Upstairs, both ways

As the sun was slowly rising, Al steps out of the RV to start the generator for the drip coffee maker.  The two other RV’s that were camped across from us in the Cabela’s parking lot have already moved on.  And we thought we were early risers.

Cabela'sWith coffee mugs filled and a couple of scones pulled from the freezer, we hop in the truck and start rolling east on Interstate 80.  Five minutes later, we cross into Iowa from Nebraska.

It’s a Sunday morning with slightly overcast skies and almost no  traffic.  A perfect travel day.  By early afternoon, we cross the Mississippi River and enter the state of Illinois.

RVing in Illinois

Looks like Illinois to me! Filling up with gas.

Al and I both grew up in Illinois and when we moved away in the early nineties, we never looked back.  If it weren’t for family, we probably would not return.  During our long drive yesterday, we both decided to embrace this trip to Illinois with an open mind …. as newbies to the state, you might say.  Let’s play tourist!  Having said that, we still chuckle each time we see a little blue sign saying “tourist info”.  Although Illinois does have some unique and interesting sights, I still wouldn’t put it on a tourist destination list.

Illinois River

Crossing the Illinois River

Last night while we were camped in the Cabela’s parking lot in Omaha, Nebraska, Al and I each got out our laptops and started doing a little Googling.  Family wasn’t expecting our arrival for a few days which allowed us a chance to slow down and explore a little.

Hmm!  We came across these words;  Voted # 1 attraction in the State of Illinois …. a world apart from anything else in Illinois ….. towering trees, amazing waterfalls.  Al says, “I went there once on an elementary school field trip”.  We quickly decide to veer 50 miles out of our way to visit Starved Rock State Park.

We arrived late on a Sunday afternoon and drove around the campground a couple of times looking for a suitable campsite.  It’s obvious the area experienced a good dowsing of rain the day before.  With the exception of the handicap sites which are concrete, all the other sites are grassy.  The grassy ground appeared soft and many sites featured tire ruts.  We had concerns of sinking in the soft ground and possibly getting stuck.

camping in Illinois

Typical campsite at Starved Rock State Park

After serious consideration, we pulled into one of the six available concrete handicap sites and paid for one night.  When the host/ranger came around checking sites, Al was quick to tell him we can be moved within 15 minutes if the site was needed.  We were assured since we weren’t staying on a busy Friday or Saturday night, that it wasn’t a problem considering there were plenty of other handicap sites available.

Illinois State Parks

Starved Rock State Park

We ended up booking another night so we could spend a day hiking and exploring the area.  First up;  we hit the trails in search of waterfalls.

LaSalle Canyon Waterfall

LaSalle Canyon, Starved Rock State Park

We visited Starved Rock State Park at the end of July and even though the area had experienced plenty of rain, so much rain that the road to the visit center was blocked off, it was still mid summer meaning the waterfalls would be few and far between…. snow melt had long been melted.

hiking in Illinois

Hiking at Starved Rock State Park amongst lush vegetation. We haven’t been around this much dense greenery in years.

The most popular trail and waterfall is French Canyon.  There was no waterfall and only a trickling stream.  We ventured on taking in the lush, green vegetation.

poison ivyThere’s definitely a beauty to this landscape.  It was a rather warm and humid morning and while other hikers were sporting shorts and tank tops, Al and I stayed in our western hiking attire of being covered up.  We actually managed to avoid using bug spray and didn’t think the mosquitos were terribly bad.  We were also concerned about poison ivy and were vigilant about staying in the center of the trail, that is when we weren’t going up or down stairs.hiking in Illinois

What’s so unique about the trail system at Starved Rock is the series of planked trail and stairs.  You’ll find stairs AND more stairs.  So many stairs, we climbed up stairs both ways.

state parks in Illinois

Note the little plaque on the right post saying “RETURN”. That means the trail leads toward the Visitor Center

Al and I counted 227 steps on one stairway alone.  During our two-hour hike, we have no idea how many stairs we climbed or descended overall.hiking in IllinoisEven with all the stairs, we found the hiking to be very easy.  It was also extremely easy to navigate.  I love maps and rarely hit the trails without one, but here a map is not necessary.  They’ve dumbie proofed the trail system by using little color coded plagues.hikingYellow “AWAY” means you are hiking away from the Visitor Center.Illinois State ParksWhite “RETURN” means you are returning to the Visitor Center.  Pretty easy peezie.  Now if only we could dumbie proof some of the visitors to this lovely Illinois State Park.  We hiked on an early Monday morning after a very busy and crowded weekend.  Al and I were disappointed and disgusted with the amount of trash left behind on the trails.  We’re talking piles of plastic water bottles and empty snack and condiment packaging.  Gross!

