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.

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