Going for a Walk

Going for a Walk

It was the third week in September when I was finally able to explore a couple of Duluth parks on my must-see list. Since Duluth, Minnesota is almost a two-hour drive north of my summer home base in Wisconsin, I was really hoping that the fall colors would be popping more than they were. Oh well, the parks were lovely all the same.

Even though I was slightly disappointed with the fall colors, I was very impressed with the trails. Folks around here love their outdoor recreation. Unfortunately, I was in Duluth just for the day and my time was somewhat limited, but at least I was able to take in an overview and walk the trails a little bit.

Lester Park, Duluth, MN

Located on the east side of Duluth, Lester park offers over nine miles of hiking and biking trails and sits along a creek. This is a popular park with locals since it offers picnic tables, a children’s playground, access to a great trail system, and a refreshing river complete with waterfalls. I spent almost two hours meandering trails, crossing bridges, and giving my camera a workout.

(To enlarge a photo in a gallery, simply click on any image.)

The Lakewalk Trail – Congdon Park, Duluth, MN

Also on the east side of Duluth and along the Tischer Creek is Congdon Park. The park was once part of the Glensheen Estate. Owner, Chester Congdon donated the land to the city of Duluth and paid for its development on the condition that the city would stop using the creek as an open sewer.  We thank you, Mr. Congdon!ūü¶®

The park offers beautiful hiking trails, unique bridges, and lovely waterfalls begging to be explored. However, after having spent a couple of hours at Lester Park, I found myself short on time and was only able to walk about 15 minutes out and back on The Lakewalk Trail and never did make it into the heart of Congdon Park.

Although there’s a nice size parking lot near London Road and 26th Ave, I ended up parking the truck on a side street on 32nd Ave so I could view the Tischer Creek and bridges. The Lakewalk Trail is a beautifully paved trail perfect for cyclists, moms with strollers,  or anyone wanting to go on a walk and take in nature. I know I’ll be back next summer for further explorations.

Goodbye for now!

Unfortunately, with winter inching closer, my visits to Duluth have come to an end … temporarily anyway, and I’m already formulating a list of things to do and places to see next season. Hopefully, I’ll do a better job of planning for next summer by making some Duluth RV reservations well in advance. This year, my last-minute planning didn’t work in my favor. Guess my luck had to run out sometime. ūüėŹ

For Duluth lodging recommendations, you can check out this post.

Photography Challenge … Lens-Artists #117: A Photo Walk. For this week’s photo challenge, Amy asks us to share photos taken while on a walk. She encourages us to pause for a moment and observe our surroundings. Fun time!

A Popular Trail in Zion

When Ashton and I chose Zion National Park as the destination for our road trip, I had only two requests … ¬†stop at the Zion Lodge and¬†hike the trail that was accessed across from the lodge. Other than that, I left it all up to daughter. Sure, I’d offer my input, but ultimately, we’d do and see whatever she would like.Zion National Park

Back in the early to mid nineties, we lived in Las Vegas, Nevada for a few years, and it’s an easy two and a half hour drive from Las Vegas to Zion National Park. While living in Las Vegas, Al and I visited Zion once with the kids in tow and later I revisited with a girlfriend. Both times, I overnighted at the Zion Lodge in one of the rustic cabins. The buildings themselves are unassuming, but the huge green lawn accompanied by a bunch of benches left an indelible impression upon me. A¬†visitor can sit, and admire the soaring canyon walls …

Zion wildlifeAs I sat on one of those benches looking up, I remember feeling awed by the beauty around me. This former flatlander from Illinois was overwhelmed with the unique and stunning landscape.

Today, I was equally awed, if not more so. I’m not sure if it’s my age or the fact that I’m able to travel leisurely on regular basis, but there was a relaxed calmness about me that allowed me to savor the scenery along with each experience and hike I accomplished.Zion National Park

As any parent knows, traveling with small children is a huge distraction which I’m sure had an impact on my first visit to Zion. This go around was different. Instead of me, the mom, constantly concerned about the where abouts and antics of a six-year old and four-year old, my adult daughter was the one in charge and it was her responsibility to keep me (dear old mom) from getting into trouble. No easy task ūüėܬ† This new-found lack of responsibility on my part was oh so fun!

Zion National ParkAfter our Riverside Walk, we took the shuttle bus back down the canyon to the Zion Lodge and bought a couple of lattes at the cafe.

