At some point May offered up that she’d like to do a bit of hiking. Once a mutually available weekend coincided with decent weather, I made it happen. There was debate as to where we should go expend all our pent up workweek energy, and in the end decided to properly invest in the activity by driving some 100 miles southwest to Illinois’ Starved Rock State Park.
Before hitting the road we carboloaded at Walker Bros. Pancake House. It had a line out the door, but 15 minutes was plenty justifiable given the soon to be discovered quality of the food. I went with the Sante Fe Omelette, and May some eggs and ‘cakes; we struggle to make certain decisions sometimes though, and had to split a Dutch Baby as well.
The sky ahead of us was a bit worrisome, but a veer toward the south allayed those fears. Our weather guy let us know that rain would hit at 6pm, giving us ample time. The weather and temperature were both suitable, and after manufacturing a spot in the car park, we set out in earnest.
Neither of us had been here before, but the pictures sold it. There are a lot of different trails to trace, but as we came across our first landmark it was clear that our understanding of the map scale was completely off. This state park is well known for the sandstone features unlike the rest of the otherwise flat Illinois topography. All of the trail was wooded, and some of the earlier sections traced through the basin of an old canyon. The spring leaves were just coming in.
There were a number of spots on the map marked with names, which pertained to those areas with small waterfalls and particularly impressive walls. Now I know this pales in comparison to such a place as the Grand Canyon, but for something in my own backyard, I was impressed. Whenever I request to be in included in a photo, I always manage to look foolish and out of place. Much credit goes to May for ignoring all my poses and pauses, in favor of something more organic.
It was not even an hour in before May started to notice some congestion. Throughout our time there, it got worse and worse, and she fell completely to the mercy of the springtime pollen – I guess this isn’t the best time of year to trudge through nature. I was of course completely free of its miasmatic effects. The rest of the hike was without too much variety, aside from the moment that we stopped to sit and stare out over the Illinois River while feasting upon Stax and Turkish figs. After a bit we got up to continue, but thought it best instead to turn back and avoid the impending weather. We arrived to the car at the very moment precipitate began to ‘tate. I’m pretty sure this shot of us is from before May was harried by her runny nose and constant sneezing.
Prior to heading home, we wanted to stroll around the small town of Ottawa before the weather became too much of a problem. On the way in we noticed a few robust murals on the sides of buildings that merited further investigation. We parked near the centrally located green space to get out and stroll.
There were a great number of benches haphazardly strewn about Washington Park, but our attention was quickly stolen by large statues of a certain Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas. As I am sure you all remember from your history education, this town played host to first of the famed Lincoln-Douglas debates of 1858. I can’t say my life has been changed too much in the wake of this visit, but it may just serve to benefit some future crossword session. Ottawa has more than just that too, I learned! Ottawa was a famed ‘station’ on the Underground Railroad, and it was in this town that William Dickson Boyce incorporated the Boy Scouts of America, back in 1910. I’d recommend you make a mental note of those.
Also, because curiosity drew me into doing some additional research on the town, I have a bonus nugget for you: Ottawa was once the location of the Radium Dial Company. For about a decade women here applied glow-in-the-dark paint on watch faces, which would be a pretty cool industry, that is, if the radioactive pigment they handled directly, ingested, and dolled up their nails with wasn’t killing so many of them. There are still areas of the town that register tangibly higher on a Geiger counter. I’ll allow these cheerful flowers to assuage thoughts of necrosis and anemia.
The rain grew in significance, so we hopped back in the car to make the drive home. I was intentional about not using my wipers to see when May would notice. (‘Can you see?’ – Yeah, no problem.’) T’was a fine day, and among the better ways to spend a weekend. I’m told that hitting the park during each season offers a different experience, so, I may add a Fall update, we’ll see.