We’ve never seen anything like it and I can only assume these are the same ignorant people who approach wild animals for photo ops.  Who do they think is going pick up THEIR trash?  Fortunately, there are volunteers willing to step up and tackle the task.  On July 30th just 3 days after our hike, the Walkers Club and Lodge Staff picked up over 5 huge bags of garbage.

Starved Rock State Park

Volunteers gather trash. On the day we hiked, we had the trail and waterfall to ourselves…. with the exception of that pile of plastic water bottles that greeted us.

The above photo is from the Starved Rock State Park Facebook page.  I did my best not to show any trash in my photos, wanting to share only the beauty of this park.

Illinois State Parks

LaSalle Falls – Starved Rock State Park. If you look real close, you’ll find trash.

Rant over!  No wait.  Did you know the Illinois State Parks are FREE to use?  Yep, that’s right, no day use fee….  nada, no dinero.   So the Bozo’s that left their trash behind, got to hike here totally free of charge.  And by the way, the trails may have been littered with trash, but the campground was spotless and well maintained.

waterfalls in Illinois

a ten second timer was not long enough for me to scurry behind the falls to join Al, without falling on my a*s!

How did the park get its name?  You can click here by learning more about the local Indians and the history surrounding Starved Rock State Park.  We enjoyed our 2 night, 3 day stay very much and would return in a heartbeat to tackle more stairs.Illinois State Parks

Dual Hydration Waist Pack Moss By Everest
Manfrotto MKCOMPACTLT-BK Compact Tripod (Black)

 

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83 thoughts on “Upstairs, both ways

  1. What a fun hike. I really love it when there is appropriate signage! I’d give them 5 *s for that alone! Stupid litterbugs. That is the worst! But yeah for the volunteers!! How fun to go back to your hometown as a “tourist”!

    • The hiking at Starved Rock was great (looking past the trash) and going on a weekday meant less people. Since we never look forward to IL trips, we decided to embrace a new attitude 🙂

  2. What a great detour and good for you both for maintaining an open mind about Illinois. I ask the same question as you do when I come across trash anywhere but especially in beautiful wilderness areas…who do they think will pick up after them and why do they think it’s okay to spoil the next hikers enjoyment?

    • It was still some wonderful hiking regardless of the trash and it was fun to discover such a beautiful park not far from where hubby grew up 🙂

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  4. What a beautiful walk and it is very disappointing when you see all that garbage. I find the same with dog poop bags. I am always amazed people go through the trouble of picking up the poop but then leave the bag on the trail, I assume to pick it up later but that often doesn’t happen. They would do better to just leave the poop. Sorry that is my rant.

    • Totally agree… the poop will biodegrade but the plastic bag won’t. Duh! Whatever are they thinking?
      But overall Starved Rock SP was really pretty and we enjoyed it. I’m glad we were able to spend a week day there because weekends get crazy busy.

  5. Ingrid it looks like a beautiful spot and as Renee mentioned no need for a stair master! I am appalled by people who leave garbage anywhere but in parks it makes me wild.

    • Al and I talked about spending a week or more there just to focus on exercise. When we arrived on a late Sunday afternoon, we saw some younger folk doing just that – running up and down the stair cases. And at this altitude (probably 600′ elevation) hubby and I found the hiking super easy… more air to breath than we are accustomed to 😉

  6. I’ve been to Starved Rock a couple of times – once with my son’s Boy Scout troop and once to drive him down for a practice hike to get ready for his trip the Jamboree a few years back. it is a pretty park and I love the hiking trails. It is disappointing about the trash and some of the visitor behavior – off trail and markings, but we humans are the most dangerous animal (or at least some are). Glad to read you are having fun in Illinois. looking forward to reading more of your trip as it unfolds. Have a great week ahead.

    • Thank you Clay. I was thinking about you when we picked up our son in Warrenville. He was in town for a business trip and added a couple of personal days to visit with my dad. I’m glad the bugs, weather, corn, and tomatoes are all being agreeable, making for a very enjoyable visit. Next week, it’s up to WI.

  7. The park looks beautiful ! And I love the long exposure shot of the waterfall. Nice flow !

    We didn’t stay long in Illinois when we went to the us for our road trip. We stayed most of the time in Wisconsin and UP michigan !