We found a bench near the large grass lawn and sat in silence while sipping our coffee. The last time my daughter and I sat here, she was four years old. Wow, how those twenty-three years seemed to have whizzed by!

Not only was I awed by the majestic landscape surrounding me, I was equally awed by the young lady sitting next to me. What a beautiful, caring and successful person my daughter has become. A mom can’t ask for much more!

With our energy boosted from the caffeinated coffees and a stop at the Zion Lodge checked off my list, it was time for a little more nostalgia. I wasn’t sure which trail hubby and I took with the kids all those years ago, but I was pretty sure the trail head was near the Zion Lodge, which meant it had to be the Emerald Pools Trail. What I do remember as the highlight of that day for our family of four was walking behind a waterfall. Thus, Ashton and I were off in search of that waterfall.

Emerald Pools Trail Zion National Park
Walking behind a waterfall – Emerald Pools Trail

Yep, I found the right trail and memories flooded back. It was every bit as entertaining during this visit as it was all those years ago, even though the amount of water falling was light in comparison.

The Emerald Pools Trail is a collection of short trails that meander past a small, lushly vegetated stream that rolls down from the cliffs and forms several interesting pools. Since the trail head is located across the street from the Zion Lodge making it easily accessible, the Emerald Pools trail is one of the most popular trails in Zion National Park. With that in mind, we weren’t surprised we encountered plenty of other hikers on the trail, but even though we had to share the trail, it was still worth the hike.

Emerald Pools
The beginning of the Emerald Pools trail hike

Emerald Pools

We did the entire hike from the lower pools to the upper pools, which is about 3 miles round trip. The last stretch to the upper pools was the most difficult, partly due to the number of other hikers on the trail and partly because of the elevation gain.

Zion National Park
Interesting scenery along the trail
Emerald Pools
Traffic jam at the upper pools. When they say this trail is popular, they aren’t kidding!

Emerald Pools Trail Zion National Park

This was a lovely hike that we enjoyed, but personally, I liked the super easy Riverside Walk Trail a little more. Not because it was easy (well, maybe) but because it offered open views of the soaring canyon walls, the rushing Virgin River, and of course, those lush hanging gardens. The Emerald Pools trail is more about the waterfalls and pools of water. The trail to the lower pool is rated easy, but as the trail climbs to the middle pool and eventually upper pool, it gets a little more difficult which is why this stretch is considered moderate.

From the Zion Lodge to the Upper Pool there’s a 350 foot elevation gain. It’s about 3 miles round trip. Plan around 2 hours – depending on photo stops.

Next up, we’re in search of more stunning scenery, and we’ll tackle the hike of all hikes … our epic hike ….

Zion National Park
Virgin River – Zion National Park

Final thoughts on Idaho

From our campsite at the Beaver Dick Park near Rexburg, we enjoyed a few out and back day trips exploring eastern Idaho.  After spending two months in this state, I’ve come to expect the unexpected.  The land around here is some of the most diverse I’ve ever seen.Idaho

July 2016 – home base was situated among rolling agricultural land.   One of our day drive excursions took us past green and golden fields that were occasionally interrupted by quaint towns, small subdivisions, farms and ranches.  Fifty miles northwest of Idaho Falls, hills of fine white sand loomed in the distance.

Elgin Lake at St. Anthony Sand Dunes
Elgin Lake at St. Anthony Sand Dunes

Talk about a playground fit for any age with a diverse landscape that is extremely intriguing ….. huge sand dunes that are bordered by freshly harvested fields to the south, brush-covered lava plain border the north, and a body of water that sits at its base (Elgin Lake).  Fun recreation abounds!

Boys and there toys!
Boys and their toys!
Ah, but lots of girls get in on the action. Isn't she the cutest? Safety first - helmet and gloves!
Ah, but girls get in on the action too. Isn’t she the cutest? Safety first – helmet and gloves!

These out-of-place sand dunes spill across the Snake River Plain in a wide arc and provide endless OHV adventure (off highway vehicle).  St. Anthony Sand Dunes consists of 10,000 acres of dunes rising 400 feet up and look to be quite the thrill…. check out this video….

I did try talking Al into renting a razor for the day, but alas, one of us needed to be the voice of reason.  So that means, I did not get to experience those amazing sand dunes up close and personal…. sigh.  However, hubby did promise – if we ever find ourselves in this part of Idaho again, we would definitely camp at St. Anthony and rent an OHV.

