Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Introduction - The Concept

PREAMBLE:  Please leave me a message with ideas, tips, thoughts, opinions.  I sure would like some feedback. Thanks.

CHOOSE A TOPIC on the right side of the page.   My most recent post wil appear at the bottom of this page.  Because of the way that blogger works I have tried to set up the topic list in a way that will make it easy to find things.

Canoe trips are designated “Canoe.”

Hikes in the Illinois State Parks are listed alphabetically. 
X denotes a hike in an area other than an Illinois State Park.
z indicates a Gear Review.

INTRODUCTION - Hi!  My name is Jim and I am a slightly overweight, definitely out of shape suburban Dad who likes getting out into the great piney woods.  I've spent 30 years working in an office environment.  Over that time I let myself forget how much I enjoy being out in the woods and breathing fresh air.  Well, I have decided to go back to doing what I most enjoyed back in the late 70's and early 80's.  This project gives me the excuse I've needed to take a little more time out of the office and put a little more time into the woods.

THE CONCEPT - Over the last few months of 2011, I was browsing the web looking at a lot of material posted up by guys like me who are getting out and having fun on the trail.  I thought, “I can do that.”  And so, I kept reading and watching and the weeks went by. 
I realized I had to give myself an excuse to get up and GO!

So I decided to set myself a goal.  I wanted to engage in a project that would be long term, but not too ambitious.  So, what could I do that would show some accomplishment early on and that could be a path to improvement?  Well, my wife got a new DSLR camera in 2011 and she was learning how to use it.  I suggested we take a little hike and she could snap a bunch of cool shots.  So I looked at the Illinois Department of Natural Resources website to get directions to a State Park.  There are about 140 state parks listed on the IL DNR web site.  Some of those are too small to hike in, but most of them have at least 3 miles of trails. 

I had found my project.  I call it Hiking Illinois, A Journey Through the State Parks of Illinois.

On January 27, 2012, I came up with the basic rules.  Keeping it simple, I decided to hike a minimum of 3 miles in each of the Illinois State Parks.  Of course, just walking 3 miles in a park isn’t all that appealing, but if I were to backpack I could buy, test, tweak, and play with a lot of gear.  Now, I really like gear and this presented a real good excuse for me to buy more gear.  So, rule number two, I will pack as if I am going to do a few days’ solo hike in each park.  And that is the extent of the rules I set. 

Louisa Falls, Quetico

In some parks I’ll just do day hikes and in others I’ll do overnighters.  Along the way, I’ll pick up little tidbits of information about the parks and maybe look at the history of the surrounding area a bit.  Now I realize that we don’t have the AT, CDT, or PCT to hike around here, but we do have some pretty interesting looking places on our state map.  Illinois is a state with a whole lot of variety and a lot of history, so that aspect should enrich the project and leave me with a greater appreciation for my home stomping grounds.

Wabakimi Provincial Park

Please note that these will not be comprehensive surveys of all features and attractions at all the parks.  I just want to give you a sample of what is out there and encourage you to explore for yourself.  I will try to show some highlights at each park and give my impressions of the park by hiking at least some of the trails that each park contains.  I hope my adventures will whet your appetite to come on out and explore what Illinois has to offer in the way of hiking, camping, and nature-centric recreation.

ADDENDUM - Well, once I got the blog up and running, I realized that I had other adventures that I wanted to recount.  So I went back into my archives and I posted up about some earlier hikes and canoe trips that I have taken over the years.  So I have expanded the scope of this blog to cover my outdoor life.  Now I want to keep a record of all the fun I have had, and am having, enjoying all the various outdoor activities.

So off I go, Hiking Illinois.
 Chattahoochee National Forest, Georgia

Matthiessen State Park

DISCLAIMER - I do not have any affiliation with any manufacturer or distributor of any products that I review.  The reviews are my opinions based upon my experience with any particular piece of gear.  I have not monetized this website so you may be assured I do not stand to gain personally by anything I post here.
DON’T BE STUPID! - I do not claim to be an expert in any area of outdoor living and I urge you to learn about the risks which are always inherent in any outdoor activity.  Think about your own limitations before you go out.  I have done some pretty stupid things out in the woods and nearly died because I did not think ahead of time.  If you have little, or no, experience in the wilderness you should exercise extreme caution before adventuring out there.  Read, study, learn and practice your camping and survival skills near your home BEFORE leaving the safety of modern society.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Hidden Springs State Forest

On April 16, 2016, I did my first camping trip of the year.  I hiked about 4.5 miles in Hidden Springs State Forest.  When I arrived there were several people hunting for morel mushrooms.  This was the first time I have ever seen, touched, and smelled these delicacies.  They are quite pungent!  Someday I will try them cooked properly.  I believe I will enjoy that.

Today I use my SPOT locator device for the first time on a hike.  I bought it in summer 2015, to use on my solo canoe trip.  The SPOT has a “tracker” setting which sends coordinates to the website every 10 minutes.  Unfortunately, overhead tree cover blocked some of my tracker signals.  So my dataset is incomplete.  But, I have more data on the actual hike than I have had in the past.
I went straight to the Rocky Spring Trailhead in the southern portion of the forest.  The trail is marked as 3 miles.  The DNR has changed the course of the trail so I saw several trails that looked like spurs, but actually are discontinued portions of the trail. It is a nice hike with some ups and downs.  It’s a good trail for the year’s first hike.  All the trails are gravel poured on mud.

After I completed that trail I went to the Big Tree trail.  Unfortunately, the bridge at the trailhead is out.  I was unable to hike that trail so I walked around the woods along the banks of the creek for about a half mile.  After that I went to the two ponds, White Oak and Sassafras.  These ponds are reached by walking about 500-750 feet or so from the parking area.  They are nice spots for having a quiet picnic and just whiling away a few hours.  I took some video of the White Oaks Pond and the frogs mating in Sassafras Pond.  I hiked about one mile total around the ponds.

The forest was scheduled to be underwater as a dam was proposed back in the 1950’s.  When Lake Shelbyville was created just a few miles north, the land was designated a state forest.  The DNR is using the area to test various forest management techniques.  They are using the pine forest for seed stock which is used across the rest of Illinois.  They are also fostering the growth of walnuts.  It seems they are also testing cutting methods as I saw a lot of cut trees on my hike.  The trees that have been cut seemed to be in 3-7 inch diameter range.  Larger trees were left standing.

After hiking I set up camp in the Possum Creek campground.  There were a few tent campers and some trailer/RV campers.  I tried Hawk Vittles Clam Vermicelli.  I bought this dehydrated meal in summer 2015.  Unfortunately, I think air got into the package and the fats went rancid.  It didn’t taste too good.  So I drove to a sandwich shop for dinner.  When I got back around 9 pm, one of the trailer campers had started his gas generator.  I thought he would obey the 10 pm quiet time, but he let the engine run until the wee hours.  I didn’t sleep too well.  When I got up at 6am, he was starting the generator again.  Oh well, that’s state park camping for you.

I used my Granite Gear pack and loaded it up with about 20 lbs, including 2 qts of water.  I carried another 2 lbs of camera gear in my fanny pack for a total load of 22 lbs.  It was good to get out and stretch the old muscles.