Winter Camping: Starved Rock State Park

The polar vortices came, we hunkered down, but when they momentarily left, we took the opportunity a few weekends ago to head over to Starved Rock State Park to see some bald eagles and do some winter camping as a family.

The weather turned out to be quite warm, enough to soften the snow and thin the ice, but the waterfalls we’ve come to love in Spring were now icefalls, simply gorgeous. We hiked three new-to-us canyons this time, with the kids taking every opportunity to scamper up side paths, glissade down hills, and generally enjoy themselves immensely. There were a few moments of grumpiness as we hiked, nothing that couldn’t be overcome with trail mix.

This was the first time for us to plan a winter camping (we didn’t expect our trip over Thanksgiving to the Garden of the Gods to be so cold) and though we thought we had it all planned out, adventure happened.

No problems setting up the tent, besides the ground being so frozen we couldn’t get the stakes in completely (note to self: research how to stake a tent in frozen ground).

Dinner was good, though what seemed like a huge amount of mac ‘n’ cheese seemed woefully inadequate after a few hours of hiking. Post-S’Mores, it was time for bed.

After the Thanksgiving trip, I had bought a tent heater in order to make the cold more bearable (a necessity for the family to come along with me again), but it turned out I had miscalculated how much time each propane canister would give us – partway through the night, no more heat. I had one canister left, so after a few hours of cold, I turned the heat back on, turned it off for a few more hours, then re-lit it as everyone got up. Not ideal, but workable.

After a breakfast of sausage, blinis, blueberry syrup (aaaah, the joys of car camping), along with coffee and hot cocoa, it was time to pack up and head home. Car packed, we’re ready to go and…..nothing. The car wouldn’t start. We covered up the engine with some blankets, waited a bit, but still nothing. Come on, AAA.

Our helper showed up, jumped the car and no more worries, we were headed home. Mini fiascoes, beautiful scenery, and a weekend of family fun – minus the problems, hopefully we’ll have many more to come.

More winter camping: solo, Garden of the Gods, Illinois Beach State Park.

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