The Run Down

We're taking a short trip outside the city to hike through a 2,500 acre forest preserve. We start by grabbing coffee at a quirky and retro coffee house, then we head to the trail head where we'll hike through rolling hills, waterfalls, and overlooks. We'll then take a detour off the trail to have lunch beneath a Hindu temple. Here are the details.

1. Coffee @ Ashbary Coffee House

2. Hiking @ Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve

3. Lunch @ The Hindu Temple of Greater Chicago

1. Ashbary Coffee House

We have a nice, leisurely hike ahead of us. It’s the type of hike that goes great with a hot chocolate or coffee in hand, and so our first stop is this retro coffee shop that’s about a 10 minute drive from the trail head.

We’re at Ashbary Coffee House. It’s set inside this quiet shopping center that looks like it belongs in the backdrop of a mountain ski town rather than the Chicago suburbs.

As you walk inside and admire the cool throwback vibe of the place, there’s one thing you have to keep in mind. This place is haunted. Before this was a coffee house, this was the site of a general store in the late 1800s. As legend has it, a young girl who lived above the store was burned alive when the building caught fire. The owners claim that she still makes appearances every now and then.

So if you happen to see a little girl in an old-timey dress playing with a red ball, don’t take any chances, just turn around and leave.

2. Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve

With coffee in hand, we’re about a 10 minute drive to the trail head. The trail is about a 9 1/2 mile loop so you can technically start anywhere. Some of the highlights of the hike are the waterfall and an overlook. There’s a parking lot that gets us close to both of those, so that’s where we’ll start.

From the Waterfall Glen parking lot, we’re less than 1/2 mile from both the waterfall and overlook. The trail itself is level and paved with gravel, which makes the walk fairly easy.

One of our favorite parts of the trail was this section of a pine forest with massive pine trees on both sides that made you feel tiny.

Follow the signs to the overlook, and in less than 10 minutes you’ll be at the overlook. From high above, you’ll see a creek that meanders across the forest.

From the overlook, there is a path that takes you down towards the stream. Follow that until you come upon this man-made waterfall.  At this point, we’re 1/2 mile into a 9 1/2 mile loop. There’s plenty more to see, so keep going for as long as you can.

If you do decide to keep going, you’ll also notice signs and fenced off areas restricted to government personnel. That’s because in the center of this forest preserve is the Argonne National Laboratory. It’s run by the Department of Energy and houses scientists from all over the world working on cutting edge research projects. The lab was borne out of the University of Chicago’s work on the Manhattan Project in the 1940’s, so who knows what they have cooking up in there. Well, we sort of know, because they have a website, but do we really know?

Between the haunted coffee house and this top secret lab in the woods, it seems like we got a Stranger Things scenario going on, and we’re all down for that. Bring a tin foil hat just in case.

3. The Hindu Temple of Greater Chicago

This area outside of Chicago keeps getting more interesting as we dig deeper. Right outside the boundary of the forest preserve is this beautifully ornate Hindu temple. While you can get to the temple from an offshoot of the main trail, it’s a pretty long detour. You can also drive here after you’re done hiking through the preserve, which might be easier after a long hike.

While we’re here to marvel and show our appreciation for the culture and architecture, we’re also here to eat. Here are the details.

– The temple is open to the public every day from 9am – 8:45pm.
– On Saturday, they run a kitchen in the basement of the temple that serves up traditional Indian cuisine. The kitchen is open from 11am – 8pm.
– The kitchen is also open on special holidays as well. 

There’s a couple of different buildings across this campus. Walk the grounds and explore.

To the side of the temple is a small administrative building. This is where we’ll enter for the gift shop and the kitchen. Here’s a few things to keep in mind.

To get to the kitchen, walk straight through these doors and follow the first hallway right in front of you. You’ll then enter a room, which is a staging area before you go into the temple. This is where you hang your jacket and take off your shoes before entering the temple.

If you don’t plan on going into the temple, then you can keep all your stuff on. Right after this room is the Kitchen on your right hand side. To the left are stairs taking you up to the temple. 

After you enter the kitchen, there’s a cashier window where you’ll order. After you order, they’ll give you a small card with the name of the item you ordered.

Take it to the second window and hand them your card and they’ll prep your order. Now onto the food pictures.

We’re not going to pretend we’re Indian food experts, but what we had was pretty darn delicious. First up is the masala dosa.  It looks like a giant crispy crepe that’s rolled up. It was a good 16 inches long. Inside is a potato filling, and it’s served along two different types of chutney for dipping. 

We also got a side of tomato rice. It’s rice cooked in stewed tomatoes with a smattering of Indian spices. Between this and the masala dosa, we were very happy campers. Not a bad meal for $10.