Adventure #15 – Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve

Our last adventure of the summer was a visit to the Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve in Darien (#49 on the list of 50 Ideas for Summer Fun) on Friday, August 31st. We ended up getting to 24 of the 50 places mentioned on the list. We hit a few more places that were not on the list. So, it was a busy and enjoyable summer.

Though our stop at the Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve was brief, we enjoyed our time there. We pulled into the circular drive and found a parking spot. Once we got out of the car we headed to the map, displayed nicely on a large billboard. It was not even up for discussion as to where we were going to go. We headed right to the Rocky Glen Waterfall.

The walk to the waterfall was scenic. Though the waterfall is actually a dam and not an actual waterfall at all. The trail was nicely paved with limestone (some are turf covered), that ended up feeling rather soft under your feet. The trails were also nicely labeled. There was no guessing as to where you were.

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Before we even got to the waterfall, I had to stop and take some pictures. I just couldn’t resist the tall trees and the cool rock formations.

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With 11 miles of trails, we lucked out and did not have to walk long to get to the waterfall. Once we arrived at the falls, the kids wanted to jump in. Well, maybe not jump, but at least walk in. I had to remind them that our visit was short and we had no towels or change of clothes. The frowns on their faces said it all.

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They were able to walk around the large rocks and of course pose for some pictures for me. There was a request to take the shoes off, but that was followed with a very quick, “No!”

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I grabbed one more picture of the kids near the waterfall, before we headed back to the car. Right before I took the picture, numerous kids arrived with their moms. These kids were ready for their day at the waterfall. They had their bathing suits on, kicked off the shoes and grabbed their nets before getting into the water. We will have to plan accordingly, when we visit again.

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The walk back to the car included a conversation on how we will have to really take advantage of the amazing trails and the other “must see” locations within the preserve, when we return.

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Adventure #14 – Bahá’í Temple, Grosse Point Lighthouse & Artists of the Wall Mural

With summer break quickly coming to an end, we really put it in high gear. On the agenda for Thursday, August 30th was the Bahá’í Temple (#5 on the List of 50 Ideas for Summer Fun) in Wilmette, the Grosse Point Lighthouse (#22) in Evanston and the Artists of the Wall Mural (#4) in Rogers Park.

We headed to the Bahá’í Temple first, because it was the farthest from the house. Located at 100 Linden Avenue, it only took us about 30 minutes to get there. As we drove up to the Temple, it’s hard to believe you are in a Chicago suburb and not in a foreign country. The Temple is so majestic and beyond anything you are used to seeing in and around Chicago. It is the only one of its kind in North America and the oldest of the seven Bahá’í Temples found throughout the world.

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The Bahá’í faith as explained on www.bahai.org 

“Bahá’í beliefs address such essential themes as the oneness of God and religion, the oneness of humanity and freedom from prejudice, the inherent nobility of the human being, the progressive revelation of religious truth, the development of spiritual qualities, the integration of worship and service, the fundamental equality of the sexes, the harmony between religion and science, the centrality of justice to all human endeavors, the importance of education, and the dynamics of the relationships that are to bind together individuals, communities, and institutions as humanity advances towards its collective maturity.”

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As you make your away around the temple, you are immediately drawn to the fountains and gardens.

“The Baha’i House of Worship gardens are part of the sacred space. The nine gardens are planted with foliage of various colors and fragrances to convey the beauty of unity in diversity. The nine rectangular approaches to the Temple, some incorporating reflecting pools, are reminiscent of those found in the East. The nine circular gardens, with round fountains, represent Western landscapes and serve as outdoor rooms for prayer.”                   – www.bahai.us

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As I looked closer at the architecture and all the intricate design work, I was struck by what appeared to be a swastika, below the Star of David. On further research of the symbols found in the pillar, I came across an article explaining the meaning behind the placement of the symbols.

“Intricate carvings depicting the symbols of other religions on the nine exterior pillars represent the central Baha’i canon: that all major religions are actually reflections of a single divine source. The symbols are arranged in chronological order-from bottom to top-on the pillars. That’s why the swastika is at the base, with the Star of David above it (although it was adopted by the Nazis, the swastika as a religious symbol dates back nearly 5,000 years). Baha’i is the newest world religion-so its symbol, a nine-pointed star, tops each pillar.” Chicago Magazine, Sandra Swanson – 6/18/2007

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After making our way around the Temple’s exterior, we headed inside the Temple. No pictures were allowed.