    I would also have been shocked to see the amount of rubbish. That’s really something that piss me off. I don’t understand why people would leave their trash behind…. Maybe they should try to put more bins available near the rest area for the lazy people that don’t want to carry their rubbish

    • Thank you. I’m still working on those long exposure shots. This was my first effort. I need to go back to your blog and review your WI-UP visit for ideas. We have some commitments but also have some flexibility built in. Was there a favorite spot you’d say is a ‘must see’? Although, I must admit since I grew up in the Chicago suburbs, I’ve been to WI more times than I can count 🙂

      • We only stayed 2-3 days in UP, but we enjoyed going to Presque Isle Park, even if the weather was terrible ! We also loved Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, it was amazing ! Marquette town is quite pretty in the evening, for the sunset. We also had a day out in Tahquamenon Falls, we visited the upper and the lower falls, as well as the brewery.

        As for Wisconsin, hmmm… the Cave point County park was good ! I enjoyed going to Namur and Brussels (because these are Belgian towns as well, but I don’t think you would enjoy as much as I did ;-)) The chicken we had at the Belgian delight was awesome :p And i’m not biased ! :p

        • I just got done reading your posts on that trip. I remembered some of it since I think I started following you around that time. It’s too bad you opted to do the Kayak trip on Mackinac Island. That fee was crazy. We’ll probably rent bikes. My daughter and I did that 3 years ago and loved it. Thanks for all the input. I’ve taken notes 🙂

          • We didn’t check the price beforehand, our mistake..we thought it was the price per kayak but it was per person… we would have rented a bike instead if we had known.

            Biking over there must be lovely 🙂

  8. This post took me back to my high school days Ingrid, as this was part of a senior trip for me. I seem to recall some place in Starved Rock where you could slide down a huge boulder with walking running over it down into a pool. Wonder if that still exists? I can’t believe how many people are so inconsiderate to leave their trash behind. Very sad.

    • We didn’t explore Starved Rock as much as we wanted to since we only had the one day. It’s definitely a fun place to hike and with the low elevation, 2 hours of hiking was pretty easy (easier if my lungs were 100% – but I’m getting better every day). The visit took Al back too. I’m ready to head west and counting the days 😉

    • Yes, a tripod and self-timer are used about 1/2 the time for photos of Al and me. Usually the ten second timer is plenty of time, but not at that waterfall. I made several failed and funny attempts. The other half of the time the photos are taken by friends or strangers willing to help out. I’m always approaching strangers and offering to take their photos and in return, they take ours. Great system that occasionally drives my hubby crazy. Gotta keep that boy on his toes haha!

  9. Looking at some of your articles it looks like the two of you know how to enjoy life. I need to capture the essence of your thinking and actions and transfer this into the drinking water so more people can understand what it means to “live life.” I also love your pictures. Keep enjoying and please continue to provide all of your readers ongoing beauty (in pictures and stories) and wonderful entertainment.

    • Thank you, I appreciate the kind comment. I was fortunate to have a wonderful mom who encouraged me to “live”. There’s a huge difference being ‘living’ and merely ‘existing’. We’re trying to pass on this attitude to our children. I like the tone of your blog as well. I’m a big advocate of being responsible for one’s own health. With access to the internet, there’s a wealth of info available at our finger tips. We just need to sift through, analyze, and determine what’s best for us 🙂

  10. I really like the flexibility you show when traveling and are willing to make side trips – I’m usually on a mission to get to the next point. I hate the way we Americans behave when it comes to taking care of our country.

    • Al and I usually stay pretty focused and like you are “on a mission”. So this was fun and out of character to change things up at the last minute. The rest of the month and into mid September, we only have a couple of short reservations allowing us to change direction if the Midwestern weather doesn’t cooperate (which we anticipate).

  11. We are renting a 25′ class C and heading up to Michigan. I 80 can be intimidating when you get south of Chicago. Our return trip, for now, is planned to come home through the Amana colonies in Iowa. We are heading up from Kansas City through Indiana to avoid I 80 until I get better at driving the rig. The Illinois portion of the trip has always been a little boring to drive. But then again we have never left the interstate to find wonderful places to visit.

    • Anywhere near Chicago gets intimidating. It’s so different driving around here pulling a RV than it is in Phoenix. I think Phx drivers are used to the influx of RV’s each winter. I love MI and am sure you’ll have a great time. We’re heading to the U.P. at the end of the month going up through WI. We were thinking about stopping at the Amana Colonies on our return to CO. Not sure we’ll have the time though. I look forward to hearing about your trip. Enjoy!

  12. After last winter’s fiasco at the RV park I’m no longer a fan of GRASSY RV sites.

    The treatment of handicap sites and non-handicap users is something that has perplexed me. And I’ve been asking around as go from state to state and find that the regulations are all over the place. It seems odd that in a 100% reservable campground that it’s deemed preferable to leave the site empty just because no handicap person WANTS to reserve. ????

