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Get your Culture here: Three outdoor experiences to have in January 2022

Well here we are. It’s January 2022 and it feels irritatingly like January 2021. I’m sure I’m not alone in my frustration that we aren’t in a better place in regards to this pandemic. It’s not exactly the same. A very large portion of the population nationally and here in C-U is eligible for vaccination, and many for boosters. And while there are more breakthrough cases with this particular variant, the vaccines are doing an amazing job at keeping people alive and out of the hospital.

That said, with spread rather out of control right now, many of us are reigning in our out of house activities. So, I thought this might be the month to focus on the fact that even though it is winter and the temperatures have dropped, it doesn’t mean that you have to be confined to the four walls of your living space. You can still utilize the outdoors for some safe activities while we endure this (hopefully) temporary mess. 

A glass of red wine is sitting on a wooden table. There is a pizza box behind the glass. In the background are the clear igloo-like walls of the dome. Photo by Julie McClure.

Photo by Julie McClure.

Rent the dome and experience the last weekend of GLOW

Have you ever rented the dome at Allerton Park? Exactly a year ago, when my spouse and I were still waiting on vaccination availability and therefore not looking to dine indoors or even in all the creative little outdoor indoor spaces, we had a kind of wonderful little date in the dome at Allerton Park. It was a Sunday evening, the last night before the lights came down, and it was lightly snowing. 

We picked up pizza from Filippo’s, ordered a bottle of wine (you need to purchase this at the park), and settled in and played cards. There is a space heater that keeps things quite warm. We wore layers, but we didn’t really use our coats once we got there. Be forewarned, if you go while GLOW is still happening you might get some visitors who wander down the path thinking you are part of the exhibit. We saved the last 30 minutes of our time to check out the lights one more time. We were the only people out there and it was so quiet and serene.

It’s $75 for three hours. You need to purchase beer and wine there, but you can bring any food or non-alcoholic beverages you’d like.

Call 217-333-3287 to ask about availability and to make reservations.

A slice of a round log is painted with a blue background and pink border with a white snowflake in the center. It is hanging on a tree. Photo from CCFPD Facebook page.

Photo from Champaign County Forest Preserve District Facebook page.

Find snowflakes and explore new trails

The Champaign County Forest Preserve District has placed 40 painted snowflakes throughout their preserves. I feel like this could be the basis for a little friendly competition amongst friends. Create teams. Set parameters and a deadline for finding them all. Put a prize on the line: Bragging rights? A trophy? Some local brews? A gift card for a local restaurant? The possibilities are endless. It also gets you out of the house, moving, and perhaps discovering a new trail or a new preserve. Many of us are more familiar with Homer Lake and Lake of the Woods, but have you been to the others? Heron View, near Mahomet, was just added last year.

The snowflakes will be out and ready for finding beginning January 20th and will remain through the end of February.

A bridge stretches over a small creek. The creek is lined with brown grasses and bare branched trees. The sun is setting in the background. Photo by Mara Thacker.

Photo by Mara Thacker.

Head east for hiking and outdoor refreshments

Near Georgetown you can find a couple of solid outdoor excursions, worthy of a little day trip. First, head to Forest Glen Preserve. There low key more accessible trail options, all the way to the 11 mile River Ridge Back Pack trail for a more rigorous adventure. Hit up the observation tower to gain a little perspective on the world. 

While you are in the area, swing by Big Thorn Farm & Brewery. The Greenhouse Bar has seating, or if you’d rather not share space with others you can rent an igloo — $30 for an hour and 50 minutes. Their food truck has sandwiches on Fridays and Saturdays, and they’ve just added Sunday brunch featuring a variety of breakfast tacos. 

A sign post that is brown and shaped like a tree has a green leaf sign with the words Busey Woods Gateway Trail white lettering. A path leads into the woods, filled with bare branched trees. There is some snow on the ground. Photo from Facebook event page.

Photo from Facebook event page.

Learn about trees in winter

Ryan Pankau from U of I Extension will be leading participants through Busey Woods to learn how to identify different local trees during the winter, when it’s a bit more challenging. There will be hot chocolate and coffee to keep you warm while you learn about things like branching structure, bud characteristics, and leaf scars. 

Busey Woods is also one of my favorite places to get some fresh air when I need a little solo time. The planked path makes it easy to zone out and listen to an audiobook while I get a little exercise, and you still feel tucked away in the woods even though there’s a road just on the other side of the trees. 

Top photo by Julie McClure.

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