Yay!! We got in an August camping trip as well! Once again, I wasn’t sure we were going to get it done, but once again Callie helped make it happen (even though she was, yet again, just returned from another vacation). Cabz was (still) busy with his paper/module business. Thank goodness, he is turning it in SOON and we can be done with it! The weather and camping weren’t quite as ideal as last time, but for August it was still pretty decent. Also, this was yet another trip where there were no bugs to speak of! I can’t believe that we have camped and hiked all these times and have yet to be seriously bothered by bugs. We haven’t even used bug spray! 🙂 We spent time at Starved Rock State Park and Matthiessen State Park in Illinois and hiked right around 7 miles.
Ready to heady at almost 37 weeks pregnant!! Not so secretly hoping this encourages the baby out early for me. I’m always LATE! This time we’re doing two nights of camping! Bring it on! 5 car seats locked and loaded.
We pulled into Starved Rock on Thursday morning. If I remember right, I think we got there sometime around 9 a.m., but the day was already getting a little muggy. We packed our bag, grabbed a water bottle and map and figured out our first hike. We were going to try and do a loop hike, starting with French Canyon. They had a sign to French Canyon right away, but looking at our map, it seemed as if it made a lot more sense to go a different direction first. Being the astute map readers that we are, we obviously went with our option. It started with a LOOOOOOT of stairs. A Lot. This picture doesn’t even scratch the surface of how many stairs we climbed. hahaha It was a good work out though! For once, I almost felt as if Obie’s pace was actually my pace of choice.
We got to the top of the (first) huge chunk of stairs and found ourselves at the lodge. It really looked like the trail entrance to French Canyon should be right around there. We looked. And looked. And looked some more just for kicks and giggles. We were finding nothing. Well, except that we had somehow completely turned around and were going the opposite direction intended towards some much smaller canyons. Rather than haul all the way back down and start fresh, we decided to continue on and see what we could find……. We found Aurora Canyon (it looked semi interesting, although small, but our only viewpoint was from way up high through a little hole of trees – lame), followed by Sac Canyon (repeat of Aurora), followed by hiking and hiking and hiking, hoping to reach our planned end point, Kickapoo Canyon.
After going DOWN quite a flight of stairs, we realized we must have gone past Kickapoo without even noticing it. I think it was after this that we also realized the canyons worth actually seeing were marked differently on the map vs. the pathetic ones that you really needn’t bother hiking by. haha Rather than continuing allllll the way to St. Louis canyon with the knowledge that at some point we would have to turn around and hike the entire way back (with one dwindling water bottle I might add), we opted for turning around at this point. Once we were solidly beyond the stairs, we stopped for a snack break. Mini oreos were a hit, but probably not my best idea. It’s amazing how atrociously messy kids can get with a handful of oreos. I mean… WOW!
Here’s where we think Kickapoo was. Enjoy the view and don’t blink or you’ll miss it!
The entire trip, the girls were both completely obsessed with finding their American Dagger Moth caterpillars (not quite sure that’s the kind they were, but they had a lot of similarities at least). Abby, in her fashion, decided to shorten their name and began exclaiming, “Another American! I see another American!” The best was when we were passing by people as she shouted it out…… er….. Hey, guys.
We were all preeeeeeeetty hot and tired, and maybe slightly disappointed with our not so thrilling, somewhere around 2 mile hike by the time we got back to the van. Taco in a bowls and juice were a great cool off and rejuvenate kind of lunch.
Looks like I swallowed a watermelon whole. wOw!
Babes was pretty proud of her munching spot on top the table. As you can see, her lunch didn’t sit around for long. ha
Post lunch, we really needed a fun hike and preferably a cool one! Off to Matthiessen State Park we went! It was an EXCELLENT choice! We got all the kids suited up and off we went. More steps to go down, but this time they would be well worth it!
This was a hike I had done last time we came out, but Callie hadn’t, so that was fun! I think she said it ended up being her favorite hike of the trip. It was an out and back hike, about a mile altogether. The best part about it is that most of it can be hiked through water, so the kids were LOVING it. They had been getting pretty worn out, but once their feet hit the water (water shoes for the win!) it was amazing to see their energy come flying back full force! haha!
The hardest part about this hike was forward motion, because the kids were constantly wanting to stop and explore and splash. haha
The stepping stones are always fun! Abby was really focused on walking across them, but Evelyn thought they were designed as her personal jumping boards. haha
It was fun just to watch the kids having such a blast! Oh, and yes of course, this picture was definitely forced. Before you play anymore, you must hold hands and smile for ONE picture!
