A chilly Morton Arboretum Troll Hunt

I checked out a book during my Elmhurst stay that had to be returned in Elmhurst, and since I was “out West” I took a drive to the Morton Arboretum, where the Troll Hunt is on display. Of course after a perfectly sunny day, I picked the one on which a hailstorm erupted as I was driving up to the trolls.

But my weather app said it wouldn’t last long, so I paid the Wednesday $5 off ticket and entered troll land in trolly weather. For members of other Botanical Gardens there might be a reciprocal ticket fee waiver. The good news is that the Arboretum allows for driving, as there is a LOT of ground to cover. The East Side has an extensive paved drive way from which you can see almost all the trolls.

Six colossal trolls were crafted from reclaimed wood by Danish artist Thomas Dambo. They are 15- to 30-foot-tall sculptures that have been created to serve as protectors of our environment. They were installed in Spring 2018, and are currently slated to remain through 2019. My encounter with Rocky Bardur was not inviting.

Per Thomas Dambo: “the trolls have gotten tired of the little humans’ continuous pollution and destruction of their beloved nature and decided to take matters into their own hands, and catch the little beings to teach them a lesson.” Sneaky Socks Alexa was lying in wait to do just that.

I had printed out a map before and perused the Troll Hunt Adventure Trips. I was also given a map with troll spots marked. I love Alexa’s expression.

There is ample signage throughout the park so you don’t miss a troll if you’re stumbling upon them mapless.

I also learned about Oaks and Maples as I walked from the indicated parking spot to the next troll. The benches are beautiful.

Angel was a bit leery, and it was a bit wet for her to be out.

Then I came upon Furry Ema, ready to entrap me in her net.

She is huge, as you can see with this human scale photo. Again, the details of toenails and posture and facial expressions all chipped from reclaimed wood mesmerized me.

Then I came upon the Big Rock Visitor Station, and since it was dry I stepped out to take a look. Here I finally got to stretch my legs and I opted for the 1.6 mile Heritage Trail that would lead me to Big Rock. There is ample signage to guide you along the way and teach you about what the Arboretum is doing to maintain and restore the land.

The Heritage trail in particular is intended to be ‘natural’, meaning it isn’t as well-manicured as the West Side of the Arboretum.

Here, the Arboretum also wants to restore the wetlands to their pre-farming-by-settlers state, which will take a few years to happen.

The trails are clearly marked with wood chips for the most part, and you are never too far from a road or civilization. Running is only allowed on the paved paths.

I came upon a boulder, but since there was no sign I knew there was more walking to do before the true big rock. There were several benches to rest on.

After a stroll along what I would deem prairie but is prior farmland, I came upon the prize.

Big Rock is a 14-ton granite boulder deposited by glaciers more than 14,000 years ago. The granite is not native to Illinois. I think Rocky Bardur may be chuckling at our sense of mystery.

Soon I had made my way back to the car, opting to do the Woodlands Trail another time. It was still chilly. As I retrieved the map, I realized I had missed a troll, so I re-drove the route to P5. As I parked in the designated spot, it still took me a while to spot Joe the Guardian.

I would have liked to see him up close, but there were geese along the path, and it was quite a big hike to undertake up a small hill in unpredictable weather. So I drove over to the Visitor Center to see what they had to munch on. My sweet tooth selected a chocolate muffin. They have lots of baked options, as well as healthy juices and salads and wraps. The large lunch area gives a full view of the outside gardens.

Then I had a helpful hint from the information desk about walking to my remaining two trolls. Here I also got the official troll handbook that is fun for kids to hold on to. On the back you can fill in clues to locate the hide-out-which I got marked as an X on my improvised walking path. It was easy to Spot Niels Bragger.

Thomas Dambo is an artist and designer who specializes in creating imaginative art pieces, sculptures, furniture, and more from recycled materials. A native of Odense, Denmark, Dambo loved building from an early age, creating tree houses and soap boxcars from old wood he found around his neighborhood. He studied at Kolding School of Design in Kolding, Denmark, in 2005.

In accordance with the Arboreturm, Dambo is an ardent advocate for upcycling—the creative process of transforming by-products or unwanted items into new materials, thereby reducing waste. I overheard someone say that these materials all came from the Arburetum grounds. Speaking of waste, I think Niels might have farted…

The Main Trail loop led me over a troll-worthy creek path.

For those who are not as nimble on their feet, all trolls are located between two feet and three-quarters of a mile from the nearest parking lot on a variety of path surfaces (pavement, wood-chipped, and mown grass). Those needing accessibility should sneak a peek at this link (but don’t let the kiddos see!).

I came upon the hide-out after this woodsy path. It is a selfie station haven. I really would have liked company as the tools are just massive!

You can just see the whimsy and imagination Thomas Dambo has as he conceived these wonderful trolls. There is a plaque with a fairy tale in this spot as well.

I was especially thrilled to see a flute! It was about as long as me, so no playing that one! To learn more about Thomas Dambo and his art in various countries, visit www.thomasdambo.com.

After the hideout I strolled through Piney woods to get to the last troll. In Germany the suburb we lived in had a wonderful forest, and I have missed the smell and the feeling of enclosure of these green giants. It was blissful to walk through this section of the Arboretum.

It was a bit tricky to navigate this troll hunt by foot since there isn’t a direct foot trail between the hideout and the last troll, but I figured out the way and soon saw the 60-foot creature.

Little Arturs (haha-the largest sculpture of the bunch), is clearly designed for selfies, so I had fun exclaiming what big teeth and feet he had.

The craftmanship of each statue is exquisite, and it is amazing how Thomas Dumbo created each feature and expression.

It is tough to take selfies with trolls. Just look at these bloopers. I’m surprised Niels didn’t club me!

On the way back to my car I bumped into a woman who was excited to share her find of Skunk Cabbage. Apparently last year this was hard to spot, but once she had pointed out its odd shape, I saw a few along Lake Marmo. We geeked out about Botanical Gardens for a bit and I resumed my steps.

I said farewell to Niels Bragger and then started my car.

Rocky Bardur sort of waved at me in the rearview mirror.

I definitely plan to return here as the weather is now warmer. I’d love to see these bulbs in bloom, and want to actually hike the trails without shivering. Who knows how many “Troll Farts” will have grown just in the two weeks since I left!

PS: I am also impressed by the Elmhurst Public Library Book Return.

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