Monday, July 4, 2016

Illinois Has a CANYON!

Photo Credit: David Huang

Illinois has a canyon! Who knew! And what a beautiful canyon of sandstone it is, too. The foliage is lush and thick, in every imaginable shade of green.

My calves are still recuperating from our hike at Mattheissen State Park in Utica, Illinois. I guess I had that coming to me after making fun of the lack of elevation in Illinois in my piece "HIKING" at Hickory Knolls. I take it back, Illinois! I apologize. There might not be much in the way of elevation on a topographical map, but there are hiking paths you have to descend, and you definitely have gains in elevation when you retrace your footsteps.

The Huangs (Photo credit: Chuck Bennorth)

We spent most of Saturday with our friends from Naperville, David and Peggy Huang and their children. According to my fitness tracker on my iPhone, we did 41 flights' worth of stairs while wandering to the upper and lower dells of the park. There was a system of wooden boardwalks and steps to allow us to safely descend the hill through the shady woods. Our friends' son Justin informed us there were 141 stairs from the parking lot down to the bridge. We went down the steps. And down some more. And up some. And up some more. We ate lunch after hiking to the Upper Dells, and we descended the steps again to hike to the Lower Dells. Apparently, the unspoken rule of hiking is: who hikes down, must hike up. 

The picture below is very deceiving. While walking up against the sandstone wall, it feels as though the drop-off is precipitously close. Chuck and I inched our way along the path that seemed to be mere inches wide, but obviously, the picture tells another story. Below is Chuck's version of crossing the ledge:

Photo Credit: David Huang

"It is hard to tell from this shot, but this path was only about 1 1/2 inches wide and the rocks next to it hung over the path by about 3 feet. It was treacherous, but Denise and I were able to make it across, due to our years of hiking experience. They won't admit to you, but we then had to carry Peggy and David over it, ensuring their safety on this dangerous hike."

This looks a LITTLE scarier, doesn't it? What if we fell!
Photo Credit: Peggy Huang

Every step was worth it, though. Yes, even though I've had to ice my legs a couple times each day after our hike, and my leg muscles are none too happy about being stretched, I still say this is my favorite place in Illinois.

Photo credit: Some random and very nice hiker

Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to grab some ibruprofen. Two days later, and I'm still hobbling around the house, but I'd jump at the chance to go to Mattheissen again, especially with this sweet family!

Photo credit: Peggy Huang

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