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.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Illini State Park

On Sunday, May 25, 2014, I went to Illini State Park thinking I could hike 3 to 4 miles. The park is actually big enough for a hike that long, but there are no trails that long. In fact, there is only 1 trail in the park and it is only 1.5 miles long. The east quarter of the park has campgrounds, but no trails. The west half of the park also has several campgrounds, but no trails at all. At the far west end of the park is a lock to allow ships to get through the Illinois River. No photography is allowed. Basically, this park is a drive in campground area. It is close to Marseilles, IL, and is a short drive from Starved Rock State Park.
If you are looking for a place to car camp, then you may enjoy this park.

Here is a short video of my short walk at Illini State Park.

The Illinois River Valley as it looks today is the result of continual and often dramatic natural changes to the landscape.
Some of the processes that shaped this river and its valley are, literally, as old as the hills. Sandstone and limestone bluffs recall an era, millions of years past, when an ancient sea overspread this region. The Mississippi River once flowed through this valley, before glaciers shifted its course to the west. South of Hennepin, the Illinois River follows the Mississippi's ancient channel. A more recent glacial event sculpted the upper reaches of the Illinois River. Seventeen thousand years ago, glacial meltwaters burst through a rock-earth dam holding back a massive lake, unleashing the Kankakee Torrent, which carved the river valley all the way to Hennepin.
As the glaciers retreated, lichens and plants reinhabited the barren landscape, many of which sprouted from seeds left behind in the glacial deposits. In the 12,000 years since then, rich topsoils accumulated, and complex and varied communities of plants and animals-from lush bottomland hardwood forests and riparian floodplains to tallgrass prairies and woodland spring seeps-have established and flourished here.
The Illinois River Road sites below to enable you to experience how geological transformations have shaped the Illinois River Valley and how, since the end of the Ice Age, dynamic natural communities have become established in the Illinois River Valley.  
Located across the Illinois River from the town of Marseilles, the 510-acre Illini State Park lies along the northern edge of the “Great Falls” of the river, where a drop in streambed gradient creates beautiful roaring rapids. The park itself sits atop an old glacial moraine (elongated ridge-type hill bulldozedup by an advancing Pleistocene glacier) and features a dense hardwood forest of oaks and hickories on the ridge tops, sugar maple, black walnut, and white ash on the slopes, and silver maple and cottonwood in the bottoms, providing diverse habitat for birds and birders. Hikers (and cross country skiers in winter) can take the parks Marasottawa Trail which loops from the Sycamore Grove Shelter on the east end of the park up to the Mallard Bay Shelter and Boat Launch on the east end. LaSalle County birders highlight this trail as one of the best sites in the county for viewing migrating vireos, warblers, thrushes, and other songbirds in fall.
    The above information is from