Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Perfect Getaway for Fall Camping

Outstanding weather.  Gorgeous fall colors.  All the elements of a nice, weekend camping trip were in place.

With our son being off from school for Columbus Day yesterday, we took advantage of the three-day weekend to get away for another camping trip.  Our destination this time: Starved Rock State Park in northern Illinois.

In a state where the predominant landscape is flat cornfields, the beauty of Starved Rock stands out like an ear of Indian corn in a bushel full of feed corn.  Starved Rock has breathtaking bluffs, colorful forests, and impressive canyons.  Located just two hours from downtown Chicago, it is a popular getaway destination for the urban and suburban crowd.

The crowds this weekend were even greater as the nearby town of Utica had their 41st annual Burgoo Festival.  The name Burgoo, I later learned, refers to the stew served at the festival.  According to Kai’s grandfather, possum is the key ingredient. 

We had no interest in trying the stew or attending the festival.  Or rather, we knew that Kai would have no tolerance for the crowds there.  And what a crowd it was.  According to the sign entering Utica, it has a population of 1,000.  But, this weekend, I would not be exaggerating to say that there were more than 100,000 people at this giant craft fair/flea market/outdoor party that encompassed the entire little town.  As a veteran of many Taste of Chicago festivals, the crowds at the Chicago affairs have nothing on this shindig in Utica.

Our problem was that the only way to get to Starved Rock is to travel through Utica, which basically only has one primary road that goes through it.  As we waited in incredible traffic in a town that has no light signal, Kai got increasingly agitated.  Somehow we managed to get through the town and reach the State Park while we still had some semblance of tolerance for each other.

Once at Starved Rock, our weekend was wonderful.  My wife and I most enjoyed the spectacular scenery while Kai loved camping in a tent.  It was the perfect time of year for camping.  In our area, the leaves are at their peak of vibrancy, and the weather this weekend warmed to 80 degrees.    

Starved Rock is now my wife’s favorite spot for camping.  The trails, besides taking you to and through amazing sights, are well-marked, with plenty of trails being easy to walk for novice outdoors-people like ourselves.  Fall is also a great time to camp because there are virtually no bugs and the humidity is low.

In addition to the camping and hiking, we took a break and went to an orchard about a half hour away to do some apple picking.  It is the tail end of apple season, but Boggio’s Orchard & Produce had enough for us to fill up one bag with Red Delicious apples.  We also picked out a giant pumpkin to bring home.  Plus, they had some fun play areas for kids, with Kai’s favorite being a large “sandbox” that was filled with kernels of corn instead of sand.  My wife and I liked that it wasn’t as messy as sand, and Kai loved the sensation of the corn against his body.

When we returned home yesterday, we were tired but also feeling relaxed.  It was great to have weekend that was fun for all of us.  We will definitely be going back. However, unless we develop a taste for possum stew, I think we will try to avoid the Burgoo weekend next time.

To see more photos, visit Hanabi Boy on Facebook.

Starved Rock State Park has a nice website.  For planning where to hike, I particularly like the detailed information they give on all of their various trails.

To learn more about Boggio’s Orchard & Produce, visit their website.


  1. Sounds fun... glad you made it thru Utica in time. I have fond memories of Starved Rock State Park... must be beautiful this time of year.

  2. Bill, it's not quite like northern CA but for the Midwest, it's like our little Yosemite.


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