This Sheriff enjoys his job!
This law enforcement officer enjoys his job!

After getting that promise in writing (LOL), it was time for us to head north to the little town of Ashton.  You see, our daughter’s name is Ashton and I just had to get a photo of Ashtonthe town sign, AND she is definitely my adventurous child. Thus, this sign seemed fitting.

But the town of Ashton wasn’t the only reason for us to head in this direction …… The Mesa Falls Scenic Byway.  This thirty mile scenic road meanders through the Targhee National Forest.

The combination of rolling meadows, pine woodland, and views of  rushing water was a visual delight.

The major tourist stop along this route is Upper Mesa Falls.  The Big Falls interpretive center is a great place to learn about the geology and history of the area.

Upper Mesa Falls
Upper Mesa Falls
scenic overlooks
scenic overlooks

From the interpretive center there are several developed trails, allowing visitors to view the falls and rushing water below.

The interpretive center building was charming
The interpretive center building was charming

Upper Mesa Falls is 200 feet wide and drops about 110 feet, and although I found the area to be difficult to photograph, the setting was perfect for a picnic lunch.  While munching away, we Mesa Fallsbreathed in the fresh scent of pine as the sound of rushing water below and singing song birds above serenaded us.

Our picnic table was pleasantly located under the shade of pines near a meadow filled with wildflowers.  Yep, great place to relax and enjoy our lunch .

We did stop at lower Mesa Falls, but the view is from a roadside overlook and the falls are pretty far away.  The view was a bit of a disappointment and almost not worth the stop, but there were some large informative signs that enlightened us on the flora, fauna, wildlife, and geology in the area making it Mesa Fallsworthwhile after all.

Personal opinion ….. Upper Mesa Falls definitely has better views than lower Mesa Falls.  We thoroughly enjoyed this visit.

Other Idaho note worthy sights……

Henry’s Lake just north of Island Park and not far from West Yellowstone offers a state park with camping, but if you don’t mind driving to the other side of the lake, the Bill Frome County Park offers free dry camping.  Donations are appreciatedcampingAl and I had every intention of moving up to this location so we could explore West Yellowstone, but we had some commitments that required us to head east, thus the timing didn’t fit.  Plus, I was starting to miss my beloved Colorado.  We’ll save a stay at Henry’s Lake for another time.

Henry's Lake looked like a great place to park for a while.
Henry’s Lake looked like a beautiful place to camp

If you own an OHV or are into four-wheeling, then you’d fit right in in eastern Idaho.  Island Park was loaded with off-roaders having a great time tooling around the back country, but anglers seemed to enjoy the area equally as well with no shortage of places to test their hook and line.

Ririe Reservoir
Ririe Reservoir

Our last camping spot in Idaho was near the tiny town of Ririe – The Juniper Campground.  We ended up staying here for a couple of nights so we could get caught up on household chores and stock up on supplies in nearby Idaho Falls.  Tidbit – you can call the camp host to make a reservation at the Juniper Campground. If you do, please ask for his recommendation on sites.  The map that’s on their website is out of date and labeled incorrectly.

Juniper Campground - Ririe Reservoir
Juniper Campground – Ririe Reservoir

From what we gathered, the majority of the time a reservation isn’t necessary but does give you the opportunity to secure one of the nicer sites.  Many of the sites are unlevel or sloped which would make setting up a little more challenging for some RV’s.  Therefore, checking with the camp host is a huge advantage.  We thought the Juniper Campground was a gem of a park to stay while exploring this side of Idaho.

The Oregon Trail and Goodale's cutoff
The Oregon Trail and Goodale’s cutoff

On a final note …… I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the fascinating history found in Idaho.  Idaho has done a fantastic job with signage; educating us on her past ….. reminders of those far more adventurous than today’s full-timing RVer’s.  While I sit on a leather seat in the comfort of a climate controlled truck, pulling my equally comfy home behind me, complete with refrigerator and toilet (my two most important items), I envision the strength and fortitude it must have taken those pioneers to embark on that western migration via horse and covered wagon navigating the Oregon Trail.Oregon trail

Oregon Trail

Many lost their lives.  Many decided to not travel any further and homestead here instead.  Others came to Idaho seeking riches in mining.  Whatever reason they had to leave behind all that was familiar, I can’t help but admire those that paved the path west.

