The Time I Saw A Clydesdale in a Forest Preserve

I thought I was in a Budweiser commercial.

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Where To Go

Linne Woods | Morton Grove

Located just off a busy stretch of Dempster Street, Linne Woods is a beautiful spot on the North Branch Trail System that’s a one-stop shop for just about everything fun you might look for in a forest preserve in the northwest suburbs.

There is ample parking, a paved bike trail, an unpaved and horse-friendly walking trail (more on that in a minute…), vast woods, a section of prairie preserve, a picnic area, a canoe landing, bridges and a segment of the north branch of the Chicago River for all of your kids’ “throwing rocks into water” needs. Or maybe that’s just my kids.

Anyway, this place has it all, and when I visited, the fall colors weren’t even poppin’ yet. I’m excited to go back and see what it looks like in the coming weeks.

When we got to the park on a rather overcast but still warm day, the lot was decently full and there were lots of people around. The bike trail is very close to the parking lot, and we actually had to stand there and wait for a bike-free clearing to cross over to the walking trail—so many bikers!

The walking trail was a lot less crowded though, and you are almost immediately greeted by the bridge (pictured above) that crosses over the Chicago River. My party of course had to climb down next to the water so we could throw rocks for a while, and I’m happy to confirm that the bridge is troll-free.

On this map, the red line is the bike trail and the dark brown trail is the one we took.

Once you cross the bridge, you are on the main unpaved trail through the forest preserve. My only gripe with this trail is that it is wide enough for only about two adults to stand across at a time. This means that to observe social distancing, you have to move over and stand in the grass/brush on the side of the trail. As we passed one dog-walker, she ominously warned, “Be careful, there’s poison ivy in there!” as we moved out of her way to the side. Thankfully we all emerged unscathed.

We came to an unmarked path up a slight incline and decided to take it (since my two-year-old had already dashed halfway up), which led us out of the woods and into a prairie-like area. Maybe it was the overcast day, the lack of other people, or the sudden change of scenery, but it immediately felt like we were on the set of a movie that takes place in a dystopian future. As we walked along the trail through the prairie at the outer edge of the preserve, we passed under power substations and buzzing electrical powerlines. It was just barely October at the time, but it definitely felt Halloweenish. We got back to the woods and continued our trek.

And that’s when we encountered our first horse! The kids were thrilled, even as we potentially risked poison ivy once again to move out of the way.

MASTER DAD PRO TIP: If you are out walking in nature with your kids—or really anywhere—and you find yourself asking your spouse the question “Should we turn around now?” You should definitely turn around. We have not heeded this advice at our own peril in the past, and now we are experts at knowing that such a question popping into your head is a sign from God.

The fateful question arose in our minds, so we decided to head back and stick to the wooded path this time. Just after we crossed the bridge again, it happened.

It was one of the few times in my life that I am aware of having done an actual doubletake. I was holding my four-year-old daughter’s hand and coming off the bridge, when suddenly a majestic Clydesdale appeared before us, trotting at an impressive pace while pulling a tall flatbed wagon containing at least five people. I stood with my mouth agape for a moment, as the gigantic beast barrelled toward us, then realized I should get myself and my daughter out of the way. We moved to the side of the path—thankfully it was a wider area since we were near the bridge—when the horse changed course and started heading toward us!

As my daughter let out a scream, I decided at the last second to dash across the path to the safety of the other side and pulled her along with me. It probably wasn’t as close of a call as it felt, but when a Clydesdale is even 25 feet from you, it feels like less.

Needless to say, I didn’t get a photo of this encounter (just the back of the wagon, seen above). The irony is that my daughter had moments earlier just been lamenting the lack of animals that we saw on our hike, and in retrospect on the drive home, she thought the Clydesdale sighting was pretty cool, so I’m glad there was no lingering trauma.

Suffice to say, we’ll all remember Linne Woods for quite a while now.

Tips from Dad

  • Don’t bring a stroller. We put our youngest in a carrier and had the other two hoof it. These paths are not ideal for strollers. They’re meant for Clydesdales, apparently.

  • Watch out for poison ivy. I didn’t actually see any, but the woman who mentioned it seemed to speak with a been-here-before authority, and the paths are really skinny in places. I could also imagine this being a very buggy forest preserve if it were the middle of summer or later in the evening.

  • Watch out for horse manure. There are some LARGE turds on this path. You really need to watch your step in some places and definitely watch the steps of any little ones accompanying you. I don’t want to brag, but we emerged manure-free. If we can do it, anyone can.

  • Bring your camera. Especially as the fall colors start to emerge, this path has many beautiful vistas and places to stop for a family photo, selfie or nature shot. The areas that are crossed by the Chicago River are particularly picturesque.

  • Bring your bike and some food. If you want to make more of a day of it, this would be a great starting and ending point for a bike ride, as the woods are beautiful, there is a picnic area, and you could throw in a bonus hike before or after your cycling.

  • Bring your Clydesdale. I mean, if you have one, where else are you going to let him blow off some steam in the suburbs? Also, can I hitch a ride on your wagon?

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