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, March 23, 2015

Shabbona Lake State Park

After a long time off, I finally got a hike in on Saturday, March 21, 2015.  During 2014, I had a lot of things to deal with both professionally and family, and so hiking time was taken out of the schedule.  But things have settled down and I am happy to get back on the trail!  And what a beautiful day to get back in the harness!  Sunny and warm, with a good breeze.  I had hoped to camp overnight, but the campground was closed and chained shut.  So I hiked a couple miles and then looked at some other features of the park.

Shabbona Lake has boating, fishing, hiking, camping, cross country skiing, hunting, snowmobiling, cycling, and a youth camp area.  There is a lot to do with the family.  There is a handicap access trail also.  There is no swimming in the lake.

The lake was formed when the Indian Creek was dammed in 1973.  Like many other state parks in this area, the Illinois tall grass prairie is a feature.  The beautiful prairie flowers are in bloom in spring and early summer.  Prairie plants have deep roots which make them fire tolerant.  The prairie at the park is regularly burned and the local FFA chapter assists with the process.

The area is part of the Illinois River basin.  The land is classified as loamy till by the USGS.  Till is nonstratified drift transported and deposited directly by glacial ice. It is a compact mixture of gravel, sand, silt, and clay.


The last Native Americans in the county were the Ottawa and Potawatomi Nations. After the Blackhawk War in 1832, tribes were moved west to reservations. The last chief in the area was Chief Shabbona, who warned settlers of an impending attack. He was honored with the naming of the town of Shabbona and Shabbona Lake State Park.


A short historical piece is reprinted below.  This comes from

History of Pokanoka:  It is said that while Shabbona, an Ottawa Indian by birth, was on a hunting expedition from his native Ohio Territory, he visited the Potawatomi living near the southern tip of Lake Michigan. This visit resulted in his marriage to Chief Spotka’s daughter, Pokanoka (Pa-Kwuk-no-quah). After Chief Spotka’s death, Shabbona became Chief of the Potawatomi.


After Shabbona’s death, Pokanoka and two of her daughters, came back to their old home at Shabbona Grove. On July 5, 1864 , they took quiet possession of a thicket near their old home. Soon after this, on November 30,1864 , while crossing the Mazon Creek, in Grundy County , with her grandchild, they were thrown from the wagon and both drowned. Pokanoka always rode in a cart because she was too heavy to ride on a horse (she weighed over 300 pounds). Pokanoka and the grandchild are buried next to Shabbona in Evergreen Cemetery , Morris , Il.


The courtship and marriage of the Indians was extremely simple. If a Brave fancied a certain Indian Womanuaw, he would send word that he would visit her wigwam on a certain night. He would enter the wigwam and stir the embers of the fire and add a bit of wood. If the Indian Womanuaw remained wrapped in her blanket, he was rejected and departed without more ado. If she got up and blew out the torch, he was accepted and they were man and wife thereafter.


Shabbona and Pokanoka spent much of their early marriage alternating between Paw Paw Grove and Shabbona Grove. The Paw Paw grove got its name from the abundance of Paw Paw apple trees found there, and which still grow there today. This fruit is small, juicy and luscious. It is found nowhere else in this vicinity. They also made sugar from Maple trees using the backs of turtles as sap buckets. They would boil the syrup and add rabbits or woodchucks. Game was plentiful. Deer, prairie wolfs, wild cats and an occasional bear, along with wild turkeys, geese, ducks and prairie chickens were the main game.

At a ball in Ottawa, Sheriff George Walker asked Chief Shabbona to choose the most beautiful lady present to preside as Queen of the Ball. Chief Shabbona accepted this challenge. He proceeded by asking each lady to stand while he critiqued her. Once he finished with the ladies, he walked over to his large wife and said “Much big, heap prettiest squaw”, and Pokanoka was named Queen of the Ball.


Two sons and five daughters were born to Pokanoka and Chief Shabbona. The boys were named Smoke and Wynonwy. Smoke lived as a white man and was given a Christian burial in Iowa and Wynonwy lived with the Indians. The daughter’s names were: Sebequay (River Woman), Waywash (Bad Girl), Mkosiqhah (Bear Woman), Motowayquah (Maude), and Mary. Mary, was Shabbona’s favorite and Sebequay, was the most beautiful.


It is said that Shabbona offered a bushel of silver dollars to any white man who would marry his most beautiful daughter, Sebequay. However, onevisit at meal time may have frightened any eligible young man. Any bird or small animal of the prairie might be roasted or boiled with all claws, feathers, fur, etc. intact. Then it was torn apart and eaten. The sight of the beautiful Sebequay devouring food in such a fashion might have seemed repulsive to any white man not used to the Indian culture.


After Shabbona’s death, Pokanoka and two of her daughters came back to their old home at Shabbona Grove. On July 5, 1864, they took quiet possession of a thicket near their old home. Soon after this, on November 30, 1864, while crossing the Mazon Creek, in Grundy County, with her grandchild, they were mysteriously thrown from the wagon and both drowned. Pokanoka always rode in a cart because she was too heavy to ride on a horse (she weighed over 300 pounds). Pokanoka and the grandchild are buried next to Shabbona in Evergreen Cemetery, Morris, IL.


Mrs. William Dewar of Morris related Pokanoka’s last day in an interview for the Sycamore True Republican Newspaper on November 24, 1909. “On a trip to Sam Holderman’s farm for flour, vegetables and meat, Pokanoka met her death. Sam was very kind to them, always loading their wagon. Her ponies stopped at our place. We lived on the Ed Lott place then. My father went and put the ponies back on the road again for her and gave her the lines. She started away, sitting in the bottom of the wagon. We thought she would be alright. She had her little granddaughter with her. This was in the evening”.

“The next morning we were going to the field to husk corn and just before we drove onto Pine Bluff bridge, we discovered her lying on her face in just enough water to reach her ears. A little further down stream was her granddaughter. Both had drowned. Their ponies were found near by, feeding in the woods”.


All of Shabbona’s people who remained moved out west, after the death of Pokanoka.