Funk’s Grove Nature Center

IMG_4100

This time, we headed out to the Funks Grove Nature Center. It had been a few years since we’d ventured out here, and they have made a lot of improvements since last time!

Part 1: Sugar Grove Nature Center

The nature center was a highlight for Punchy and Bossy. Punchy loved the animals (turtles, snakes, frogs, toads, caterpillars) and Bossy liked to play with the teepee that is set up. There was a big section of nature finds that kids can touch, like antlers, wasp nests, jaw bones with teeth in them, geodes, etc.

They have beautiful and functional hiking sticks – both adult and kid-sized – available for borrowing while on the trails. Punchy and Bossy and their two friends felt Very Official walking around with a walking stick. The assistance also came in handy for J’s friend, who was hiking on her due date with baby en utero. (God bless you, M)

Part 2: Imagination Grove

IMG_5689

This is the bee’s knees. Plenty of places for adults to sit and chat while the kids play on the plethora of kid stuff. There’s a zip line, a clubhouse, a climbing treehouse, two sandboxes, a platform treehouse with a pulley system, a stream where one can procure extremely muddy water, a balance beam, and just generally a bunch of dirty stuff to climb around in.

There are tons of bugs to discover, including centipedes, which Punchy calls “recipe bugs” because that’s how he heard “centipede.” We saw a very cool caterpillar that fell out of a tree onto someone’s shoulder. The man very generously donated the caterpillar to Punchy after having his personal space invaded by an EXTREMELY interested three year old.

IMG_5716

What did Bossy do while Punchy played with bugs? Carried muddy water in an old muffin tin from the stream to the clubhouse – over and over and over. Can’t complain.

It’s also worth mentioning that we saw two children in wheelchairs enjoying the grove. It’s an accessible, educational place to play.

Part 3: Trails

The trails here are gorgeous. Wide open spaces, trees, and easy walking. There are lots of different trails to choose from, and they are all clearly marked. Bossy and his friend had a great time helping us navigate. The trails are color coded, so they helpfully pointed out all the yellow arrows to us. The yellow trail was 0.6 miles, which was good for everyone except our three year old friend, C, who was very sleepy and needed to be carried by daddy.

IMG_4097

We didn’t even explore all that Funks Grove has to offer. We want to go back! Funks Grove gets a 5/5 for experience and a 5/5 for kid friendly.

 

 

Advertisements

Comlara Park – Glasener Beach

IMG_5650

Well the first thing we have to say about Glasener Beach is that it doesn’t open till noon on Saturday, which we didn’t realize until we were already on our way ~10am on Saturday.

Luckily, there is lots of stuff to do at Comlara Park while you wait for the beach to open. This was one of our favorite hiking destinations last year. There is a short trail that circles Lake Evergreen and is easy on little legs. We opted to hang out with friends on the playground this time, and grill some lunch.

Although we had a very nice playground, all four kids there (Punchy, Bossy, and their two friends) were more interested in the outhouses, the small charcoal grill, and asking their parents lots of questions than in playing on the playground. Bossy especially has a penchant for outdoor plumbing alternatives this summer. (At Tball practice, he said of the porta potty, in hushed and reverent tones: “I love it in here.”)

Once we were fed, we headed for the beach. There is another section of water that is devoted to kayaking, canoeing, fishing, etc. But we headed to the smaller section for swimming.

IMG_5654

Once we got through the extremely scary, Handmaid’s tale training facility that passes for the showers, locker rooms, and bathrooms (seriously, I’m pretty sure some of the lockers are stuffed with body parts), the beach was pretty nice. I mean – for Central IL. The sparkling waters of the Caribbean…this is not. But it was impressive enough for one of the boys’ friends to call it “the ocean.”

There are inner tubes available to rent, the water was shallow enough for Punchy and Bossy to splash around in, and the grown ups got a few precious moments to sit and complain about parenting. At any given moment we saw no less than three lifeguards on duty.

Overall, we give it a 4/5 for experience and a 5/5 for kid friendly.

