About The Urban Outdoorsman

Me checking out the views at Shenandoah National Park

Hey there, I'm Jeremy Riel. Welcome to my web home for my outdoors trip writeups and nature observations. I live in Chicago and enjoy everything the big city offers. I also grew up in the outdoors as a boy scout in Oregon. A piece of me always wants to be outside, so I am always on the lookout for green spaces, fresh air, and some wildlife to watch. As such, I fancy myself as an urban outdoorsman, a flannel-wearing city dude who would catch a fundraising gala one night and bike to a campsite the next. I enjoy both city festivals and suburban escapes. It's all about balancing the city with the outside. It can be done.

Parallel to my job as a professional weekender, I work as a technologist at the University of Illinois College of Education. I research the uses of technology in teaching, learning, and research. I also build tech that helps people learn, particularly professionals. You can find more out about my non-outdoorsy projects at my website, www.jeremyriel.com.

I mainly started The Urban Outdoorsman so I could share stories and photos of my trips to the outdoors with my Dad back in Oregon. I found that sharing my photo albums of trips was fun, but coupling a story was more effective in sharing the experience. After I started sharing the stories on Facebook, more of my friends were interested in reading my photoessays. Since then, I've tried to keep up on writing up trips as they happen and share with anyone who is interested see what I see when out on the trail. Also, it's been fun for myself to go back and read my trips, especially when I want to daydream.

Now that I've gotten some writeups in the database, I also find myself making a general argument that even the most city-raised person can enjoy and benefit from visiting local parks or planning an out-of-town trip while simultaneously retaining their city-living identity and interests. Being a city kid doesn't preclude you from enjoying some nature. In fact, I believe with each week's trips that it's essential for human health to get outside. As a professional that works with technology and paperwork every day, I find my work better when I invest some time outside. So many of my posts tend to echo this growing life philosophy of mine.

I don't have a car, so almost all of my trips are planned using public transportation, taxi, or other means of personal locomotion. It may involve some hiking from the Metra commuter rail or a lengthy bike ride, but each trip is a personally gratifying chance to explore and get out of the house. Now that I'm writing up my trips, it's also a good excuse for me to practice my storytelling and photography :)

I typically venture around town with my adventure partner, Jessica. We seek out new experiences and places, but also love to repeatedly visit our regular parks and favorite spots. We never seem to get bored with our preferred places, as we always observe something new every time. To see the unique American landscape, I also work with my network of old scout buddies and friends from around the country to go on trips outside of Chicago.

It seems I've been writing three types of posts. You can access each type by clicking on the "patches" in the navigation below my pic at the top of the screen.

  1. Travel log posts, where I write a story about a trip I've taken. Many of my posts are about urban areas, but I also try to get out of the Chicago area. I've been on a National Park kick lately, so expect to see more of those.
    Check out my travel log >>
  2. Slow walk posts, where I write up nature observations from my favorite Chicago parks that I visit frequently. I call them "slow walks" because they're typically trips without a destination - just close watching and noticing (more about slow walks here). These include Lincoln Park's North Pond, the Jarvis Bird Sanctuary at the Lake and the Clock Tower on Waveland Ave., and the Montrose Point Bird Sanctuary and Dunes at Montrose Beach. All three of these spaces have unique ecosystems and diverse wild creatures and plant life. Lots of things to learn by closely observing these areas.
    Check out my slow walks >>
  3. Essays, which are just points or observations on my mind that I want to work out and share. Writing tends to help me make my ideas clearer. I welcome comments on essays.
    Check out my essays >>

It's my hope that this blog will be of interest to people looking for outdoors stuff to do in Chicago. I'll keep exploring and sharing what I find in the Chicago area. If you're looking for a trail, want to see some wildlife, or need a place to camp, check out what I've written up and follow my updates. It's also another hope of mine that this blog will inspire some people who have been stuck indoors for a while to seek a change of scenery on their weekends in one of the city's many beautiful parks. Take it from me - it's way too easy to stay inside and you just have to force yourself to go find a trail. I've been enjoying sharing my stories, so if anything maybe my posts can be a nice escape during the workweek!

Me at one of the covered pedestrian bridges
Me at the Naperville Riverwalk in Naperville, IL