Sunday, May 20, 2012

Starved Rock State Park

We're still trying to figure out the whole camping thing.  Neither of us were born into camping families...and we're far from being outdoors people!  But for some reason we wanted to have this experience with our kids and it has turned into an annual event.  We've even entertained the idea of trying to do this camping thing twice a year.  But our backs can only handle once a year until we figure out a more comfortable sleeping arrangement.
We've been extremely fortunate to find clean campsites each year.  We're hoping to stay in one place long enough to be able to return to campgrounds we've previously visited.  As good as the maps are...there's no way to tell which site is best until you actually go.  The kids enjoyed the open field just across the street from our tent.  
I think Eliza ate the entire trip.  There was a food source close by her at all times.  And more often than not, her hand was shoveling something into her mouth (the 10-second rule still applies in her world...nothing wrong with a little dirt).  Being a typical two year old, she left a trail behind her (the 10-second rule didn't apply when she was oblivious to dropping the food)...which led to us having an uninvited guest the entire night.
This guy was not shy.  And he was quiet.  We didn't realize he was in our trash bag until there was a large hole in it.  He kept running into the woods and then coming right back.  And he crept closer and closer each time.  We put the trash bag in the van and cleaned up as much as we could.  He still managed to find the smallest scraps of food.
This was Eliza's seat.  The raccoon seemed pretty experienced.  I guess a two year old had been here before.
We still fit into the tent we purchased several years ago.  But I think in the next year or so we'll need to buy a larger one.  Those legs on our kids will only continue to get longer.  With the exception of occasional squirming by the aforementioned two year old, the kids slept really well.  The parents...not so much!
The next morning we enjoyed breakfast and broke camp.  How cute are these two?!?
We camped near Starved Rock State Park in Illinois.  It's unlike any place I would ever associate with the farmlands of Illinois.  Starved Rock has 13 miles of trails that meander through 18 canyons and the banks of the Illinois River.  It was beautiful.  We only explored two canyons so we'll definitely make the drive back to explore some more.
No rosy cheeks yet.  This was near the beginning of the hike.  We had to descend down a huge staircase to reach the river.  The kids confessed on the way home that they weren't too excited at first.  But once they saw the first canyon, it quickly become one of their favorite hikes our family has done.
A mile of the hike was literally along the Illinois River.  I had no idea how wide the river was.  The kids really enjoyed the scenery.
And this!  Who knew this could be found in Illinois?!?  This next part of the hike made us feel like we were back in Virginia.  It was absolutely beautiful.
The next part of the hike took us away from the river and into the  sandstone bluffs.  I can only imagine what this place looked when it was an inland sea.  It's amazing the kinds of transformations our earth has gone through over time.

Mark and James were constantly walking off the main trail and exploring more "natural" trails.  Whenever Peter caught on that his two older brothers went a different way, he was quick to follow.  I love the natural staircases that are formed from tree roots.  
We finally arrived at the first waterfall in LaSalle Canyon.  The temperature was definitely cooler once we got into the canyon.    
This is the view from behind the waterfall.  We're hoping to come back for a winter hike and see the waterfall in a frozen state.
James especially liked to go where no one else did.  
The views were simply awe-inspiring.  These bluffs towered overhead.  We were so excited to get to the next canyon that we probably didn't stop and enjoy the scenery as much as we could have.  Looking back at these pictures makes me want to get back there sooner.
This was Tonti Canyon.  We only explored two of the 18 canyons in the park.  And we spent half the day here.  It will take several more trips to see the entire park.  
Peter and Luke are notorious for striking a pose for the camera.  For whatever reason, it just comes naturally for them both.  And it can be pretty cute sometimes.  

Here's one more shot of Mark and James off the trail.  I have no idea how they got to some of these places.  But they had fun and were mostly safe.  Boys will be boys.  I didn't see it...but Karen said that James slid down the rock at one point.  It scared him a little.  Hopefully, those little experiences will help him be more cautious in the future.  Because we will definitely be doing this again!
We love exploring!  And we're not done yet...


Mom said...

Looks like you had a great time and a beautiful place to visit. Darling kids!!!!

Cari said...

Looks like a pretty sweet trip!! What kind of sleeping arrangements are the adults using? We've done enough camping now that we've got some ideas on what we like and don't like at least. Glad you guys had fun. If you guys get into camping more, maybe we can convince everyone to make the next reunion a camping one!! Hehe...I can dream, right? :)

Laurel said...

I can't believe all of that is in Illinois! I had no idea. I LOVE what you guys are doing with/for your kids.

I pretty much just love your life in general.

If you ever want to trade...


(PS it's finally starting to look like you have 6 kids...I didn't have to count this time)

tall dad said...

Not from camping families??? What about all those father-son campouts in Kentucky and the canoe/river trips in Missouri. I think I did my manly part in preparing you for these adventures!