Flashback Funday: Kankakee River State Park

Saturday, May 21 was a warm and sunny day. I know from my three years on Earth that you don’t always get nice days in May. And when that nice day in May is also on a Saturday, you have to get outside and play! You definitely can’t sit around in the house all day.  It was time to figure out where to go today!

"Let's get out there and explore!"
“Let’s get out there and explore!”

We don’t usually plan our adventures in advance, preferring a more spontaneous modus operandi. You never know what kind of fun you’ll get into that way! Besides, Levi and I like to be surprised. We like living in the moment! After some Internet research and some discussion between MaMa and Pops, we agreed to check out the Kankakee River State Park, in Bourbonnais, IL.

Since we all knew the drill for a day trip, it didn’t take long for us to get in the car and be ready for the quick ride down to the park, which is located in both Will and Kankakee counties.  It’s 4,000 acres in size, so it’s no wonder it’s located in two counties. One just couldn’t contain it!

"Let's blow this pop stand!"
“Let’s blow this pop stand!”
"Come on already, geesh!"
I’m always ready first!

The car ride to a new destination is always filled with excitement and anticipation. Levi is usually whining and crying out, ‘Are we there yet? Are we there yet?!?’ He actually starts that up about 3 minutes after we leave the house. He isn’t much for delayed gratification. I happen to love the car ride. Probably because I get to sit up front on MaMa’s lap. That’s definitely one of the advantages of being a small dog!

Riding in the lap of luxury!
Riding in the lap of luxury!

The surroundings where the park is located was home to a number of different Native American tribes, including the Illini, Miami, Kickapoo, Mascouten, Chippewa and Potawatomi between the 1670’s and the 1830’s. After 1832, when the Potawatomi ceded their land along the Kankakee and Illinois Rivers to the United States, most of the Native Americans left the area. It was eventually settled by a group of French Canadian fur traders. Later in the 19th century, an amusement park opened, which drew crowds from Chicago until it closed in 1920. After that, it became a popular location for summer cottages. The area along the Kankakee River became a park in the 1930’s when 35 acres of land was donated by Ethel Sturges Dummer, a Chicago area philanthropist. The rest of the land was donated later by Commonwealth Edison.

Since the park is so big, and encompasses land on both sides of the river, we had no idea what we would find when we got there. MaMa had read about a number of different trails, including a three mile trail along a tributary of Kankakee River, called Rock Creek. That trail goes through a gorge along cliffs! We didn’t end up on that trail though, mostly because we had no idea how to find it! Maybe next time we go, we will do a little bit more planning, because those cliffs sound exciting!

Instead we ended up walking on a trail that ran right along the river, which was also pretty cool! There were a lot of great river smells!

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Remember to watch your step!

Along with the interesting smells there were plenty of cool things to check out. You just have to be careful walking around though, because lots of people fish along the river, and at one point, I got caught up in some fishing line! Luckily MaMa got me untangled, and after that I was more cautious about where I put my feet.

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"I wonder if they've got any fish in that boat?!"
“I wonder if they’ve got any fish in that boat?!”

Since it was such a pretty day, Levi and I insisted on sitting for a photo shoot. The backdrop of the trees and the river just couldn’t be beat!

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Levi worked all of his angles that day! BOL!!

The day soon turned from warm to really warm, and we decided to find a place to sit in the shade. Luckily there are lots of trees and shady places to sit near the river, because after exploring, sitting is my favorite thing to do!

"This spot looks like a good place for a sit."
“This spot looks like a good place for a sit.”

When it was time to venture a little further along the river, I decided it was too hot to walk, and that’s when I got to go for a ride in my Outward Hound dog sack! It is the perfect size for me to sit and relax with my little head hanging out, while MaMa does all the work!

"Does she always have to be so embarrassing? Ugh?!"
“Does she always have to be so embarrassing? Ugh?!”

Considering the park is 4,000 acres and we only walked about one mile before turning around and going back, we will definitely need to visit the Kankakee River State Park on another day. The gorge and cliffs sound really cool, and I bet that we’d get some pretty neat pictures there too! But until then, pictures of Levi and I enjoying the area along the river will just have to do.

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My overall assessment of that park is…more information is needed, so we will be back! Knowing how much more there is to see there is reason enough for us to make a return trip.

Route 66 Road Trip: The End of the Tail

It was day three of our Route 66 road trip and it was time to head home. We had done so much, and seen so many cool and iconic attractions! I had been to parts of the country I would have never imagined I would visit when I was living as a tobacco shop pup, chained up all day, kept in a crate at night, and only taken out for quick walks to do my business, never allowed to explore or go on adventures.

And here I was now, just a little more than a year after MaMa rescued me, waking up in a motel room in Missouri! Not only that, but I had just been taken on a road trip down a portion of the most famous road in America. How appropriate that I had been down the Mother Road with my MaMa (and brother and Pops)!

Where am I? Oh yeah, Missouri!
Where am I? Oh yeah, Missouri!

After Pop loaded up the car and we got on the road to head home, I looked at Levi and I could see he was sad that our short vacation was over. It turned out that he liked having a travel buddy to share adventures with, and he, like I, didn’t want our road trip to end!

Levi was sad that our road trip had to end.
Levi was sad that our road trip had to end.

Just as Levi and I were lamenting the end of our adventure and dreading the long and boring drive back on Interstates 44 (Missouri) and 55 (Illinois), we heard MaMa and Pop in the front seat discussing possible places to stop on the way home! They weren’t planning anymore Route 66 stops, but instead were looking for parks or natural areas we could stop at close to the highway. MaMa remembered reading about a lake in Litchfield, Ill.  She didn’t have much information, but experienced explorers (like I was becoming) know that sometimes the less you know about a place, the greater the adventure!

