April Green is making up for lost time. After living in DuPage County for 32 years, she decided 2019 was the year to discover DuPage forest preserves.
Green and her friend, Jackie Blair, set out to visit all 60+ DuPage forest preserves this year. They have about 10 more to go.
After seeing a story about how the only endangered dragonfly in the U.S. makes its home along the Des Plaines Riverway, Green reflected on "the amazing riches I've encountered this year on my own personal quest to visit all preserves in 2019."
Here’s her story.
I’m 61 and retired a year and a half ago after 25 years as an administrative assistant. My husband and I have been married 31 years after meeting on a blind date. We both love traveling and the thrill of experiencing new places and cultures. I keep busy with myriad personal projects, entertaining and enjoy the social aspect of things like bunco, book clubs and MPC, a charity-based global group where we inspire and support each other with whatever our personal challenges might be.
Discovering DuPage Forest Preserves
I’ve been in DuPage County for 32 years and I’m ashamed to say that this is the first year I finally made an effort to really get to know the preserves beyond those within a few miles of my home.
I live right by Night Heron Marsh and had read an article about the butterfly and pollinator habitat improvements. I was so excited to hear about this and amazed this was right where I live, I went right to the DuPage forest preserve website and started to read more and got hooked on looking at other areas.
I set a challenge for myself to visit every one of them, and that includes finding all those that might not have even have a trail or parking lot. With the help of my friend Jackie Blair, we mapped them all out, started in February (snowshoeing through some) and only have about 10 to go.
We've watched the landscape change through winter, spring, summer and now fall.
Jackie Blair (left) and April Green during a recent visit to Herrick Late Forest Preserve in Wheaton.
What Brings Her Time and Time Again
I enjoy reading up on the history and habitat of each location we visit via the DuPage forest website before heading out. It’s fun to try and match what I’m seeing and hearing to the description, like a sort of scavenger hunt. What I don’t see today, maybe I’ll find the next time. It’s a never-ending game that never gets old.
Catching the Nature Bug
I grew up in the Chicago suburbs and my family wasn’t really into the outdoors, but I remember the first time I went away to Girl Scout camp and thinking I could live in the woods forever! My grandparents lived on a lake and any time we were there, I loved to walk the paths through the trees and find a spot to just sit and do nothing.
As I got older, I was able to get more into hiking all over the world with my husband, enjoy a variety of natural landscapes and learn to appreciate that each has something very valuable to teach us.
Favorite Thing to Do in the Preserves
Just be. Open up my senses to take in the smells, the sounds, the sights and to feel the energy of life around me. My true “happy place” has always been walking in a forest, any time of year. I feel as though it can clear the mind and cleanse the soul if you let it.
How Nature Inspires
While the peace and calm I get from being in nature certainly helps inspire my creativity, learning about and visiting all these preserves has also given me a new appreciation for the many endangered species and habitats. That has inspired me to be more mindful of ways I can help protect and preserve them for the future.
Advice to Others
Next time you think you’ll just “go for a walk in the woods,” challenge yourself to really look around you. Can you learn to identify a couple plants or animal tracks? Can you identify which bird is making what call? Don’t fall into taking it all for granted. Let nature embrace you and work its wondrous magic on your soul.
Blair and Green pause for a plank on the dock at Herrick Lake Forest Preserve in Wheaton.