What you can expect in the Auditorium, as explained on the website:

“Our Auditorium is open every day, from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., including all holidays. You are welcome to visit for silent worship and personal contemplation. During devotional programs, held at 9:15 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. each day, you will hear readings from the world’s great scriptures. A capella singing and chanting lends the simple beauty of the human voice to many programs. There is no clergy in the Baha’i Faith and no sermons or speeches are given in the Auditorium. Excerpts from scripture are pre-selected by the House of Worship staff and read aloud by local community members. The Baha’i House of Worship choir sings at 12:30 p.m. on the first three Sundays of every month.”

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The Temple is truly a magnificent architectural marvel. It is well worth the trip, no matter how long or short the drive.

Next stop was the Grosse Point Lighthouse, located at 2601 Sheridan Road, only 1 mile south of the Bahá’í Temple.

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A little history on the lighthouse, as described on the website:

“Grosse Point Lighthouse was built by the United States Government in 1873 as the lead lighthouse marking the approach to Chicago after several shipwrecks demonstrated its need. The promontory on which it stands was named Grosse Point (Great Point) by early French explorers and traders in the 17th century.

At its height of operation, Grosse Point Lighthouse required three keepers and a day laborer for maintenance and to keep the light and fog signals in top condition. In 1923, the lighthouse was electrified and staff was reduced to two keepers. Then, in 1934, with the installation of a photoelectric device – the first of its kind used to activate a lighthouse – the station was decommissioned. In 1935, the lighthouse site became the responsibility of the Lighthouse Park District.”

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While the grounds of Grosse Point Lighthouse National Landmark are open to the public free of charge year-round, tours of the lighthouse are held seasonally. Weather permitting, specially arranged group tours of the lighthouse during the week can be made from mid-May through September. The District also conducts regularly scheduled tours of the lighthouse June through September, on Saturdays and Sundays at 2, 3  and 4 PM.

During our visit the lighthouse was closed, but we enjoyed exploring the grounds.

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The last stop of the day was Loyola Park, in Rogers Park (1230 W. Greenleaf Ave). It was here where we were going to enjoy some local artwork. The Artists of the Wall Festival (AOTW) is a community mural project that brings neighbors of all ages and backgrounds together to paint a 600-foot seawall at Loyola Park Beach. This year was the 25th Anniversary of the festival and the theme was “Legends of the Wall.” The sea wall spans from Farwell to Morse at the lakefront.

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As we walked along the seawall, which resembles a very long bench, the kids would pick out their favorite pieces of art. I would then be summoned to take a picture.

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The quotes gave you something to think about.

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The artwork was interactive and evoked many different emotions.

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As we gathered for one more picture together, a long sigh was let out. It was a very busy morning, with some amazing sightseeing and now it was time to head back home and have some lunch.

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Adventure #13 – Chicago Full Moon Jam

We attended our first Full Moon Jam on Monday, August 27th. We were not sure what to expect, but I wanted to make sure we found a parking spot. So, we got there about an hour before it started, which was supposed to be 7:30pm (ending at 10pm). The Jam takes place south of Foster Turf Fields (which is south of Foster Beach), in between the Lakefront Trail and Simonds Drive. Parking is free in this area and the Full Moon Jam is also free. We ended up bringing some sandwiches and having dinner while we waited.

“Chicago Full Moon Jam is a monthly, family-oriented, and free gathering for the community from May to October that centers on a public display of fire dancing.  The Full Moon Jam is a fully permitted event through the Chicago Parks District and Chicago Fire Department, and part of the Night Out in the Parks event series.” – FullMoonJam.org

As we ate our sandwiches, we watched the crowd increase around us and tried to predict what we would be watching. The kids were a little concerned about the windy conditions. I repeatedly reminded them that the performers knew what they were doing and those organizing the event would not put anyone in danger. The show started around 8:00pm and we were all filled with a mixture of excitement and nervousness. I mean, it’s fire and we all grew up learning that it can be dangerous.

