one more day of hiking

by grace on May 2, 2016

as i said, we didn’t intend to hike much on thursday because we were a little beat from wednesday.

we drove over to the parking lot for st. louis canyon, so we didn’t have to hike over there. it looked like the canyon was right off the parking lot.  but when we got to the road to the parking lot, it was closed, so we had to walk to get to the parking lot.  we found out why as we walked – the road was filled with crazy giant potholes.

it wasn’t a bad walk, though, and it was a beautiful morning.

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this must not be such a popular place, because we saw almost no litter.  plus there was only one other couple with a nice dog.


we didn’t have to climb over too many streams, either.


so it was almost a mile and a half round trip, a nice little hike.  we stopped at the visitors’ center on the way back to the lodge, and kevin bought me a great book about day hikes in illinois.  hopefully we’ll take one of them very soon, maybe even this week.

we went back to the lodge to check out, and here are the tiny housefinches in a big cage in the lobby.  they’re the only birds that only live domestically, never in the wild, says kevin.  he also said they might originate from china.  i literally just got up this morning, so i don’t even have the energy to look it up.  so let’s just go with his story.




i hadn’t looked up and noticed these big sleds until we were about to leave.


we were going back to the salt cave in ottowa, and i suggested that we stop and look at another canyon which was right on the way.

we met a couple with this bernese mountain dog as we walked toward Ottowa Canyon, one of the furthest from the lodge.  this dog was so small compared to jill’s giant puppies – she said that females don’t get so giant.

this was a rescue bernese!  a very good dog, but the couple said she had some anxiety being out in the wild.


this was called Council Overhang, and kevin surmised that indians must have gathered here under the shelter.  as we walked by, an old guy dressed in old timey attire was sitting on a rock.  he carried some kind of old gun – a musket?  a carbine?  a smootbore? and the gentleman said they were shooting a movie.  a young guy with lots of camera equipment was scurrying around nearby.


we finally made it to the waterfall after lots of scrambling around.


there were two waterfalls near each other, but somehow we missed the path for the adjoining one, and by the time we realized it, we didn’t want to go back and find it.  we walked on a very very muddy path to reach illinois canyon, which somebody at the visitor’s center was filled with bluebells.

she was right.


we kept debating about continuing on the path, because we’d been hiking more than we thought we would, but we just kept walking.  it was very remote and pretty here.




but there were more little streams to cross than there had been in all our other hiking.  at one point, kevin even lost his balance a little and his foot went right down into the water.  that’s very tricky walking.


we saw these pretty little flowers and didn’t know what they were, and then, when i went mushroom-hunting this past friday with jill, we saw more of them.  on saturday, amy and i went to an awesome illinois native plant sale at the fairgrounds, and a woman had one that was yellow.  it’s called a trillium!  i was happy to find out the name, and i hope to get some sometime.


after about an hour and a half of hiking, we finally made our muddy back to the car.

we headed over to the fantastic Salt Tree Yoga, because we wanted to go in the Salt Cave.  we were so happy to settle into anti-gravity chairs in the cave, and had a very enjoyable, peaceful 45 minutes of listening to soothing music, enjoying the total relaxation.

this is a very long description here, but the place was just so cool…

Remove yourself from environmental pollution, technology, and the constant commotion of everyday life. Walk through our Tree door into a Himalayan salt-filled oasis. Relax in the centuries-old European tradition of dry salt therapy. Absorb the healing benefits of the 84 minerals contained in the 5 tons of pink Himalayan salt on the floor and walls of our salt cave, which help purify and balance your body. Breathe in the cleansing and anti-inflammatory effects of pure, dry therapeutic-grade salt produced from our salt generator. Halotherapy, or dry salt therapy, is a natural way to cleanse and detoxify your skin and lungs. It works well as a complimentary treatment with traditional medicine or as an alternative treatment under the guidance of your physician. Always consult with your physician(s) before discontinuing any medications or prescribed treatments. We are not medical doctors; we are simply making it possible for you to experience another option that has proven to help people in Europe for many years.

Our salt cave features a Halomed halo (salt) generator which infuses microfine particles of pharmaceutical grade salt into the air, which is breathed deep into the lung cavities to absorb pollen and allergens and enhances the respiratory system’s natural cleansing process. It breaks down mucus in the nasal passages and airways and decreases bacteria and inflammation. 

