Pere Marquette State Park - camping & hiking

  This weekend I finally took my first step towards doing something more than hiking. A friend (who is much more experienced in camping and backpacking than I am) and I drove into Illinois to Pere Marquette State Park. Our plan was to camp overnight on Friday and then pack up and do a day of hiking. A few experiences in car camping should give me an introduction before I start trying to backpack. I haven't done any camping except for one night camping for a float trip, and girl scout camp when I was a child (though I slept in A-frames for that).

We arrived later than planned, so after driving to the campsite (which was busy but not overcrowded) we had to use my car lights and headlamps to set up camp. Having only set up the tent (which I borrowed from my father) once, in a living room, this was a challenge, but I got it done. Then we built a fire in the fire pit, which was difficult with the wind but we got a pretty good sized fire going, and made s'mores. Don't judge, I hadn't had them since I was a kid! They were delicious! After the fire was out and dead, I got in some AMAZING star gazing. It was more stars than I've seen in a long time, and it was mesmerizing. I could have stayed out there all night, it was so clear and the stars were so bright. But instead I laid out my father's Therm-a-rest prolite 3 and sleeping bag  (I had to borrow an outdoors sleeping bag from the friend I was with) wearing plenty of layers and a hat and fell asleep.

Aside from an absolutely terrible sinus headache that woke me up and kept me awake for about 2 hours that night (thank goodness for the first aid kit with plenty of painkillers stashed inside!), I was warm and cozy despite a drop to about 47 degrees and wind. In the morning, my friend and I built a small fire so we could have coffee and tea, packed up camp, and went to explore the trails.  Camping was amazing. The stars, the feeling of being in my own tent listening to the sounds of the woods as I fall asleep (while there was some noise from the other campsites and nearby RV campsite, the noise died down at a fairly reasonable hour), I just loved it.

I don't know why I hadn't tried out the trails at Pere Marquette before. They are well marked (the visitor's center has a very helpful map as well) and very well varied as well. We decided to connect a couple different trails to make one of the longest loops we could. We started at the Goat Cliff trail (1.5 miles) which leads mostly up to McAdams Peak, which gave us a beautiful overlook of the River. We then took the Hickory trail (we did a bit less than the full .5 mile it runs) to Hickory North tail (we did a bit less than the full 1 mile it runs), to the longest trail in the park, Fern Hollow (2.5) miles, then back to Hickory South trail (1.5 miles), for probably a total of around 6.5 miles. Parts of the trails were very uphill and more difficult, others were more level. We saw bluffs, rocky areas, wooded secluded areas, with some trails fairly well traveled and other (mostly Fern Hollow) much more secluded. My friend is an avid birder, and she was loving all the birds there were to hear and see. It was a gorgeous hike that we took our time on, stopping for lunch and pictures and snacks.

This was a fantastic first camping experience for me, and I loved the trail system at Pere Marquette. I definitely would do the drive to visit again.

1 comment:

denyse said...

I'm curious, was your campsite in the tent only area and what did you think of it?

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