    As for trashiest states…. if that’s what you’re looking for… by all means spend some time in LA. We’ve been in/through IL often enough by contrast IL only has a mild case of the ‘trashies’ while LA was a pigsty. And coincidentally much more recently I was reading a novel by a native cajun who talked quite naturally about the litter level as being part of their ‘heritage’ — gave me the willies but to each their own.

    • Willies indeed…. disgusting! Al and I have done plenty of traveling before hitting the road full-time in the RV and there’s a part of the country we just don’t feel a need to revisit. Our heart remains in the west.
      I remember well what you went through last winter and it’s not a scenario we hope to encounter 🙂

    • The state does have some lovely sights. Even the city of Chicago has a lot to offer. I think seeing it through the eyes of a tourist has opened my mind to the unique beauty found in the Midwest.

      • I grew up in the Midwest and have a natural bias against it since I discovered the mountains and the coasts. 🙂 But I do love Chicago! Maybe climate change will make their winters warmer and more tolerable — then it will be a truly great city!

        We went looking at trailers this weekend, and are thinking mighty hard about an R-Pod! We wouldn’t go full-time RV so wouldn’t need so much space or storage, and want to be able to travel fast and light. Love reading your blog for inspiration!

        • Thank you. I share your sentiment in a “bias against”, but I’m trying to find the beauty in every place we travel to. Even back to where we grew up! I have to admit, I’m already antsy to head back west but it has been nice to see family. We’re still thinking about taking the train into Chicago for the day, but we’ve done that so many times that personally it’s lost it’s draw.
          The trailer sounds like a great idea and the perfect size to do what you want to do. I look forward to following along 🙂

  13. Great trail!! I love the watefall:) Steps are super exercise but they are so hard on the knees. Being able to plan stops at the last minute is so much fun. This is what life on the road is all about.

    • I was pleasantly surprised my knees didn’t bother me… we took it slow – with me and my camera hubby didn’t have a choice lol. Yep, last minute changes can turn into the best excursions. Love it 🙂

  14. Perhaps Illinois needs to put a 10 cent deposit on their water bottles, similar to what Michigan did with beer and soda containers. That really cut back on the litter in the mitten state!

    Jim

    • That sounds like a great idea. I’ve been wandering what can deter folks from just dropping their trash. I was really bothered AND surprised by it.

  15. Hi Ingrid,
    I did a similar thing recently when on a trip back to my childhood haunts. I usually only go there to visit relatives not because I think it has a lot to offer, but on the last occasion I tried to see it through the eyes of a tourist who’d never been and actually found a few places of interest I’d never been. Starved Rock State Park actually looks like some of the places I visit here…the greenery, the small falls, the steps. Fortunately we don’t have the rubbish problem as much in our national parks though. I see the odd tissue or food wrapper but it’s rare to see a lot about. I think I would be ranting too if I saw that much. It’s just lazy and inconsiderate of people to litter like that! Beautiful pictures of the non-littered areas though. 🙂

    • This was the first time I’d ever seen trash to this level. It’s just not something we encounter regularly.
      It’s been fun not only reconnecting with family but also to search out new sights in the area. We loved the lush greenery which is very different than our usual terrain in the west 🙂

    • We enjoyed the park overall and found it rather pretty. We’re even talking about a revisit to explore some trails we didn’t have time for.

          • I’ll be returning to some starting in a couple of weeks. It will take me a couple of longish stops on the way, but I’m heading to the gulf coast for winter and I know I’ll go to some of the same spots I went to last winter.

  16. Great tour of Starved Rock, Ingrid. I, too, have lots of family in IL and Starved Rock is my nephew’s favorite hiking place. I had not been there, and enjoyed seeing your photos. I hope you’re enjoying some of their amazing corn! 😀

    • Yes enjoying plenty of corn, home grown tomatoes, and cucumbers. The August timing of this trip was deliberate knowing my dad’s garden would be producing lots of pickings 🙂 I wouldn’t mind doing a little more hiking at Starved Rock myself.

  17. Been to Starved Rock hiking several times over the years but never camped in the campground. Great scenery and yes lots of steps near the lodge.

    • We walked the steps up and down from the lodge to the visitor center upon our arrival and the next day there were a bunch more to and from the waterfalls.
      Nice meeting you two and we look forward to reconnecting in AZ 🙂

  18. Holy cow, all those stairs! What a nice green area though, too bad the ass hats have to ruin it for everyone else. And speaking of idiots and wild animals, I had the camera at the ready today. People walking wayyyyyy to close to the local bison herd.

