Tag Archive | trail

Illinois State Beach Park ~ What a View!!

Last weekend we went to Adeline Jay Geo-Karis Illinois State Beach Park to camp. We got right in since many folks weren’t thinking about swimming in May… at least not here. Lake Michigan doesn’t get warm enough for swimming until early July. We did walk by the beach and I could walk with my toes in the water, for a short time. No more of me was going in! Brrr.

This is a IDNR (Illinois Deptment of Natural Resources) park, one of the most protected areas in Illinois. I love coming here, as there is such a diversity of plants, animals, birds and insects. We also had a great view of the dormant Zion nuclear plant. Awesome…?

General Information and History

This area is 4,160 acres and has a recorded 650 plus different plant species. Long recognized for its unique geological features, native flora and unmatched beauty, the Lake Michigan dunes area originally was, in the 1700s, part of the “Three Fires” of the Algonquin Nation: the Potawatomi, Chippewa and Ottawa.

This area was slated to be a preserve as early as 1888, when Robert Douglas, a Waukegan nurseryman, and Jens Jensen, a famous landscape architect (If you live/visit Chicago, you’ve seen a lot of his work), worked together to make the area a regional park. With the threat of industry progressing from the south and sand mining ravaging nearby dunes, legislative efforts to save the area finally began in the 1920s.

In 1948, the state obtained the first parcels of what is now known as Illinois Beach State Park. The Illinois Dunes Preservation Society was established in 1950 to protect the area. Through its efforts and the determinations of the Department of Conservation, in 1964 the area south of Beach Road was dedicated as the first Illinois Nature Preserve.

This area is unique, as it is a sand dune area and the rest of Illinois is nothing like it. I was on the hunt for Opuntia – Prickly pear & Juniperus horizontalis – Trailing juniper, both of these are native to this area. In 1804, explorers Lewis and Clark noted that trailing juniper “would make a handsome edging to the borders of a garden”.

Our bedroom is in the back of the camper and furnished with a large window to gaze out of. You can barely see it to the right of the photo, however there is a small window right where my head is. I can’t tell you how nice it is to have a window less than 3″ inches from your face. The fresh, night air is wonderful to sleep by.

The real view, not through the window. Lake Michigan.


We were back to balancing rocks. Here’s a simple one that took a bit of patience.  ||  I don’t think anyone was home.

This is the coolest thing. It’s an ice fishing house, that’s also a travel trailer! It’s on hydraulics and lowers to the ground / ice for fishing. So neat.

As far back as 1982, the federal government began collecting a nuclear-waste fee, paid by electricity users through fees tacked on to their bills and earmarked to pay for disposal of the radioactive spent fuel rods. Starting in 1998, the U.S. Department of Energy was supposed to start picking up spent fuel rods and taking them for storage, according to Everett Redmond, senior director of fuel cycle and technology policy for the Nuclear Energy Institute, a power industry trade group. But there was no ready storage option to hold them. So power companies were forced to store more and more of them at their own facilities and eventually successfully sued to recover costs for this storage.  Chicago Sun-Times 2017

Someone likes to dig.


We keep trying to outdo each other on the rock stacking. Well played husband, well played.

© Ilex ~ Midwestern Plant Girl

Old Savannah Ogeechee Canal


A sample of a lock

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Savannah-Ogeechee Barge Canal is one of the prime relics in the history of southern canals. Beginning with the tidal lock at the Savannah River, the waterway continues through four lift locks as it traverses 16.5 miles before reaching another tidal lock at the Ogeechee River.


Equipment needed to maintain the canal

The Savannah-Ogeechee Canal was constructed between 1826 and 1830 by African and Irish laborers who moved thousands of cubic yards of earth. A boon to Georgia’s economy, the canal moved cotton, rice, bricks, and natural fertilizer.


Lock #5, or whats left of it, just before the Ogeechee River

A nearby historical marker reads:


On Dec. 6 1864, the 15th Corps [US], Maj. Gen. P. J. Osterhaus, USA, the extreme right of Gen. Sherman’s army on its destructive March to the Sea, forced a crossing of Great Ogeechee River at Jenk’s Bridge (US 80 east of Blitchton) and drove the Confederate defenders toward Savannah. Corse’s division crossed and occupied Eden. Smith’s division remained on the west bank with the corps trains. With Hazen’s and Woods’ divisions, Osterhaus moved down the west bank, Hazen to take the bridge over Canoochee River east of Bryan Court House (Clyde), Woods to prepare crossings over the Ogeechee at Fort Argyle (1 mile W. across the river) and on the charred ruins of Dillon’s bridge, at the mouth of this canal.

