Around mid-morning on Memorial Day, my boyfriend Kerwin and I gathered a few friends for a light hiking day trip at Starved Rock. It’s less than a two-hour drive and the perfect way to spend our long weekend.
We pack water, sunscreen, and snacks in the car and head off. In our group, it’s Maggie, Sean, Me, Kerwin, Katie, and Blaze (Sean & Maggie’s dog).
When we get to the park, it’s crowded. Many people lay on picnic blankets all over the park. At least four dogs were barking, and at least three were off-key. Blaze is in doggie heaven right now. The visitor center looks like a swarm of ants just got stomped on. Anyways we are eager to get to the trail. Everyone else had the same idea- a day trip to Starved Rock.
It feels like ages since I have been hiking and felt the fresh air and quietness of nature. Early in the hike, I felt neither of those things.
Illinois has two temperatures hot and cold. It has yet to figure out the in-between stuff, and today was hot. Not only was it hot but a wet hot. One where it feels like you could take a sheet of paper outside, wave it around a few times, and bring it back inside; it’s damp. Before we even begin hiking, my skin is sticky with sweat.
We chose a popular trail. An easy two-mile loop that includes views of both waterfalls- or water trickles, as I call them. The pathways are full of people. Some are playing music, some with their families, and many people with dogs.
The trail is easy. A large part of it is on a wooden bridge pathway leading up. We get to an outlook and can see the damn below. The point of going out into nature is to get a taste of the sereneness of heart, but it’s nice that everyone out seems to be having a good time.
As we continue hiking, I hear the waterfall in the distance. Indeed, we must be close. I head down a few steps into the canyon and see the waterfall- more like a water spout.
The sandstone butte is 125 feet high. When you are inside of it- the butte feels like a refuge. It is a nature’s playground. The water is murky, but hikers are jumping in to cool off from the muggy weather. The waterfall is small, but a few people swam to let the water drench them. Although a few jumped in, once they got into the small pool of water, they quickly realized it was much easier to slip into the water from the slippery rocks above than to climb out.
After enjoying the calming sounds of the waterfall and the screaming children, we head to the next waterfall.
This next part of the trail becomes my favorite part.
We realize once we are further out from the first famous waterfall-it’s much quieter. Most people come for the main attraction and turn around, but the further we get into the trail, I start only to hear the birds mixed with our voices.
It’s the ideal time to hike this- later in the afternoon, just as the sun peaks through the trees at golden hour.
We reach the next waterfall. I look at my boyfriend Kerwin and laugh because this does not look like a waterfall.
I walk behind the waterfall and can’t hear the few streams of pounding water. The sound of water will always be calming to be. This isn’t the ocean, but it felt relaxing to listen to. We snap a few group photos of the whole group and head out.
The rest of the trail was easy, but we were hungry. We reach the end of the course, and luckily enough, there is a restaurant right in the park. One of our friends brought her dog, so we were happy that it was dog-friendly and even had a menu you could order for your pup.
After we ate our burgers and nachos, the food kicked in, and I felt like I could hike another 4 miles, but it was getting late, so we drove home, but only after stopping by to get ice cream at downtown Ottowa on our way out.
A day trip to Starved Rock was a great way to get out of the city and enjoy nature trails for a day before returning to Chicago.