January 1st signals . . . the start of a brand new camping season! Rather than take the Silvermine out of hibernation for just a couple nights, we did the next best thing – we booked reservations at the Starved Rock State Park Lodge in Illinois.
So, we left New Years morning at 8:00, and arrived a little after noon – the time-jump “back” gave us a little extra time to stop at Cabela's on the far side of Chicago. We had a gift card from Caleb and Halie, but discovered that the sales had not really picked up yet. We did browse and get some ideas in mind and will keep our eyes on the catalog. There are two sections of the lodge – the original lodge-type rooms, and the newer hotel rooms. Yeah Tom – he booked us in a sweet little knotty pine room with all the modern conveniences . . . and all the old-world ambience. Upon arrival, we didn’t spend much time enjoying the charming room – just enough to haul in our luggage, snap a picture, grab some maps of the area, and head out on our first eagle excursion.
The lodge is just a mile from the Visitor’s Center, and it is from here that the trails stem. Studying the map, we left the back door of the Visitor’s Center and headed out on the trails towards the dam and “Eagle’s Cliff.” The trails are a mixture of maintained woodland walkways with stair-stepped boardwalks for the climbs up and down along the river cliffs. Many people had the same idea we had for celebrating New Year’s Day, and the trails were teeming with people out enjoying the 40-degree sunshiny day and hoping to spy some Eagles.
Long story short – we saw one lonely Eagle perched in a pine tree, on a cliff, overlooking the dam. Rumors of the Eagle sighting were all up and down the trail, with assurances that it would be easy to find because of the depth of people gathered at the trail rail overlook. He was magnificent, but I am not sure that my pictures at all do him justice.
We headed back to the truck and back to the lodge when Tom’s hip started protesting. (Surgery is in 17 days to replace that rusty hip!) At the Lodge I reconnoitered the lobby and lounge areas, and checked in on the dining room to make a 6:00 reservation. This left us with 2 hour to enjoy the room – the lounge areas – the large fireplace - our books . . . .
Evidently the welcome girl at the restaurant didn’t understand the essence of a “reservation.” She said “we are not seating anyone now, and you need to come back later.” She stubbornly stuck to that story . . . so we went into the bar for drinks – and a full-service menu! After dinner we meandered around the Lodge and I took some pictures.
Monday, January 2nd, is the official day that New Years is celebrated this year – because the 1st falls on a Sunday – and you can’t celebrate New Years day on a Sunday? The lodge was open, but minimally staffed, and the Visitor’s Center was closed. The good news was that the rain that had been forecast all week long went somewhere else! We walked all around the lodge getting pictures of the main structure, the cabins and outdoor pavilions, the totem poles, and the visitor's center from the high cliff outside.
In the truck we did a drive-by tour of the little towns close by – Utica, LaSalle, Ottawa. Sad to say they are all in the need of revitalizing. Aside from everything being closed for New Years (Jan 2nd), the towns are dingy, dull, and very lacking in stores, restaurants, or other amenities. But, our drive followed the river on the opposite side of the Park, and afforded us a good view of Starved Rock.
We did see a couple of Eagles on the drive – sitting in trees at a distance that didn’t give many options for my camera. We also saw a hawk tending to a possum/cairn right down by the roadway, and he held his ground as I took a picture.
Our stomach were still fooled by the time change, but we arrived back to the Lodge before breakfast was shut down to make way for lunch. It was only a 15- minute wait, and we were seated directly in front of the large fireplace.
Part of the plan for this trip was to enjoy the confines of the lodge, and this we did for most of the afternoon. We had hoped to venture on another trail at 4:00 (the time that Eagles like to come out!), but it was raining and the lodge seemed awfully snug and cozy. We ended up with drinks in front of the fireplace, dinner in the bar, and movies in bed.
Tuesday morning there was heavy fog – and clouds – and mist – and nothing at all enticing about hiking the trails. We checked out and headed for home. Most of our mission had been accomplished; we had seen 4 eagles, a lot of hawks, hiked some trails, and we greatly enjoyed the lodge setting.
We don’t go camping any more . . . we go ‘streamin’ ! The “SIlvermine and His” is our 2016 23' Airstream, and ‘streamin’ is the name we use to describe our adventures. Stream along as we document everything from weekend trips to longer summer excursions and full-blown vacations. You know what they say: if you’re not in an Airstream – you’re just camping!
Tom & Ella Brown