So, homeward we progressed, but knowing we had at least one fun place to stop on the way made the prospect of vacation ending a little less bittersweet.

When we arrived in Litchfield, we drove around a bit aimlessly until we saw a sign for a Lake Lou Yaeger boat launch. That sounded promising and turned out to be a pretty place to hang out and enjoy the lake view for a while.  MaMa and I sat and enjoyed looking at the lake, while Pop took pictures and Levi checked out the grass!

We all relax in different ways!
We all relax in different ways!
Levi Pitboxer loves rolling in the grass any chance he gets!
Levi Pitboxer loves rolling in the grass any chance he gets!
This IS the life!
This IS the life!
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Levi finally got up and took a look around.
I have a great view from up there!
I have a great view from up here!
Pretty place for a family photo.
Pretty place for a family photo.
One last look around before getting back on the road.
One last look around before getting back on the road.

After enjoying the lake and stretching our legs, it was time to hit the road again and get a little bit closer to home before making another stop. MaMa drove this leg of the trip, so Pops was left in charge of finding the next place to stop. Lucky for us, he is excellent at finding places to explore! He found a great place to stop called the Railsplitter State Park (also known as the Edward R. Madigan State Fish & Wildlife Area) along Salt Creek in Lincoln, Ill., just 30 minutes north of Springfield on I-55.

We found a nice trail right along the creek and did some exploring in the woods. Some of our favorite adventures are in the forest, with all of the trees, and other plants to smell and this one had a creek for even more sensory pleasures!

Levi loved checking out the creek!
Levi loved checking out the creek!
There is so much to check out!
There is so much to check out!
I wanted to see what was going on too!
I wanted to see what was going on too!
Enough of that, let's check out the rest of this place.
Enough of that, let’s check out the rest of this place.
Let's see where this trail heads.
Let’s see where this trail heads.

We took our time at this park because it was the last stop before heading home, and none of us wanted our little adventure to end. To think, it had all started just because MaMa watched the movie, Cars by herself one night and decided that Route 66 looked like something that would be fun and interactive for our mixed species family. And she wasn’t wrong, as it definitely offered adventure for both humans and canines alike. Something else our little trip did was convince MaMa that we are all meant to travel together! Knowing how well Levi and I behave on road trips allowed her and Pop to plan other trips that we’ve taken since this epic journey down the Mother Road. I hope you will take those trips with us as well as I relive them in future blogs.

Looking forward to our next trip. Thanks for the memories Route 66!
Looking forward to our next trip. Thanks for the memories Route 66!

Next stop…Arizona here we come!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Route 66 Road Trip: Route 66 State Park

We’d seen a lot of strange things on our Route 66 road trip, including a 30 foot tall astronaut, a six foot long hot dog, and a giant pink elephant, but none of those road side attractions are nearly as interesting as the story behind Route 66 State Park.

If you don’t know the history behind it, and just happen to be stopping by for a trail hike while traveling along the Mother Road, there isn’t much there to visually indicate the tragedy that eventually lead to the creation of Missouri’s newest state park. But MaMa did a bunch of research before we left for our trip, and we knew before arriving that the park happens to be located on the former site of Times Beach, an unlucky town just 17 miles west of St. Louis, originally founded as a summer resort destination in 1925 on the banks of the Meramec River.

Because of the Great Depression, Times Beach didn’t survive as a resort town, but did eventually become a lower-middle class city, and home to approximately 2,000 residents. In 1972 the town, who’s only paved street was Route 66, hired Russell Bliss, a waste hauler, to oil down the dirt roads, in an effort to control a dust problem. What they didn’t know is he was using oil that was contaminated with Dioxin, a highly toxic by-product, found in waste that Bliss was hauling for the Northeastern Pharmaceutical and Chemical Company, the producer of Agent Orange during the Vietnam War!

When local horses began dying in stables where the same oil had been sprayed by Bliss, an investigation was begun by the EPA, and eventually the Federal Government bought out the entire town in 1983, and all residents were evacuated in 1985. In 1996-1997, the government removed nearly 300,000 tons of contaminated soil and debris from the site, and everything was incinerated. After that, the 419-acre site was turned over to the State of Missouri, who turned the former town into the Route 66 State Park, which opened in 1999.

I told you it was in interesting story!

Our visit to the park was peaceful and not nearly as intriguing as the story behind the creation of this state park. I was pretty worn out from all of the previous activities from this day and the day before, that I made MaMa carry me for a large chunk of our walk! (This happens a lot, and now you know why they bought a carrier for me!)

looking back G
The view is nice from up here!
Carry G
I think I’ll take a nap now!
GiGi MaMa Close up
You can see Pop and Levi in MaMa’s glasses!

While walking we found ourselves under the Route 66 Bridge, which was built in 1932 and crosses the Meramec River. Because of wear and deterioration, the bridge has been closed down for a number of years to all traffic, including pedestrian. There is a group trying to restore it, but if they don’t raise enough money by the end of this year, it will be demolished in 2017. I’m sure glad we got to see it, and hope the group is successful. Here is a link to their go fund me page, if you are interested in making a donation to save this landmark.

Levi Bridge
Levi gazing up at the Route 66 State Park Bridge.
G and L Bridge
Route 66 State Park Bridge

All in all, we had a great time at the park and were grateful for a nice time to enjoy nature, and are extremely happy that something so beautiful was made out of something so tragic!