What we're about

01/02/22 update:
It is against this group's policy to hold post-hike lunches that discriminate against people who choose to remain unvaccinated. This includes having lunch at restaurants that have a vaccine mandate. An informal post-hike lunch is an extension of a hike.
If members of the group choose to have a post-hike lunch, then you must ensure that the restaurant does not have a vaccine mandate in place. Failure to comply will result in a conversation with me and possible removal from this group.

Post Hike Lunches:
You must also announce a planned lunch to the entire group. Announce it either before or after a hike, or post in comments. This way nobody feels left out and excluded. We are an inclusive group, not cliquish and I want it to stay that way. Sometimes I will organize a post-hike lunch well in advance. When I do it will be part of meetup description. Otherwise people in the group decide where they want to go. Again, everyone must be invited!

Overview:
Unvaccinated are welcome and no masks required on any of our hikes. Wear one if you feel the need for protection.

This is a great group for people who want to get outdoors walking and hiking with others Depending on the pace of the individual hikers on a hike the group can spread out so that everyone can hike/walk at a comfortable pace. The pace for all hikes will range on average from 2.8 mph to 3.2 mph. Nobody will be left behind and faster walkers will stop periodically and wait for the rest. This group is for adults age 30s and up and lots of us are much older than that.

Follow the organizers!
If you want to go off ahead and explore on your own wherever you want at whatever hiking pace you want then please communicate that to one of the organizers.

However as an organizer I do NOT want the rest of our faster walkers following you. STOP and WAIT if that happens. Do NOT lead our other hikers on your own fast-paced walk. Its NOT ok to lead members of our group on your own version of a hike we planned.  People may encounter conditions not described in the meetup writeup. You may end up on a much longer or more difficult hike.

No Show / Attendance Policy
If you are a "No Show" at one of our hikes then we simply will not wait for you at our next hike. We do not have attendance requirements, show up whenever you want. You can change rsvp to a hike anytime even 5 minutes before it starts. Repeat No Shows will get a message from me reminding them to change it to No. Continued No Show after that results in removal from the group. You must rejoin and understand the difference between No Show and changing rsvp to No.

More details about the group
We get our exercise and stay fit by walking. Some of us enjoy observing nature as it happens and stop to take pictures. Maybe we will pause to look at a raptor circling over a field in search of prey. Or perhaps stop briefly to photograph beautiful wildflowers. In the interest of all, we cannot stop too many times because there is a time frame when we should finish. Those who do wish to take photos should try to catch up with the group.

Hike Frequency:
We hike from 2 to 8 miles. whenever possible we schedule hikes with multiple distance options.

Where we hike:
"Collar Counties” is a term applied to the five counties that surround centrally located Cook County in the Chicago metropolitan area: DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry, Kendall and Will. In Sept. we have one camping / hiking outing scheduled at Devils Lake in WI.

The Virus: Some of us are vaccinated and some of us are not. This is a personal choice and you must be comfortable being around unvaccinated people who are also not wearing a mask. Please do not ask "Is everybody vaccinated?" Please assume that some people are not vaccinated and please do not ask that question.
Intolerance of unvaccinated or vaccinated people including any remarks heard or heard in other groups will cause you to be removed and banned from this group. Indeed this is a new form of discrimination and I will not tolerate it in this group.

If being around unvaccinated people who are not wearing a mask makes you uncomfortable, then join events at a later date whenever you feel more comfortable.

Sharing phone numbers of members of the group including myself:
It is never ok to share phone numbers of people in the group with others without their permission. Please do not share any other personally identifiable information about others such as last name or address.

Intolerance of others in our group:
Any expressions of hatred or demeaning comments will cause a person to be blocked out of this meetup group. Please message me privately if you experience this. I will not allow any expressions of this sort based on political party, race, ethnicity, LGBTQ, religion, handicap (mental or physical), age, or gender. This includes comments I happen to see in other meetup group comments.

Sexual Harassment:
Private message me if it happens to you. I do not block people just because they express an interest in someone. I know what harassments is and what it is not. Trust me on this one, I have lots of experience.

Our political differences as fellow hikers:  
Please follow social distance at least 20 feet of others before engaging in political discussions. Seriously, do not even go there. The trail is meant to be a peaceful place and not one that stirs up heated negative emotions. If a discussion does happen and it is not civilized, then please message me privately.

Fundraisers and causes: This group does not participate in causes such as breast cancer awareness nor any others. It is beyond the scope of this group.

Acceptance into this group:
I accept anyone into the group however want authentic people in this group. I may decline your request for reasons listed below and any other things that may make me suspicious of your motives. Some previously declined people have been allowed in because they provided clarification of an item I listed here. (1) Not supplying a picture (2) specifying your first name with a single letter of the alphabet (3) Specifying a non-existent forest preserve (4) Being a member of 500+ other meetup groups (5) Looking for someone to hook up with.

