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Dan Moran: Hoofing county trails has high-tech option

Updated: September 29, 2012 6:10AM

Assuming you needed another signal that fall is coming down the road, it is time once again for Hike Lake County, our annual invitation to step into nature and breathe the crisp autumn air before winter returns from an extended hiatus.

As a bonus, the low-tech act of walking on a path comes with the high-tech option for 2012: Hikers can locate hidden markers and log them in via smartphone for a chance to win a guided nighttime tour at the Lake County forest preserve of their choosing.

Let’s get to the details. As mentioned in this space over the years, Hike Lake County is a free program that challenges residents to tackle a set number of designated forest preserve trails to earn a commemorative walking-stick shield. For 2012, participants are asked to walk at least seven of the following paths between now and Nov. 30:

The Des Plaines River Trail North near Wadsworth (1.8 miles), Gurnee (1.9 miles), Libertyville (1.9 miles), and Vernon Hills (2.3 miles); Fox River in Port Barrington (1.1 miles); Heron Creek in Long Grove (1.2 miles); Lyons Woods in Beach Park (2.3 miles); McDonald Woods in Lindenhurst (3.1 miles); Middlefork Savanna in Lake Forest (2.6 miles); Nippersink in Round Lake (1.3 miles); Ray Lake, Wauconda (2.4 miles); Rollins Savanna, Grayslake (1.2 miles); and a 2-mile “wild card” trail of your choosing.

As in past years, hikers can record their progress on a travel log (which can be downloaded at and then either bring the result into a forest preserve office or mail it in to receive their shield. The new option invites iPhone or Android smartphone users to download a free app that will allow them to simply scan a QR code posted on Hike Lake County signs at each site.

(As your grandmother will tell you, a “Quick Response code” is that Rorschach-inkblot-test-looking thing you see in the corner of posters for entertainment events and such. You scan it the same way your grocer scans a UPC code on a can of corn and, bingo, the world of information is your oyster.)

As mentioned, each trail will also feature scavenger-hunt signs hidden along the route that can be scanned for secret keywords. Find seven of them to enter a drawing for a “Full Moon Night Hike” for you and up to 10 of your owl-spotting friends.

For more info, see the Hike Lake County page at Happy hoofing.

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