Whew! What a weekend! Two FULL days, and we are back home, doing laundry, and packing lunches for tomorrow. Kind of like any other Sunday evening, but this week we all have fresh memories of a remarkable weekend.

We arrived at Starved Rock at 1:30ish on Saturday, quickly found a campsite, and had the two tents set up in about 30 minutes. It was easy! We were already campers! I’m not sure why we had resisted the idea for so long!

We then headed to Matthiessen State Park and completed a lovely 5 mile hike. It was really nice, beautiful scenery, an accidental route change actually up a small creek rather than on the paved path, and a really cool small adventure through caves. Ellie, in particular, was getting more and more excited about the camping part of the night.

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She had the most difficult time taking off her fleece, and it was so funny. A good mom would of helped. A bad one takes pics. (She was laughing too.)

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Ellie was crazy excited that we needed to break out the headlamp for the caves.

Once the sun began to dip low into the sky we left the park and made our way to the small town of Utica. It was only 5 and too early for dinner, so we window shopped at the two storefronts in town, and went to a cute bar for a post-hike beer and kiddy cocktail. Great beer selection, free popcorn, and fabulous small-town eavesdropping. Perfect start to the evening. pic5

After a couple of rounds we made our way to one of the other bars in town. We had read on yelp that their food was much better than the first place, so we wanted to be sure to have dinner there. The ambiance was lacking, but the food was delicious. Nothing like a buffalo chicken sandwich with onion rings for dinner on your first night of camping!


After our tasty dinner, we knew it was time to head back to the site. But before leaving, I had a brilliant idea. I had been quite stressed out with the idea of how I was going to take off my make-up and wash my face. So…I washed my face with hand soap and warm water in the bathroom. Perhaps a new personal hygiene low, but it made total sense in the moment.

As we drove into the camp, we quickly realized how ridiculously inept we were for the evening. I mean the first site was taken up by a HUGE RV. It was gigantic. And they were having a full blown party. Complete with strung lights, a gazebo like feature, (no joke) a TELEVISION on the side of the RV. We had some serious tent envy.

We found site 109, and our tents were still up. We bundled up, looked through the telescope a bit, and crawled into our sleeping bags.


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The night was pretty much a blur to me. I didn’t sleep much. I was cold. I had thought we’d be warmer, but my feet and and legs just couldn’t get warm. I realized that I like to sleep on my side, with my legs curled. Not easy in a sleeping bag. And I wish I had had a pillow. My thin sweatshirt with a harsh zipper wasn’t comfy. I was up throughout the night, and did enjoy bits of it. It was really nice to hear Ellie’s soft snores right next to me. (creepy?) It was really cool to see the stars through the tree branches right above us.

Once morning broke, we were all up and giggling. We compared our nights and started smelling the campfires from other sites. Before long the scents of bacon and some apple-cinnamony dish wafted toward us. As we crawled out of our the sleeping bags, we all realized how warm they had actually kept us, as it was cold outside! We dressed, funny stories there, but Zoe would KILL me if I posted them. Zak took down our tents as I did the girls hair, put on make-up, and moaned about it being too cold to shave.


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Then we drove to town to a local diner for breakfast. Yep. That’s right. We don’t do cooking and camping it turns out.




We were back at Starved Rock by 9:00 and started an 11 mile hike. It was amazing weather. Perfect conditions. And the absolute best day.

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Making pb&j in the parking lot. The only one doing that!

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Lunch surrounded by ladybugs.
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We all finally have our own hiking sticks. What a difference they made!

After 11 miles of hiking, we all collapsed into our seats and got home safely. I think we all had a good enough time to be willing to give this camping thing another few tries. As long as we are together, because we do have a heck of a lot of fun.




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