Ted’s been backpacking since elementary school and has canoed, cross-country skied and hiked all over the United States and the world.
He completed the elite Birkebeiner ski marathon, is a fan of winter camping and once swapped campfire stories with a lady boy in Thailand.
A perfect winter day in Chicago
Cross-country skiing in the afternoon and hitting the town at night is a sublime way to spend a winter Saturday in Chicago.
I had plans with friends for Saturday evening. It was dinner at an Ethiopian restaurant, a Festivus party, and then out for more drinks. It was 10am when I awoke, and I had no obligations between then and 7pm.
There are many ways to waste away a Saturday afternoon: college basketball, reading, social networking on Twitter, Christmas shopping, or going outside, getting exercise, and enjoying the outdoors.
I chose the latter and grabbed the cross-country skis.
In two hours I was at the Warren Dunes State Park, just north of the Indiana and Michigan border right off Interstate 94. Even in a metropolis like Chicago, one can find a place within two hours or less to adventure.
I pulled into Warren Dunes around 1pm and there was hardly anyone there. One would think the outdoor areas would be full on a moderately warm Saturday afternoon in December. People must have been shopping or hunkering down indoors. I had the trails to myself.
The trails in Warren Dunes are not groomed. I usually prefer groomed trails, but the narrow trails snaking in between large dunes make it feel like a true cross-country experience. Others had skied the trails before, so I was able to follow their tracks.
At one point the tracks ended, yet the trail continued up a large dune. I decided to make my own tracks and climbed the large hill. I skied around a corner and was rewarded with a brilliant view of Lake Michigan and the surrounding dunes.
I turned around and a hawk glided over the hills and the bird’s silhouette was outlined in the backdrop of a brilliant blue sky.
I could not believe I had this incredible experience all to myself and I was less than two hours away from downtown Chicago; meanwhile, on the other side of Lake Michigan, millions of people were shopping or wasting away an afternoon.
After an invigorating two hour ski, it was back to my car for a two hour drive to the bright lights of the city. At Demera, the Ethiopian restaurant, I gorged myself on injera-filled tilapia, beets, and other African delicacies while drinking a few Ethiopian beers. It was great to be among good friends in the city.
In the back of my mind the image of a hawk flying over a dune in the bright blue Michigan sky would not go away. This was a good thing as it was a memory I did not want to disappear anytime soon.
>> Visit the Warren Dunes State Park website for more information on this cross-country skiing destination.
>> Check out the Demera Ethiopian Restaurant website for menus and location.