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Vernon Hills, IL - REI

  • REI 901 North Milwaukee Avenue Vernon Hills, IL, 60061 United States (map)

For our stop in Vernon Hills, we’re switching things up a bit. Join us Saturday morning at the Vernon Hills REI store to hear the story, then join us immediately after for a hike!

The Talk

After surviving two of the hardest years of her life, Sydney Williams was standing in an REI dressing room trying on hiking gear for her first backpacking trip. Looking back in the mirror was a woman (and body) she didn't recognize. She looked herself in the eye and simply asked, “GIRL, how did we get here?” It was a rhetorical question for the dressing room, but two thru-hikes across Catalina Island helped Williams establish the mind-body connection that was necessary for her to be able to face her trauma head-on and leave everything on the trail.

The first hike on the Trans-Catalina Trail was the hardest physical challenge Williams had ever tackled; it taught her how to love her body, and reminded her that she could do hard things. Nine months before her second journey, she was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes. By the time she hiked the island the second time, Williams was 60 pounds lighter. What would be possible if the hike itself wasn’t the hard part? The second hike was a complete emotional excavation, examining and releasing the weight of expectations she had placed on herself while reclaiming her shine. Get inspired & learn more about how to heal your mind+body on the trail. 


Please bring plenty of water, sunscreen, and dress for the weather. Before you arrive, please fill out the waiver:

Check out this trail on AllTrails here

HIKE INFORMATION - Des Plaines River Trail: Old School County Forest to Des Plaines

  • DISTANCE: The trail we’ve chosen is a point-to-point trail, so don’t be alarmed by the 21+ miles listed on the AllTrails link above. We will aim to do 5 miles together, and if we are feeling good and want to keep going, we can!

  • 252 ft elevation gain

  • Rated as EASY on AllTrails, please review the information on the URL above to gauge how comfortable you are with this route.

  • Dog-friendly

After we hike, let's grab coffee/juice/lunch! Depending on who sticks around, we will pick a place and I will post an update with the location in the Facebook group on Saturday morning.

If you have questions, let us know! Email

Earlier Event: September 4
Chicago, IL - REI
Later Event: September 10
Ann Arbor, MI - REI