Kim and Rick Gieser like to take walks together to decompress from their day. Kim is a district manager for LEGO Brand Retail, in charge of stores in the Midwest & throughout Canada, and Rick is the publicist for Zanies Comedy Clubs, a part-time producer at WGN Radio and village trustee in Carol Stream.
Their son, Ricky, is a junior at the University of Illinois in Champaign/Urbana studying environmental science with a special interest in paleontology.
“We usually walk in our neighborhood but would add walks in nearby preserves like West Branch, Timber Ridge, Kline Creek Farm or Winfield Mounds. With the pandemic, we decided to walk more often in DuPage forest preserves and try to visit each preserve,” Rick Gieser said.
Here’s their story.
Rick and Kim Gieser stop to take selfie at West DuPage Woods in West Chicago.
Discovering DuPage Forest Preserves
DuPage forest preserves have always been part of our recreation. We’re lucky to live in a county filled with so many forest preserves close to our home. We have several preserves minutes from our home.
We’ve visited the local forest preserves for many years — hiking, biking, relaxing and learning the history of DuPage County. During the pandemic, DuPage forest preserves have provided us a respite for fresh air, exercise and enjoying each others’ company. So we challenged ourselves to visit every DuPage forest preserve with trails! We reached our goal on Sept. 16 with Waterfall Glen in Darien.
Kim and Rick Gieser took notes on the DuPage forest preserves they visited. The Giesers visited 49 DuPage forest preserves between June and September 2020.
Favorite Forest Preserve and Time to Visit
We both love the Elsen's Hill area at West DuPage Woods in West Chicago. It has everything —woods, prairie, fen, a river, a lake, birds galore and frogs. Plus you can often see horses on the paths. We love to see the blackberries in the prairie change color from red to black in mid-summer. It’s spectacular!
One of the Giesers favorite DuPage forest preserve to visit is West DuPage Woods in West Chicago, which features spectacular fall colors.
What Brings You Back Time and Time Again?
The opportunity to spend time together, enjoy the beauty of the natural world and learn the history of the county is what brings us back. Each preserve offers visitors a glimpse into the past.
We get to see what the original residents to the county may have seen and experienced as they settled the county.
At Warrenville Grove, you can learn how the settlers harnessed the river for a mill. At St. James Farm, you learn how agriculture and transportation shaped the county. At York Woods (the first preserve owned by the Forest Preserve District), you learn that the preserve was purchased to allow Roosevelt Road to go from Chicago to Wheaton without turns.
Throughout the county you learn how the preserves are essential to aid in flood control.
Rick and Kim Gieser stop to read an interpretive sign at West DuPage Wood sin West Chicago.
Catching the Nature Bug
Our family has always enjoyed getting out in nature. When our son was very young, we introduced him to hunting for fossils, rocks and minerals. We go to preserves, river beds, rock cuts and beaches throughout the county, state and world. We have discovered many items during our trips and learned their significance & history. These outings were great bonding experiences for our family and also helped to cultivate a love of nature and geology in our son.
Warrenville Grove in Warrenville features trails, woodlands and a picnic area along the West Branch DuPage River.
The natural world tells us a story every day. It tells us about the health of the world and residents’ priorities. It’s telling us to be more respectful of the earth and to each other.
Favorite Thing to Do in the Preserves
We love walking the trails and enjoying the beauty. We like to take pictures of flowers, lakes and ponds, and unique trees. We’ve enjoyed using an app to identify plants, trees, bugs and birds. We like to share these pictures on social media and have even inspired some of our friends to visit the forest preserves!
Kim and Rick Gieser walk along a trail at West DuPage Woods in West Chicago.
Favorite Nature Quote
“Life finds a way” from Jurassic Park. When you see a flower growing from a crack in a rock, you know we’ll get through these tough times.
At York Woods in Oak Brook, oaks over 100 years old form canopies over the trail, where birders enjoy spotting northern orioles, cedar waxwings, warbling vireos, mallards, red-bellied woodpeckers and owls, among others.
How Nature Inspires
Nature inspires us to do better and be better. Be better stewards of the land and better citizens of the world. We are part of nature.
Rick and Kim Gieser explore a tree during a recent visit to West DuPage Woods in West Chicago.
Advice to Others
Just get out there and visit a nearby forest preserve. They are close to all our homes. You’ll be inspired by the beauty of the native plants, the calls of the birds & the abundant animal life.
If you’re like us, you’ll be inspired by the flowing rivers and streams and be transported to a time when pioneers first visited the county. You’ll then realize that, like the flowing rivers, we are each travelers through time and history. Hopefully, our time will be remembered as positive. The DuPage forest preserves will definitely be viewed as a positive legacy to the future residents of the county.
The 595-acre St. James Farm Forest Preserve in Warrenville contains more than 100 acres of woodlands, prairies and wetlands.