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Posts Tagged ‘Sand Ridge State Park’

Hey Barred Owl! You're going to need a permit!

Hey Barred Owl! You’re going to need a permit!

Summertime provides ample opportunity to get out and follow your Adventure Foot, and one of the very best ways to do that is to go camping!  Whether you’re tent camping with the kids out of the back of the mini-van or planning a backpacking excursion “off the grid,” a few simple steps can make your next camping trip a safe and fun adventure!

A Little Planning Goes a Long Way

Justin putting up a tent at Sand Ridge State Forest

Justin putting up a tent at Sand Ridge State Forest

We’ve all forgotten something important on a trip before, but when we forget something important on a camping trip, it tends to cause more inconvenience than usual.  I’ve found that the way to become a better camper and to forget fewer things is to make a list!  Make a list of the items you’ll need and lay the items all out on the kitchen table before you start packing them in your bag.  When all your items are laid out, you can make sure you haven’t forgotten anything crucial to the trip- matches, bug spray, sunscreen, toilet paper…   don’t leave home without them!

Just as important as what you bring is what you do not bring.  If you’re taking the kids, leave the Nintendo DS at home! Camping time is unplugging time and you will thank yourself for giving all the technology a rest.  Also look for things you can leave out of your life for a day or two.  Pare down the things you’re bringing to just the necessities.  Decluttering is part of the beauty of the outdoors. Besides, whatever you don’t bring, you don’t have to carry!

I like to keep a running list for camping trips.  At the end of the trip, I look to see if there are any items in my pack that I haven’t used at all, and I cross those off for next time.  It lightens the load and helps me to be a more efficient camper.  Likewise, if some item would have made my life easier, I add it to the list and next time I’ll have it!

Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires

Putting the Mmmmmm in Mmmmmarshmallows

Putting the Mmmmmm in Mmmmmarshmallows

Fire safety is every camper’s responsibility.  When building a fire, find out if the campground or space has any rules in place for fire building.  Check for dry conditions and don’t build fires any larger than necessary.  Fire pits or rings are great assets at campgrounds; use them!  They’ll keep the debris all in one place and also help keep the fire from spreading.   If there is not a fire pit, look for a campfire site that is downwind and at least 15 feet away from shrubs, overhanging branches, tents or any other flammable objects.

Please remember: do not transport firewood from one place to another.  There is plenty of loose wood around to collect and burn, and moving firewood is one of the main vectors of invasive species like the extremely destructive Emerald Ash Borer Beatle.

The Bare Necessities

I love Ryan's trail hammock.  Lightweight and even has a bug shield.

I love Ryan’s trail hammock. Lightweight and even has a bug shield.

Water, shelter, food, and waste disposal.  That’s what you’ll need for a camping trip.  If you’re heading out to a state park or campground, water might be easy to come by and all you’ll need is a few water bottles.  If you’re backpacking or going on an especially long hike you may need to bring water purification equipment or tabs.  Plan ahead and know where your water sources are.

Shelter is important too.  Check the weather forecast before you go and pack appropriate gear. In my experience, a forecast for 25% chance of rain turns to 100% if I forget my tent’s rain fly or my poncho.  It’s just the way it works.  Also, pack appropriate gear for the temperatures.  You don’t need that sub-zero sleeping bag if it’s not going to dip below 70 degrees at night.  Likewise, a nice day doesn’t guarantee a warm night, so check and double check the forecast!  It’s not a bad idea to look for safe places to go in case of a storm even if none are forecast.

Food safety is especially important on camping trips, and I’ve heard more than one story of a great camping trip spoiled a day later by intestinal distress.  Don’t forget your safe food handling practices just because you’re out in the woods.  Make sure you cook any meat you are eating thoroughly, be aware of opportunities for cross contamination (don’t touch the fish and then the apples!!), and store food safely.  Make sure you’re storing your food and trash out of the reach of wildlife too.  Even though there aren’t bears in Illinois, a cranky raccoon wandering through camp isn’t much fun either.

Check the Visitor Center for park rules and regs!

Check the Visitor Center for park rules and regs!

Waste disposal doesn’t often get much forethought, but it’s important to plan for too.  Bring trash bags and make sure you keep your campsite clean. You’ll often hear the phrase, “leave no trace.”  This basically means: bring everything out of the woods that you took into the woods.

And while we’re on the subject of waste… sometimes you’re by a porta-john or latrine, and sometimes you’re not.  If you’re in the back country, protect the ecosystem and other travelers by following trail rules.  This often means digging a small hole 10-15 feet off the trail and away from any water sources, doing your business, and covering it up.  If my cats can cover up their dootie, so can you.  In especially delicate ecosystems, you may be required to bring any solid waste with you out of the woods.  Obey rules and posted guidelines!

Maps, Flashlights, and Emergencies

My smartphone has Google Maps, a flashlight, and can call 9-1-1.  Guess what doesn’t usually work in the woods though? My cell phone!  Come on people, you knew that!

Trail tortoise at Fall Creek

Trail tortoise at Fall Creek

Make sure you’re bringing several light sources for your trip.  I’m a fan of hands-free headlights and small LED flashlights.  On longer backpacking trips, I like a hand-crank flashlight and radio combination, which can be used regardless of battery life.

Bring basic first aid equipment for emergencies and even consider a flare or other signaling device if you will be a long way from emergency services.

