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, January 29, 2017

Wabakimi 2016

Through the winter of 2016, I was communicating with a couple guys from  We planned a trip to the west side of Wabakimi in which we would each bring our solo canoes and meet around Flindt or Gault Lake.  Eventually Ken had to back out due to some issue that arose in early June.  But High’n’Dry and I were going to meet anyway.

At the beginning of July, 2016, I was whacking weeds in the backyard.  I stepped on a window well cover and my left leg fell through.  My right leg was fully bent with the calf explosively compressed against the back of my thigh.  It hurt, but after a couple weeks, the swelling went down so I decided to go on the canoe trip.

On July 21, 2016, I packed the car, strapped on the canoe and took for the Smye Lake entry point.  I hit a big storm in Wisconsin and had to stop and retighten the canoe.  That’s when I noticed that my seat cover was missing.  It was only about 11am, so I decided to detour into the twin cities and stop at Midwest Mountaineering to get a new cover.  While there I also bought a small hatchet and a Mora knife.  After having lunch, I hit the road northbound for Thunder Bay.  I got to TB around 7pm and had a heck of a time getting a room.  Finally, at around 8:30 I checked into the Prince Arthur Hotel and went and got dinner at a nice restaurant down the street.

I was up and on the road by 7:30 on Friday.  I headed west on Hwy 17 to Ignace.  I turned north and finally got to the Smye Lake parking lot around 3pm.  It was HOT!  The sun was beating down so I took my time getting staged and around 5 pm or so I paddled into Smye Lake on my way!

Paddling conditions were very nice.  Calm water and warm weather.  I paddled a few hours until I got to the last campsite on Smye Creek.  The site looks north and has a nice fire pit and a log to sit on.  I pulled in as the sun was setting and started to set up camp.  I tied off the canoe and got the hammock set up.  I got the tarp deployed, but before I could stake it out the rains hit.  It suddenly started raining pretty hard so I had to run around and get all my gear stowed in a hurry.  I got the tarp staked out and climbed into the hammock.  I fell asleep pretty quickly even though I had not eaten dinner.  I slept like a rock.

On Saturday, I woke early and broke out the alky burner for breakfast.  I had two servings of oatmeal and some nice hot tea.  I felt pretty good, except that my knee was bothering me a bit.  I figured no problem since I planned on only two portages today.  I took it easy, letting things dry out a few hours, and started toward Wilkie in mid-morning. 

I had to cut my way into the last portage out of Smye.  There was a lot of blowdown just a few yards past the take out for the portage.  I took my new Corona saw and made pretty short work of the blow down.  I decided to carry my heavy pack over first with the saw.  I’m glad I did because I had to cut a few blowdowns on the way.  The portage took longer than I had expected, but I made it into Wilkie around 12:30 or so.

I paddled up Wilkie to the Flindt portage.  Again, I had to cut my in and had several smaller blowdowns through to Flindt.  I added a little corduroy to the north end of that portage and was on Flindt in a reasonable amount of time.  The wind had picked up and I was now paddling into a breeze as I headed south.  It wasn’t too bad and the weather was nice.  Not too hot, not too cold.  I arrived at my Flindt Lake campsite in mid-afternoon.  I found everything exactly as I had left it in August 2015.

I took my time setting camp and shot some video.  Then I went for a swim and rinsed out my muddy clothes. (The boot sucking mud on my way into Flindt had got me again.)  I felt refreshed and energized and went into the woods to find another log or two to process for firewood.  I had enough, but I wanted to take advantage of the good weather.  That was a mistake.  I fell in a hole in the soft moss and twisted my knee.  It hurt pretty bad, so I skipped the firewood hunt and retreated to the campsite.  I cooked up a big Mountain House dinner and stuffed myself.  I had a nice little fire and hit the hay as it was getting dark.

The rains hit hard that night.  Thunder, lighting and hard rainfall woke me several times.  Around dawn I woke with a fine mist in my face.  I was confused.  Where was the water coming from?  I had my tarp deployed.  As I gained consciousness I realized that the wind was howling in from the east.  It was blowing rain under my tarp!  I felt the bottom of my underquilt and it was wet.  Damn it! I got up and pulled the ridgeline down closer to the hammock and tightened the tie outs.  That fixed it and I went back to sleep for a few hours. 

By the time I awoke to face Sunday, the rain had stopped, but the wind was still blowing.  I could see I was in for a rainy, blustery day.  I went down to the fire pit and tried to light a cooking fir.  But everything was completely saturated and I could squeeze water from all my little brush which I had ready to make a fire.  No fire, so I used the alky burner to boil water for oatmeal and tea.  After breakfast, I set up my extra tarp near the fire pit, got my chair situated and sat down to read for a few hours.  My knee was puffed up and throbbing, but since I was going to sit around all day, I wasn’t too concerned. 

Later in the day, I had some lunch and shot a short video.  My knee was worse I was a bit worried.  I hoped that by resting all day I would be good to go on Monday morning.  The wind blew stiffly all day and it rained off and on.  At dinner time, I was going to have a fire, but the wind was blowing so strong that I decided it would be best to just stick with the alky burner.  I had dinner and then watched the clouds blow across the sky for a while.  Finally, I hit the hay.

On Monday I woke up to a calmer scene.  The wind had died down, but the pain in my knee had flared up.  I looked at the softball size swelling and decided to call it a trip.  I packed up camp and hit the water.  I had a much easier time going out since the portages were already cut open.  But I still was moving slowly and it took all day to get to the car.  As I pulled slowly out of the parking area, I was having trouble pressing the gas pedal without stabbing pain in the knee.  It took a couple hours to travel the  43km out to the 599 road.  Once I got on 599 I was able to set my cruise control and that gave me relief on the knee.  I got to Ignace around 7:30pm and checked into the motel.

I was up and on the road by 7 the next day and drove all the home arriving around midnight.  After I went to the doctor I discovered that I had several tears in my right medial meniscus and a fracture in the later femoral condyle of my right leg.  Lesson learned:  Listen to your boidy when it is screaming in pain.  Check it out with the MD before heading off into the wildermess.  I’m just not 25 years old anymore.

Oh well,  it sucks getting old…..