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River Trail Nature Center


If I was keeping up my blog you would know that Canyon and I spend Tuesday and Thursday’s going on adventures. River and Raven have co-op on those days and it makes for the perfect one on one time for me and Canyon man. Usually that means outdoor fun-as long as it is above 19 degrees. We have learned over this beautiful, brutal winter that the children are happy outside as long as it is 19 or above. Below that and it is stay in the van and observe from warm comfort time.

Yesterday I wanted to try something new-always a risky proposition with Canyon. I follow a family on Instagram and they seem very similar to us. Well, they are way cooler than we are but our kids are similar ages and they do lots of outdoorsy stuff. This weekend the Dad posted photos of the kids at a Nature Center that I had never heard of so I mapped it and it was only about 25 minutes away. So we gave it a go.

First cool thing-we saw a coyote as we were turning into the area. I love coyotes. Second cool thing. WE FOUND A HARDEE’S! I can easily resist fast food from the typical establishments but Hardee’s is my favorite. Up until yesterday I thought we had to drive to Wisconsin or Indiana for the pleasure but now I know that they are making a move into the Chicagoland area! When I turned the corner and saw the restaurant I gasped, “HOLY. SHIT.” And from the backseat I heard, “SHIT.” Have I forgot to mention Canyon is starting to use more words? Well add that to the word count! So we ordered lunch and enjoyed it down by the Des Plaines River. Canyon is not a big meat eater but likes the occasional cheeseburger. Well he LOVED this one and was sitting in the backseat munching away and smiling and showing me how happy he was with this food. I was happy too. Hardee’s!!!

So we finished lunch and headed to the River Trail Nature Center. It is wonderful. I can’t believe I did not know about this place. Situated right on the river with lots of hiking trails to explore.


The center itself is beautiful. You walk in and to the right is a huge, light and airy room with fish, snakes, a brain damaged squirrel, a screech owl and an American Kestral. I kept giggling and saying, “American Kestral Maneuvers In The Dark”. Canyon didn’t get it. All the animals and birds that live at the center have injuries that make it impossible for them to be returned to the wild. Poor things.


But the greatest thing in the live animal part was the huge pond of turtles.


Red-eared Sliders, Painted Turtles, Aquatic Turtles, False Map Turtles and Musk Turtles.


Canyon was mesmerized. Also a little frustrated that he couldn’t splash in the pond. Which is totally understandable since so many kids play areas now have water ponds and splash areas. How do you explain the difference? I kept saying “this is a looking toy, not a touching toy!”

The turtles seemed as fascinated with Canyon as he was with them. I always wonder what Canyon’s autism superpower will be. I like to think he communicates telepathically with animals.


The second favorite thing was the ceiling fan up in the skylights. I took a video of it so he can watch it anytime he wants. I am going to admit I like it too! This kid is rubbing off on me.

The other side of the center is perfectly designed for toddlers. A huge play area with nature books and stories, art supplies, games, a felt board and a giant Eagle’s Nest to sit in and a Fox Den to climb around and hide. So much to do and see!






When we left the ranger guy said, “Bye Bison Boy!


Tuesday we barely scratched the surface of all the preserve has to offer. I look forward to exploring it more!


Getting Dirty, Meeting Deer-Part Two Of Our Maple Syrup Adventure!


Small crowds for the Maple Syrup Festival meant room to roam and make new friends!


Canyon tried to join the herd. Maybe he should have worn antlers instead of his bison hat.


I love places where I feel safe letting Canyon, River and Raven have space and freedom to explore on their own.





I also don’t care about mud or dirt. That is part of the beauty of hand me downs and buying used clothes and boots. You don’t have to worry that your kid just destroyed something expensive! I let my kids dress cute and splash in the mud!




This was by far the best outing we have had as a family without the safety net of the stroller. It gives me hope that someday I will be able to take all three of them out by myself! Sigh. That is a long way off but a Mom can dream!


Cold Temps But Warm Syrup!

Sunday we ventured out into the chill for one of our favorite traditions, The Maple Syrup Festival at North Park Village Nature Center!


Saturday was a good 12 degrees warmer so I bet the crowds were huge then, but Sunday was about 26 degrees and an inch of snow had fallen that morning so we rewarded for our cold hardiness with room to roam and not having to shove people out of the way to keep tabs on our fast moving children.

Our friends Kelly, Letham, Owen and Viv joined us too!



Canyon loves it when they fire up the big outdoor stove so he wanted to sit and watch them make the syrup.

And River and Raven wanted to lick the syrup! River would have just sucked down the whole test tube if we had let her. Syrup junkie!





We made little necklaces. I managed to let River decorate hers without also decorating her face. I might question the wisdom of letting children draw with Sharpies. But all well that doesn’t end up permanently on my child’s face.



It was also a great day to watch the trails…