A Youth Adventure into Landscapes & Discovery
Out Our Front Door hosted their first Family Bike Campout! 13 families totally 55 participants including 26 kids ages 1-18. Without a doubt the most inspiring weekend: watching some kids camp for the first time and seeing 5-year-olds ride 10+ miles! Huge family style bikes loaded to the gills with kid bikes, cast iron grills, pots, snacks, small children. Strong admiration to all the strong legged parents who pedaled these famliy bikes 27 miles on day one and 16 miles on day two!
The adventure began in a tight parking spot behind Third Coast Birth in Logan Square on a rainy Thursday night early August 2017. Families rolled up to load their bikes into the biggest truck U-Haul rents where volunteers happily braved the rain and used their tetris skills to get all of the bikes securely loaded up. The next morning, all of the families hopped a Metra train to Highland Park where the bikes were staged and waiting for their arrival. A quick lunch and we were off! We rolled through the neighborhood streets of Highland Park (Michael Jordan’s old hood) and past the glorious Openland bluffs which fall 60 feet to the lake and are some of the most pristine examples of Illinois native prairie you will find anywhere! Flowers galore!
From there, we rolled through the historic streets of Fort Sheridan where the guides gave a historical overview of this military base turned North Shore suburb.
At the first break point, 5 miles in (we must accommodate for those smaller bladders), Andrew took out some of his most prized maps featuring the topography of Illinois and explained the role glaciers played in shaping the landscape we just traversed.
Back in the saddle and off to the Robert McClory bike path named for a U.S. Representative who was a major bicycle advocate. From here forward, bike paths all the way! We kept a very chill pace allowing the parents to decide when their kids could ride/stride their own bikes and when the kids’ bikes were strapped onto the adult bike with children likely snoozing in their kid seats with mommy or daddy pedaling them forward.
We arrived to ILBSP’’s group site just after 5pm, and had a stack of 13 pizzas delivered within minutes (good looking out Elsabeth). Tents were put up, a fire lit, and s’mores busted out. We even had a few kids who made their first s’mores that very night!
And speaking of firsts, we had so many firsts! Many participants were camping together as a family unit for the first time. The great majority of the group were bike camping for the first time. Many kids were camping for their first time in their lives!
And this is where the magic really happened. In watching these first time campers make those all so crucial connections to nature. They caught frogs and even got a close up look at the endangered Blanding Turtle. They learned a bit about the unique ecosystems of ILBSP at the newly re-opened nature center. They even got to splash around in the waves of Lake Michigan!
Day two was highlighted with a nature hike led by OOFD’s very own naturalist, Andrew St. Paul, where he pointed out a cactus that is native to Illinois as well as the unique swale and ridge topography of the park. He even found a plant older than the dinosaurs known as the Scouring Rush. After the nature hike, the day was open to families to do as they pleased. Some hung at the beach, some went to lunch on the lodge’s lakefront patio, others went for a quick dip in the indoor swimming pool/hot tub while others decided to go explore on their bikes in the North Unit of the park.
Day three began with some incredible breakfast including pancakes over the fire and even an egg/biscuit casserole done in cast iron on the fire coals! Tents and sleeping bags were loaded -up while kids had one last run through the woods or some chose to peacefully color while mom and dad got ready for the ride. One epic group picture later and we were back on the trail, this time heading south. We had a slightly impromptu picnic in a cemetery with the jolly help of our new friend "Diggs" and rode the final miles to Lake Bluff where we loaded the bikes back into the U-Haul and the families hopped the train back to the city.
We could not have done it without the incredibly lovely families that were brave enough to throw all of the gear needed to camp as a family onto their bikes and ride off to a grand adventure. The communal and positive vibes were profound and we have so much love for you all! We no doubt will be doing this again!
Camp IL. Beach State Park
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Incredible thank you to Andrew Berg, Andrew St. Paul, Eric Mueller, and Glenn Schneider.
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