Starved Rock and Nodding Onion

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The problem with starting an entry and forgetting to finish it is, information and memory slippage sets in and without your notes (which mysteriously ended up in the trash on the day the cleaning ladies visited) you can’t make the considered entry you intended.  Oh well.  This is what I started, which I will now try to finish. It won’t be as good or detailed as it would have been if I’d managed to do this when I meant to.  Eh.

On Easter Sunday I went to the Cathedral of The Great Outdoors for a hike with my friend Susan, who is visiting from California on a teaching residency.  We drove 90 minutes southwest to Utica, IL, a town of 1,000 which sits, amongst grain elevators, on the Illinois River.  Across the Illinois is a large state park that runs for some miles along the river and inland, featuring a series of sandstone bluffs and outcroppings, small canyons and waterfalls, forested paths, tiny riverbank coves, and a lot of stairs.  Yes, stairs. It is a state park after all.  It being early spring, the forest floor was carpeted in some areas with new green growth and purple and white wildflowers. Susan dubbed the shade of pale dots of color on the tree branches “Early Green,” which we later revised to “Early Spring.”  We walked and climbed for two hours and covered close to four miles in the interior route (passing through canyons and gazing down steep, stony gullies) and the exterior river path.  Mud.  We spied a nuthatch, numerous squirrels, a hawk, and what we believe was a bald eagle in the distant sky, eagles having returned to the region to nest in the bluffs.  The park is dog-friendly, which afforded many canine encounters including Esther and Sylvia, a pair of enormous golden retrievers who loved climbing the hills about as much as we did.  Well.  Knees are knees, after all.

I recommend a post-hike immersion into local culture at The Nodding Onion in Utica.  We arrived as most of the after-church crowd was leaving and enjoyed dinner for $12.99 apiece.  Susan had the leg of lamb, I had the ham.  There were some carrots and roasted potatoes too, and as I recall salads that did not involve iceberg lettuce.  The culinary highlight of the meal was the apple crumb pie a la mode, which we split.  As we exited for the drive back to Chicago, large raindrops began to fall.  One of us said to the other, I forget who to whom, “good timing.”

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