Soaring with Eagles at Canyon’s Edge

Starved Rock Park, Utica IL

Starved Rock Park, Utica IL

We climbed canyons at Starved Rock Park, all day. Little feet, tirelessly, up and down the mountain, over the creeks, across the forest trail.

Life happens… We drive for an hour and 15 minutes to get there, to the #1 attraction of the state of Illinois to only find out that I left camera battery charging on the kitchen counter. Camera is my security blanket, I cannot go anywhere without it. So I kick myself a couple of times, and we take off, just enjoying the views. I was able to capture a few moments with my cellphone, before it died also. I suppose it gives us a good excuse to get back really soon, when the forest is turning green.

Bald eagles made a nice comeback to Starved Rock since 1997 and nest on the islands of the Illinois river. We did not spot any, some probably already headed north, best time to watch them is in winter. But we did see quite a few hawks circling overhead, and hundreds of blackbirds, nut finches and woodpeckers by the feeder by the visitor center.

We followed the well marked trails, and the beaten path, first, up to the Starved Rock,  125-foot sandstone bluff, where members of Illinois tribe starved to death, and down.. Up to the Lover’s Leap Overlook, and down, up to the Eagle Cliff, and down.. Up to the Beehive Overlook, which was my girl’s favorite due to nice climbing rocks, and down.. Up and down, a million times. Just like in life, up and down, enjoying the peaks and valleys. And the forgotten cameras. Ok, I am still mad about that one.

StarvedRock3The French Canyon was impossible to access, over the narrow muddy passage I was not able to pull both kids through. So we headed over to the Wildcat Canyon. To our surprise, the waterfall in Wildcat Canyon was mostly frozen, and the ice was still at least a foot thick in the canyon. The sun never reaches there, it is a good place to cool down in summer’s heat. Stream of water coming down Wildcat Canyon under the thick crust of ice, showing as much perseverance as the teenagers and some of the braver (or crazier) dads clinging to the canyons walls like sticky spidermen trying against all odds to climb up. Maybe not exciting as the ice climbing they have in the winter on the frozen waterfalls, but still. We enjoyed the crowd of boys, having fun wading deep up to their knees and wastes in the ice cold water, determined to get up on the rocks. And we pondered about angles, as we stood in the mouth of the canyon, and then on top, watching the tiny people below us. The river changed angles, the forest looked different when we turned around and looked back, the fungus changed colors in the sun.

Once our standard 3-mile hike was complete (which took some four or five hours for the little ones), we headed over to the path less beaten, to explore the Owl and LaSalle canyons up the river. I especially enjoyed the quiet forest walk, far from the crowds, early evening bird songs, and kids loved the Owl, the Hidden and the Hennepin canyons because they had no enclosed lookouts to stand in. StarvedRock4Here, you were free, on your own, slip and fall, at your own risk. Just a couple hikers passed us, but the whole forest was ours, the river was deep blue as the sun started to set, and from this angle you could not see the dam that is an eye sore greeting you from Starved Rock lookout. So we stood, right there, like the Native Americans did before us, on the canyon’s edge, creeping slowly, treading lightly, and watched the river flow, a hundred feet below us, flirting with death, enjoying the freedom to be alive.

And the little one, who was so scared of the heights just last October when we visited here, now insisted to stand on the edge, without holding my hand, his fears defeated. He has changed, grew from a toddler into a boy, and was now dragging his sticks all through the forest, talking to leaves, searching for treasure in the creeks. The forest was changed since we last saw it covered in golden leaves. We could see further now, no leaves obstructing. StarvedRock2We walked over amazing formations of roots, tangled together holding on to seemingly bare rocks. And I was changed, seeing just a little bit more than I saw last time, enjoying just a little bit more. The hiker who lost his backpack and climbed the canyon rocks barefoot showed us a secret way to get down to the bottom of the Hidden canyon and a way to climb back up, but this time we passed. Next time, we agreed, when the little ones are just one inch taller and all fears are gone, we will do it, completely off the beaten path.

We headed out as the sun hid his beard behind the horizon. As we headed up to historic Ottawa, IL, we stopped at the riverside and watched the sunset over Illinois river, listening to the sounds of nesting geese on the many islands along the river. Kids fell asleep in the car, I watched the last rays of sunset in the rear view mirror, heading east on an empty highway. As we entered the sea of city lights,  this was still so foreign, the lights, the structures…  Soaring with eagles, the spirit of the soft moccasins that we touched up there, that we will carry with us through the city lights.



About BeeHappee

Where have all the bees gone? Where have all the flowers gone?
This entry was posted in Homeschooling, Nature, Play and Fun, Unschooling and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

20 Responses to Soaring with Eagles at Canyon’s Edge

  1. thomasgable says:

    Wow… these photographs were incredible! This is all in Illinois? If so I had no idea that places like this existed in that area! Absolutely splendid and it looks warm there! I am waiting for that to start here in Northern Michigan! Thanks for sharing and I look forward to more of your posts!

