Posts Tagged ‘hiking’

By Sue Shekut, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Certified Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

Last Sunday my man and I went to Starved Rock State Park near Ottawa, IL for a much-needed bit of fresh air, exercise and time in nature. We hiked the Illinois Canyon (Starved Rock has many canyons and this one is the deepest so it allows for much exploring!) on Sunday and saw a few hardy folks with their dogs and walking sticks. Some families treated their bundled up children to the wonders of this canyon along with us.

Since it’s been a mild winter, the ground was fairly muddy and the entire area looked ready for Spring. Yet, it’s only mid February so there are still frozen waterfalls and other cold sights to behold. I am posting a short video of water droplets falling from one of the more intricate waterfalls and some pics of the great outdoors. Check it out yourself before the actual spring comes and the frozen water turns the mud into a much stickier mess. For a map and Directions to Starved Rock click here.

Frozen waterfall at Illinois Canyon of Starved Rock State Park, IL. Image by Sue Shekut.

My hiking poles came in handy as we crossed this stream! Image by Sue Shekut

My favorite waterfall and pool in Illinois Canyon, Starved Rock, IL. Image by Sue Shekut.

Although its February in Illinois, this looks a lot like Spring in Maui. Image by Sue Shekut

My photographer boyfriend illustrates how high the walls of the canyon are. It doesn’t feel like we are This doesn’t look like Illinois at all. And to think, this area was once likely ocean! Image by Sue Shekut

A trio of collie dogs shared the waterfall with us. Image by Sue Shekut.

Crossing the streams of Illinois Canyon requires agility and great balance–or you get wet! Image by Sue Shekut.

Outside of the state park near Ottawa, we saw this car and wondered how what distracted the driver enough to miss the road–and dry land–so entirely! Image by Sue Shekut

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By Sue Shekut, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Certified Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

People ask me, “Sue where did you hear about all these great adventure travel locations?” One way is through my clients of course! Another way is from the Annual Adventure Travel Show that will be at The Donald E Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont this weekend (January 28 and 29).

Tickets are only $15 and the vent is well worth the price of admission. (Only $7 if you book online!)

Here is what you can expect (from their website):

• Interact and comparison shop with hundreds of destination travel experts and tour operators representing thousands of vacation options all under one roof.
• Take advantage of free scuba lessons from a certified diving instructor.  Wetsuits, masks, air tanks – even hairdryers – are provided. Visitors 10 and older can dive into the 4-feet-deep, 18,000- gallon scuba pool and even play with an underwater scooter and MP3 Players. Bring your swimsuit and you are ready to go!

• Wake up your senses at the Fiery Foods Stage! Experiencing a destination’s cuisine is a big part of every travel experience you have, so we’ve developed a stage that showcases unique flavors from around the world – with a twist (and a little heat)!

• Photo Clinic–Travel photographer and author Ralph Velasco will be
offering a Photo Clinic at the Calumet Photographic Booth 1006

Saturday, January 28 12:30pm – 1:30pm
Sunday, January 29 11:00am – 12:00pm

He’ll be discussing his best travel gear tips and recommendations for anyone interested in embarking on a trip that has photography at its core. Ralph will also be available for small group and one-on-one questions during this time. Bring your camera!


For more info on parking, directions and more click here.

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By Sue Shekut, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Certified Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

There are a lot of different places you can get active outdoor gear. I like Amazon. com for the wide selection of items you can get from all over the country. But you can’t touch or test gear sold on Amazon, you can only read other people’s reviews. Sometimes that’s enough. Other times I want to go into a store and see and get a feel for items I buy such as camping gear, tools, GPS systems and bicycle equipment. And it’s helpful to have a seasoned expert tell me about the gear right then and there to help me make better decisions about the tools and equipment I buy to keep me active. At REI, they now added  videos and articles for shoppers to review basic information about active outdoor gear.

Dubbed REI Active Advice, the REI website has a page which links to how to videos, articles and more.  And they have a new REI Expert advice for families to help parents learn ways to incorporate outdoor activities into family time.

Check Out REI Expert Advice for Families

Watch an REI Expert Video

REI experts give you helpful tips, techniques and ideas to show you how to have great outdoor adventures and which gear you’ll need.  Some of the current videos include:

Video: How to Transport Your Boat by CarHow to Transport Your Boat by Car

Articles By REI Experts

REI and guess share expert advice on how to choose and maintain outdoor gear as well as how to  have fun and stay safe on your next outdoor adventure.  Current topics include:

How to Choose Wool Clothing

REI Expert Gear Checklist

REI’s website lets you print out a gear checklist to help you keep track of the details for your next adventure, including:

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By Sue Shekut, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Certified Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

Recently I was reading Backpacker magazine’s top lists of hikes around the U.S. They  listed 3 of the top hiking places in Chicago: The Chicago Lakefront, Starved Rock and Kankakee River State Park.  The lakefront is more of an outdoor mall these days than an actual hiking path, but it is a well known Chicago route so I give Backpacker that much. But I was surprised that they did not mention any of the fantastic hiking paths in the rest of the Chicago Area: Tinley Park, Herrick Lake, Palos, Waterfall Glen, Sag Valley, and about 30 more. If you get out of Chicago proper, there are scores of really quiet, well maintained forests, meadows and trails.  I’ve been to Starved Rock a number of times, but had not yet to Kankakee. So, to verify Backpackers recommendation, my man and I bundled up our hiking gear and headed for Kankakee River State Park this past weekend!

