Contrasts of Nature

After being on the urban trail for over a week retracing Route 66, it was time for me to get back in the woods in my camper and take a break from purposeful sightseeing.  Though I knew nothing about it, other than it got great reviews, I booked three nights at Kankakee River State Park in Illinois for a little rest and relaxation.  This is a vacation after all!  I’m happy to report that the reviews were spot on.

The Kankakee River State Park in Illinois covers approximately 4000 acres and was once the hunting grounds of “The Three Fires” – the Potawatomi, Ottawa, and Chippewa Nations. – About Kankakee River
My campsite was wooded, and quite spacious since it butted up against a common water spigot.  Having a soft-sided shelter, I was able to hear a little traffic from the roadway in the distance, but thankfully, it was not a major road and traffic dropped off quickly in the evening.

I did a ton of hiking in the three days I was there, except for the one rain-day.  The trails are well-maintained for walking and biking and there are several recreation areas for fishing, picnicking, and kayaking.  On one of the trails, there was a “selfie station” to take your pic with Smokey the Bear.  I thought it was pretty cool how the park was capitalizing on a generation savvy with social media.  

The double-sided cutout of Smokey the Bear was strategically placed in front of a scenic overlook, with instructions on how to use the station and how to post your pic using the state park hashtag.
Wooden phone holders built into selfie station
It worked, even I figured out how to do it 🙂

As usual, one of the best parts of camping is the people you meet.  My little pop-up never fails to raise the curiosity of fellow campers and bring them over to investigate, that’s how I met Dave and Laura.  They were camping just a few sites down from me, and we ended up hanging out a bit.  He’s a veteran and they ride also, so of course we had lots to talk about.  They gave me some great advice on sites in Michigan and even invited me over for breakfast the day I was packing up to leave so I wouldn’t have to clean up breakfast dishes.  How awesome is that?!

My little camper has been doing great, but the all-day rain resulted in some water intrusion that I’ve yet to figure out the source of.  It didn’t wet any bedding or clothing though, so I wiped it down and it was mostly dry by the time I packed up.  I’m gonna have to figure that out though. . .  

From Kankakee, I made my way towards Indiana Dunes National Park where I had reservations to camp at Dunewood Campground in the Park.  As I headed north, the skies threatened to carry out the weatherman’s forecast of thunderstorms for the next 24 hours.  After being spoiled with the great site I had at Kankakee River State Park, I was not impressed with the comparatively cramped campsites when I pulled into the campground.  Between the weather and the campsite, I decided to get a hotel instead of camp and headed for the dunes, which was a surprising distance from the campground.

A welcome weekend respite or day-trip for city dwellers in the Chicago and surrounding areas.

The dunes were covered in vegetation, so they were nothing like dunes I had been to before, like Jockey’s Ridge in NC or Great Sand Dunes in CO, which is what I guess I was expecting.  It was basically large grass and tree covered sandy hills with a beach.  Of course, I only visited the beach areas, and not the hiking trails, and the weather was pretty dreary, so I’m making a very skewed opinion.  Also, my opinion is surely biased since the dunes and beaches are smack dab in the middle of industrial areas, so it didn’t have much of a recreational feel to this non-urban dweller.  My travels continue to highlight how fortunate my life has been, and continues to be. It reminds me of one of my favorite quotes about getting out and seeing the world:

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness. . . ” – Mark Twain 

OK, time to roll on down the road!

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