On the 8th, Corse moved down the east bank to this point and found the bridge over the canal in flames. He rebuilt it, then camped here for the night. On the 9th, Smith arrived with the corps trains. Corse moved forward to the Darien road (US 17), defeated a small Confederate force entrenched astride both roads, and drove it toward Savannah. On the 10th, Corse moved north of Little Ogeechee River followed by Hazen who, having secured the bridge over the Canoochee, had crossed the Ogeechee at Dillon’s Bridge. Smith moved north along the canal, followed by Woods who had crossed the Ogeechee at Fort Argyle. That night, Corse, Woods and Smith were in line facing the strong Confederate works along Salt Creek, with Hazen in reserve at the Little Ogeechee.


Ogeechee River

The lumber industry revived canal usage following a Civil War-era lull, but a yellow fever epidemic blamed on the canal caused a further decline. The canal closed in the early 1890s as the Central of Georgia Railroad served transportation needs. Beginning at the Savannah River, the canal comprises six locks and 16.5 miles, ending at the Ogeechee River.

image     image

Oreo likes to be the leader. He often looks back at me, surely thinking this pink ape is ‘Givin it all she’s got”* when it comes to speed.

When it comes to size, this canal is not very large. Not with the size of canals built today.  I’d say it is about 12 feet wide here. The barges must have not been wide, however guessing they were just plentiful.



Tree knees. What? Yup, tree knees. The little ant-hill like humps coming up from the water are called knees. These are produced by trees that grow in water filled areas. All tree roots need oxygen at varying levels. Water species compensate their water-logged roots with this special root growth that ‘comes up for air’ so to speak. And here you thought they were called knees because they are about that hieght and you bash your knees on them! HaHa!!

image    image

image     ilex

True to it’s name, there was Holly on the trail!

image    image

There was a small amount of damage from the recent hurricane that came through. The wooden path was busted-up a bit, however not impassible to a limber person.


Edible Cladonia evansii: What’s not to lichen? Haha! Its common name is Deer Moss and deer love eating it. Its not exactly ready-to-eat for humans, it needs some preparation. It is very high in carbs tho!


We walked from wetland forest to a sandy palm area. I’m not familiar with the geology here, however it was fascinating!

  • Star Trek – Scottie 😉 Didja get that Scifi?

© Ilex – Midwestern Plant Girl

Snapping Turtle ~ Chelydra serpentina

Common snapping turtles have a long neck and a long tail with sawtooth projections on the upper surface. They also have a large head with a strong beak instead of teeth. The edges of the jaws have sharp edges to rip apart food. I think their cute beaks look like piggy noses. =@)

They like to live in any body of water. They especially like shallow, mud-bottomed backwaters and ponds with lush aquatic vegetation. Exaaaaactly where we were walking the boys near Illinois State Beach Park.

April through July, is their mating season, which generally takes place on land, resulting in Mama turtle laying 20-50 eggs in a shallow clutch. Just like sea turtles, the hatchlings just know where the water is, and head for its safety.

They only seeking to escape when approached by humans in the water and are of little threat to swimmers. However, they are aggressive and menacing when on land. If you see one on the road and want to help it across… Be Careful! Watch the video below to educate yourself on how to safely pick up a snapper!

Vegetation is their main food source, however they also eat fish, snakes, and crustaceans. The turtle actually ‘inhales’ its food by using a strong suction created from its buccal cavity. They extend their necks to create a negative pressure and the prey is sucked into their mouth and down their throats! Now that’s how you gulp food! HaHa =-)

Snapping turtle’s heads are too large to pull all the way into their shell, so they have learned how to use that powerful jaw as defense and snap at their enemies. The hard beak on their jaw is attached to adductor muscles that are situated at an angle to the trochlear to create an enormous force. These guys are strong enough to remove a finger! Yikes.

image    image

Isn’t she* cute?!?

As there were many (100’s!)  leopard frogs leaping as we approached them, we were constantly looking down, hoping to avoid stepping on the ‘lil guys. Oreo stepped on one, however he seemed unphased and hopped off. Whew. So, while looking up to enjoy the landscape and down to avoid the hoppers, we got pretty close to this little lady before noticing her on the trail.

The trail is narrow, and both sides turn into swampy, muck pretty quickly, so no deviation off the trail is possible. We weren’t turning around either. We neared her, hoping she would just scurry away. Nope. Is she dead?? I inch closer…. Waiting for movement. Oh! She blinked! OK, now what? Us humans can jump over her, but the boys? I kept myself between Oreo and her and he virtually ignored her. So did Breck. That’s a Border Collie for ya… No movement, no fun! Thus, I have no cool ending to my post. The End =-)

Here’s a helpful video to learn how to help a turtle across the road!

