On Sunday we ran some errands around town and then hit the road for our second hiking trip. A short drive later and we had arrived at our destination, Starved Rock State Park.
Starved Rock sits on the south side of the Illinois river in the center of the state. As with all Illinois parks, there is no entrance fee.
We met up with Grandma and Grandpa just in time to have a picnic lunch. It was a bit chilly outside but the sun sent rays of warmth that had us taking off our jackets later in the day.
After lunch and a few trips to the parking lot and back to get the appropriate baby gear for hiking we set off on our first trail. Baby carriers like the Boba are, in my opinion, essential to hiking with a little one. There were many stairs on the trails and it would have been impractical to take a stroller.
We tried to let Frugal Boy out frequently so he could get some of his wiggles out. The day before he spent too much time in the carrier and by the time we got home, we were exhausted and he was ready to crawl all over us.
The grandparents were happy to keep an eye on him, while I watched a barge go through the lock.
There was plenty of debris caught up by the dam.
Frugal Boy found that he could sit on part of the fence that was just the right height for him.
Eagle Cliff Overlook seemed like a good place to turnaround. A few years back, Shae and I hiked about three miles beyond the overlook and the trails were not as interesting. Perhaps the next time we visit we will try some of the side trails and canyons.
We worked our way back to the visitors center via a roundabout way so we could see French Canyon. The canyon was very icy and the grandparents wisely chose to watch us from afar.
Shae and Frugal Boy turned around when the handrail ended, leaving just me to scratch a bouldering itch.
After some precarious footing, I managed to get a glimpse of the icefall.
The people watching and listening was superb. I especially enjoyed the couple that talked about how they were going to drink the calories that they burned by climbing a big flight of steps. Then on second thought, they decided that the steps looked to daunting and they were just going to go drink instead. Clothing choices were also interesting. 😉
Back at the river front we threw leaves and sticks in. It’s not like it isn’t already imprinted in little boy DNA, right?
We tried to get a good picture of the grandparents and grandson, but Frugal Boy wasn’t very cooperative.
18 photos and this was the best one :-\
Shae and I thought about putting a little jar or box next to this cute hobo. I wonder how much money he would have raised.
It was a fun day and the unseasonably warm weather has left us. We’ll be doing plenty of hikes this year and I am already starting to get the itch to go out and camp. That will definitely have to wait until it gets warmer though!
The last bit of the snow mountain in our backyard has melted after an unusually warm weekend. We crammed as much into the weekend as we could including replacing the brakes on the car and logging almost 10 miles of hiking.
Frugal Boy was sent outside to play more than once and always came back dirtier than he started. Eating mud is a new favorite activity.
All of the fresh air and exercise have been good for him, and some nights he doesn’t even make it to bed.
Our first hike on Saturday was at a little county park. The ground was squishy and it ended up being a pretty good workout even though it was mostly flat. Having an extra 25 pounds on your back also helps work muscles you didn’t know you had.
Some parts of the trail had running water crossing over it so a little intrepid bushwhacking was in order.
Even though it was about 60° out the ponds still had enough ice to support these geese.
I think all of that ice was to blame for partially destroying the fishing dock. It took a little bit of scrambling to get up and down the upheaved floating platform.
Eventually Frugal Boy woke up and it was somebody’s bright idea to give him a new toy.
It was a REALLY good toy.
After finishing the first two mile loop trail, Shae and I switched off so we could do another trail.
What we thought was another loop trail ended up being an out and back. We tried to connect the two ends with a little creative hiking, but were thwarted by a deep stream.
We trekked back to the car with muddy boots and started planning the next day’s grand adventure. Read about it in Part 2 (coming soon). 🙂
Labor Day weekend seemed like an excellent opportunity to get out of the Midwest and do a little traveling. We decided to meet up with family and camp out in West Virginia’s New River Gorge for three nights. It is a full day’s drive for us, and the first extended trip in Frugal Boy’s new car seat (he outgrew his infant seat).
We only have a three day supply of cloth diapers and the total trip duration was six days, so we had to break out our emergency supply of disposable diapers. It was weird seeing Frugal Boy in paper diapers.
With the car all packed up we took off on Thursday morning and by the afternoon we arrived at our first destination, the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Gardens.
Second oldest zoo in the country.
Frugal Boy’s cousin loved the giraffes, so we walked over to check them out and see if he had the same reaction.
The giraffes were a strike out, but would the lions be more fascinating?
Lions are just as boring as giraffes apparently
What about the African painted dogs?
Either in deep thought or completely tuned out
Okay, so the zoo was kind of a bust in terms of exposing Frugal Boy to some biodiversity. It is a nice zoo and if you are passing through the area or live nearby it is probably worth a stop.
