Summer is fast approaching. The temperatures finally are starting to rise, and soon, the kids will be out of school with about three months of freedom ahead. If that sounds daunting, you’re in need of detailed entertainment strategies that just might be right out your proverbial back door.
I’ve got just the film to get you started and suggestions to very gently fit you into a pair of hiking shoes and maybe even a backpack and tent while you make memories and unplug. Doubting me? Check out the new film “Find Me,” now available on demand via amazon.com.
Tom Huang writes, directs and stars in “Find Me,” as Joe, a recently divorced and depressed accountant whose co-worker and best buddy, Amelia (Sara Amini), goes missing. Joe receives a letter from her with two simple words: Find me.
Joe embarks on an adventure as he follows a trail of clues, changing his life and outlook forever. The film takes Joe on “Easy Adventures,” easing him into the concept of connecting with nature and all it has to offer.
Through the slot canyons of Zion National Park just a few hundred yards from the trailhead to the serenity of Death Valley and the vistas of Yosemite, Joe begins to see the world through a different, and even clearer, lens than he had before.
Seeing this film will inspire you to get off the couch, open your door and take a trek to a nearby state or national park. While living in the Midwest doesn’t afford us an easy drive to any of the national parks in the film, we have an amazing array of places within an hour to three away that can replicate Joe’s experience and perhaps create a family memory that will last a lifetime.
Illinois boasts more than 120 state protected areas, Shawnee National Forest and more than 50 state parks, offering hiking trails with waterfalls and lakes, giving newcomers to the sport and seasoned veterans alike opportunities to enjoy breathtaking glimpses into our outdoor world.
Of course, the Kankakee State Park, which runs along the river, always is available, but have you crossed Illinois Route 102 to find additional trails running along Rock Creek? Just two hours south is the Kickapoo State Park where mountain biking, hiking, horseback riding, fishing, boating and camping all are available.
Tack on another 30 minutes and you’ll find Shawnee National Forest filled with hills, gorges and wildlife.
Walking into the woods in any of these parks along a narrow trail affords you a multi-dimensional appreciation of nature. The sounds dampen as you slow your breathing, smelling the honeysuckle and seeing the myriad shades of green that surround you. You forget your worries as you appreciate each step you take, seeing the turtle in the reeds or hearing an unusual bird call.
Michigan and Wisconsin also offer great hiking that is a little more challenging, but your effort is rewarded as you look to the north and see foothills seemingly painted in the distance. You’ll discover the river valleys below, steeped in moss-covered slate outcroppings, hiding vast ecosystems within, all balancing their world and ours.
While Devil’s Lake State Park in Wisconsin is a popular place, check out nearby Parfrey’s Glen to escape the summer heat as you’re enveloped by trees in this dense-yet-comforting forest. Of course, there is a lot for little ones at any State Park, so be sure to stop by the ranger station for great activities and information.
The dunes in Indiana was given national park status, and the Indiana Dunes National Park spans 15 miles along the Lake Michigan shoreline. Access is free along U.S. Route 12 from Gary to Michigan City and is just a little more than an hour’s drive away.
If you’re up for a little longer drive, check out Mammoth Cave National Park in central Kentucky. It’s the longest cave system known in the world and gives visitors an extraordinarily unusual “outdoors” experience. The caves are nestled below you, and there are plenty of easy hikes “above,” filled with stunning flora and fauna no matter what time of year you go.
The United States has more than 50 national parks, giving us all an opportunity to find the treasure of the great outdoors. And thanks to our State Park system, everyone, no matter where we live, can team up with Mother Nature and provide a long-lasting love of her creation while making life-long memories with our families.
A walk in the woods is an incredibly inexpensive endeavor that will spark conversations and learning, not just about nature but perhaps one another as your cellphones are off and you rely on old-fashioned talking. It just might become an annual adventure.
Start your adventure at home by watching “Find Me,” a film filled with humor, love and, most importantly, the inspiration to reconnect with ourselves and nature. We’ve got the chance to discover a whole new world right outside our back doors, so “be a traveler, not a tourist” in life.