Mackay Idaho

After spending two months in Idaho, it was time for me to bid farewell to this agriculturediverse and fascinating state.

I hiked a Lava Tube for the first time, laid eyes on one of the most picturesque lakes I’ve ever seen, photographed a carpet of unusual wildflowers growing in the harshest of conditions, experienced the roar of powerful waterfalls, witnessed an extreme sport, and followed the trail blazed by Pioneers.

It was an interesting and fascinating visit filled with fond memories.  Auf Wiedersehen Idaho …. until we meet again!

My blogging friend, Char, wrote “Between Hope & the Highway” while living in Boise, Idaho.  Unfortunately, timing didn’t work for us to meet in person, but I do have a copy of her new book on the way!


Visit Idaho

Waterfalls and Jumping off a Bridge

Life has been anything but boring lately.¬† This summer, I find myself living in a small town with a population of less than 1,000.¬† Now keep in mind, I’ve been to plenty of small towns including the one my husband grew up in located in northern Illinois, but I’ve never spent this much time living in the hinterland.¬†craters of the moon

I’m not complaining, but I grew up in¬†the Chicago suburbs with excellent shopping mere minutes away and even our RV travels keep us somewhat near a major city (whether parked or driving by).¬†¬†So now here I am in Arco, Idaho, with the¬†nearest Walmart, Target, Kroger, Home Depot, etc. over an hours drive away which requires me to do a little better planning than I’m accustomed to.¬† I’m notorious for going to the store and coming home with everything but the one thing I went there for.¬† When we’re in Phoenix, Denver,¬†Corpus Christi or any of our other favorite places, running back to the store is no big deal.¬† It’s a big deal around here, especially when my drive to the store looks like this…

My drive to Walmart
My drive to go shopping!
Are we there yet?
Are we there yet?
Just a little further!
Just a little further!

The little town of Arco does offer a mom and pop grocery store and in a pinch I’m grateful they usually have what I’m looking for.¬† I do most of my major shopping about every seven to tens days.¬†¬† Since I have a six cubic foot refrigerator, stocking up has a¬†whole new¬†meaning¬†when compared¬†to¬†having the luxury of¬†a residential size refrigerator.¬† Some planning and adeptness with puzzles goes a long way when it comes to living in small spaces.

After ‘stocking up’, Al doesn’t even attempt to open the frig door for fear of one of those puzzle pieces falling out which usually leads to a domino effect¬†with half the frig items on the floor.¬† ¬†“Watch those toes!”¬† ¬†Nope, no dull moments around here.

Since I’d already shopped a couple of times in the¬†big city¬†of Idaho Falls (population 60,000), I thought I’d head in another direction – Twin Falls (population 46,000).¬† Not only did I have my long list of shopping items with me, I had directions to two sites I just HAD TO SEE.

BASE jumpers - Perrine Bridge
BASE jumpers – Perrine Bridge

To get to Twin Falls, I had to drive over the Perrine Bridge Рone of those must see sites on my list.  And oh, what a sight!  Yes, the bridge itself is a work of art, but the draw is the jumpers РBASE jumpers to be precise.

No, that is not me saying, "WEEEE!"
No, that is not me saying, “WEEEE!”

This landmark bridge spans the Snake River Canyon just north of the town of Twin Falls, Idaho.¬† It’s a four-lane truss arch span about 1,500 feet in length (457m) and sits 486 feet above the river (148m).¬† Folks from around the world (about 5,000 crazy people a year) visit the Perrine Bridge to literally jump off the bridge.¬† It’s legal, hassle free, and no permit required.

Two at a time!
Two at a time!
Everyone has their own style of jumping
Everyone has their own style of jumping

BASE jumping is similar to sky diving but instead of jumping out of a plane, a thrill seeker will jump off a fixed object like a bridge and deploy a parachute.¬† BASE is an acronym for buildings, antennas, spans, and Earth –¬† BASE jumpers practice their sport from any of these elevated places.

Note the jumper - black/green chute over the river.
Note the jumper – black/green chute over the river.

As I stood there watching, I wondered how does one go about practicing this sport?¬† It’s not as if you can jump right in (or rather off), go splat, and request a do over.¬† Yes, people do die doing this and I noticed at the landing point along the shore of the river that there does¬†appear to be a memorial, although I didn’t confirm.

