Secret Parks and a Mystery Track

Looking for a campground a half-day’s drive from Elkhart, I happened across the description for Hickory Hollows in Utica, Illinois. They take Good Sam and Passport America, and happened to have an open site for the Memorial Day weekend, so we booked it for a week. The description mentioned a state park nearby where we could hike but we’ve seen those before — and the trail usually turns out to be a dinky little trail that goes an eighth of a mile around the perimeter of the park or something.

Not this time! I swear the people of Illinois are keeping their state parks a secret to the rest of us (okay, maybe WE just haven’t heard about them) — what a beautiful spot! Starved Rock State Park sits along the (currently flooded) Illinois River, where 13 miles of trails wind up and around bluffs and into canyons where waterfalls drop spring runoff and summer rains. We hiked this park three days, bicycled the nearby canal trail the next two days, and left the locals scratching their heads over what kind of tree is blooming so madly and sweetly along the bridge over the river.


The park has several canyons, many of them still spilling water into falls even now. Views of the Illinois River gave us a chance to watch the barges and tugs move at what seemed a pretty quick pace through the water, and we caught glimpses of fast-flying birds  — cliff swallows, I think; they were too fast to photograph or even to catch distinctive marks.

Along with great scenery came a couple of real mysteries. First mystery — the track! What does it look like to you?


After too many hours on the Internet trying to identify this paw print, I concluded that it could be:

a) wolf

b) coyote

c) big dog

Apparently, the distinctions in the tracks these leave are very easily confused and still under debate. Most likely, it’s a dog print (I remember passing a couple with a large Saint Bernard on the trail). Least likely is a wolf. So I’ll land in the middle and say I hope it was a coyote track.

What do you say?

About Ellen

Fiction writer and photographer, I travel the country with my sweetheart of a husband as a "full-time RVer."
This entry was posted in and Critters in General, Attractions, Hiking, RV Parks & Lifestyle and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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