A very large oval was roped off, separating the performers from the spectators. Numerous performers would enter the oval and spread themselves out in different sections, making sure to give everyone in the crowd a great view of the show.

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At times we were not quite sure what we were seeing and how it was even possible.

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Around 9pm, the kids were getting tired, so we headed out. Before we got back in the car, we walked over to the lake to see the Full Moon. It was a very magical night.

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Adventure #12 – Cantigny Park

On Thursday, August 23rd we visited Cantigny (pronounced CAN-TEE-NEE) Park (#10 on the list of 50 Ideas for Summer Fun). Located in Wheaton, Illinois, the park is 500 acres and is the former estate of Colonel Robert R. McCormick, longtime editor and publisher of the Chicago Tribune.

“It was named after a small village in France, where Colonel McCormick commanded an artillery battalion in 1918 as a member of the U.S. Army’s First Division. The Battle of Cantigny was America’s first victory in World War I.” – Cantigny Park Website

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As we entered the park we paid $5 for parking ($10 on the weekends from May – September). An unbelievable deal, considering the enjoyment you’ll receive from your visit. We quickly ate our packed lunch, near the newly renovated playground and then went through the Visitor’s Center.

We walked through some of the gardens before heading to the Tank Park, which features 100 years of armor. The kids really enjoyed climbing on these massive machines and reading about their place in military history.

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After leaving the Tank Park, we headed to the Idea Garden. However, before entering the garden we had to get a picture on the yellow sofa and chairs (we found others along the way). You never know where you will see the Chairs of Cantigny, but when you do, you just have to get a picture.

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We enjoyed walking around and seeing many of the French influences in the Idea Garden, which happens to be the theme this year. There was also a tribute to a rather special gift from France to the United States. Noah was also pretty proud of his frog find in the lily pond. From there it was on to the Rose Garden and my favorite place in the park. The pergola is beautiful and makes an amazing backdrop.

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Our last stop, and the kids’ favorite place, was the Formal Garden and fountains. The last time we had visited Cantigny Park, was probably a good seven years ago, but the kids still remember the fountains. Since, I did not pack any towels (which I suggest you do), I told the kids that they could just get their feet wet. I’m sure you can guess how well that went over.

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After sitting in a wheelchair (with a newly dislocated knee), and watching the kids have fun in the water, Riley asked if she could just put her hands in the water. So, Sydney was nice enough to wheel her around the water, making sure not to get her too wet.

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In the end, it was a fun visit and the kids were pleasantly surprised on how much fun they had. And for a photographer, like myself, Cantigny Park offers so many photo opportunities, you just don’t know what to shoot first.

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Adventure #11 – The Chicago Air & Water Show Practice Day

One of my favorite events of summer is when amazing aircrafts can be seen flying over the Chicago skyline and the lakefront. I learned a few years ago that the best time to enjoy the Chicago Air and Water Show (#1 on the List of 50 Ideas for Summer Fun) is during the Friday practice day. So, I packed the kids up with some beach gear and we headed to North Avenue Beach on August 17th. We found parking in the Lincoln Park Zoo parking lot and while we made our way to the bridge to walk over Lake Shore Drive, we saw parachuters sailing through the sky. First out were the U.S. Army Parachute Team, The Golden Knights. By the time we got to the beach and got ourselves situated the U.S. Navy Parachute Team, The Leap Frogs were making the jump.

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It was a rather cloudy morning, but I was keeping my fingers crossed that the weather would improve. I had not yet been let down by a Friday Practice Show. Next up were the Firebirds Delta Team.

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At this point the kids made themselves a nice “sand couch” to sit back and enjoy the show.

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The U.S. Coast Guard was next and showed off their rescuing skills.

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With the cloud cover not letting up, it became rather difficult to get descent pictures of the planes. But, as long as they were flying by, I was clicking away. Sean D. Tucker and Team Oracle buzzed by the U.S. Coast Guard. The Aeroshell Aerobatic Team were the last ones out before a lengthy break was taken. The hope was, the cloudy conditions would improve.

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While we waited, we had lunch and the kids continued to play in the water and partake in some sandcastle making.

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When the show resumed, it was the Chicago Police and Fire Department’s turn to wow the crowd.

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The F-35 roared in and it was not alone. As part of the Heritage Flight, the F-35 was paired with a World War II aircraft.

