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On June 10, I walked from my home in Evanston to the Bean in downtown Chicago. As a California native, I miss going on long hikes, and I’ve had trouble accessing Cook County trails without a car. The 13-mile trek to the Bean felt like the perfect all-day excursion to keep my restlessness at bay, so I forced my friend Payton Miner to join me, and at 11:30 a.m., we began our journey. 

I live near the Foster L stop, and before leaving the house, I sprayed myself with lots of sunscreen. I offered some to Payton, but she “never gets sunburned” so I stuffed the sunscreen into my bag, and we marched south on Sherman Avenue. 

We made our first pit stop at the Sherman Starbucks – for iced coffee, of course. We also grabbed some snacks at the CVS down the road. On the menu: dried mango, Go Go Squeeze, and several bottles of water (the fun ones with the squeeze caps). 

With snacks tucked safely into our bags, we headed down Chicago Avenue, passing Hoosier Mama Pie Company and the newspaper stand on Main Street. Our spirits were high as the caffeine from the iced coffee kicked in. 

We continued for several miles, chatting about everyone and everything, and polishing off a couple of apple sauce packets. Chicago Avenue turned into Clark Street and we passed Touhy Park, where a set of street food vendors prepared tacos. 

The scenery was nothing too exciting, but we passed a number of markets and restaurants where the smell of spices and grilled meat wafted through the windows and into the street. We made a mental note to return some time for the food. Our growing hunger was temporarily satiated by some mulberries that we discovered hanging from the tree over the sidewalk.

We headed down Ridge Avenue as the street intersected with Clark. High sun was upon us, but luckily the trees along the street created a cover. Our feet began to ache, and we were getting ready for a break. One more mile until we break, we told ourselves, one more mile

We turned onto Broadway in Edgewater and kept our eyes peeled for a nice place to stop and have a bite to eat. We finally picked an American food restaurant called Lucy’s, where we piled into a booth and wiped the sweat off our brows, in a very unglamorous gesture. We shared a hefty chicken sandwich and a side of fries.

After a restful break, Payton and I continued our journey down Broadway. The food felt heavy in my stomach, and a stitch pierced my right side. I continued walking and after 10 minutes, the food settled and the stitch faded. 

The street became more lively as we made our way through Uptown and Lakeview. We found ourselves dodging other pedestrians and stopping to window-shop. 

We finally turned east on Diversey Parkway, so we could walk along the water. Payton spotted a mini golf place, called Diversey Mini Golf, where a sprinkler spewed water onto a patch of grass. The water taunted us, and we gave in, leaping into the spray and catching the water in our hands. We rubbed it in our faces and the backs of our necks. 

The march, which was turning into more of a trudge, continued as we approached Diversey Harbor. I tried to lead us around the east side of the harbor, which might or might not have led us to the lakefront, but Payton suggested we not take the risk and instead, skirt the harbor’s west side. She was probably right. I’ll admit, my navigation skills can be a bit haphazard. 

We did our best to avoid the geese poop along the sidewalk. Despite the trash and gunk that littered the harbor, the water looked refreshing, and it took way too much willpower to keep myself from jumping in. 

A bridge materialized at the end of the harbor, (thank you, Fullerton Parkway) and we crossed it to walk on the other side of Lake Shore Drive. At Fullerton beach, we took a short break and enjoyed the water. 

A rather unfortunate discovery was made on our stop. I had a sunburn (and still do) on my shoulders and face. I rapidly reapplied sunscreen, and so did Payton, whose bright red shoulders contradicted her “I never get sunburned” statement from before. For a little while, we tried to justify our sunburns, “It’ll turn into a tan,” and “It’ll be gone by tomorrow” but we were unable to fool ourselves. Forgetting to put on or reapply sunscreen is not worth the risk it poses. Plus, now we have unfortunately sunburn lines, so lesson learned.

After our break, we continued along the lakefront, passing Oak Street Beach. We slipped through an underpass to arrive at Michigan Avenue. Here, our sore legs and sunburned shoulders were greeted with busy streets, eager shoppers, and impatient drivers. The scenery was utterly different from our strut down Clark Street, our window-shopping in Lake View, and our stroll along the lake. 

We passed high rise buildings and side-stepping city goers; the fact that we still had another 45 minutes of walking left was unbelievable. Payton’s knee ached, and my throat felt dry from thirst. We had finished off the last drop of water at the Fullerton beach, and there were no water fountains in sight (and no, I was not about to spend $3 on a bottle of water at the snack stands at the lakefront). 

At the stoplights, Payton squatted to give her knee a little break. We joked about stopping by at the Gucci store, in our sweat infused tank tops and with our knotted hair. Maybe next time. 

At last, we arrived at Millennium Park. Shining in the distance was our finish line: the usually incredibly underwhelming but at that moment glorious and euphoric Chicago Bean! We concluded our journey with some sweaty photos in front of the shiny installation. 

My boyfriend picked us up from the Magnificent Mile, because we were absolutely not going to walk home. 

So, final thoughts? The scenery was much more interesting than either of us anticipated. The neighborhoods we walked through were distinct, and there was a nice balance between lush tree-covered neighborhoods and busy urban streets. The walk was long and tiring, but with breaks, it was certainly manageable. 

So Evanston residents, next time you’re looking for a hike, walk to the Bean. Just don’t forget to wear sunscreen. 

By Adina Keeling

Adina Keeling

Adina Keeling is a photojournalist and reporter, covering city news, sustainability, schools, and art. She also investigates mental health systems and environmental injustices in Evanston, and puts together...

10 replies on “I walked from Evanston to the Bean”

  1. The advice about sunscreen is good. The story? Not so good. On a 1 to 10 scale I give it a 1.

  2. You should do it again and walk down South Blvd in Evanston to Sheridan rd towards Sheffield then to N Lincoln ave to Clark st then Randolph to get to Millennium Park to really walk by some great neighborhoods. There’s also the Green Bay trail by Central st train stop that will take you to Kenosha WI.

  3. I did that same walk, but sticking to the lakeshore when possible, 50-some years ago (forgotten the exact date) for a story in the Sun-Times Midwest Magazine, caught the El back to Evanston, and did the second stretch, Navy Pier to Rainbow Beach the next day. I encourage — challenge you — to take that second lap. Your story was much more entertaining than mine, though it didn’t inspire me to duplicate the feat, yours or mine.

  4. Great recommendation, I will try it for sure! As a suggestion, next time you might want to make it a zero waste hike… cheaper for you and way better for the environment.

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