Kendall County welcomes new year with annual community hike

YORKVILLE – People discovered nature and good feelings for 2022 on the Kendall County New Year’s Day Hike at Hoover Forest Preserve.

The hikers traversed the wooded trails on a brisk morning that seemed to herald the coming snowstorm.

By the time the hike was over, snowflakes were coming down as the participants were huddled under a shelter to enjoy soup from a wood-fired metal cauldron.

In between, the hikers learned about the preserve’s natural wonders and marveled at the sights, while enjoying benefits from the exercise.

“I learn something new about nature every year,” said Dawn Mulligan of Yorkville, a hiking veteran whose husband, Paul Mulligan, clearly was enjoying the walk.

About 60 people followed two forest preserve tours, one led by Mark Craig of Boulder Hill, the other by naturalist Mark Harrington of Batavia.

Craig’s tour had bragging rights when the two groups reassembled around the soup cauldron because the group spotted four deer and two bald eagles.

Harrington’s followers liked his observations and ability to make the natural world accessible.

“He was good identifying things without overwhelming us,” Chuck Steinbach of Yorkville said.

Chuck and wife, Deb Steinbach, also were enjoying the outdoor activity.

“It’s a great way to get some exercise and set a pattern for the rest of the year,” Chuck said.

The hikers each brought three cans of soup, with two going to the Kendall County Community Food Pantry and the other into the kettle for the post-hike meal.

The pace was unhurried. The hikers sauntered down the trail toward the Fox River, with Harrington stopping frequently along the way.

Early on, he advised the hikers to stop in their tracks periodically, turn around 360 degrees and appreciate their surroundings. As he did, Harrington pointed skyward to a hawk circling overhead.

The New Year’s Hike is a 50-year tradition in Kendall County.

Keeping that tradition alive is Al Birdwell and Dave Brennan, both of Oswego, along with Craig and Harrington.

Rebecca Krause of Yorkville has been walking the event for the past 15 years.

“It’s a great way to start the New Year,” said Krause, who was accompanied by sons Jack and Drew, both 9.

It was the first time on the walk for Jennifer Hockings of Sandwich and her son Logan, 13, and friend Fran Parkison, all of Sandwich.

Mike Bentley of Oswego has been coming to the hike for at least 25 years and brought friend Denise Guzzo of Deerfield. They were enjoying the soup, a random combination of the donations.

“It all tastes like beef,” Guzzo said.