And bring a printed park map.  Keep the printed map in a plastic bag or have it laminated.

 Hazard Inventory

Riding and camping are a great combination! This is at RAGBRAI 2012

Riding and camping are a great combination! This is at RAGBRAI 2012

The last great piece of camping advice comes to you courtesy of my grandpa.  He said, “Beware of things that bite, sting, itch, or get you all wet!”  Make a list of the hazards you might experience in the area you’re camping.  Know how to identify poison oak and poison ivy.  Know how to identify and safely remove ticks.  Know if anyone in your party is allergic to bee stings and bring appropriate first aid materials for that person.  Know how to identify a potentially hazardous snake or a harmless one (clue: most snakes in our area are harmless).  And lastly, be aware of any water hazards, especially if you have kids around.  Don’t build your tent close to the creek; flash floods can happen whether it’s raining where you are or not.  Keep the kids away from lakes or ponds after dark.  Don’t cross flooded streams.  Just use your common sense!

Justin out on a long hike!

Justin out on a long hike!

So there you have the Adventure Foot Guide to Safe and Fun Camping!  Be sure to check out these related blogs about some of my favorite local state parks.  I highly recommend Wakonda State Park in La Grange, MO, (second winter Wakonda link here!)  Cuivre River State Park in Troy, MO and Siloam Springs State Park in Liberty, IL (second Siloam link here!) for local camping adventures.  You might also check out Sand Ridge State Park near Peoria.  This park is enormous and especially fun in the late fall and winter! Oh and don’t forget Mark Twain Lake!  There’s no excuse not to camp with so many great places to go!

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Eastern Fence Lizards can be found in Sand Ridge State Forest.

It’s Memorial Day Weekend and I don’t yet have a plan. I know, I’m getting to it a little late, but here’s the thing: there are so many great options.  The weather is finally going to cooperate and give us some sunshine, and I’m ready to hit the trail for some hiking, but where to go? Here are the four ideas I’m tossing around — Maybe you can help pick:

Siloam Springs State Park

It’s the closest park to Quincy and has hiking trails that are just lovely.  The boat house opens this weekend, so we could rent canoes or a john boat and enjoy Crabapple Lake.  I know there are lots of nesting birds around the edges of the lake too, so maybe I’d get a chance to see some fuzzy baby geese or something!  Siloam is always a good choice for a near by adventure.

Argyle Lake State Park

Justin Sievert at Argyle Lake State Park in both the winter and the spring.

This state park is also quite close to Quincy.  It’s just outside of Colchester, IL, and is one of the area’s best-kept secrets.  The park features nice amenities including nice spots to camp and the hiking trails make different loops around and near the lake.  There have been several improvements to the park lately, including the addition of stairs on parts of the trail that were in areas that are steep and can wash out in the rain.  There is also a self-guided interpretative trail near the lake with info-graphics that describe the lake ecosystem. I love a good info-graphic!  This park is also one of the few in the area with designated mountain biking trails for the intrepid weekend warrior!

Sand Ridge State Forest

At 7,200 acres Sand Ridge is the largest state park in Illinois. It’s in Forrest City, Illinois, which is in the general vicinity of Peoria.  This park is wholly unique to Illinois.  It is a backpacker’s dream with over 26 miles of trails and 120 miles of fire lanes that can all be explored. There are registered campgrounds as well as rustic backcountry sites that can make this park a real outdoors experience.  The ecosystem of the park is unlike the rest of the state.  Thanks to the receding glaciers of the last ice age dumping millions of tons of sand on the area, as well as a prehistoric dry period in the state’s history, the forest is actually considered temperate desert or “Sand Prairie.”  The unusual make-up of the soil supports plants and animals unseen anywhere else in the state.  There are badgers, pocket gophers, fence lizards, prickly pear cactus, bur oak, and many more unusual species.  The area is also known for its bird life and includes semi-tropical migratory birds like indigo buntings, verry, ovenbirds, and scarlet tanager, along with Illinois game birds like quail, dove and pheasant.

Cuivre River State Park

Question Mark Butterfly at Argyle Lake State Park.

I blogged about this Troy, Missouri park just a few weeks ago, but I just can’t say enough about it.  The trails are great, and the wildlife is even better.  The campsites are nice and flat and all have fire pits and grill covers, and maybe best of all, there are shower facilities that are included when you pay the $12 fee to camp.  Now that it’s warm, the lake and beach will be open.  That means swimming and lounging around to soak up some rays!  The park rents paddleboats and canoes, so there are plenty of ways to beat the heat.  As if all of those things weren’t enough, Ranger Talks start this weekend, and you can listen to the experts tell you more about the wildlife of the park.  Who knows, I may even bring my bike if we go to this park, because the roads through the park also make a lovely ride.

So there you have it.  It’s a good list of options, and now all I need to do is make a choice.  I said this on my first blog, but it’s worth saying again: we live in amazing part of the country.  All that’s asked of us is to “Get Out” and explore it. Have a great weekend everyone!

Links and directions:

Siloam Springs State Park http://tinyurl.com/siloamsprings

Argyle Lake State Park http://tinyurl.com/argylelake

Sand Ridge State Forest: http://tinyurl.com/sandridgeil

Laura Sievert

Cuivre River State Park http://mostateparks.com/park/cuivre-river-state-park

Original Post May 27, 2011

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