Last Friday, my best friend and I each had a rare day off together and decided to drive up from Starved Rock. We both live near the south side of Chicago, so the drive took about an hour and 30 minutes, but it flew by because we were so busy talking! We got really lucky with the weather. Although it wasn’t sunny, it was very mild and dry, and there was a nice cool little breeze in the air.
Before we left, I packed up some pumpkin chocolate-chip protein muffins, bags of fresh fruit and veggies, almond crackers, gluten free pretzels, and sparkling coconut water.
When we arrived, we explored the visitor’s center for a bit and filled our reusable water bottles from their fountain. I have been there several times before, but haven’t been back in a few years, so I was excited to get back on the trails. I went once for a “History of Illinois” class and learned a lot of interesting facts about the park, and there are also lots of posts around that provide information on some of the historical aspects as well as the plants and inhabitants.
We decided to hike the whole park. The few times we’d been there before, we kind of goofed off with friends and didn’t have any set destination or plan mind, so it was great to be able to explore everything in its entirety. In the beginning and throughout the trail, there are stairs that lead to viewing decks.
From the decks, you can see out into the river, where there were plenty of osprey flying around. I didn’t see too many creatures, unfortunately, but I did see a couple snakes and chipmunks.
As we walked along the river, we passed several areas that almost seemed like desert land. They were made up of sand and seemed a little dry and barren, but they offered some great views.
At the end of the river trail, the canyons and waterfalls start to make an appearance. Getting there is actually a little scary–a lot of the land there is very, very narrow and pretty high, so you have to walk slowly and with good balance to get across. When I was there a few years ago, there was plenty of water in the waterfalls, but it was a pretty hot and humid summer, so I believe some of the water evaporated.
It was very beautiful, and before we know it, we’d walked the whole trail. We did run into this ominous sign as we made our way back to the beginning.
We also passed a bridge entrance and little scenic bridge that was charming–I loved the little stones and arch.
We hiked for nearly 3 hours, and it was fun and a great way to get moving outdoors. The air was fresher and the sky was brighter, and it was really nice to get away from the city for a bit. I love state parks and can’t wait to explore many more, especially ones that have more creatures in them!