Michael Reher turned to nature to reclaim his health, but it ended up giving him so much more.
The lifelong Villa Park resident retired after 35 years in the printing industry. He has been married for 28 years and has no children. When he's not in the forest preserves, he enjoys bowling and tending to his koi pond.
Read more about Reher’s journey to catching nature.
A photo of Sawmill Creek at Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve that Reher took on one of his many walks in nature.
Discovering DuPage Forest Preserves
My first exposure to DuPage forest preserves was in 2011 after suffering a brain-stem stroke. Being off work for almost a year, I was a regular at York and Fullersburg Woods forest preserves in Oak Brook.
At that time, Fullersburg Woods’ Salt Creek overlook on the Night Heron Trail was my favorite spot on earth. It has mature trees with the Salt Creek at the bottom of a ridge with a bench to sit on to take it all in.
I really love being in an environment that seemed miles away from a metropolitan area.
Some resting deer that Reher encountered at Fullersburg Woods. Photo by Michael Reher
Catching the Nature Bug
I attended the Forest Preserve District’s volunteer open house in January 2019. I signed up for three programs: Protect your Waters boating monitor, Special Services and Trail Watch. Trail Watch requires using the buddy system. I was taken under the collective arm of several experienced Trail Watch volunteers which was great.
What Brings Him Back Time and Time Again
Everyone I walked with on our 2-hour Trail Watch shift was in much better shape than me. Week after week I would go out with these folks and struggle to keep up.
I finally realized that my 2-pack-a-day cigarette addiction had to go if I wanted to continue pursuing volunteering to its fullest potential. At the end of summer 2019 I officially became a former smoker.
Favorite Things to Do in the Preserves
Being surrounded by nature helped me with the mental component of suffering a stroke. My phone is full of pictures of biking, hiking and paddling trips taken since that year.
A photo of Songbird Slough that Reher took while volunteering as a Protect Your Waters boat monitor, which looks for invasive zebra mussels in District lakes.
How Nature Inspires
My life has come full circle since those days sitting at Fullersburg Woods reflecting on the Salt Creek overlook bench. Today I seek out time to spend in nature and the forest preserves because of how good it makes me feel physically and mentally.
Advice to Others
With coronavirus causing so much devastation to people’s lives — job loss, financial uncertainty, sickness — get out and enjoy the forest preserve to help you heal your spirit like I did after suffering my stroke. When we get past this, you too may continue to appreciate the simplicity and beauty of nature.