IMG_5657

Firefly Grill – Effingham, IL

IMG_5531

Each summer we travel to Effingham and spend a weekend on Lake Sara (see our post on the lake). On this year’s trip A & J were fortunate to ditch Punchy and Bossy for a few hours (thanks, grandma!) and dine at the Firefly Grill.

The Setting

The Firefly is an impressive building, with floor to ceiling windows that flood the restaurant with natural light. The dining room and bar feels both trendy and contemporary with its neon lights and stainless steel, but also homey and Midwest chic with its re-purposed wood. According the Firefly’s website,

the frame of the building is recycled steel, all of the barn wood is reclaimed as is much of our furniture, the pond irrigates our gardens which greatly reduces our carbon footprint.

While we waited for our meals, we fed fish on a deck that stretches out over a small pond, while J sipped a tasty white Sangria. (The Firefly doesn’t serve any of these fish. A asked and got a funny look.)

IMG_5510

The Menu

The Firefly offers a wide menu with something for everyone. There are three gardens on the grounds where the Firefly team grows many of the vegetable and herbs that they use. Sustainable, organic food is part of the mission at the FFG:

We are so passionate about our ingredients that we grow many ourselves. The remainder are hand selected locally or sourced from artisan farmers, foragers and fisherman who care for them as deeply as we do.

A ordered a cheeseburger (SO adventurous!) and french fries. Both were delicious and the serving size was generous. J ordered a Thai chicken pizza that was covered in fresh carrots, cucumber, onion and peanuts. J enjoyed her choice and didn’t even miss the cheese (this fact was evidenced by an empty plate, complete with gnaw marks).

Check out their MENU.

The Service

Our waitstaff were helpful, prompt, and friendly. They laughed at A’s dad jokes, let us feed the corpulent koi, and were kind enough to call us when A left his credit card behind.

All in all, we greatly enjoyed the Firefly Grill and recommend it to anyone traveling down state on I-57.

IMG_5505

Lake Sara – Effingham, IL

sign

Every year, J’s family treks to Effingham, IL to stay in cabins on Lake Sara, at a place called Anthony Acres. This is “camping” – or as close to it as J usually gets – including a mattress with box springs and air conditioning.

Punchy and Bossy have been coming here since they were babies, and they enjoyed it more than ever this year. Bossy is five now and can actually engage in a bit of fishing with J’s dad. Punchy enjoyed the wildlife.

Anthony Acres has a small beach that is fun for kids and appropriately gross and slimy to adults. There’s a dock for jumping off and a shallow end for kids Punchy and Bossy’s ages.

beachh

New this year is a playground set that we enjoyed helping to break in. The cute little office has a wide variety of candy for purchase, which Bossy in particular loves to peruse.

playset

office

The highlight of the weekend, of course, is going out on boat rides with J’s dad. The real estate along the lake is impressive – there is always a new mansion being built. The nature is breathtaking. We saw blue herons taking flight, gulping fish down in one swallow. We saw turtles sunning themselves on logs. We saw baby raccoons prowling around in their den. We saw a fawn taking a drink from the lake. The breeze on the lake is refreshing.

No real hiking took place this weekend, but A and J did take a nice walk along the golf course and saw some bullfrogs. Overall, Lake Sara gets 5/5 for family friendly summer fun. We didn’t bring our dogs on the trip, but dogs are welcome.

fishsign.JPG

 

Moraine View – Tall Timber Trail

Our spirits were high when we set out to walk this 1.5 mile backpack trail in Moraine View this morning. Punchy and Bossy were excited to explore.

tall timber

Part one: the Tall Timber Trail. This is a beautiful, peaceful, easy hike. The timbers are truly tall, and the chirping of birds is all that can be heard once you’re in the woods. There are ten marked tent camping spots to choose from, if that’s your thing.

We reminded our children about the first rule of nature: take only pictures, leave only footprints. Punchy said “I am not going to take this rock. I’m going to leave it here so a chicken can eat it.” (We did not see any chickens on our hike.)

hiking

The trail has two pretty footbridges that go over what is, right now, a glorified puddle. At some points in the year, it is probably an actual stream.

bridge

Last week J told the boys that the gurgling of water was one of her favorite sounds in the world. That must have made an impression on Bossy, who said “Mommy, I heard your favorite sound! A frog giggled!”

