Whether it’s your first term at Knox and you’re still adjusting to life in Galesburg, or you’re an upperclassman facing a slump, we all need to get off campus occasionally and escape the “Knox Bubble.” Even though much of the student population doesn’t have a motor vehicle on campus, there are still places that can be biked to, and there is the option of renting the campus U-Haul car to get to further destinations. For biking-distance spots, you can take advantage of the campus bike repair shop, where you can rent a bicycle for free.
The Carl Sandburg Birthplace
The largest part of the Carl Sandburg birthplace site is the beautifully manicured garden. Though the museum and cottage are only open Thursday through Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., the garden is open to visitors 24/7. There is a quote walk, paved with stones bearing quotes from his works, as well as a memorial rock and bust of Sandburg. The garden is a tranquil space, equipped with stone benches perfect for reading a book, or writing your own work.
The small museum houses an impressive collection of items that Sandburg owned, as well as first printings of his various written works. His acoustic guitar is housed in a cylindrical display case, and his typewriter in another. On my visit, I learned that Sandburg was a folk singer as well as a writer; his music was playing in the background, and they sell CD’s of his songs. The cottage that Sandburg was born in is tiny, but incredibly charming. The entire house is not much larger than a dorm room at Knox, though there is a separate living room, bedroom, dining room and kitchen, and it looks the same as when Sandburg and his family were living there.
There is also a barn in the garden, where a different musician or musical group performs on the last Saturday of every month. For the month of September, on the 26, there will be a Celtic band performing, and the October performance will be on Halloween.
Many Knox students don’t realize how much the Green Oaks Biological Field Station has to offer. It is not only for biology majors conducting field research, but for anyone who enjoys camping, fishing, swimming, canoeing and a plethora of other activities. During warmer months, you can swim in the lake, though be warned it is full of fish, some large, some small. You can also grab a canoe and travel the entirety of Lake Sharvy, named after late Knox College President Sharvy Umbeck. You can also rent camping supplies from Knox, at no cost, and go on a camping trip. There are spots for bonfires and marshmallow-roasting as well. Green Oaks is about a 35-minute drive from campus in Victoria, IL, but if you’re feeling especially adventurous, it is possible to bike there.
Only ten minutes from campus, Kiwanis Park has over 50 acres of land to explore. If you have any interest in playing frisbee golf, or “frolfing,” Kiwanis Park is equipped with 18 holes that span the entirety of the grounds. Aside from providing your own frisbee (there are plenty of these on campus), there is no charge to give the game a try. The park is also home to an outdoor skatepark if you’re looking for terrain that’s a little less flat.
Scattered with trees, Kiwanis Park is a great spot to set up a hammock, slackline or blanket for a picnic. Although Knox has plenty of outdoor space, Kiwanis Park is a quick getaway from the usual campus scenery.
Luthy Botanical Garden
If time allows for the 45-minute trip to Peoria, Luthy Botanical Garden is a must-see destination before winter hits. With over a dozen outdoor gardens and an indoor conservatory, wandering the paths that wind through the park is both picturesque and relaxing. Lined with several benches and a gazebo, Luthy Botanical Garden offers a vibrant change of scenery for Sunday reading or enjoying a picnic lunch. Adjacent to the Peoria Zoo, both sites can be easily explored on the same outing.
Luthy Botanical Garden also holds classes, presents live music and hosts other events. Upcoming events include Good Eats from the Fall Garden on Sept. 29, and the Hogwarts Botanical Garden Chrysanthemum Show which begins on Oct. 8. Open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Be sure to take advantage of the greenery before it’s gone.
Tucked away in the bluffs of the Illinois river, Forest Park is the perfect location if you’re looking to escape the vast fields of Galesburg. With seven different hiking trails beginning at the Forest Park Nature Center, you can take your pick depending on the length you’d like to go and sights you’d like to see.
Being an Illinois State Nature Preserve, the Forest Park Nature Center offers both educational and recreational programming to visitors of the park. Some activities include guided hikes, yoga and a bimonthly Old Time Folk and Country Jam. The next artist performing as part of the 2015 Forest Park Nature Center Concert Series will be folk musician Bill Staines on Oct. 4. Although some concerts and offerings have fees attached, many request donations.
Open from dawn till dusk all year round, traveling to Peoria to witness the leaves change at Forest Park is well worth the trip.