Include CLC's Grayslake Campus on your hiking checklistmpus
Experience wetlands, prairie, woodlands, an apiary, geofields and more, all on a 1.5-mile walk. College of Lake County's Living Lab Trail may be found on the college's Grayslake campus, but it is open to all who wish to stroll its pathways.
"People don't know that we have an arboretum or a campus farm," said David Husemoller, sustainability manager for CLC.
Signs along the trail also offer an educational component. "There's three layers to the trail -- what's going on here at CLC, in our community and around the world."
For instance, the apiary, which is a collection of beehives, was welcomed to the trail in 2016. At the college, students studying agriculture tend the hives and harvest the honey while the bees help to pollinate the nearby campus farm.
In the community, bee populations are in distress, but can be helped by people planting a variety of native species. And around the world bees are so important to farming, international aid groups provide apiaries and beekeeper training to impoverished communities.
Husemoller says it isn't even necessary to drive onto campus to access the trail.
"We've done these extra trail connections and signs. We see more people from the neighborhood with their dogs walking through, people are out here on the weekends. It's a real resource for the whole community," he said.
Those connections also hook the campus and trail users into the larger trail network of Lake County, which includes an autumn challenge to area explorers. The annual Hike Lake County through Lake County Forest Preserves runs until Nov. 30.
"All trails are well-marked and easy to follow," said Nan Buckardt, education director for the Lake County Forest Preserves. "Participants discover new preserves while spending time outdoors. It's the perfect combination to reset your brain and get some exercise."
Those who accept the challenge begin by printing an official travel log. Then they need to make a plan to conquer seven of 12 designated trails by foot. Once accomplished, Hike Lake County finishers can turn in their logs to receive a free dog tag for any four-legged hiking companions and a free zipper pull or commemorative shield.
"Each year, the set of Hike Lake County trails is different. The variety of trails showcases the array of habitats and ecosystems found in Lake County," Buckardt said. "Participants might visit a restored wetland, a gorgeous woodland, a stunning prairie or a preserve with all three habitats."
As the challenge trails change each year, so too does CLC's outdoor spaces.
"We're going to keep adding to the Living Lab Trail. Solar is coming in this winter, and we received approval from the board to offer clothing recycling bins," Husemoller said. "We're also looking to connect the trail to some internet-based navigation systems and regional trails."
The feel of the trail also changes with the seasons, so don't be disheartened if you miss an autumn stroll. The Living Lab Trail, as well as the many Lake County Forest Preserves trails, will still be there for a winter walk, spring hike or summer jog.
For information about the College of Lake County, visit www.clcillinois.edu or call (847) 543-2000.