It was the nicest day 2018 had seen so far. The beginning of April had brought a deluge of snow, and we were starting to lose hope it would ever warm up in Chicago. But the weekend forecasted sunny skies and seventy degree weather, which just happened to coincide with Peter’s 25th birthday. We jumped at the excuse to spend it soaking up the warmth in Starved Rock State Park, known for its many canyons and waterfalls, just a few hours south of Chicago. I brought along the cake I’d made for Peter - he said he wanted funfetti, and I’d be damned if I gave him anything less than three layers and what I’m guessing to be approximately two million calories. We rode the sugar high all weekend.
There are a couple local legends about how Starved Rock got its name. They say an Ottowan tribe leader, Pontiac, was killed by an Illiniwek scout in 1769. To exact revenge, the Ottawa chased a band of them up to the butte, and besieged the rock until the tribe starved to death. It’s also noted that there’s no historical evidence to back up this claim, so I guess it’s one of those things no one really knows for sure.
On a whim, we bought a couple of dollar field guides at the park visitor's center. I learned that there are over forty species of amphibians in Illinois, that poison ivy is identified by its signature tri-leaf appearance, and those bumpy little growths you see on leaves sometimes are called "plant galls". Who knew? We walked along the river in silence, flipping the pages and scanning the river bank for salamanders. I was never a girl scout growing up, but I imagine this must be what it feels like.
After a few miles of hiking we came across a canyon with a waterfall running into it, creating a pool of water and mud and leaves at the bottom. On one side of the rock face, many hikers before us had come and left a muddy handprint. Never afraid to get our hands dirty (literally), we followed suit, then washed our hands off in the falling water.