John Michael Keefe PhD, LEED AP
By far the most sustainable means of transportation is walking. Sometimes the distances do not allow for this and then the second best method comes into play–riding a bicycle.
Skokie has wonderful access to bicycle paths that allow for pleasurable rides through charming scenery. One of the area favorites is the North Branch bike trail that winds along the Chicago River from Devon and Milwaukee in Chicago all the way 20 miles north to the Botanic Gardens in Lake County. The trail can be entered from Dempster and Lehigh, Church and Austin, and Harms Road at Golf, Old Orchard, and Glenview Road.
The path through the woods is so covered in places that the surrounding urban landscape is completely obscured, especially when the spring leaves fill in the forest views. To the bike rider it feels as though the city is miles away. It is commonplace to see white tailed deer along the trail feeding on the foliage and drinking in the river.
The trail has two starting points at Caldwell and Devon and at Milwaukee and Devon. These two points come together in park below the old sledding hill. Then the trail has one of its many bridges over the North Branch of the Chicago River on its way towards Touhy Avenue.
After crossing Howard it continues through the woods towards the ramp over Oakton Street into Miami Woods. As you travel along the forest canopy opens into a prairie there are signs that tell about how the prairie once covered most of Illinois. The prairie was viewed as wasted land that cried out for development. It was only after it was almost completely gone that we began to appreciate the biological complexity and the natural flood control that the prairie provided. Although Illinois is still the “Prairie State”, over 90 percent of this irreplaceable biome is a distant memory. Nevertheless you can still walk along the trail and smell the wildflowers that once covered our state during the spring and summer months.
The trail continues to Dempster where it crosses the train tracks into Linne Woods. This is an excellent place to stop for a break at the picnic tables and shelters. There are trails that meander down to the river to the West of the park and there are also stairs down to the river.
As the trail makes its way to Golf Road it passes the Chick Evans Golf Course and proceeds to Harms woods. The journey through the woods is well worth the effort.
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