Clarkson: Fitness Walk in Fullersburg Woods yields more than exercise

Thursday, 12 October 2017, 06:24:27 PM. The DuPage County forest preserve fitness walks get longer each week, and visit a different forest preserve.

"Dog!" someone yelled helpfully. The group shifted to the right a little. A little later: "Runner up!" and we hugged the path to the right again making way.

The musky, obnoxious smell of skunk wafted toward us. Someone pointed out a bird. I didn't catch what kind it was, but everyone stopped to look.

The skunk smell gone, a mildewy, damp smell pervaded just over the little foot bridge. The group stopped to overlook a creek covered in green. It was in full algae bloom, meaning the entire water's surface looked like it was covered in moss, but what everyone strained their necks to see were frogs. I thought the algae bloom was pretty eerie.

It was a delightful fall morning, a little warmer than normal, but invigorating nonetheless. I was on one of the DuPage Forest Preserve's fitness walks, wondering why I hadn't been on one of these before.

This one was held right in our own backyard: Fullersburg Woods. The previous week, the group had hiked around Greene Valley Forest Preserve and had had to scale some hills, while the week before that, the group explored Meacham Grove.

As someone who walks several miles every day and is committed to being outside as much as possible, this information was brand, shiny new and amazing.

The fitness walks have been held on Monday mornings since 2011, according to Dave Andrusyk, a DuPage Forest Preserve naturalist who works out of Fullersburg Woods.

In 2011, Andrusyk was apparently just re-starting an activity that a previous naturalist held weekly on Wednesday mornings before she moved away to Colorado. She had quite a devoted crew for the Wednesday walks, and some of those people still meet on Wednesday morning.

Andrusyk has his own following, and I know this because he wasn't there Oct. 9 when I went. Instead Abby Dean, another naturalist, led the walk. "Where's Dave?" was asked more than once, but no one was disappointed with Dean, who led the group of 20 or so on 3.6 miles in just over an hour.

The pace was brisk but not taxing. We went on all the Fullersburg trails. She stopped at one point and pointed out where parts of the Fullersburg path are being cleared of the invasive buckthorn and honeysuckle plants.

I was not the only one grumbling about that flora. Some of us got into a sidebar discussion about invasive plants, but mostly we just marveled. Fullersburg Woods is a different place each time I go and a sensory treat — different smells in different areas, different sounds, different ways the light hits the earth.

The fitness walks are scheduled to continue from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m Monday mornings until Dec. 18. Phillip State Park is next on Oct. 30. The walks will increase in length the longer the season goes on, with the last walk being held at Spring Brook Prairie Preserve in Naperville, according to Andrusyk, at close to 10 miles.

Waterfall Glen, Danada and St. James Farm are among the preserves where walks are planned. The cost is $4 if you register in advance and $6 the day of the walk. Andrusyk encourages people to register in advance, which they can do by calling 630-850-8110.

Coming up

This year the village of Hinsdale's Fall Family Fest will be held from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 21 at The Community House, 415 W. Eighth St. It is free and open to the public. Children are invited to dress in their costumes, and there will be pumpkin decorating, costume judging, inflatables and games.

In downtown Hinsdale, merchants are offering trick or treating from noon to 3p.m. Visit and click events for more information.

Clarendon Hills residents who get in the spirt of Halloween and decorate should register right away for the fourth annual Clarendon Hills Park District Halloween House Decorating Contest. Register no later than Oct. 23. Judging will happen on Oct. 25, and three households will win a gift certificate for a local business.

Email Valerie Louthan at to register.

Parents, think ahead. The Clarendon Hills Park District is offering Sticky Fingers Cooking classes starting on Thursdays in November, with the exception of Thanksgiving Day. The idea is that perhaps your young chef could help on the holiday and maybe even on a regular weekday.

There is a class for pre-schoolers and one for kids in first through fifth grade. Besides learning to cook some basics, kids will also learn some nutrition. Visit for more information.

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