to drop into the Maple Cafe to taste pure, local syrup. We’ll have ice cream that you can drizzle with maple syrup, plus hot chocolate and coffee available for purchase. Plus, Creek Bend Nature Center will be open where visitors can enjoy the interactive exhibits available, and make a craft to take home.

No registration is required for this family-friendly program. Creek Bend Nature Center is located within LeRoy Oakes Forest Preserve at 37W700 Dean St., St. Charles.

For more information on Maple Sugaring Days, call 630-444-3190, visit www.kaneforest.com, or find us on social by searching @forestpreserve.

 Photos by Communications & Marketing Coordinator Brittany Kovach

Staying Warm and Safe in the Outdoors

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LeRoy Oakes Forest Preserve. Photo by Naturalist Erica Lemon.

The temperatures have dropped, leaves have fallen, and ice covers the ground. It’s officially winter here in Kane County! Although the greenery may be gone, there are still plenty of things to do and places to explore in Kane County’s forest preserves.  The preserves remain open 365 days of the year, and trails offer a look into the winter wonderland that our preserves transform into during these months. Hiking in the winter is different than in other seasons, and it is important to ensure you are taking all precautions to keep yourself safe and warm in the outdoors. Keep reading to learn about some safety measures you can take to make sure you have the safest experience outside.

 

Bring someone along or communicate your location. This is an important precaution to take, as going out into the wilderness alone without anyone having knowledge of your location can be dangerous. Be sure to express to others where you’ll be going and about how long you expect to be outside. Or, bring someone along with you! This will not only make your trek safer, but provide company as well.

 

Dress warm and bring essentials. It’s well known that winter in Illinois can be very chilly at times. It’s best to dress in layers, and choose materials that will keep you warm. Winter boots will help to keep your feet warm as you shuffle through the snow, and wearing two layers of gloves rather than one can be helpful in keeping hands dry. It’s very important to remember to cover any exposed skin, such as your face and neck. Bring other necessary items such as water, food, and safety items such as a first aid kit.

 

Be aware of shortened daylight hours. Nighttime comes quickly in the winter, with the sun setting as early as 4:30 p.m. Plan outdoor activities for earlier in the day and keep a watch or phone on you to keep track of time. This will help you avoid getting stuck in the dark, and make the most of the daylight! Visibility can also be lower in the wintertime with blowing snow, so pack navigation tools such as a map to prevent losing track of where you are.

 

Pack a warm drink. Who doesn’t love a good hot cocoa break? In addition to water, bringing along a warm drink will help in keeping your body warm. Additionally, it will help to prevent dehydration, which can still be a danger in winter when exerting yourself. To prevent liquids from freezing, consider carrying them in a thermos or close your body.

 

Be prepared to turn around. Weather conditions can change quickly during the winter. It’s important to check conditions ahead of time and plan to end your activity early, if needed. If you feel the weather is getting worse, it’s best to head home to avoid a potential accident or getting lost. As always, prepare ahead of time and bring items you may need when facing rough weather such as a headlamp and extra clothing to keep you warm.

Learn more about Kane County’s Forest Preserves and programs at www.kaneforest.com, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter @forestpreserve.

Holiday Mixer – Friday, Dec. 13

Have you bought your ticket for our Holiday Mixer yet? Take a break from the hustle and bustle of the holidays and enjoy good company, refreshments, and beverages from our sponsor, @TwoBrothersBrewingCompany!

Join friends, neighbors and naturalists, while you sip a beverage and tour the charming 1930s era home, called Creek Bend Nature Center. Learn about the history of this building and all that it offers, including renting it out for your next special event! Socialize and play games in the nature center, and view the interactive exhibits.

Buy your tickets early by calling 630-444-3190 or email events@kaneforest.com. Or, buy your tickets at the door. This event is on Friday, Dec. 13, from 6:30-9 p.m. The fee is $15/person. This event is for guests age 21 and older. Creek Bend Nature Center is located within LeRoy Oakes Forest Preserve at 37W700 Dean St., St. Charles.

shutterstock_623112506Photo courtesy Shutterstock/Monkey Business Images

 

Happy Harvest! Forest Preserve Fall Festival – Sept. 29

It’s that time of year where everyone is gearing up for pumpkin season! Smells of apple cider and pumpkin spice fill the air. Back by popular demand is our Harvest of the Acorn Moon Festival on Sunday, Sept. 29, from Noon – 3 p.m. at Oakhurst Forest Preserve.

You and your family and friends are invited to join us for pumpkin painting, mule-drawn wagon rides, games, nature crafts, guided hikes, live music and refreshments. Take a picture with our new harvest face banner! This event is geared towards all-ages.

Admission is free. There’s a nominal fee for crafts and refreshments. No registration is required. Come celebrate all that the fall season has to offer! Happy Harvest!

Photos by Communications & Marketing Coordinator Brittany Kovach