Toddlers and their rocks.
Our Super Cool dude.
We got to navigate some pretty cool rocks and tree roots scattered throughout the creek.
Evie and her sticks….. she found this one she thought looked like a cleaning brush and was scrubbing the log off with it. Cleanliness has always been one of her strong points….
Cool little waterfall on the way! 🙂
We made it to the end! The big waterfall even had a little water flowing, in spite of it being dry and summer.
Unlike last time, when there was too much water, we were able to navigate clear back to the waterfall.
Of course Abby spotted a giant frog swimming around and the girls all had to try and nab him!
It was an exciting chase, back and forth across the water! The other two gave up, but Abby kept at it.
Eventually, our friend was caught and Abby proudly showed him off.
After all this excitement, we trekked back, washed sand and grub off the kids, changed the kids, and headed back to set up camp. My older girls wanted to work on their picture taking skills while Callie got the fire going, so here’s what they managed. My stomach is so big. It looks like a weird attachment I strapped on myself. I’m just here staring at it in amazement.
Critiquing her work.
Evelyn had a splat earlier in the day and got a bandaid back at camp. She couldn’t stop talking about it because I literally never put bandaids on my kids. haha Only reason I did is because I didn’t want her falling on it over and over the rest of the trip.
Fire needed just a little more encouragement, but it definitely happened!
Tent set up!
All “ready” for bed. hahaha First night there was definitely some goofing going on, but sleep eventually happened. Abby held out the longest, staying awake as long as Callie and I talked I’m pretty sure. That kid…. Also, no shame here….. that little tiny potty in Elly’s pack ‘n’ play? Ya. I set that up in between the two pack ‘n’ plays later on so I could hang on to the pack ‘n’ plays to squat down and use it every 20 minutes all night long (after I had rolled my large hiney off the half sunken air mattress that is). No way was I seriously going to stumble out of the tent every few minutes in the pitch dark (probably stepping on a snake on the way!!) to waddle my way to the nasty port-a-potty (which was also probably crawling with snakes!!). Pregnancy problems, guys.
Also, yes, that is part of my pregnancy pillow pictured on the air mattress. I was SO glad I brought it. haha
We were up pretty late last night. It had been a rather humid/hot day and it took quite a while for it to be comfortable enough to fall asleep in. It was definitely the hottest tenting night we’d had all year. I think it stayed up in the mid 70’s most of the night. It was fairly quiet though – most of the other guests had campers and weren’t directly by us. Although the kids were awake decently late, it didn’t seem to hamper their morning energy too much. Me and Evie have the same dead tired eyes going on in this picture. hahaha At least Callie looks well rested.
Bee boppin’ before I was mentally ready. ha
Once the kids were up, so was I, because…. mommin’ life. Callie tried to hold out, but the kids have a funny way of making laying in bed not as great as it sounds. hahaha
Big Sis, Little Sis jammies! ❤ My little blondies.
Breakfast time! That fruit loops box had some good activities on the back.
Muffins are the best!
Today, we knew we had to find French Canyon. This time, however, we decided to follow the park’s signs. *groan* We did a two mile loop, hiking to French Canyon, Wildcat Canyon, and supposedly Pontiac Canyon, but we missed the turn for that last one. It wasn’t one of the good ones on the map though, so we weren’t too disappointed over it.
We found French Canyon pretty quickly. It was well worth the hike!
The kids enjoyed climbing up the sloped walls.
After enjoying French Canyon, we were off to Wildcat Canyon! More stairs! Woo!!
When we arrived, it was obviously time for a gummy snack break.
The girls found a little rock climbing on our way out of Wildcat.
What a big sister does, Elly must also do.
Evelyn, of course, was much too busy with mud puddles and sticks for rock climbing.
Picture with the kids. ❤
Evie wanted to try her camera skills too, so here is her attempt.
A fun little tree root spur-off the girls tackled.
We made it back from our hike in time for some good ol’ pb & js! Afterwards, I got everyone cleaned up and then a friendly older man brought over a giant watermelon half to give us. He offered it from across the parking lot and I said, “Thanks, but we’re okay!” Upon some serious persistence though, he got us all back to the table and handed out plates, napkins, and proceeded to dice up our watermelon with this giant butcher knife. It was pretty tasty though. haha
After lunch, we were back at the hiking. We did a one mile out and back hike to St. Louis Canyon.
