I don’t know how many of you reading this week’s adventure will relate or grew up with a parent(s) that when you were not feeling well, would say you should ‘go outside and blow the germs off’. We were guaranteed that we would feel better and we usually did:) Well, this past week, I had the misfortune of catching that nasty cold that is going around and on Day #2 when I realized that staying in bed wasn’t getting me anywhere, my Mom’s voice rang in my head. So I bundled up and with U2 ‘It’s a Beautiful Day’ blaring in my IPOD I headed out for hike. About a half mile in and a dozen of Kleenex later, I started thinking Mom was completely wrong and I should just turn around, but I didn’t….I kept going (something else she taught me). And I found it interesting that the minute I took the focus off of me and focused my energy on what I was experiencing my whole perception changed…some notes to share…
I am fortunate enough to live next to (in my opinion) the number #1 State Park in Illinois, Matthiessen State Park. Yeah, I know Starved Rock is the largest and sees over 2 million visitors year compared to Matthiessen’s humble 400,000 visitors…BUT I am telling you if you hike Matthiessen you will quickly be a covert, too. Matthiessen is located less than a mile from Starved Rock and parking lots can be entered through three entrances (two are located South on Route 178 or the Lake entrance off west Route 71.) The park consists of 1,938 acres and over 5 miles of well-marked trails for hiking. The park is open all year around and offer glances of waterfalls, ice falls, rock formations and abundant wildlife and vegetation. Here’s some other fun facts and activities to do at Matthiessen:
- Acorn Trees only produce every other year…it’s an acorn year
- Matthiessen State Park has a small cabin complete with a fireplace and wooden benches that serves as a place to rent cross-country skis in the winter (weather permitting)
- It’s almost Fall, the very first thing that changes color is poison ivy and oak which turns a bright red and can be witnessed climbing up the sides of trees.
- There are several natural mineral springs that produce ‘salt’ which the deer find attractive as a place to get a drink
- This year, my husband and I witnessed a number of owls and our bike trip earlier this year gave us an amazing site of two white owls, so cool
- Matthiessen State Park was named for Frederick William Matthiessen, a prominent industrialist and philanthropist from LaSalle. He originally purchased the land near the end of the 19th century and operated it as a privately owned park for many years. Mr. Matthiessen employed about 50 people to construct trails, bridges, stairways and check dams. These bridges and stairways still exist and allow opportunities to go down in the canyons to explore
- There are picnic shelters, water fountains and restrooms at each entrance.
- There is a lake that is great for fishing
- There is a restored fort representative of the fortifications the French built in the Midwest during the 1600s and early 1700s.
- The park provides 9 miles of multi-use mountain bike/ horseback riding trails for those who own their own horse or mountain bike.
- An equestrian campground for horseback riders and their horses is located west of Route 178 between Route 71 and the Dells Area entrance.
- A field archery range with a sight-in area and four separate targets is located in the northwestern portion of Matthiessen.
- A radio-controlled model airplane field is located at the Vermilion River Area. Hobbyists and visitors will enjoy flying or watching as these crafts are maneuvered around this open field area.
- It is a state offense to remove any archaeological or Native American material from any Illinois state park.
- Vegetation consists of unique mosses and liverworts which thrive on the damp, shady walls. Ferns also grow in the rich soil. Other vegetation in the canyon interior is limited to the simpler or lower orders of plant life, because most plants cannot root on the steep rock walls.
- If you hike close to the streams you will see frogs, toads and salamanders that seek out the cool, moist canyon floors.
- Lately, we have witnessed a lot of wild turkeys, which can be frighteningly overwhelming when ‘stumbled’ upon a herd
Anyway, I hope this week’s adventure makes you get out and take a hike to experience Matthiessen State Park and not because you are sick but because it is a wonderful experience. I will only end by saying as I have many times in my life “Mom, you are right!”