April 6-7, 2013Last weekend, my wife wanted to have a dinner party. Those plans fell through on Thursday, so, since I haven’t been on a hike for 2 months, I decided to take an overnighter at one of the parks. I looked at Sanganois, but it does not have camping. So I decided to try Sand Ridge and saw that it has backcountry camping. That fit the bill so on Saturday morning I packed up and headed south.
I arrived at the park at 12:30, to a beautiful 70 degree, windy day! I checked in at the forest headquarters and got a permit. It is only $6.00 a night. The manager helped me pick a spot and then I drove over to the trailhead and got underway about 1:00 p.m. First thing I saw were several prickly pear cacti! I was quite surprised that cacti could survive the winter in Illinois, but there they were lining the sand trail. When I say “sand” I don’t mean packed down sand like a baseball diamond. I mean loose sand like a beach. Hiking in that loose sand is quite difficult and really slows one down. I stayed on the edge of the trail as much as I could, but even there it was loose and my feet sank in quite a bit. Even so, I was able to keep my average speed over 2 mph.
The park sits on a large area of sand which was deposited by glaciers about 15,000 years ago. Just after the glaciers melted a long dry period created a desert in the area. That is when the various cactus and other desert plants became established in the area. There is a large oak forest (about 4000 acres) and also a pine forest (about 2500 acres) which was planted by the CCC in the 1930s. The pine forest has large areas of straight rows just as one would expect in a tree farm. I hiked in the pine forest because the oaks were not in leaf this early in the season.
The SF has a hand trap and archery range. There are also 120 miles of equestrian trail and equestrian day use and camping areas.
|Red is Inbound hike; Green is Outbound|
I decided to start on the Red Trail and then hike around the northwest portion of the park (Blue/Yellow Trail) and then come around east on the northern trail to BC12 campsite. That site is located at the mid-point of the north part of the Yellow trail (the northernmost trail in the park). It was tough, especially climbing the sand dunes that the trail traverses.
I hiked 6.5 miles into the camp site and arrived at 4:00 on the dot. It is a very nice camp site and has at least ten hammock hanging positions among the pines. I got a nice fire going as the wind, which had gusted and blown hard all afternoon died down with the coming of dusk. I broke out the IMUSA 10cm cook kit and had a nice hot dinner. This was only the second time I have had a chance to use it in the field and it performed excellently.
After sitting by the fire for a couple hours I called it a day and hit the sack. I was too warm at first and so I took off my tee shirt and put the top quilt down. Eventually, thunderstorms rolled in and the temps dropped. I could hear the thunder for at least 30 minutes before the storm hit. It was really neat to listen as it rolled in. After the second storm blasted through I slept pretty soundly until about 6:30 a.m.