One of the best things that I did for this trip is to bring along the add-on of Apple CarPlay. That allowed me to not only see Google maps on a large screen, but also to listen to all my favorite Jazz songs and Podcasts, which made the driving so much more enjoyable.
My final night of “vacation” camping was at Petit Jean State Park, which was Arkansas’ first state park. And what a finish it was with an hour hike straight down to see a jewel like the Cedar Falls in all its splendor. What a great place to be alone early in the morning to collect my thoughts, eat breakfast and of course photograph this natural wonder.
Now I am back home in Texas to be welcomed by my lovely wife and adoring dog Nikki.
Here are just a few random photos from my trip. It seems that there is good cell service until I decide to post.
I absolutely loved my time at the North Fork Campground. It was $5, and only one other camper. I had a great site right on the rushing river. What a view! A short 1/2 mile hike was the natural spring which bubbled up with enough force to give a great massage I do wish the water had been a tad warmer, as it was a little hard to relax and enjoy the massage in the 50 degree temperature!
I will take away a lot of memories from that place as it is kinda hard to forget the good case of chiggers that I also brought away with me. Still it is on my bucket list of places to return to. Maybe next time I’ll bring a wet suit and use some repellent when hiking in the forest.
Interesting fact about Sand Ridge State Forest. When I was talking to the superintendent and he was telling me that his campground had NEVER be full, he slowly added that, “What with the ticks, and poison ivy and humidity, some people just don’t know how to survive an environment like this.” I thought, “My goodness, it’s a state park!” I am not sure that that “survival” is the first word that comes to mind when they think about camping.
Still I was happy for the quiet seclusion. Oh, I did have to be careful for the poison ivy. It was literally everywhere! Tics- there certainly was a lot of them too, but I am a seasoned camper—or so I thought. In the end it was the nats that drove me screaming for the exit. They landed in your ears and mouth. I often swallowed them.
So it was a pleasure to move 2 hours south, to the family friendly campground called Beaver Dam State Park. As you can imagine it has a nice lake that was formed when the beavers damed up the stream. I looked forward to photographing the little fellows until I found out that for all their hard work they were driven from the park.
Still it was a Sunday and so except for a few campers I once again had the place to myself.
So I had to move from the most visited state park in Illinois (Starved Rock State Park with over 2 million visitors annually) to Sand Ridge State Forest. I don’t know how many visitors this park gets, but when I called to try and make reservations the park superintendentt answered on the first ring. He said to his knowledge the campsites have never been completely full, and even though it was the weekend, it was not necessary to make a reservation.
But before I left I had to take one more hike to see and photograph another canyon/waterfall. Leaving very early, I once again had the place all to myself. LaSalle Canyon wound up being one of my favorites.
The 2 1/2 hour drive was relaxing and uneventful. I set my GPS to avoid highways so it took me through all of the rural parts of Illinois.
When I arrived I had the pick of the campsites as there was only one other camper. Still I picked the most secluded one just in case.