Illinois is a flat state. I work on the 15th floor of a building blocks from the shore of Lake Michigan, and you can see to the horizon in every direction – no obstructions anywhere. So, if you want to go hiking without leaving the state, it can be a bit of a challenge to find a place that’s more involved than walking down a flat trail.
Starved Rock State Park, while unfortunately named, fits the bill as far as incline is concerned. Sure, it’s no mountain climb, but even the mild change in elevation to get down into the canyons that run through the park is impressive after a few months of flat landscape. Plus, at the tail end of winter, you get the perfect combination of having the park almost to yourself, not freezing half to death, but still getting to see some beautiful icicle-laden waterfalls.
This was Abigail’s first real hike, and she LOVED it! She had to stay on leash on the trail, but once we got to the end in St. Louis Canyon, we let her loose and she had a serious case of the zoomies, running in and out of the ice-cold creek water and around the beach.
She wasn’t the only one excited about escaping the city – even though we’ve lived here since October, this was our first time exploring our new home state outside of Chicago (and we still haven’t explored most of the city at that). My cabin fever was starting to claw at me, especially with no true vacations in sight – moving 1,000 miles on relatively short notice does a real doosey on the expendable finances. After our hike we poked around Ottawa, the town closest to Starved Rock, and took the long way home through a bunch of other small towns named after places that surely first existed somewhere else, like Norway and Newark. We stopped for lunch at Culver’s, a midwest institution and home of the butter burger (yes, it is as good as it sounds like it would be). Our final stop was the Petco near our house, where we washed a river’s worth of mud from our deliriously happy and exhausted pup.
As we head into spring and summer, I can’t wait to venture out more and see what the rest of the midwest has to offer!