Part two: the Trail of Snails

snail
of this one, Punchy said “His ears are out!”

There were tiny snails all over this trail. It was bizarre. Punchy found the first one and was heartbroken that we wouldn’t let him keep it. “I just want to pick that snail up and keep it forever,” he said. “I just love snails.”

We were all interested in the first, oh…two or three snails. The next 997 snails we found were less interesting for J and A, but increasingly interesting to Punchy and Bossy. By the end, mommy was nudging snails off the trail so the boys wouldn’t notice them and force us all to examine another one.

snail2

Part three: The Trail of Tears

At 1.5 miles, this trail was just a little too long for Punchy and Bossy, who had stayed up late watching a movie the night before. A tried to institute a quiet “nature minute” to staunch the whining, but Punchy interrupted by saying “I have something really important. Are bees real?”

By the end, we were all frazzled. J had Punchy on her hip while A gave Bossy a ride on his shoulders. We were happy to see our car at the end.

Experience 5/5

  • Hiking
  • Camping
  • Bug spray is a MUST!

Kid-Friendly 3/5

  • Easy, well-maintained trails
  • An outhouse nearby (not that we use these because peeing on trees is FUN!)
  • Picnic areas and playgrounds
  • Safe
  • Slightly too long for little legs

Dog-Friendly 5/5

  • A water pump near the entrance and exit for thirsty pups
  • Easy trails

Moraine View & Tanglewood Self-Guided Nature Trail

003There is nothing better than Memorial Day weekend. Beautiful weather, an extra day off work, and the whole summer before you, full of possibility.

It was with that optimism that we set forth for our first family hike today, and decided to finally start the blog we talked about all last summer and never actually did.

So where to? Moraine View in Le Roy, Illinois is one of our favorite locations. Moraine View boasts boating, camping, a beach, Lake Dawson, and many hiking trails to choose from. We headed straight to the Tanglewood Nature Trail because it’s J’s favorite.

The Tanglewood Nature Trail is a short (half mile), circular trail with clear paths that make it great for kids. Hikers start out covered by a forest canopy, walking along a dirt path. Our hike got off to an exciting start because both of our dogs took a poop. This is welcome entertainment for both of our children: Punchy and Bossy.

001

After walking through the woods a bit and crossing a picturesque bridge, the trail opens up into classic Illinois Prairie.

“Isn’t this where we saw those people doin’ it last year?” J asked A. A confirmed that yes, they were either pre or post coital, right over yonder on a blanket.

While the kids started whining that grass was touching their calves, A surveyed the land. “See? If sh*t goes down like the Handmaid’s Tale, we can come out here and live off the land until everything blows over.” A looked at J, perhaps expecting relief to cross her face. J scoffed and preemptively complained about the bugs.

Just about the time Punchy started begging for someone to pick him up, we got to the best part of the trail: The floating bridge.002

J has done a lot of naturing in herlife and has never seen a floating bridge like this. It’s a highlight for our family because it lets you get up close and personal with frogs, marsh, cattails and pond scum.

Almost immediately, we heard the telltale sounds of frogs splashing into their hiding spots.

“GUYS!” screams Punchy. “GUYS!’ He repeats, at the top of his lungs. “Sshhhhh. Be Quiet. We don’t want to scare the frogs.” 10-4, Punchy.

004
there is a frog – look closely

While we all sway and watch the frogs, A gets a little anxious and grips the dog leashes tightly, remembering that Little Dog fell in the water last year while attempting to sniff one of the aforementioned frogs.

All in all, it was a great morning. We strongly recommend Moraine View for nature lovers and and hikers alike.

Experience 5/5

  • Hiking
  • Fishing
  • Hunting
  • Camping
  • Boating

Kid-Friendly 5/5

  • Easy, well-maintained trails
  • An outhouse nearby
  • Picnic areas and playgrounds

Dog-Friendly 5/5

  • A water pump near the entrance and exit for thirsty pups
  • Easy trails