Kankakee River. Image by Sue Shekut

The park’s trail system stretches for miles along both sides of the river. Hiking, biking and cross-country ski trails are on the river’s north side, while horse and snowmobile trails can be found on the south.

Kankakee River State Park Map. Image by Sue Shekut

On Sunday, we walked from a boat launch area on the West side of the park, over a suspension bridge, along a picnic area and then to Rock Creek trail where we climbed along the creek.

Kankakee Rock Creek Trail marker. Image by Sue Shekut

The 3-mile route along Rock Creek gives you a great view of limestone canyons and a smallish frothy waterfall. The park offers a bicycle trail that begins at Davis Creek Area and travels 10.5 miles of trails in the form of a linear trail along the river and with a loop in the west end of the park.

View from Rock Creek Trail, Kankakee. Image by Sue Shekut

This region is fairly flat with some nice hike-able cliffs and a few look out points along the river. But the Rock Creek Trail had some really steep paths along the way affording interesting lookouts of the clean clear water below.

Jason taking pics at Rock Creek Trail overlook, Kankakee. Image by Sue Shekut

On our way around the Rock Creek Trail we found a really lovely grove of pine trees. Walking into the trees we felt that special hush I often feel when I am in the presence of a grove of trees. It felt like a church or sacred space.

Pine forest along the trail in Kankakee. Image by Sue Shekut

No matter where we hiked, we could see through the water at every point!  That water is clean–at least to the naked eye–and it’s  a pleasure to be able to see such clear water in a local river.

Super clear water in Kankakee River! Image by Sue Shekut

At this point we had hiked about 7 miles and then got a bit lost finding our way back to our car which added another 2 miles to our hike. We took a wrong turn at fork in the trail and ended up by the stables.

Kankakee River Stables rents horses. Image by Sue Shekut

All told, according to my handy pedometer, we hiked 10 miles and still had another half of the park to explore on another day.

For directions, info on equestrian trials, biking, hiking, etc. click here.

A beautiful spot to relax in Kankakee River State Park. Image by Sue Shekut

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By Sue Shekut, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Certified Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

As you all know, I am a big believer in eating healthy and exercising outdoors when possible. And I am not afraid to travel to seek out new places to enjoy the great outdoors. However, when traveling or even for short day hikes, it’s a challenge to find healthy food nearby.  For that reason I recently invested in a fantastic product that I can take (and have taken) with me to ensure my partner and I eat healthy when away from home. What is it? It’s a cooler with a mess kit attached. Well, not really a mess kit, more of an upscale picnic set. There are a few different versions of this tote but I liked the Picnic Time Solano 412-44 Blue w/Grey Fully-insulated Picnic Cooler Tote best.

Plates, glasses, silverware, even salt and pepper shakers for the road. Image by Sue Shekut

Before a day hike or a long trip, I pack up the cooler section of this pack with a few cool packs or ice in a plastic baggie. Then I can slip in some fresh sandwiches, fruit or even tuna fish salad or any healthy snack or meal that requires refrigeration.  We set out on our hike and I may take a tortilla and some lunch meat along for a mid day snack. By placing the meat next to the water pack in my camelback, I can keep it cool enough until I eat it a few hours later. The pack in the car keeps the rest of the food cold so we have food when we return from a long day’s hike. Then we can sit in the car and lay out plates, silverware and even cloth napkins for a small feast!  We used this pack on our recent trip to Door County and enjoyed a nice meal on the tailgate of my boyfriends truck.

Blue Picnic Pack and plates for our lunch on the road. Image by Sue Shekut

A Perfect Picnic Stop-Tailgating in the Back of a Gas Station Near Woods. Image by Sue Shekut

You can get this pack or similar packs on Amazon. (I found  a similar picnic pack at REI but it does not include the cooler.)  Order from Amazon here: NEW Picnic Time Solano 412-44 Blue w/Grey Fully-insulated Picnic Cooler Tote High Quality Pretty Cost $49.95.

