In mid-July I took an excursion to Utica to clear my head and ground myself in nature.
My favorite park in the Starved Rock Area is Matthiessen State Park.
For a while it was a well-kept secret, with most tourists favoring Starved Rock Park.
Unfortunately (for me) it has gotten more popular over the years, and this time I encountered quite a few groups hiking and cavorting in the water.
Nonetheless, I find the Dells area fascinating with its lime stone formations.
It had stormed recently, so the paths were quite muddy.
The trails aren’t long and tend to lead back to the same stairwell leading to the parking and picnic areas.
The bridge also had a lot of standing water, and though it wasnâ€™t too deep, I opted to turn around rather than wade through it.
I do know from prior visits that that path after the bridge loops around and there are some nice benches where I have sat and read before.
This time walked the horse trail for a while.
That trail wasnâ€™t mapped out on the signs.
Not knowing where it would come out I doubled back when a prairie view disoriented me.
It was a lovely walk to reintegrate into the forest world that is scarce in my suburb.
I spent 90 minutes here but could have whiled longer, but it was time to check in and I was antsy to be â€˜settledâ€™ in my home away from home.
The next morning, after my Starved Rock excursion was cut short, I made my way to the Vermillion River Area of Matthiessen State Park.
When I first visited Matthiessen I wrongly assumed this was for boating. Instead, this is a forest trail with a variety of paths.
Unfortunately the sign didnâ€™t indicate the length of this trail, but I assumed it couldnâ€™t be too long (or they would have!).
The map also announced closures, which narrowed down my route.
I snapped a photo of the map to carry with me, and enjoyed the cool of the woods.
I saw two couples on the trail, and had the rest of the paths for myself.
I was indeed forced along a certain way with the closures.
It left me curious about one trail that I could see went down a hill and serpentined around.
In spite of my attempt to follow a specific trail color, different colored markers started popping up, which was a bit disorienting. You can see that bikes and horses are allowed on some.
There are some lovely trees in these woods.
I spotted a damselfly on a boulder I was heading toward.
Then this lovely creature fluttered to my attention.
I managed to get one more good picture of it-a comma or a question mark butterfly.
My trusty walking stick kept me company as I started hearing a stream, which comforted me.
When I came upon it I saw lovely black damselflies, but they all were camera shy.
I snapped a few pictures, only one of which turned out, and marched on.
Later I spotted some more in another area, and got some better shots by trusting my zoom. They are Ebony Jewelwings.
More of these jewel wings who truly glitter in blue and green were cavorting along the stream as I walked the path some more. Here is a guide on identifying some Illinois Odonata.
My zoom did not disappoint.
Just as I started wondering if I was lost again this beauty gave me reason to follow along the path some more.
My photo reference of the map wasnâ€™t much use to me as I couldnâ€™t orient myself to which color path I was on.
I had to trust that I would come out somewhere, but at those times it does feel like having a companion would be wiser. Being lost together is more comforting than being lost by yourself.
Unless I spoke ‘insect’ of course. 😉 I started debating whether to get my phone outâ€”I had turned it off to truly unplugâ€”and see if I got a GPS signal when the trail ended onto a clearing.
I had a general sense of where my Inn might be, but not a good enough overview to know whether to turn right or left. Then this swallowtail pointed the way. It was lovely watching it swoop around the grasses.
I spotted another dragonfly from afar.
Then I heard the sound of a car, so I followed the path and my ears, and lo and behold, there was my trusty vehicle!
This unguided tour took about 90 minutes, and now that I am â€˜orientedâ€™ I look forward to walking it again with fewer second-guesses.
I drove back to the Inn where I spent a lovely evening in the garden reading and journaling to recover from my unintended bravery.