Several weeks ago, Nicholas took some time off of work, and our little family planned a few semi-local adventures. One was our day trip up to Michigan, and another was a first "real" hiking experience for Cooper at Starved Rock State Park. My SIL, Katelyn, had wanted to visit this particular park for some time, and as it was on our short bucket list of summery activities, we added it to the week's activities. It's quite the drive for a day trip (resulting in 4.5 hours in the car, all told, with Chicago traffic), so it took some planning and intention to make it happen. But I'm so glad we went.

We left mid-morning, and upon arriving, picked up a park map and ate our packed lunches at a picnic table. The park's main attraction (for us) is its canyons. Several hiking trails and boardwalk staircases wind in and around them, all along the river. We chose a route, and started hiking. With any new experience, we talk through it with Cooper, this being no different. He kept saying, "Are we hiking?" "I'm hiking."

All said and done, we hiked close to five miles, with Cooper walking nearly four(!) of those. We did try our carrier for a bit, and he needed us to carry him a few times when he needed a break. He examined fallen acorns and said hi to fellow hikers, drank water, and ate snacks, pointed out and waved at every dog we passed, and honestly did so well for a two-year-old. All those steps wore me out.


We loved the park, particularly the canyon segments on the hikes. For a future visit, we'd concentrate as much of our hiking quota on those trails. So incredible to see such unique scenery not too far from our home. I would highly recommend the park.

I spent so much time in my childhood camping, hiking, and visiting State and National Parks with my parents and brother, and so it felt extra special to share that with Cooper and go on a first "real hike."

In the car on the drizzly drive home, in the very few minutes before he fell asleep, Cooper said, "Go hiking 'gain?" You've got it, buddy. We will definitely go hiking with you many, many more times.