Friday, July 3, 2015

Inspired & Invigorated at Starved Rock

After my hectic first week back in Illinois in early May (which culminated in a insurance fiasco that postponed my cancer surgery until June), I now had 3 extra weeks on my hands.  While I still had plenty of “Pre-Op” errands to-do and lots of local friends to visit, I decided that I first and foremost needed a few days of alone time to be still, fully process my new reality of living with cancer, and to get my internal batteries fully charged and ready for the battles ahead.

Every time I return to the Midwest from a winter spent in the desert southwest, I desperately crave what the desert lacks—water, and the color green!  A few years ago, the Springtime Ozarks of southern Missouri recharged and refreshed me.  But with time so short this year, I had to look for a nearby retreat.  Starved Rock State Park, just 100 miles southwest of Chicago on the Illinois river, would do the trick!

I go to nature

Canyon hikes, waterfalls, lush green forests, and this quote by noted naturalist John Burroughs were sure to inspire:

I go to nature to be soothed and healed,

and to have my senses put in order.

Weekends are usually booked solid at this most-scenic state park in our mostly un-scenic state.  But during the week, the campground was wide open.  I picked one of the primo sites in the woods, literally surrounded 360-degrees by a comforting blanket of vivid green.  Oh how I needed this!!!



I could lay in bed looking out my rear window--


Admire the view from the front recliner seats--


or look up at the tree canopy through the skylight--


Or simply fling the door wide open to enjoy being embraced by nature.  No cars, no people, no urban chaos.  Just the quiet rustle of a soft breeze through the trees. 


After a full day of doing nothing but resting and admiring this view, I took an evening hike to see my first waterfall at St. Louis Canyon.  I had the trail all to myself, and was nearly moved to tears to see this gorgeous canyon at the end of it!

P1040052 St. Louis Canyon

The Spring rains had provided just enough water for all of the Starved Rock canyon waterfalls to flow.  I stayed awhile just drinking it all in!

P1040070 St. Louis Canyon

About 10 minutes later, I heard another hiker approaching.  Time to take one final panorama shot and let them enjoy the solitude of this lovely place for themself.

P1040117 St. Louis Canyon

The next day, I packed a lunch and headed down to a more ambitious day-long hike along the Illinois river to get to 2 of Starved Rock’s best canyons—La Salle and Tonti.

A few hundred stairs lead you down to the river level ,where a dirt trail connects all the various separate trails leading to Starved Rock’s dozen canyons.  There were more people out on this morning, but thankfully, not as many visitors as this park usually gets every weekend!

As I turned to walk down into La Salle canyon, no one followed me.

IMG_7441 Trail to LaSalle

When I got closer to the waterfalls, a small bridge appeared and the path was illuminated by the glow of the canyon’s limestone walls.  John Muir would have loved this place!

In every walk

As I arrived to the waterfalls at La Salle canyon, there were a few other hikers already there, but once I had my tripod and camera set up, it wasn’t long before I had the canyon to myself.  I made the most of this “people-free scene” by photographing it as quickly as I could!

IMG_7485 La Salle Canyon

IMG_7478 La Salle Canyon

Not only does La Salle have one of the strongest flowing waterfalls, it’s also one you can actually walk behind!  This fall is quite spectacular in Winter when it freezes (but I’m still not inclined to spend another winter in Illinois just to photograph it!).

IMG_7499 La Salle Canyon

Around the other side of the falls--

IMG_7513 La Salle Canyon

the trail begins to climb out of La Salle canyon.  One last look!

IMG_7518 La Salle Canyon

I continued along the trail to the lesser-visited Tonti canyon.  One of the main bridges to Tonti was out, leaving only one, somewhat muddy and wet trail to get there.  But I persevered in order to get this rare “twin waterfall” shot!

IMG_7550 Tonti Canyon

What a magical place!  As the sun started to poke through the clouds, I sat and ate my lunch in front of Tonti’s main waterfall.  Hard to believe a place like this actually exists in Illinois!

IMG_7606 Tonti Canyon

As I returned back down the trail I came in, things had dramatically changed at La Salle after lunch.  Screaming kids on the path, and barking dogs swimming in the pools.  YIKES!

IMG_7611 La Salle HikersIMG_7613 La Salle Dogs

Incredibly, I also watched one “twenty-something” young man carving initials into the soft canyon walls as his sweetheart looked on.  I was so tempted to take photos and bust them, but decided to let young love prevail and move on.  “G & M,” I sure hope your romance lasts as long as it will take poor Mother Nature to erase the graffiti! 

IMG_7612 La Salle Graffiti

With the crowds of La Salle canyon (& that rant) behind me, it was time to enjoy more nature again.  This wild phlox did the trick!

IMG_7435 Wild Phlox

I stopped one last time along the riverfront to watch a barge making its way up towards Chicago. Feeling revitalized, I realized that I now had all the strength and courage I’d need to climb back out of this canyon (and to battle this summer’s cancer fight as well)!

IMG_7616 Illinois River


  1. It is a rare jewel I love to be around waterfalls small and large these are awesome.

  2. I love, love, love waterfalls and since Jim and I don't do any hiking I am so glad people take these fantastic photos and share them with me. And now you are ready for the health battles. Hugs.

  3. I can just smell all those wonderful earthy odors and especially the scent of green foliage. Perfect place for your rebuild.

  4. Wow - beautiful place! I had no idea places like this existed in the midwest.

  5. Great photos ! Will have to put this pplace on my to do list.

  6. ♫ "By your rivers gently flowing, Illinois, Illinois..." ♪

    Stunningly beautiful!

  7. I couldn't agree with Judy more.....stunningly beautiful. Hope you are recovering well.

  8. I came home for work after being outside in the 100+º temperatures all morning and saw these beautiful pictures of trees and waterfalls. I am now relaxed enough to go put my head down for a nap with the vision of the falls in my head and the sound of the water in my ears. Thank you. And I will be battling with you, this summer and forever, on the cancer for you.

  9. I wish everyone could appreciate what so many take for granted. Nature is truly breathtaking, restoring, and motivating. I thank you too for allowing us a glimpse from afar. Hoping your spirits continue to be positive and your physical self is healing.

  10. Lovely post! And I enjoy how you tell your story. All the green reminds me of east Tennessee in May. Especially enjoyed the bridal veil effect of the falls surrounded by rocks. The photos also had a healing effect on me. Our life has been hectic as we make the final approach to the downsizing move.
    Thinking of you, wishing you lots of courage and serenity as you journey through this challenge.

  11. Hi Lynne
    I am new to your site and enjoying following along. We just purchased a new View 24J and have only taken it out twice so far (not including the journey from Ohio where we purchased it). I really appreciate your tutorials. They are now my 'go to' references. We had a rotten egg smell on this last trip and realized we needed to drain the water heater too. We are not full time- just using the rv for trips when we can squeeze them in. So apparently the water heater had water sitting there for a few weeks! Lesson learned. Anyway, thanks for the posts and look forward to reading more. Loved those waterfall photos!!

  12. Hi Lynne,
    Just want you to know (again) how much I enjoy your calendar. i moved last week and found a little slice of peace at the end of the day. It was the last thing to go in a box. As I look at these i am hoping the one looking through the waterfall makes it on your calendar list....I am sure with your down time that a calendar is the last thing on your mind, but...just in case...I think about you everyday and hope your journey isn't too bumpy. What a good idea to get some nature time.


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