Monday, September 20, 2010

Get out of town!

Living in the city has it's advantages. Everything is right at your demand and the energy is always moving. Sometimes, taking a drive and getting out the city for a day or two and into nature is actually what the body, mind, and soul need.

Nestled about 100 miles from downtown Chicago, Starved Rock State Park does exactly that. Starved Rock State Park located in Utica, IL is an easy escape by car off of Interstate 80.  I packed up my dog, some hiking gear, and snacks and plugged the Ipod into the car stereo to escape the windy city for the day. Just getting out of the traffic and stop-n-go of the city was relaxing.  I jammed out to my Ipod singing at the top of my lungs, something I rarely do in the city for fear of someone I know seeing me.  My Golden Retriever, Logan, enjoyed hanging his head out the window taking in the fresh smells of the Illinois Farmlands.

Arriving into Utica Illinois is a cute little town with some local restaurants, shops, trading posts, and lodgings. Following the well marked signs through town about 1-2 miles into Starved Rock National State Park to the Visitor Center. Parking is FREE and there is plenty of it, unlike downtown Chicago.  Logan and I mounted our packs for the day, stopped at the Visitor Center to grab a map of the trails, and headed out to surround ourselves with Nature.

Historically, Starved Rock had been inhabited by humans as early as 8000 B.C., with many different Native Americans settling between 1500-1700's. Both explorers Louis Jolliet and Father Jacques Marquette, are said to have come through on their way up the Illinois River. Starved Rock derives it's name from a "Native American legend of injustice and retribution", where a chief stood his ground on the bluff and ended up dying of starvation.

Starved Rock sits on a total of 2,816 acres of land. It has 13 miles of hiking trails that wind through natural bluffs and canyons and follow along the Illinois River. Hiking is available year round and the back drop changes with each season. At the "early end of spring, when the end of winter thaw is occurring and the rains are frequent, sparkling waterfalls are found at the heads of all 18 canyons, and vertical walls of moss-covered stone create a setting of natural geographic beauty uncommon in Illinois" (Starved Rock State Park Visitor's Guide).  They have a full lodge, family cabins, camping, horseback riding, and fishing/boating available as well. More information on these activities and lodging can be found at www.starvedrockstateparkorg.

The trails that leave from the Visitor/Lodge area are a little crowded and touristy. For a more rugged and less touristy hike park at the other end near the Council Overhang or Hennepin Canyon and hiking towards the Visitor/Lodge area.  The views are much more spectacular and the terrain is a little more athletic.

About two miles up the road is Matthieson State Park. This dell area has an upper area hiking trail that is a 3 mile loop with wood like views. The lower level is through the dells walking through the rocks and canyons. A little more rugged and wet, but Logan was in heaven tromping along and wading through the water.  Well worth a stop if you have the time.  There is also a horseback riding trail as well.

Logan and I hiked for 3 hours that day and according to my heart rate monitor I burned close to 1000 calories.  More importantly was the breath of fresh air, vacation like-mode, and cleansing of my spirit that happened less than 2 hours outside of Chicago.

1 comment:

  1. What a perfect place to clear one's mind and recharge the batteries. Looks like an awesome destination, thank you for sharing! :-)