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.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Kickapoo State Recreation Area

On April 5, 2014, I realized that I didn't have to work and the weather was really nice, so decided that I would get my 2014 hiking underway.  After a brutal winter that saw me have to cancel two camping trips, I really needed to get out.  So I looked at the IDNR website and chose Kickapoo State Recreation Area for the hike.

Kickapoo is located between Champaign and Danville, just north of I-74.  I arrived about three o'clock and drove around a bit looking for the Out and Back Trail.  After a wrong turn or two, I saw a parking lot with a sign indicating the OB Trail.  I pulled in and set up for the hike.

The first mile was basically under water.  It had rained hard earlier in the week and the ground was just thawing from the long winter.  After the first mile, the trail improved and became a soft, moss-covered track.  I was following the mileage markers for about a couple miles, but I missed a turn just after the 2.75 mile mark.  I got to a 3 mile marker, but after getting home and looking at Google Earth, I realized that I had gone onto the mountain bike trail for a bit.  I turned around at the 3 mile mark and hiked back to the car.

Then I drove to the Walk-in camp area and set up for the night.  It was a clear, cold night.  At about 3 a.m. I awoke shivering and covered with frost.  The weather forecast called for a low of about 40F.  I brought my 30F rated BA bag and the HG under quilt.  I am guessing that temps got down around 20F.  I was pretty cold, damp from condensation, and shivering.  I wasn't helped by the fact that I left my dry shoes in my garage, so I only had wet, cold shoes to wear when I had to hit the head.  Finally, I bailed and slept in the car for about 2 hours.

Kickapoo has whole lot of different activities available including, horseback riding, mountain biking, hiking, camping from Winnebago-style with hook-ups all the way to walk-in sites that have a fire pad and picnic table, canoeing, kayaking, playgrounds for little kids, fishing, hunting, and even scuba diving.  In the winter they have cross country skiing, skating, sledding, and ice fishing.

The park is built on reclaimed strip mined land.  Several mining companies operated in the area between 1860 and 1940, including the Consolidated Coal Company, Economy Coal, Hartshort Coal Company, and finally the Union Electric Coal Co.  The Union Electric Co. sold the land back to Illinois as a result of local efforts of Clint Tilton, a newspaper owner in Vermilion County.   The pits left from the mining filled with water and the land has grown over with a deciduous forest of oaks, sycamores, hickory, and other species.  The Middle Fork Vermilion River runs through the park and can be paddled from the north starting at the Middle Fork FWA about six miles upstream.  Horse rentals, boat rentals, and bait are available in the park also.