The official user's manual for sunshine

Signs of Summer: Sleeping Under the Stars

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South Haven KOA

South Haven KOA

Summertime for us is all about sleeping under the stars. Here are our top five campgrounds, each less than a gas tank away.

South Haven KOA
Although not exactly in South Haven, or on the beach, this family-run campground has blueberries for the picking along with a very nice pool.  The tent area is set back in a small thicket of trees near a fishing pond far removed from the RVs. Nearby are excellent beaches along with busy South Haven and St. Joseph.  39397 M-140, Covert, Michigan, (269)764-0818,

Kettle Moraine Southern Unit
About two hours north of the city, near Whitewater, is the answer to your neighbor’s summer home in Lake Geneva. Besides fairly private camp sites, the state park offers a decent enough beach, boat rentals, nearby ski trails repurposed for mountain biking in the summer, and the thousand-mile-plus Ice Age National Scenic Trail.  While a summer home in Lake Geneva will set you back at least a couple hundred thousand dollars, camping (with firewood and marshmallows) is about $30 a night. S91 W39091 Highway 59, Eagle, Wisconsin, (262)594-6200, website for campground Read the rest of this entry »

In Service of Summer: A Brief Guide to Nature

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The city grind makes it hard at times to get back to nature. Pack a picnic or lace up your boots, there’s something out there for everyone.

For an educational trip outdoors, head out to the Little Red Schoolhouse Nature Center in Willow Springs (9800 Willow Springs Road). Find out about the area’s rich historic past ranging from glacial formations to Indian trails. The Schoolhouse itself is a great location for children to learn while enjoying some fresh air.

In the same vein, visit Graue Mill in Oak Brook (3800 York Road) and see the only working waterwheel gristmill in northern Illinois. The attached museum showcases the inner workings of the mill itself. It is also one of the remaining stations of the Underground Railroad, with a full exhibit with photos and interactive displays.

If plants are more your thing, visit the Garfield Park Conservatory (300 North Central Park) located on Chicago’s West Side. Take the Green Line, getting off at the Central Park Drive station. View prehistoric ferns and lush foliage in any of their multiple greenhouses. Check in with the park for scheduled events or workshops. Read the rest of this entry »

Walk on the Wild Side: Out in the country

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There’s a picture on my dresser of a nondescript dirt path, leading to an unidentifiable footbridge, which crosses a thin, nameless stream, then continues on toward a rising set of foothills and beyond. I don’t remember where the picture was taken, but that hasn’t mattered for a very long time. The snapshot’s there simply to remind me of a search that can only occur outdoors. The goal, when there is something that finite, is often as simple as physical exertion or discovering where certain paths lead. I also know people who believe that things such as sandstone outcroppings, tall prairie cordgrass and stands of eastern red cedar trees represent our most intense connection to a spiritual life, and that nature gives off a rejuvenating energy; so they hike back into the wilderness or tramp through the dunes to recharge and become whole. Read the rest of this entry »