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« Feature: Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri Introduction: Cast of Shadows by Kevin Guilfoile »

Reviews Wed Oct 04 2006

Falling for Autumn in Illinois

Living in the city, one misses out on autumn. Trees can be scarce, so it is difficult to watch the leaves turn. Or, if they are like the trees on my street, they always look a bit pale and have a number of dead, bare branches year-round. So, how does one tell when it's autumn? To experience the full glory of the fall season, one must venture beyond the brick and concrete grid of Chicago.

Trees in Illinois will be reaching their peak colors through the next few weeks, so this is a great time to head outdoors. And, whether you want to plan an afternoon adventure or a weekend getaway, the following books may help you get started.

60 Hikes with 60 Miles 60 Hikes within 60 Miles, Chicago: Including Aurora, Elgin and Joliet
by Ted Villaire
(Menasha Ridge Press, 2005)
If your boots were made for walking, this may be the book for you. 60 Hikes within 60 Miles, Chicago profiles 60 trails around Chicago area, examining each trail from the point-of-view of the hiker. Busse Woods, the Fox River Trail, the Little Red Schoolhouse, a hike near Fermilab and an Oak Park history walk are just some of the places featured in the book. The guide provides detailed trail descriptions, including degree of difficulty, length of the trail, estimated hiking time, elevation profiles and GPS-based trail maps. Routes are also noted for other qualities, so you can find the best hikes for bird watching, for walking with kids or hiking with your dog.

Biking Illinois: 60 Great Road Trips and Trail Rides
by David Johnsen
(Trails Books, 2006)
If you would rather hit the trails on a bicycle, check out Biking Illinois. Sixty is the magic number again, but Biking Illinois covers trails and routes throughout the state, providing useful information just for cyclists. Plan a ride through the Shawnee National Forest in far southern Illinois, or take a trip closer to home along the Illinois & Michigan Canal. Each site includes a trail description, detailed map, and tips about local history, attractions, finding food or where to get bicycle repairs should you have a mishap along the way. Visit the companion website for Biking Illinois to read about Johnsen's personal experiences on some of the trails, and to find corrections and updates to information in the book.

Quick Escapes Chicago Quick Escapes Chicago: 26 Weekend Getaways In and Around the Windy City, 5th ed.
by Bonnie Miller Rubin, Marcy Mason
(Globe Pequot Press, 2003)
Want to get away for a few days? Pick up this book to start planning a Columbus Day weekend holiday. Quick Escapes Chicago features 26 easy weekend trips around the Midwest, all within a few hours' drive of the city. Go hiking in Starved Rock State Park in Utica, Ill., or see the fall colors in beautiful Brown County, Indiana. Drive up to Traverse City, Mich., or do the bed and breakfast thing in historic Galena, Ill. Quick Escapes Chicago includes tips on lodging, restaurants, attractions and more for each of the sites featured.

Off the Beaten Path, Illinois, 8th ed.
by Bob Puhala
(Globe Pequot Press, 2005)
The most recent edition of Illinois Off the Beaten Path may offer the best of both worlds. It contains suggestions for trips that can be accomplished in a day, plus places to visit for longer stays. Visit the Garden of the Gods near Harrisburg, or travel to Illinois Amish country near Arcola. Or, if you want a trip closer to home, plan a day at Chain O'Lakes State Park in north suburban Lake County. Destinations are divided by areas of the state, so finding a place nearby — or farther away — is easy. Illinois Off the Beaten Path claims to help travelers "go beyond the usual tourist attractions," but Illinois natives will have at least a passing familiarity with most of the places in the book. That doesn't mean natives have been there or done that, however, so Illinois Off the Beaten Path may remind you of some of those places you've always meant to visit but haven't gotten around to yet. Maybe this autumn is the time to get there at last.

 
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