Looks like a memorial near the landing site
Looks like a memorial near the landing site

There’s a beautiful, new visitor center¬†near the southwest end of the bridge with plenty of parking for any size vehicle.¬† The views of the bridge and canyon are spectacular and¬†there’s easy access to the trail along the canyon rim.¬† The trail goes under the bridge and there’s a pedestrian walk-way on both sides of the bridge to take in the amazing scenery.¬† The visitor center is a year-round launching point for those interested in parachuting to the canyon floor.¬†¬†So¬†are you ready¬†to jump¬†off¬†a bridge?¬† Schedule a jump with Tandem Base – I’ll watch ūüėÜ

WildflowersSince I had a long list of shopping to do, I parked by the Best Buy on the southeast side of the bridge instead of the visitor center and stopped to watch the jumpers in between my stops into TJ Maxx, Best Buy, and Sportsman’s Warehouse.

Soon¬†I was off to my other “must see” site.

The weather was so, so with storms rolling in and out and I¬†began to wonder if¬†it would be worth the stop.¬† I rolled down my window in the pouring rain for the attendant to collect the $3.00 entrance fee.¬† I’m pretty sure it should’ve been free when I showed him my National Parks Pass, but he said no, it was only the senior park pass for free admittance.¬† With both of us getting drenched¬†it¬†wasn’t¬†worth questioning any further and I handed over the three bucks and drove on.¬† The moment I had the truck parked, the storm clouds moved on and the falls presented¬†its visitors with a beautiful rainbow.

Shoshone Falls
Shoshone Falls

Shoshone Falls is quite often referred to as the Niagara of the West, and tumbles 212 feet to the canyon floor – 50 feet further than the famous Niagara.¬† Spring is the best time to visit Shoshone Falls.¬† Later in the year, cliffs may be nearly dry, as most of the river’s flow is diverted to produce hydroelectric power and irrigate Idaho’s fertile farmlands.¬† Here’s a link to a live webcam to see just how much water is flowing at any given time.Shoshone Falls

Shoshone FallsThere’s plenty of hiking opportunities along the canyon rim including a hike to the famous Evel Knievel jump site. ¬†Because of the weather,¬†I personally didn’t see the Knievel jump site or hike any of the trails. ¬†I understand the jump site is basically a dirt ramp remnant from¬†Knievel’s failed attempt to jump over the Snake River.¬†¬†I¬†was a little disappointed the weather was so inclement.¬† Once the¬†raindrops started falling again, accompanied by thunder,¬†I knew that¬†was my cue to¬† move on and run those errands.Shoshone FallsThis is when my day¬†got real¬†interesting.¬† Remember that long shopping list?¬† Well, I still needed to go to Walmart and Costco.¬† I had a general idea where they were located but for some reason I turned left when I should’ve turned right.¬† It was late afternoon on a Saturday.¬†¬†The rain was pouring and traffic was congested.¬† I drove through the historic downtown area and immediately realized my faux pas.¬†¬† “Hmm, where to turn, where to turn?”¬† There seemed to be a lot of traffic¬†heading north on¬†a particular road. Thus, I followed thinking it had to be a main¬†road that would¬†put me back in the right direction¬†and help lead¬†to the¬†general area I¬†was looking for.

MarmotOops, I was almost at the plant gate showing up for second shift.¬† I¬†quickly did a U-turn and then another turn.¬† I knew I needed to go in a northeast direction but with the heavy rain and dark skies, I couldn’t find the sun to verify my direction.

I usually have a great sense of direction, and¬† I did¬†feel I was traveling north, but the signs and poor visibility had me second guessing myself.¬† I kept thinking to myself…. I’ve successfully navigated cities two to three times larger than Twin Falls.¬† It can’t be that difficult to figure out where to go.

I soon found myself out in the country with the cows and critters¬†and no place to stop and ask for directions (not that I’m quick to ask for directions¬†– we definitely suffer from role reversal in this household).¬† I rarely admit to being lost.¬† I get turned around all the time, but not lost. In this instance I was truly uncomfortable and not sure where I was.¬† Yes, I was lost!¬† I pulled off on the side of the road to ask Siri for help only for her to respond with a “I’m sorry, I can’t connect.¬† Try again later”….¬† are you kidding me, no cell service!¬† And Hildi, our¬†annoying GPS, was back at the RV getting updated.

