Starved Rock State Park: Winter Edition

When I think of states abundant in natural beauty, Illinois isn’t exactly the first one to come to mind. I mean, don’t get me wrong: we at least have more going for us than say, Nebraska, but I don’t think many people come to Illinois to stand in awe of nature.

Since I moved to Chicago, I’ve known I had to visit Starved Rock State Park, as it’s Illinois’ #1 pretty nature thing (unless you’re really into corn fields). Of course, there was the whole “getting to Starved Rock” issue: it’s about an hour and a half drive to the park from Chicago, give or take, and since I don’t have a car, that obviously was a problem. But when my boyfriend, who does have a car, announced that he wanted to go to Starved Rock — well, that solved that pretty quickly.

(I suppose this is as good of a time as any to explain the abundance of flying pigs I imagine you’ve all noticed recently. I, your favorite perpetually single, unluckiest-in-love-as-they-come, I’m-not-bitter-I’m-just-honest [right, sure, whatever you say, Bethany] blogger, have a boyfriend. Surely the second coming is at hand [anyone? Anyone? Raise your hand if you catch the reference!]. We’ve been together for a little over two months and I’ve been hesitant to blog about it because well, this whole “being in a relationship” thing is brand new to me, and I’m still a little jarred by the fact that it’s a thing, because I really, honestly did not think I’d ever have a boyfriend, and putting it on the blog makes it seem so ~serious~. And I’ve been all, “But what if we break up?! How am I going to break that to my readers, whose day-to-day happiness hinges upon the success and/or failure of my love life??” [Right? I assume that’s the case.] [Although I guess if you all know, I can add you to my army of People Who Will Be Expected to Slash My Boyfriend’s Tires Should He Become an Ex-Boyfriend.] Plus this blog has always been about my life, because, welp, there haven’t really been many other lives to include in it except in passing, so…yeah. And while I have been extremely busy at work, this should help explain why I’ve been so busy in life and not particularly eager to set aside free time to blog.

TL;DR: Bethany has a boyfriend. He may appear on the blog from time to time.)

Anyway.

My boyfriend had gotten a group together interested in going to Starved Rock, and while the original plan was to go in March, we ended up going over Valentine’s Day so give us a better chance of seeing frozen waterfalls and to round out our day with the Winter Wine Walk in Utica, the itty bitty town directly across the Illinois River from Starved Rock. After a slightly harrowing drive (it was CRAZY windy on Valentine’s Day, and wide open fields + snow + highway = less-than-ideal driving conditions), we arrived in Starved Rock a bit before noon.

starved rock state park, illinois river, winter

After climbing Starved Rock with the hopes of seeing bald eagles (we saw none there, but did see some later!!), we headed into the woods for the 1.3-mile hike to Wildcat Canyon. Most of the hike there was nothing particular to write home about — unsurprisingly, it looked a lot like walking through the woods in winter. BUT THEN.

starved rock state park, illinois, winter

OH. EM. GEE.

starved rock state park, illinois, winter, wildcat canyon

You guys. The whole “frozen waterfall” thing sounded all right to me until we actually got to the bottom of the canyon, at which point my mind was BLOWN. This was SO. COOL.

starved rock state park, illinois, winter, wildcat canyon

Look at that! Look at those scaly formations! And that giant tower of ICE.

starved rock state park, winter, frozen waterfall, illinois

Oh my gosh. If you live in or near Illinois and have access to a car, you MUST go to Starved Rock in the winter. Must, must, must. I wouldn’t usually describe myself as the hiking/outdoorsy type–but this was one bajazillion and a half percent worthwhile. I was absolutely giddy over the scene. Frozen waterfalls!! FROZEN. WATERFALLS.

starved rock state park, winter, frozen waterfall, woods in winter, woods, illinois

Gahhhhhhhhhhhhh.

We ooh-ed and ahh-ed for quite some time, and then headed back to our cars to make the quick trip into Utica for the Winter Wine Walk.

winterwinewalk

Now, I will be the first to admit that wine is not my thing. (Okay, fine: alcohol really is not my thing just kind of in general, unless it doesn’t taste like alcohol.) I planned to do the walking portion of the wine walk and abstain entirely from drinking, but since I was there, and there were all these wineries there…I tried some wine. And lo and behold, I found wines that I can tolerate. (Spoiler: none of them taste like wine. Haha.) The Caramel Apple white wine from August Hill Winery in particular was BOMB. I assumed it’d be like all those other things that are called one thing but taste like what they actually are (I’m looking at you, every coffee drink ever), but nope. This legit tasted like caramel apples, and it was delicious.

For whatever reason, I’ve lately found that even toeing the line between tipsy and more-than-tipsy leaves me feeling like absolute crap the next day (what the actual eff. I am 24 years old. I’m not even 24 and a half. I feel like I am WAY too young to have miserable hangovers every. single. time. I have even the tiniest bit more than one drink), so I had no intentions of going crazy on this wine walk, and I definitely did not. Hooray sobriety! Haha. I did, however, go crazy when we came to the one place I had wanted to visit all day:

twogirlsandacupcake

Cupcake. Shop. Why on earth a town of 1,400 needs a cupcake shop is beyond me, but I am not at all complaining. I am more than happy to turn down alcohol, but dessert? Never. (Except during Lent.) (Or taper…in theory. Haha.) We walked out with a dozen of these beauties to split among the eight of us on the trip, and my oh my. If the frozen waterfalls didn’t make this trip 100% worth it, these cupcakes certainly did.

