Bringing Outdoor Fun to the Windy City – Hike & Seek Takes on Chicago

Ranger Rick at Hike and Seek Chicago
Ranger Rick sends some hikers on their way at the Chicago Hike & Seek.

Friday, October 1, couldn’t have been any nicer. The weather was picture perfect and Chicago seemed to be enjoying the beginning of a beautiful fall weekend.

After receiving the much-anticipated Chicago Parks permit via fax at my hotel, we drove over to Lincoln Park to begin the set up of Hike & Seek. I’ve been waiting months for this day to come! Tents went up, the generator was working, tables, chairs delivered and a sound system. All that was left to do was wake up Saturday morning to receive all the families arriving from all over the Chicago area and provide a life-changing experience in nature for the kids! Even Ranger Rick was coming!

The first thing I did when I woke up at 4 a.m. (typical for event day) was look out the window to check out the weather. It wasn’t good. I could see driving rain in the street lights.

No worries, it’ll blow over by start time at 9 a.m., I thought to myself. The kids will be alright. Well, we got to Lincoln Park and the wind coming off that lake, not to mention the waves, was overwhelming! So I relieved the security guard, checked over the tents and saw that the registration tent was not looking good and listing starboard. One of the stakes had come loose from the wet, muddy ground. The wind was whipping around so furiously that I had to call for help from the rental crew and get them out there ASAP to fix it. I didn’t want to chance the entire tent coming down around not only the volunteers, but the participants (I was still optimistic that the weather would clear up at this point).

The first to arrive was Elliott from REI, in foul-weather gear, riding a bicycle hauling all his tents and equipment in a cart behind him. This gave me hope and I wanted his coat. Then my cousin, Laura, arrived with coffee and she was a welcome sight. More volunteers began trickling in around 7:30 and we got registration and the children’s activities set up just in case we were able to pull this off notwithstanding the squalls coming in off Lake Michigan! 8:00 rolled by, 8:30, 8:45, and still no families of hikers. The start time was 9:00 and I looked at my watch every minute at that point.

It was now 8:50 and I thought I could see in the distance a family, yes, a family! These hearty souls were headed our way, complete with a little one in a stroller. I could have hugged them. Registration was ready to greet them with their Map & Mission Guidebooks, Bob the Owl was waiting to show off his stuff, staff from Aveda painted their faces, and we could officially announce to the waiting volunteers on the trail at the Stop & Study Stations we had a hike going on and a family was on the way. Ranger Rick was ready and in place at the start of the trail and off they went.

Before I knew it, families were trickling in over the next hour or so and they certainly were decked out for the weather and a morning full of adventure. I should have never doubted the Chicagoans and never will again…they made Ranger Rick so very happy. Not to mention they were part of an exciting new event for National Wildlife Federation!

For more photos, check out the Hike & Seek Flickr Group >>

Sign up for our Seattle Hike & Seek October 16

We’ll be in Seattle’s Seward Park on October 16th at 9 a.m. for more outdoor fun.

Register today! >>