Forest Preserve District of Cook County, Illinois
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Nature Bulletin No. 570-A   June 7, 1975
Forest Preserve District of Cook County
George W. Dunne, President
Roland F. Eisenbeis, Supt. of Conservation

One of the most momentous lessons in life is when we first learn to walk. Then a child ceases to be a crawling baby, utterly dependent upon someone older, and becomes able to toddle toward what it wants.

A child is fortunate if it has a father or a grandfather who will teach the youngster how to walk properly: not with feet turned outward like a waddling duck, but with toes pointed straight ahead, like a fox -- or slightly inward, like an Indian -- and with a gripping spring from the toes after the heel and ball of each foot, lightly and almost simultaneously, have touched the ground. With the body relaxed and arms swinging freely, such a stride enables a person to walk long distances with a minimum of fatigue.

A child is doubly fortunate if that parent loves the out-of-doors, has a feeling of kinship with the soil, is familiar with the trees and smaller plants, knows the secret of wild creatures, and whose pathless ways of walking might be described by Arthur Sidgwick's verse.

For us the path that twists at will, Through wood and field and up the hil.

Then there will always be new things to see, bits of nature lore to treasure, and walking becomes one of the most rewarding pleasures in life.

George Macaulay Trevelyan's essay on walking begins with: "I have two doctors, my left leg and my right. When mind and body are out of gear . . . I know that I shall have only to call in my two doctors and I shall be well again. " Physicians agree with him. They say that what a business or professional person, a "white collar" worker, a teacher or a student, needs at the end of a hard day -- when he or she feels tense, nervous or irritable -- is not a stimulant nor a tranquilizer pill but a brisk walk of two or three miles.

Walking in the fresh air, with legs and arms swinging freely, is one of the finest and most beneficial forms of general exercise. It pumps oxygen into the body and, in addition to purely physical benefits, rewards the walker with a sense of well-being and peace of mind. Further, it is known now that walking not only prevents certain kinds of heart ailments but can cure them. An eminent specialist, in a recent book, recommends daily walks only two or three blocks in length at first but gradually increased until they cover, without undue fatigue, four or five miles.

We people in Cook County are extraordinarily fortunate in having more than 64,000 acres of publicly owned land, the forest preserves, so easily accessible and in which we may walk or wander at will. Most of it is unspoiled native landscape; much of it is densely wooded. There are 175 miles of improved trails that follow the streams or wind through the hills and bring the walker to many places of scenic, biological or historical interest.

For those who like to saunter along the trails or across country, and the lusty hikers, there are illustrated folders -- free of charge -- one for each of the nine divisions of the District. Each features a map of that division showing the trails, picnic areas, points of interest and other things you may enjoy.

Walking is the best and cheapest form of recreation.

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