Shoshone FallsI pulled out the Atlas, which wasn’t much help either.¬† It¬†only confirmed I needed to go northeast.¬† ¬†I sure could’ve used an Idaho Benchmark Atlas which offers a lot more detail. (We have Benchmark’s for AZ and CO)

Finally, I turned around, retraced some steps, and pointed the truck east thinking I’d hit town eventually, which I did.¬† I finally made it to Walmart¬†although frazzled and tired.¬†I quickly filled the shopping cart with only the items on my list.¬† After all,¬†¬†I still needed to go¬†to Costco for the RV Park owner’s list.

Would you believe it took me over fifteen minutes to navigate the Costco parking lot?¬† Congestion was worse than I’ve ever seen in Phoenix.¬† I was so ready to head home and blow off this stop,¬†but¬†I made a commitment to pick up a list of items.¬† Don’t even get me started on the check out lines.¬†¬†With all¬†my errands and sightseeing complete, I hit the road for my nearly two hour drive home, and finally made it back to the RV¬†shortly after¬†7:00 p.m.

Let’s see….¬†I didn’t jump off a bridge.¬† I didn’t slide down a waterfall.¬† I managed to get myself un-lost without any help.¬† I didn’t go postal in Costco.¬† And I made it home in one piece without any road rage.¬† All in all,¬†I’d say it was¬†a great day!

Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming, “Wow! What a Ride!” – Hunter S. Thompson

Idaho Benchmark Road & Recreation Atlas

I finally found some good hiking socks!Thorlos Womens Lite Hiking Thin Padded Ankle – Low Cut Socks | LTHMXW

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)


Colorado’s Rushing Waters

Ouray Colorado
Ouray, Colorado…..America’s Switzerland

As we hiked further into the canyon, the roar of rushing water became more deafening.  The dirt trail quickly turned into a slatted iron bridge complete with rails.  The temperature dropped, the humidity rose, and the sun was hidden.

Al and I smiled as we continued into the canyon.¬† We both agreed this is quite the¬†dramatic¬†find and experience.¬† We’d heard about Box Canyon Falls from other bloggers but experiencing it first hand was a fun treat.

Box Canyon Falls
Box Canyon….the bottom of the falls can be seen in the lower part of the photo

At the end of the trail is a staircase that leads down to the bottom of the falls.  Al and I continued down the stairs and the spray of water misted our bodies as well as the iron stairs making for some slippery walking.  The roar of the water forced us to speak loudly.  In an attempt not to become drenched or damaged by slipping we quickly climbed the stairs back up to the main trail and continued to take in this unique sight.

Ouray Colorado
Watch your head !

Box Canyon Falls is know as Ouray’s own wonder of the world.¬† The¬†waterfall is created from the combination of Canyon Creek narrowing into a rock canyon and then plummeting 285 feet, spilling thousands of gallons of water per minute.¬† The word ‘dramatic’ sums it up nicely.Box Canyon Falls

Exiting¬†the canyon, we were¬†once again greeted by bright sunshine and warm, dry air…..what a contrast.

Box Canyon can be enjoyed from below the falls as well as from high above the canyon floor.  Of course, hubby and I are compelled to see it all.  Thus, our hike takes us up, up, up.

Box Canyon Falls
Our destination is that bridge up there.

The trail up starts off with a bunch of stairs then turns into a dirt hiking trail.¬† It’s a rugged trail and hubby and I¬†were glad we wore our hiking boots instead of tennies.

Once at the top, we have a bird’s eye view of the town of Ouray (pronounced; your ray).¬† There’s so much to see, do, and explore around this part of Colorado which is also known as¬†America’s Jeeping Capital.¬† I think we could spend the entire summer here and still not see or do it all.Ouray Colorado Box Canyon FallsWhen¬†we arrived at the top, we realized this is where the ‘perimeter trail’ connects.¬† The perimeter trail is a five mile well marked trail that circles the town of Ouray.¬† Al and I¬†knew we wanted to¬†hike part of this trail…. so off we went.Ouray ColoradoAlong the¬†way we encountered more rushing water.¬† May and June¬†is serious snow melting season and all creeks and streams are running dangerously fast and furious.¬† We spent a little over 2 hours hiking a portion of the perimeter trail with plans to return to hike another portion on another day.¬† As ‘Arnold’ would say, “We’ll be back”!Ouray Colorado perimeter trail

CeraVe SPF 50 Sunscreen Face Lotion, 2 Ounce