Leaving the zoo behind, we navigated our way to the outskirts of Cincinnati and to a motel. Seeing the room doors open out to the street stirred many memories of childhood road trips and some real dives that I stayed at growing up. On the plus side, these types of establishments are generally pretty cheap.
easy come, easy go
Using Yelp, we checked out the nearby eateries to find something tasty for dinner. It wasn’t long before we were satiating our appetite at a nearby grill.
Food & Sleep!
The next morning we needed to cross over the Ohio river and complete our drive to West Virginia. Instead of taking the fastest, most direct route, we opted to drive along the scenic byway and take in some of the river valley sights.
neat bridge spanning the Ohio river
Welcome to Kentucky!
After connecting back up with the interstate we had to make a pit stop to stretch our legs and play.
It wasn’t long before we crossed into West Virginia and sped past the capitol in Charleston.
We rolled into Army Camp (campground) around 2:30 on Friday. Army Camp is so named because in the 50s(?) the United States Army had a small training grounds set up there to practice building pontoon bridges. The army is long gone and now the area has been converted into a campground by the National Park Service.
Setting up “home” for the next three nights
Frugal Boy helped supervise.
One of the perks of traveling with a baby is that it is incredibly easy to meet people. As we waited for my brother and his girlfriend to arrive we had a long chat with the couple camping next to us in an RV. Apparently they had been camping there for the past two months and were locals to the area. Not only is socializing a good way to pass the time, it can be invaluable for information, and provided some genuine local flavor to our whole trip.
It was late in the afternoon, and we all needed a rest, especially Frugal Boy.
sweaty and tired
Later that evening, our campsite companions returned from their own day’s adventures. Frugal Boy wasted no time in making acquiantances.
gentle is not in Frugal Boy’s vocabulary
Thankfully, his new friend was good natured.
All in all, we had four tents set up for four families. This wasn’t even a full reunion!!
Late that night, the occupants of the blue tents arrived. In the morning we could say proper hellos. Frugal Boy’s cousin took to camping like a fish to water.
Meanwhile, Frugal Boy was getting tips from his Aunt on how to be a male model.
Once everyone was dressed and fed, we loaded up in the cars and drove to Thurmond. Thurmond is an abandoned coal town (West Virginia is well known for its coal mining industry). The town and old train depot are now managed by the National Park Service.
The bridge in the background spans the New River and by far the most popular activity in New River Gorge is water sports. Kayaking, rafting, and tubing are all common sights.
kayakers shoot the rapids
After soaking up some history, we went to the visitors center for a picnic lunch.
A short boardwalk later and you have an impressive view of an iconic bridge.
According to the information sign, you can fit the Washington monument and two statue of liberties stacked one on top of the other and still have a few feet of clearance. It is the tallest bridge in America.
After driving back to camp it was time for some water fun, but first we needed to play with some bubbles.
bubbles are amazing!
Army Camp is situated in a bend of the New River and has a public access beach that is suitable for toddlers. There are also some class 1-2 rapids that you can easily tube down.
Waiting for the ladies to shoot the rapids
On Sunday, we played in the river some more and two of my brothers and myself took an extended tubing trip. That afternoon we all went to the local pizza joint, Pies and Pints, for some tasty specialty pizzas.
Mmmmm, grape pizza
With our stomachs (overly)full we decided a hike was in order and proceeded to Kaymoor Mine. Kaymoor mine is another abandoned coal mine that is now under the stewardship of the NPS.
Mining is brutally hard and dangerous work. Due to the fragility of the mine shafts, the height of the passages were limited to just three feet tall. I cannot even begin to imagine working all day stooped over.
By the time we got back to our campsite it was raining and dark so we called it an early night. The next day it was time to pack up and head home! We only made it across the bridge and around the bend (essentially the opposite bank from the campground) when we had to stop for a poopy diaper. The view of the river was stunning though and I am glad we stopped.
New River in the Smoky Mountains
We did the entire drive back on Monday so we could spend all of Tuesday recovering and cleaning up. We had a great time and the trip was relatively inexpensive. Frugal Boy got to add two more states to his list and is turning into a well accomplished traveler.
This past weekend we loaded up Frugal Boy in the car and visited family in Kentucky.
It’s nice having some cousins his age because it lets us parents share supplies and advice. Thanks Aunt Sarah for looking after Frugal Boy for awhile!
Here is a slightly younger cousin.
I keep trying to turn Frugal Boy into a water baby, but he still hasn’t gotten excited about pools.
Visiting family means a whole new set of toys to play with. The Little Mermaid was a short distraction.
The audience grew
and grew some more!
Frugal Boy lost the somber competition.
but he did score some Grandma time.
The drive there and back was pretty good (even better than the trip to Missouri). Frugal Boy had some new toys to keep him entertained. The string on this clip was almost as good as the pacifier itself.
Who needs a cuddly teddy bear when you can hold a stainless steel water bottle?
Thanks to all of our family members that made food and entertained Frugal Boy. It was a nice break from the daily grind!