It was a pretty fun canyon to explore! There was a small waterfall beyond a pit of water.
Abby and I tried to carefully cross some logs to get over to the waterfall. Abby got one shoe a bit damp, but for the most part we had a successful trip over and back. haha
The girls wanted to build a log cabin. I think the foundation layer was as far as they got though. Bummer. haha
There were also a couple small caves to climb in. It was an exciting process to get the girls up there. haha It doesn’t look super steep, but it was incredibly slick and hard to get traction! They mostly got butt shoved up to the top. haha
I had to heft myself up there too. I did manage to get up on my own (barely).
Getting down was just one big slide of fun. lol
Another smaller cave (easier to climb) next to the previous one.
I asked Callie to take a picture of me post this hike, because I wanted to see how rough I looked. I was literally DRENCHING in sweat this whole hike. It honestly didn’t feel that hot, but the humidity must have been way up there because we were actually dripping. ha! This picture doesn’t even do justice to how sopped I was.
Due to being so sweaty, we decided to go back to Matthiessen, just to the beginning of the water, so the kids could splash and cool off. They thrived on that decision, although the sand and suit clean up afterwards wasn’t the adults favorite.
I had told the kids I would take them to the campground park at some point, and although I was not quite in the mood after sweating all day and hiking 3 miles, I pulled myself together and took them over while Callie got the fire going. They lived it up there with swings and rocks.
Okay, I wasn’t planning to use this picture because it’s kinda hideous, BUT it’s also pretty much how we felt at the end of the day. Sweaty, nasty, and pooped. hahaha I think Evie took this glamorous shot for us. What a winner!
And this is our Abby for ya. She is all about her own space, but when it’s super hot and sticky out, this is what she goes for. Cuddling on your lap. Oh, please no. hahaha With a smirk, obviously.
Working on that fire business.
While Callie was hard at it getting the fire going, I too was making myself extremely useful…..
Callie and I both took showers later. I did feel better afterwards, but the water was soooooooo smelly and sulfury in the moment. I had to hold clothes over my nose so I didn’t dry heave to death. The showers weren’t super handy distance-wise, but the kids were filthy as all get out! So, instead of giving them showers, I let them put out the fire with water bottles. Trust me, by the time that fire was “out” they were nice and clean (wet from head to toe).
This little tot was up peering at me way too early.
Time to rise and shine. Groooooooooooooooan. haha ❤
Our campsite was pretty pathetic and annoyingly pricey for what it was. We couldn’t stay at Starved Rock because it was completely full, so we went with the campsite I had stayed at last time. There weren’t many other options. The spots are super close together, but I was hoping it wouldn’t be full. The first night was okay, but the second night (last night) was kinda a bummer. haha People kept pulling in, and we were feeling surrounded. In reality, the spot to our right never got taken, although it felt like it with such close quarters. It was a little noisier than the previous night too. The night was cooler temperature wise though, which was really nice! Here’s how close the spots were. The white vehicle is not ours, the picnic table on the left is ours and the picnic table on the right is the next spot (that thankfully wasn’t taken, but the one to the right of that was taken).
We had a wedding shower for a friend at church that we needed to get back for early afternoon, so we decided to just do a one mile hike and head home. We hiked to Illinois Canyon which ended up being my favorite hike of the trip!
Elly and her little walking stick. ❤
Telling me something very important I’m sure.
This hike was seriously the coolest! It felt like we were walking through a giant canyon the entire hike. We were on this wide, flat trail in between two giant continuous bluffs, walking along a creek. And again, NO BUGS!! It was so great!
There were cool rocks to climb and hills to run up!
Obie was finding cool rocks too. haha
One of the fun parts about this hike were all the little water crossings. 🙂
Pregnant lady crossing! Close your eyes and hope she makes it!
We made it to the end!
Building rock towers of course.
This picturesque little scene was at the end of the trail. Callie and I were dying to get across the water and explore, but the water was decently deep and murky and we were kind of over cleaning wet clothes and sand. This is on my list for the future though….. sooo curious how far back it goes! It probably ends literally around the corner. haha
Time to head back. Thanks, yet again, to Callie for toting my babe around the entire trip!! Couldn’t have done it without ya!
We made it home!! What a fun trip! Hopefully we can go somewhere else next month and keep up the monthly camping trip trend. This time with 6 kids out of womb. 😉