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It was then the U.S Navy F-18’s turn to get the crowd’s adrenaline going and it was successful. Going supersonic was a real crowd pleaser.

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The final act before the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds arrived, included Bill Stein Aerosport, the Firebirds and Matt Chapman (Embry Riddle). Wouldn’t you know, the blue skies started to show themselves.

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Finally, it was time! The moment the crowd was looking forward to all day. The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds were announced and on their way. Everyone started to look to the sky. Straining their eyes and trying to figure out from which direction they would come. After, what seemed like an eternity, they were spotted over the lake. It was show time!

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While I was photographing the action, Riley was nice enough to grab a video.

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For close to 30 minutes the Thunderbirds thrilled the crowd and as quickly as they arrived, they were gone in seconds. Until 2020, Thunderbirds! Thanks for another fantastic Friday Practice Show!

Adventure #10 – The Field Museum

We had friends visiting from California and there was a request to see mummies and dinosaurs. Well, there is no better place to see those things than at The Field Museum. So, on July 19th, we paid a visit to the museum that houses nearly 40 million artifacts and specimens.

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When we first walked into the museum we were greeted by Máximo, the Titanosaur. He is the biggest dinosaur that scientists have discovered to date. This long-necked, plant-eating dinosaur lived over 100 million years ago in what is now Patagonia, Argentina.

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We were also amazed by the Plant Clouds hanging from the ceiling. The Field Museum posted the following on Facebook, describing the Plant Clouds:

“Did you know our hanging gardens can be raised and lowered? These nature clouds are perfectly self-sufficient floating in Stanley Field Hall, but we can lower them for special care or events as need be. ☁️🌱

The cloud structures were 3D printed, with the largest measuring 35 feet across and weighing about 15,000 pounds! Together, the four gardens house over 1,000 individual plants that are all fed and watered through a contained system housed in the ceiling.

We promise to keep these “house plants” alive.” 

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After being wowed by Máximo and the Plant Clouds, our next stop was to see the Mummies. We saw mummies from Peru and Egypt. Through non-invasive CT scans, we were able to get a look inside the elaborate coffins and learn a little about their way of life and beliefs. I had to make sure to read the signs carefully. There were some places where photos were not allowed.

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“Shabtis were small statuettes usually in the form of a mummy and were placed inside the tomb of the deceased. The Egyptians believed that these figures would come to life when called by the dead person and would serve him in his afterlife.” – MyLearning.org

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We then moved on to the Antarctic Dinosaurs. We got a glimpse of Antarctic 255 million years ago, when it was a lush, forested environment.

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Once we returned to civilization, we checked out a few more exhibits and had some fun with some sculptures.

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At the end of our visit we were all a little bit smarter and very tired.

Adventure #9 – The Morton Arboretum

On July 19th we went Troll Hunting at the Morton Arboretum (#31 on the list of 50 Ideas for Summer Fun). Seeing pictures of these wooden creatures was impressive, but to see them in person was amazing! Out of the six trolls, created by Danish artist Thomas Dambo, out of reclaimed wood, we saw five and was able to walk up to three.

The first troll sighting occurred before we even stepped into the Arboretum. It can be seen from I-88. Unfortunately, the walk to get to that troll was a bit too long for some of the tiny feet joining our adventure.  So, we walked to a couple trolls that were not as far. One troll was waiting patiently with a trap and was successful in catching some delicious kids. Um, I mean super sweet kids, not meant for eating.

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Another troll was not happy with where this car parked and showed his frustration with a rather large boulder.

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After some lunch, we decided it would be a good time to take a break from troll hunting. So, we visited the Wonder Pond and the Evergreen Walk and Lookout.

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After a refreshing visit to the pond and an exhilarating stop at the rope bridge, it was time to continue on our hunt. The rest of the pursuit would be done in the car. The walk would have been way too long (even for large feet).

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Due to time constraints, we had to end our hunt. We were able to drive past one more troll, but was not able to find the last one. Hopefully, we can make another visit to finish the hunt, sometime soon. The Morton Arboretum states on their website that the Trolls will remain through 2018 and all depending on the weather conditions, you may be able to see them in 2019. I highly suggest you don’t miss seeing these incredible woodland creatures!