To make things simple, we spent the night in Peru (the next town over from Utica) and came back to the city on Sunday morning, but Starved Rock could make a super easy day trip from Chicago as well. It was SUCH a cool place to go visit and made for an awesome weekend 🙂

Have you ever been to Starved Rock?

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14 thoughts on “Starved Rock State Park: Winter Edition

  1. We are so the same. I didn’t want to mention a relationship either because I was afraid of what would happen if things ended. I didn’t believe myself that it was “serious” until probably 5 months in. It took me 4 months for my friends to convince me (or me convince myself) that he wasn’t going to disappear. I didn’t want to mention it on my blog until I knew it was a long-term thing because then it’s awkward when things don’t work out. But at some point, your lives become intertwined and you can’t avoid it anymore. To me that’s crazy because I’m also the perpetually single one who never had a boyfriend and suddenly I’m the one in the relationship out of my group of friends. Anyways, this looks amazing and yes, I would absolutely turn down alcohol and feel like crap the next day when I drink enough to get tipsy (about as far as I’ve ever let myself go). But cake/any kind of dessert? Never. I have a second stomach for all things sugar.

    • It’s so nice to have someone who gets it. You’ve made me feel less crazy 🙂 I spent a lot (A. LOT.) of last year going out on first dates with a lot (A. LOT.) of different guys (another post for another day…), and generally speaking, I never heard from them ever again after we went out. My mom was SO surprised when I told her this, but it’s like, there’s only so many times you can say, “Went out with another guy today. Will never speak to him again.” You know? I’m not a dating blogger, so obviously that wasn’t something I wanted to chronicle on here as it was happening. But I got so used to that go-on-a-first-date-never-speak-again pattern that having something that stuck was really unexpected (though certainly in a good way!). I’ve been afraid of jinxing it, too — it took me over a month to tell my parents, and then another month to mention it at all on here, clearly — because I’ve been scared that as soon as I brought it up to too many people, it’d end, and then I’d have to go to THAT many more people with my tail between my legs and been all, “JK. Bethany’s single and bitter again.” Haha. But I think (or at least I certainly hope…) life doesn’t actually work like that, and sharing good news with people instead of keeping it to yourself doesn’t mean it’s going to all evaporate. (…but I’m still going to knock on wood just to be safe 😉 ).

  2. Starved Rock is the best!!! I know I already said that but really, it’s such a cool place to visit in Illinois because it feels so….not Illinois-like haha. The photos are astounding and absolutely beautiful! And to go with your NEW BF too awww ❤ I'm so happy for you!! Wishing you two all the very very best 🙂 You're now my single-girl-no-more inspiration.

  3. I wondered if I had missed out on something before when you mentioned the boyfriend in this post! Fun! How did you guys meet?

    I have not been to Starved Rock but plan to! It looks like it’s gorgeous, year round!

    Also, I don’t care for alcohol much either (unless like you, it doesn’t taste like it) and feel crummy after a glass. I wonder if that means I need to build up a tolerance… but why build up a tolerance for something you don’t enjoy? Ha ha.

    • Ha, nope! Hadn’t missed anything at all — I’ve just been holding out on everyone 😛 How we met is kind of a long story, but the short version is we met at Brooklyn Boulders’s grand opening in December 🙂

      I’ve wondered the same thing: if I just haven’t built up any sort of tolerance to alcohol because I drink so infrequently, and when I do I generally drink so little. But goodness gracious, if building up a tolerance is going to involve multiple days lost to feeling like absolute crap, I think I’d rather just keep my tolerance low and leave more alcohol for those who will actually enjoy it haha.

  4. Yay boyfriend 🙂 Is the boy I’ve met or another boy?

    The frozen waterfall is beautiful and this sounds like a super fun weekend! And if you found wine you can drink I bet it’s wine Jason would drink, too. He typically hates wine 🙂 Maybe I can convince him it’s worth the trip and the whole being outside thing.

    • Another boy 🙂 Though, funnily enough, another boy who also does photography on the side. Haha.

      You and Jason should definitely make a weekend trip out of this! I bet you’d have a blast. And that place where we got the Caramel Apple wine actually has a permanent tasting room in Utica, so you’d be able to get their wine even though it wouldn’t be wine walk weekend 🙂

  5. Ooooh, how exciting to hear about the new boyfriend! Like Kim, I was wondering if I missed something when I first started reading your post. He sounds like a keeper based on your shared interests! Love the gorgeous pictures of Starved Rock. I once went there with my parents when I was in grade school. I was too young to appreciate it back then. I definitely need to get back again as an adult!!! Note to self on the cupcake shop, too. 😉

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