Since yesterday's post about Jim Edgar Panther Creek State Park is the kind of trip you need advance planning for, today I'm going to tell you about a quick way to enjoy nature and get some exercise.
The trails that the Park District have created on the west side of Decatur are fantastic. Ten miles of trails stretch across multiple parks linking the west side from Lincoln Park and Fairview Park north to Stevens Creek and south to Rock Springs.
My favorite route is to enter the trail at Fairview Park and go toward Rock Springs. As you are biking, running, or walking out of Fairview Park you go down an invigorating steep hill, pass under a viaduct, and then you are in the woods. The noise from Main Street quickly fades away as you pass through the forest along the Sangamon River and later through restored prairie. I have seen large groups of deer resting along the path, blue herons, and many fish and smaller woodland animals.
This section of trail has some big hills so you may be pushing your bike once or twice. There are benches to rest on and nature guides along the way. While there are water fountains at each end, I take a bottle for stops along the way.
If you are interested in geocaching, the areas along the trail are an easy introduction to the hobby. For outings with small children, the trail at Kiwanis park is the spot to go. The trail is flat and open so it's easy to keep an eye on tykes, there is a fence along the road and a playground.