*Sometimes I don’t know the sex of an animal and just assign it one, as I don’t like referring animals as ‘it’s.
© Ilex – Midwestern Plant Girl

Eldorado Canyon State Park – Eldorado Springs, Colorado

We had a wonderful hike at Eldorado Canyon State Park in Eldorado Springs, Colorado.

The first known visitors to this area were the Ute Native American tribes of Colorado and Utah, who would visit Eldorado Canyon, to swim in the warm springs for health and spiritual renewal. In Spanish “el dorado” means gilded or covered with gold, which might refer to the golden color of the lichen on the cliffs.


There are 4 trails that start in the canyon:

Streamside Trail is .5 mile hike, rated very easy.

Fowler Trail is .7 miles long and runs along the South Boulder Creek. Rated very easy.

Eldorado Trail is 3.5 miles and is rated moderately difficult with an elevation gain of over 1,000 feet. This trail connects with the Walker Ranch Loop Trail.

Rattlesnake Gulch Trail is 1.4 miles and is rated moderately difficult with an elevation gain of 1,200 feet to the Continental Divide viewing area. The historic Crags Hotel ruins are also on this trail at 800 feet above the trailhead.


The tallest peak in this photo is Shirt Tail Peak at 7,240 peak. This is where all the rock climbers enjoy their climbs.

This is the beginning of our hike on Rattlesnake Gulch Trail. The Bastille rock is to the right. We drove into the park from the crevice.


By the mid-1800s the Utes had lost most of Colorado to the settlers. These new pioneers established ranches and farms, sawmills and logging operations near the canyon.




In 1902 the government gave Union Pacific land to construct a railroad. The Moffat Road rail line still operates today as the Denver & Rio Grande route from Denver west past Winter Park.

As we climb our trail, which was the equivalent of climbing the Empire State Building, the town of Colorado Springs comes into view.
In 1908, the Crags Hotel was built high on the cliffs overlooking Colorado Springs and attracted many celebrities. Sadly, it was destroyed by fire in 1912.



A small part of the foundation and the fireplace are all that is left.

Oregon Grape Holly – Mahonia aquifolium




This is South Boulder Creek



Here we are looking at the Continental Divide, the center (east/west) of the U.S.

They wouldn’t let anyone enter without a 4-wheel drive vehicle.

Cliffside Park Camping – Racine, Wisconsin

The camping season is coming to a close… sigh.

We recently stayed at Cliffside Park, which is part of the Racine County Park District in Wisconsin. This gem of a campground doesn’t seem to come up on campground searches, as it is a county park and not really listed as a campground.

This campground is water & electric only, however the sites were HUGE! Reservations are a bit odd, half of the park can be reserved, half is first-come-first serve. It is a cheap $23.00 per night, however if you are making reservations, there is a flat $12.00 reservation fee. Although the website told me many of the sites were already reserved, many people forfeited their deposit and did not show.

The sites are quite level (no boards needed) and utilities are easily accessible. The dump station was clean & easy to use.


Above is the trail map for the park. I loved how the trails started right out of the campground.

You’ll have to work for the view. The trails are a combination of mowed trails, dirt paths, tree bridges and everything in between! They are pretty easy to follow, however they are not marked. We followed what we thought was a trail and it just ended at a wash-out. About face!

I did not notice this while I was making reservations, however, upon entering the park, I saw the sign:  ‘NO DOGS ALLOWED ON PARK TRAILS’  Laaaaaame!

That didn’t stop the 8 groups of people that HAD their dogs on the trail. ARG! I wish I wasn’t so rule-abiding.


Leaves float down a lazy creek..


Here’s an oak burl. There are many reasons a burl will form on a tree, an injury, virus or fungus are just a few. These are sought after by artists and carpenters.


Glad these steep trails were dry, however, please take my word for it that dry leaves can be slippery also…


No worries, we were only 10 feet from the ground… Vertigo in check… FOR NOW.


This is what you’ll see at the north overlook off the prairie. I let Chris go first.


Here’s what I first saw, as I crawled on my hands and knees forward, Lake Michigan.


OK, I can sit on the ground near the edge and take this panoramic view. I know… you’re all wondering just how high up could she possibly be in the Midwest? Mind you, I am at Cliffside Park…


I was able to hold the camerone over the edge. This is about 40 feet (13 M) up from the water. There was no way to get down to the beach. Well, unless you wanted to go down really fast! So, yes, these are the cliffs of Wisconsin…


The shadow looked like a dragon to me.


This is the Southern lookout point. Not as steep or as scary.



The steam stacks are the water treatment pant. Beyond that, to the left is Milwaukee.


Trail markers