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.
With 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
There’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.
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.
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.Even 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.Yellow “AWAY” means you are hiking away from the Visitor Center.White “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.
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.
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.
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.