After we left the St. Louis area, we drove to the family farm near Minonk, Illinois. Grammi’s cousin Dan, the third generation to own the farm, and his wife Julia were wonderful as always, providing us with a place to park the camper and making us feel at home. Grammi’s sister moved back to this area shortly after we returned home last fall. We were looking forward to seeing all of Grammi’s family. Dan and Julia hosted a family gathering at the farm so we would be certain to see everyone during our short stay.
Grammi sometimes likes to get away from me. I know, I can’t believe it either. With 178 square feet of living space in our camper, I have to ask—why? Now I’m not hurt by it. Oh no, not at all. In fact, I encourage it. So when Grammi said she was going to lunch with her sister and cousins, I said, “go right ahead”. I was thinking to myself, finally some quiet time to read and work on the blog.
When Grammi was a young girl she lived in Ottawa, Illinois and would often visit Starved Rock State Park. She has fond memories going there with her family. Grammi wanted to return to her old stomping grounds and spend some time looking around. It was only an hours drive from the farm, so one morning, Grammi’s cousin Angel joined us for a day at Starved Rock State Park.
Starved Rock is a top-rated state park in Illinois. It sits along the high bluffs of the Illinois River and welcomes thousands of visitors every year. There are eighteen tree covered canyons in the park with miles of hiking trails. You might see a waterfall at the end of a canyon fed by seasonal runoff or a natural spring. Scenic views of the Illinois River are seen from observation points atop the bluffs.
We began the day at the visitor center and gift shop where we picked up a trail map. The hike we chose led us to the top of the namesake Starved Rock. The name comes from a Native American legend where a conflict between tribes led to a band of escaping Illiniwek to seek refuge there. A siege resulted in the starvation of the Illiniwek. Whether or not the story is true is unknown, but the name has remained. The photo below of an information board found in the park describes the legend in more detail.
We continued hiking up into the French Canyon. The previous days rain made the trail muddy and a bit perilous. The further into the canyon we got, the more narrow and slippery the trail became. Undeterred, we followed a narrow footpath, climbed over boulders, until we saw the cascading waterfalls. Water rushed over the rocks and down into the canyon on its way to the river. We were lucky, it was a good day to see the waterfalls.
We climbed back out of the canyon and continued along the trail toward the high bluffs overlooking the Illinois River. This trail had boardwalks and stairs built across the roughest terrain making it an easy hike. The view of the Illinois River was very stunning. The water level was above normal and we saw it rushing through the dam.
We have encountered many Lover’s Leaps across the country and Starved Rock has it’s very own. The shear cliff drops straight to the jagged rocks on the riverbank below ensuring a tragic ending. The two lovebirds pictured below thought better and did not leap.
Overall, we hiked a little over two miles before finding a picnic table near the river to spread out our lunch. Grammi introduced Angel to her signature peanut butter, banana, and mango sandwich. At first, Angel was a little hesitant of the combination, but gave it a try. She liked it. I’m telling you, if you haven’t tried adding mango to your peanut butter and banana sandwich, you are missing out.
There is a campground at the park with 133 sites. We didn’t drive through to check it out. That was an oversight on our part because we usually do. We did, however, stop at Starved Rock Lodge to see the Great Hall. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, this rustic 1930’s lodge built from limestone and logs offers luxury accommodations. There’s a restaurant, lounge and gift shop inside the lodge and an indoor swimming pool for registered guest. For a more rustic stay, tucked back in the trees are log cabins. Can you imagine being in the woods among natural in you own log cabin?
We had a great day at Starve Rock State Park. Grammi said the park has change a lot from what see remembers as a kid. We also had a great visit with Grammi’s family. Spending a few days visiting her sister, cousins, aunts and uncles lifted her spirits. We are ready to head west. West toward the Badlands. So I’ll say goodnight with hopes for an early start. I’m sure we will be back here again. We just don’t know when.
So until next time…happy days and safe travels.