Five friends…a cooler and several duffel bags stuffed in the truck of an SUV…mine well-over 10 pounds (packing light has always been a challenge)…we were ready to leave Chicago to embark on a two hour drive to Starved Rock Camping Site, where we would be staying for two days.
It started off as a absolutely gorgeous day. Eighty degrees and not a cloud in the sky, I look over to my right as I catch a glimpse of my friend Katie sticking her head out the window. As her bright red hair was blowing in the wind, I could tell that she was in complete euphoria. Katie has a very free-spirited personality and she has shared with me moments in her life where she has experienced “spiritual moments”. I could only hope that I would have some of these moments myself in life, where everything just makes sense and my purpose and the world around me becomes completely clear. But if I want it to happen, I cannot be expecting it.
Blasting 80’s hip-hop group De La Soul’s “Eye Know”, the mellow vibe of the car ride affected everyone as we all started to have a little heart-to-heart on what we wanted to get out of our hiking adventure.
I shared with the group that this was, in fact, my first hiking trip. I hoped to have a new appreciation for nature. I want a chance to try everything at least once in my life. I love the idea of being open to anything our world has to offer. Before I decided that I wanted to go on the trip, or had this outlook on life, I always thought of camping like this: BUGS (especially mosquitos), boring (looking at trees, shrubs, and bushes didn’t particularly interest me), and no bathroom. The closest I have ever been to “nature” was the beach.
Recently I have been starting to discover my adventurous side, so I longed to fulfill this by tree climbing, crawling on rocks, swimming in lakes, soaking under a waterfall, and exploring caves.
Our first stop was Mathiessen Trail.
And my god, was it one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen.
After navigating out of a zig-zag path through two mini caves, we were greeted by families dispersed over a beach, at the end laid a small pond that led to the breath-taking waterfall that I had imagined…only better. Sunlight hit the water as it dripped down the cliff, people used the rocks below as a slide to go down and be splashed. Laughter echoed around me and smiling people passing by waved, warmly greeting me. Everyone seemed to be sharing the same feeling of inner peace, acceptance, and love for humanity
As I was taking in paradise, I could barely get my gym shoes off fast enough to join in on the fun.
Mina, Micheal and I swam through the pond as Katie and Carlos stayed back. We pulled ourselves up onto the rocks, slowly balancing on them with each step, approaching the point where the “slide” was established.
When it was finally my turn, I sat under the waterfall for a few moments, leaned my neck back, and let the clean, cold water hit my face. The rush I felt as I went down the slide was easily the best moment of the trip.
On our second day, our next escapade was Buffalo Rock.
We didn’t spend as much time on this trail as we would have liked, but that still did not take away its beauty.
As our trip came to an end, it was time to start heading out.
A few things I learned during my experience:
1. Appreciate your world around you- whatever is troubling you in your life will seem small compared to the immense surrounding of the forest. It is a place of escape.
2. Be grateful for the small moments in life- be thankful of those around you. Your family and friends are a gift from god. Everyone you meet in life no matter how short the encounter will impact you in some way. Whether that meeting is positive or negative is determined solely by your attitude.
I would recommend Starved Rock State Park, Illinois to anyone looking for a good time with family or friends who are passionate about the outdoors or simply looking for a new adventure.
I did experience a “spiritual moment” because I allowed myself to step outside my comfort zone and experience nature for the first time.
On the drive home, I knew I had gotten everything that I had wanted out of my personal journey.