    • The soil here is so rich and black, you can grow just about anything. And the vegetation is incredibly dense and green. We just don’t see this in the west. My son flew out for a few days and we had to explain to him what ‘dew’ is…. laughable moment 🙂

  19. Did I really hear you or read your rants? I can relate, we too have encountered some trashy trails that you wonder how this people are raised by their mothers.
    Not sure about those signs, “Away” and “Return” i have not seen signs like that anywhere else. Im too dumb even to understand it 😦
    Nevertheless you got a good workout from those stairs and captured beautifully the waterfalls.

    • Yes, I actually ranted in a post. I think that’s a first for me. It’s rare to see this kind of trash out west, not that we don’t, just not to this level. You and Steve would enjoy the trails around here. It was very pleasurable 🙂

  20. This park was worth driving out of your way! The waterfalls are a great reward for going up and down all those stairs. It never ceases to amaze me how much trash we see in some of the parks we’ve visited.

    • It was definitely worth veering off course. And despite the trash, the park was a pleasant surprise for both of us. We even thought of staying another day, but our son was flying into town 🙂

  21. lovely shots, ingrid, i do think its very common to not appreciate or know the area you were brought up in. you don’t need to apologise about a rant re litterbugs. the one that send me stratospheric is dog owners bagging up dog poo and leaving the bag on the path!!!

    • The last year we lived in Colorado Springs, we took in a lot of the tourist sights and it was so much fun. Only took ten years to discover some of the beauty in our own backyard LOL!

      • We’ve discovered that ourselves! We missed so much in the past but are making up for lost time.
        I was so ready to go here-but stairs are my nemesis…..😞

        • I was relieved my knees didn’t give me problems. Glad you’re making up for lost time…. so many places it gets hard to schedule 🙂

  22. Beautiful waterfall and a lovely hike! Unfortunately trash is an issue pretty much everywhere. I don’t know why is so hard for some people to pick up their trash during hikes… very annoying.

    • Overall the entire park was truly an unexpected joy with lovely waterfalls and incredibly lush vegetation. Hopefully that amount of trash was an anomaly after the busy weekend.

  23. Beautiful waterfalls and the hiking trails and stairways look wonderful — but the trash!! I don’t understand how people can be so selfish and uncaring to leave their mess behind for others to clean up. I like your “open mind” approach to traveling in territory that might not be on the top of your list of desires. 🙂

    • So far, this trip back to Illinois has been the most pleasant and enjoyable in twenty years. We found a wonderful campground only 15 miles from my dad’s house and the fact we’re staying in our own “home” and not imposing on anyone, has made a huge difference. The freedom of having a home on wheels, is awesome 🙂

  24. It’s hard not to get all riled up when there’s so much litter in parks, on trails, etc. We usually carry a bag, and try to pick up at least some of the eyesores. But, really, should anyone have to do this? Crazy.

    • The amount of trash I think is what astounded us. And you can see by that photo, lawn and leaf bags were necessary. Overall though, I’d go back because it is really pretty.

  25. What a Beautiful Park – do not need to hit the stair climber at the gym after exploring this place 🙂

    Mr. Craves and I were just talking about this trash issue this past weekend. We pack out what we pack in and dispose of our trash in a responsible manner. We are having a hard time here in that there is no recycling in the apt. home complex we live in – what?!? – we have recycled for over ten years and were so good at it that we usually had one bag of pure trash that could not be recycled each week.

    I think about the wildlife and the natural environment with the trash. Then I could get up on my soap box about dog poo. Enough, enough ranting – sorry!

    Beautiful Captures. Happy Weekend – Enjoy!

    • Oh yeah, we don’t even need to mention the poo thing. CA is really good at the recycling. The last couple of places we lived didn’t offer recycling and you’d think a place like Colorado would be into it…. not. Although, it’s slowly changing.
      I can’t wait to hear about your new life in FL. Such a drastic change from No. CA huh?

  26. We just attended an outdoor wedding at Starved Rock. It was just lovely..and the reception was in the lodge, which is just beautiful. Not to mention the Starved Rock Lodge is known for it’s Sunday Brunch (and a very neat bar and restaurant). Next time you visit, go into the lodge…very lovely.

    • I was so busy ranting about trash, that I failed to mention we had drinks and appetizers in the lodge bar. Lovely indeed. I’m sure Starved Rock makes for one beautiful wedding venue. We really did enjoy our stay and feel it’s an Illinois hidden gem.

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