    • BeeHappee says:

      Thank you, sir. I will pull up photos we took in October with a better camera. Oh, Northern Michigan is a place that we still need to visit! 🙂 Yes, Illinois is pretty plain and flat, but Starved Rock Park is an exception. Definitely worth to visit and some good hiking. There are cabins and camping grounds there as well for extended stays. The weather was 55-60F and sunny, my little boy was wading the waters in shoes and wet pants. . Hope you get to visit the canyons, and they are beautiful in all seasons.

  2. smcasson says:

    Gosh damn, some beautiful scenery and writing there Bee! Nice one! Cell phone pics are alright… most of what I take… You guys sure do get out and explore a lot! Thumbs up!
    I’ve been quiet, sorry… Working on getting the garden ready. Worked my butt off this weekend and still not done, so I am taking tomorrow off to finish. I may write more tomorrow morning 🙂

    • BeeHappee says:

      Thanks, Scott. Sometimes I do feel guilty for “wasting time” on silly hiking, could be doing productive stuff like you tilling the garden. . . But oh well, at least it is good for the soul. 🙂 Still too cold for gardens here, snowing tonight.

    • Do you blog as well, Scott?
      Can’t do anything in the garden here yet….. unless I use TNT for tilling, but I guess the neighbours wouldn’t like that. They don’t seem to like us anyway, so…

      • smcasson says:

        I don’t blog publicly, Ron. I keep a blog for my own record-keeping so to speak. Only my wife and I have access. My wife and I are trying to make a decision in a careful, calculated way, so we are keeping track of our thoughts and opinions on the subject.
        I meant “write” as in, emails and comments on blogs, etc.

      • Sounds like a good idea.
        Any specific reason why you chose to do that online instead of keeping a written record either by hand or on your computer?
        Access from anywhere is a benefit, but could also be a liability, right?

        • BeeHappee says:

          I would wonder the same thing.. But WordPress surely is an easy tool, easy to keep track of dates and easy to use, easy to change security if need be to private, vs, restricted vs public. You may consider transferring to WP, Ron, I find blogger so cumbersome…

        • smcasson says:

          I have a hard time holding onto some ideas. I need to write some things down almost immediately. The access from anywhere is nice, what with computer or WordPress app, although the notes app on my phone could do the same for immediacy. Or email. But I wanted something my wife could respond to, add her thoughts in new posts, a format more alive than email or notepad. The privacy is not too big an issue; nothing amazing in there. Just wouldn’t be very useful to others, I suppose.
          Also, the searchability will be nice, adding tags, whatever.
          I have this problem where if I am passionate about something, that passion seems to translate in my head as “a large amount of time” I have been passionate about that thing. So keeping a record of current thoughts, date-stamped, will alleviate that.
          Sorry for the spam lol…

          • BeeHappee says:

            No worries about spamming, Scott. It is interesting to read what everyone has to say. This blogging thing is totally new to me, but I really do have so many nice blogs that I enjoy following. I agree it can be a great tool even for personal notes, modern day farm journal keeping. 🙂 I suppose you can choose security post by post too, keep some personal and some public. I am interested to see how it plays out for you guys with the quest for more land and all that. I manage our company site on WordPress platform also, and find it to be a nifty tool.

  3. There is NO such thing as a silly hike!

    • BeeHappee says:

      🙂 Well, I am glad you said that. I read all you guys planting carrots, churning butter, gathering eggs, shearing sheep, planting peaches, and then I wonder, why I am hiking the woods for days on end eating crackers from grocery store. 🙂 I’d hike every day though if I could.
      I saw your muddy boots, ours were the same. I liked northern lights images you posted. Nice writing you have, very detailed.

      • smcasson says:

        There are some folks churning butter, planting carrots…. reading about others exploring parks, climbing mountains… feeling the need to go explore more.

  4. Bill says:

    Beautiful photos and beautifully written post. I’ve never heard of this place. It looks like a treasure.

    • BeeHappee says:

      Thank you, Bill. Funny, how everyone has heard of Search tower in Chicago, but not Starved Rock. It is a must visit in Illinois for sure. 18 canyons, we have many more to explore there.

      • smcasson says:

        Willis tower, right?? 😉 jk
        We went there when the boy was 2 or so, he walked right out and started jumping on the glass of the skydeck or whatever. My heart fell straight down those hundred-something floors.

        • BeeHappee says:

          Scott, funny, you know what, we had not gone on the glass yet… We were just looking at photo of toddler crawling on the glass couple days ago, my kids asked what that is.. Need to take them now that weather is better. We are not very much into the city things, but they do have fun once in a while taking the train into the city and walking around. Good kids theater there, and the museums.

          • smcasson says:

            Yup that’s what we hit. The tower glass, museums, aquarium, and pizza 😉 We tried to do too much, really.
            We must get on wordpress at about the same time during the day. Just noticed your comment was about 7mins ago. Weird.

  5. Pingback: Legends of Starved Rock | Bee Happee Now

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