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Burn calories, bond on holiday hike

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Updated: December 24, 2012 6:46AM



This Thanksgiving weekend, tell your family members to take a hike.

Then, join them.

Here are suggestions for some fun outdoor activities over the long holiday weekend that will let you enjoy quality family time, while enjoying the warmest Thanksgiving weather in decades.

Among the things I’m thankful for are my loyal readers.

Happy Thanksgiving.

† What a perfect day for a parade.

Why watch on television when you can head to downtown Chicago and see it in person?

The marching bands from Bishop Noll Institute, Calumet New Tech and Merrillville High School are among the 20 impressive marching bands in this year’s McDonald’s Thanksgiving Parade.

It also will include 12 giant inflatable balloons, many floats, a monster tractor, tumblers, dancers, equestrian groups; performances by the Joffrey Ballet, Ringling Bros. & Barnum & Bailey and others, plus celebrities, including the Harlem Globetrotters — and, of course, Santa Claus.

The parade steps off at 8 a.m. at Congress Parkway and will head north on State Street to Randolph Street, concluding at 11.

† Sandy Basala of Lake County Parks told me: “This is a nice time of year for a walk because you can see birds and other wildlife, and things that you haven’t been able to see with the foliage on the trees. At Buckley Homestead (in Lowell), the animals are still out.

It’s relaxing to go for a walk around the farm site and fun to see the animals.

“There are also families who come out to the parks on Thanksgiving and go geocaching or play a game of football or Wiffle Ball together.”

With more than 100 miles of hiking or biking trails in the Lake County system, and nine park areas where geocaching is allowed, there are many options.

Visit www.lakecountyparks.com for more possibilities and for park information and locations.

† Go for a hike while turkey “hunting,” then learn about American Indian heritage from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. today at International Friendship Gardens in Michigan City. Friendship Gardens has more than two miles of trails to explore.

On Thanksgiving, along the trails, in the woods and at the edges of the gardens, dozens of paper turkeys will be hidden for visitors to spot and count.

Anyone who participates in the “hunt” can win a prize.

Also, in honor of Native American Heritage Day, information will be presented about the history of the Woodlands tribes.

International Friendship Gardens is at 2055 E. U.S. 12, about two miles east of downtown Michigan City.

Admission today is free, and leashed pets are welcome.

† The Indiana Dunes State Park in Chesterton will offer a way to help work off that big meal at its “After Turkey Day Hike” at 10 a.m. Friday.

The hike will take about an hour, and the course is not too flat or too hilly, according to park naturalist Brad Bumgardner.

He suggested that park visitors might want to stay until 2 p.m., when a program on making holiday nature crafts will be offered. Participants will make items to take home.

“And folks might also want to come here to do a little bird watching,” Bumgardner said. “We’ve been having a major invasion of winter finches, with one bird that people are coming from all over to see: the evening grosbeak.

“It’s not normally seen in Indiana, but we’ve got them coming right to our feeders.”

He said the evening grosbeak looks like a rather large goldfinch, and explained that the species is normally in Canada at this time of year, but the unusually hot and dry summer likely has affected their food supply and brought them and, consequently, many birdwatchers, to the State Park.

To see a photo of some of the evening grosbeaks at the State Park’s feeders, go to the Nov. 8 post on the Indiana Dunes State Park Facebook page.

Admission to the Indiana Dunes State Park is $5 per in-state car. The activities are free with admission.



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