Folks who have never attended the McHenry County Conservation District's "Trail of History," simply don't know what they are missing.
Trail of History, now in its 23rd year, is a living history interpretive event. Volunteers from across the country portray and demonstrate life as it was from 1670 to 1850 in the former Northwest Territory, which encompassed present- day Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and part of eastern Minnesota.
The combination of historical impersonators and the beautiful, natural setting of Glacial Park Conservation Area make visitors feel as if they have traveled back in time.
For starters, attendees must walk a one-mile trail over hills, through wooded savannahs and along bogs just to reach the Trail of History encampment, nestled at the base of the glacier kames and surrounded by native prairie grasses and colorful fall trees.
The distance of the hike amply buffers the camp from Glacial Park's parking area, at Route 31 and Harts Road north of McHenry, and whisks guests far away from the sights and sounds of modern civilization.
Once at the camp, visitors are treated to a variety of educational re-enactments depicting life in the former Northwest Territory. With horses clomping by, people talking and laughing, campfires burning and actors carrying out daily chores, the camp is alive with constant activity.
Soldiers demonstrate military tactics used during the French and Indian War. If you're lucky, you'll see - and hear- the small cannon fire from atop the kames bluff. Fur traders mill about the wood forts and teepees.
Children can play in the frontier schoolhouse, make cornhusk dolls or candles, and learn pioneer games.
Some years, "Indians" at the Metis Village demonstrate how canoes are made by hollowing logs using fire. On top of all that, attendees can see Dr. Balthazar's traveling medicine show, musicians, dancers and enjoy the food vendors.
The historical actors remain in character throughout both days. Many of the volunteers camp out over night, and live at the camp all weekend. All chores and food preparation are done according to the time period actors portray - no modern conveniences such as gas stoves and coolers are permitted.
What: Trail of History
Where: Glacial Park (map) 6316 Harts Road, Ringwood (off Route 31 between McHenry and Richmond)
Admission: $7 for Adults
$3 for Seniors (60+) and children age 6 to 12
Free for Children 5 and under
Note: The admittance gate closes at 3:00 pm to allow visitors time to make the one-mile hike to the encampment. Handicapped parking and a shuttle service to the encampment is available for people who are unable to make the walk. No pets permitted.