Dogs: Dogs are welcome on nearly all hikes. I will rarely schedule a hike unless dogs are allowed. In the rare event that I do, it will be clearly posted that dogs are not permitted.

Guests:  We welcome our members to bring guests with them on most hikes and activities except for when specific conditions limit the size of the group.

Children: Strongly discouraged unless the trail is flat. Some hikes are in rough areas and can include steep ravines, dams and dangerous areas. I may make exceptions if you message me ahead of time. There are damns which adults have drowned in when trying to swim. You accept responsibility for your children's safety as all adults accept responsibility for their own safety.

Music on the trail You must wear headphones if you want to listen to music while hiking or walking with us. Speakers that everyone can hear are not permitted. If we have a picnic somewhere afterwards when we are done hiking then music is an option.

Silence while on the trail If you prefer not to chat just walk a bit behind or ahead of the group. Talking to people is not an obligation. A walk in nature does not have to be a social experience. You can do that by following us a bit further behind or walking ahead. In Aug 2018 I experienced tragedy and avoided lots of meetups with people due to not wanting to talk. I ask people in this group to respect wishes of people who simply want to walk and not socialize. I found nature to be very healing during this time. I took over this group from the previous organizer in 2019 because I felt that nature could help in my healing process and extreme grief and it did. The friendships I made in this group also really helped.

Waiver: When planning on attending hikes please consider these factors: your general health, level of ability to handle hiking, the appropriate shoes and outerwear depending on the season of the hike, appropriate hydration.

Summer: 
Always bring water to hydrate! The amount of water should be equivalent to the length of the hike. 32 ounces for a 4 mile hike is a bare minimum recommendation when temperatures are in the mid 80s or above. By participating in any of our events you agree to accept these risks and that the event leaders shall not be held liable.

Winter:
In Winter, there is always ice on some part of any trail. Please do not assume that if you hike with us that you will not encounter ice. You will most certainly encounter ice and it is your responsibility to get a great pair of cleats that can help with traction.
You may need trekking poles because it helps with balance on uneven ground surfaces and hills. Always be prepared for slippery areas. Ice cleats which slip over boots are a must in Winter! They come in a variety of different styles. 
Please check with friends, family, read google reviews, or ask our other hikers for information about them. Here is a link to get started https://www.amazon.com/Yaktrax-Walk-Traction-Cleats-Walking/dp/B01LJ6FX3C \

The style may not be to your liking but there are multiple styles. Amazon offers free returns. Regardless of which you choose, these are a MUST if you wish to walk with us in Winter. \

Be prepared for changes in weather conditions especially on longer hikes. There are always risks involved in hiking and more so during Winter. We may reduce the length of a hike if weather conditions dictate.

Event Organizers:
Event organizers must report inappropriate conduct of any member to me immediately after a hike thru email, private message or phone call. Safety is of everyone's concern and I also wish to keep this group respectful of others.

History of the group 
This group was founded in November 2008. It started out as Near West Suburbs Movie group. I figured this out by looking at old photos and saw a dark haired lady wearing a meetup shirt that said "Near West Suburbs Movie meetup group". They went to movies at first and then expanded to other social activities such as bowling and dining out. They held their first meetup on 11/30/2008 and saw the move "Four Christmases". I do not know the original organizers name, but a few of their members tagged in photos were Jennifer, Marine, Mary, Cat, BJ, and Chris. Enid. Many of their events were held in the Melrose Park area but they did venture out to Great America for Fright Fest night as well as other venues.
On 10/31/2010 I saw in our history that Enid, a member of Near West Suburbs Movie Group, led the very first walk in Morton Arboretum. I then found a picture of Enid wearing a shirt that said "Suburban Walking, Hiking, and Social Group". The transition of leadership to my understanding occurred on 10/31/2010. Enid and probably others led the group on mostly hiking, biking and some social events.
Enid is the person who first transformed this meetup group into what it is today. After Enid took ownership the group had a heavy emphasis on hiking and the outdoors though they did do other activities. I reviewed some of her meetup descriptions and found them to be of very high quality. Unfortunately like countless others, she is no longer a member and history is lost.
05/25/2013 (maybe just a little before), Lynn took over from Enid. I have no information that tells me that a different person was running the group. I do believe that a few others were organizing hikes and Enid was still financially responsible for the meetup group when Lynn took over.
Lynn ran this group longer than anyone else. I took over in June 2019 when Lynn announced that she would be closing down the group. I will never have her level of expertise about the natural habitats and ecology of areas. Some of our members are very knowledgeable about native habitats, plant and tree identification and all things ecological. Tom Vilardo is our expert in this area and is one of the earliest remaining members of the group. He led a hike in April, 2012! We do have a handful of members who joined before Tom. I hope to see the pioneers of this group out on the trail sometime!

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