* Durable polyester canvas construction, an adjustable shoulder strap
* Fully-insulated food/drink compartment with 18-can capacity
* Includes deluxe picnicware for four
* Comes with linens, cutting board, cheese knife and corkscrew
* Perfect for concerts, picnics, days at the park or beach

Product Dimensions: 14.5 x 9.5 x 13.5 inches
Shipping Weight: 3 pounds

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By Sue Shekut, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Certified Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

I lived in Milwaukee during my grade school years. Each summer, my outdoorsy father would pack up our Vista Cruiser station wagon with tents, a Coleman stove, cots, coolers and our bikes for a camping trip to Door County, Wisconsin. I have fond memories of swimming in Nicolet Bay (the beach at Peninsula State Park), jumping off a pontoon boat in Sister Bay harbor  to swim in the cool Lake Michigan water and watching the goats eat on the roof of Al Johnson’s restaurant. So a few weeks ago, when my partner and I decided to get away for a few days, we headed to Door County to get some R&R, scout for locations for future retreats and seminars, and enjoy some of the last few days of summer.

For the uninitiated, Door County is the area of Wisconsin some call the Thumb. If you look at Wisconsin like a giant hand, the right-hand side has a “thumb” sticking out of it. Along the top of the “thumb” is a lovely area and country called Door County. It has a number of small towns along the lake and it’s been the quieter Wisconsin/Chicago tourist destination compared to the Dells.

Summit House (one of 7 houses) at Eagle Harbor Inn. Image by Sue Shekut

On of the reason I like to go to Door County is that, for this part of the country, there are a lot of outdoor activities you can do within a few miles of your hotel. We stayed in Eagle Harbor Inn in Ephraim and we were so pleased with our suite, we almost did not want to leave our rooms. Eagle Harbor Inn has a small indoor pool and a room with workout equipment. (It’s such a nice place we could see how it would be a great winter get away for snow showing, cross country skiing and sitting by a roaring (gas) fire. This s a great place for a retreat, workshop or even a corporate event since the Inn had about 7 Victorian style houses split into condo-like Suites. We had a one bedroom and it was absolutely cozy, inviting, quiet, and lovely. (The Innkeeper said some people some to Eagle Harbor Inn to enjoy the peace and quiet and to write books or work on software projects.)

Boats in Ephraim Bay. Image by Sue Shekut.

A mere 3 blocks away is South Shore Pier which rents pontoon boats, speed boats and wave runners by the day and half day. We rented a pontoon boat and tooled around the designated bay, boating from Ephraim to Fish Creek to Sisters Bay. Sitting in a boat may give you some time to synthesize vitamin D, but not much fitness, so we dropped anchor around Horseshoe Island, out of the way of speedboat traffic) and swam in the cool refreshing water. Since the boat requires deep water, jumping off the side of the boat means there is no bottom underneath your feet so you get a quite a swim. The water is cool, not freezing, but it’s not bath water either so it really wakes you up. As along as we  kept swimming though, it didn’t feel cold at all.

View from the boat on Lake Michigan in Door County. Image by Sue Shekut.

Peninsula State Park is a mere 5 minute bike ride from Eagle Harbor Inn. There are a number of trails throughout the park which is situated on, you guessed it, a peninsula jutting out of the “thumb” of Door County. On our second day in Door County, we hoped on our bikes took a left out of our hotel and in about 5 minutes (And a BIG hill), we were at the entrance of Peninsula State Park. After getting a map from the golf course info center, we found  miles of interior mountain bikes trails and we rode about 17 miles along the crisscrossing trails, through patches of mosquito ridden woods where we saw no other bikers or hikers. In one section of our ride, we joined the other bikers along the main bike path (gravel) that peeks out into the lake. Wooden benches waited for resting bikers and hikers along rocky beach near the bike path.

After a long days hike, we were fortunate (and also because I planned ahead!) to have a two person hot tub in our room at the Inn. Soaking after a long day of biking and hiking was a wonderful way to end our day.

Hot tub, fireplace and a bed. A great way to rest and relax. Image by Sue Shekut

Our final day in Door County, we decided to act like proper tourists so we did a round of Put putt golf at the Pirates Cove and then eat lunch at All Johnson’s.  If you haven’t gone to Door County, I hope you have a taste of some of the things you can do to enjoy the area and getaway from the big city to nature, peace and quiet and some interesting Door County sights.

Pirate's Cove Mini-Golf. Image by Sue Shekut

Map of Penisula State Park Bike routes. iamge by Sue Shekut

Beach at Nicolet Bay. Image by Sue Shekut

Bikes at Nicolet Bay. Image by Sue Shekut

Volly ball at Niceolet Bay. Image by Sue Shekut

Sequeway Tour of the park for seniors. Image by Sue Shekut

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By Sue Shekut, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Certified Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer


Back in 2010, Backpacker Magazine had a feature that is fantastic for my clients and readers that are in a new town or traveling to a new locale. It was a trip search feature that lets you find hiking trails near you by zip code.

EDIT as of 5-25-17, this feature no longer works. Instead, Backpacker, com allows you to search for trips by state. It is only available for some states, however. Check the link here.

For trails in the Chicago area specifically, Backpacker now this this link available here.

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