Dry salt therapy can benefit people with respiratory issues such as allergies, asthma, sinusitis, smoker’s cough, stress & fatigue.  It can expand the airways for increased oxygen flow and capacity to enhance athletic performance and endurance, and enable better recovery time from physical activity and stress.  The salt from the generator settles on the skin and is good for skin conditions such as: psoriasis, eczema, swelling & inflammation, dry & flaky skin, acne, rashes, poison ivy, and rosacea. As is true in many alternative therapies to boost and regain health, everyone responds differently. Dry salt therapy works best if experienced on a regular basis, just like a fitness regimen only helps if we keep it up. In most cases, several weeks of 2-4 sessions a week can alleviate the worst of symptoms, followed by maintenance visits of once every week or two, depending on your symptoms. Allergies are different for everyone, and seasons change for each individual. Most of all, a session in our salt cave helps the body relax, return to the parasympathetic (resting) state, re-balancing the nervous system and increasing overall sense of wellbeing.

I know, it sounds too good to be true, but i must say that if we leaved nearby, i’d go there regularly.  when we walked int the salt cave we were tired and sore, but when we emerged, we realized that we were both totally mellow and happy and didn’t ache anymore at all.  fantastic.  go there. plus it’s only 25 bucks for a session!  a steal.

we bought a bunch of great stuff in the shop, including  a salt lamp and other nice things, and then went back to didoughs pretzels for another great sandwich.

a lovely trip altogether.

so, kevin has finally started WRITING ON HIS BLOG AGAIN, and in the post he just wrote, he included these posts of mine about our trip, and said that we’re planning another trip to the park, but i reminded him that we’re not planning it, it is already planned!  there’s another workshop in september, i booked us a room at the lodge, and i look forward to the whole thing again.  i noticed that he’s already changed his posting to reflect the fact that we’re going to be on our way before we know it.

of course, there’s still a great summer ahead of us, filled with much excitement and spreading of mulch.  plus i bought a ridiculous amount of native illinois plants which we’ll have to figure out where to plant.  plus new and undiscovered hiking spots.  plus camping!  not to mention the illinois state fair, which i missed last year since we were gone for the month of august.

and oh yeah, i have have have to continue posting my photos from out trip to wales, before another year has passed.

right now i have to get ready for work.

too much to do, too little time.

ok then,

mrs. monday morning hughes.



lots more hiking at starved rock…

by grace on April 30, 2016

last wednesday, we headed out at the crack of 9:00 to start hiking.  luckily, the weather had cooled off quite a bit; it had been in the 80s on monday, but by wednesday it was much cooler.

even more luckily, we started by walking down these steps in back of the lodge instead of up.


we were headed over to the actual starved rock; kevin had run up the trail on tuesday while i was in class, and here are the horrifying signs along the way.  i’m assuming the thick vines wrapped around that tree are poison ivy?  good grief.  luckily we were safely up on the boardwalk.


plus poison ivy shrub!  and ground cover!  they had all the poison ivy variations covered.


it was a pretty gradual climb up the path to the rock.


i like it that hey went to the trouble of making such a slanty bench for people to rest on.


the view of the dam from the top of the rock.


an island with lots of white pelicans on it.


and here’s the lodge from the top of the rock.  it’s funny how it looks so deserted.  even though they had a record number of visitors last year, we only saw one other couple initially while hiking on wednesday morning.   the lodge receptionist told us that the busiest time of year was fall because of the fall colors.


Lovers Leap – at the visitor’s center i read a story about lovers leap, involving an indian maiden pining for her man who maybe was lost in battle?  so she jumped.  might be true, might not.


even though the trees were still mostly bare, there were plenty of bluebells.


things got a little dicey at this point – there was a warning that the bridge ahead was out, so we had to climb down the side of the hill instead, and do quite a bit of crossing the streams, over branches and stones.


we got to this waterfall, i think it was Tonty Canyon, and the only people there was this family of a mom, dad, and two boys.  i tried to frame them out here.  up to this point, even though we’d seen other people hiking, it wasn’t a big deal.  but the dad here was such an ass – he stood way back and kept yelling at him family to get in position for a photo.  STEP BACK!  MOVE OVER!  BLAH BLAH BLAH!  he just kept yelling, so incredibly annoying.  i tried to hurry down to the waterfall to get into the middle of his photo.


it was cool to walk behind the waterfall; the poor wife smiled and said hi to us.  i bet her husband is a horrible person to live with.  they finally headed out, as the dad kept YELLING EVERYTHING.  maybe he’s a little deaf?


behind the waterfall.  i don’t recall ever being behind a waterfall with kevin before.  pretty cool.





i love this, with the waterfall and then the little waterfall in front.  i bet it’ll all be incredible next week, if they get all the rain that we do.  but i’ve been thinking – it was kind of difficult to cross all the streams – wouldn’t it be really hard if not impossible to do it when the streams are bigger and wider?


whew.  we climbed these stairs to get to a porta potty in a parking lot.  we made it to the top and sat in the lot on a parking parking block and had some snacks for lunch.  i think we’d maybe hiked four miles; i had hoped we’d make it all the way to the final waterfall but at this point we realized that it was going to be bad enough just hiking back.


we had to walk back down the steps, and counted them as we went – 141 steps.  that’s quite a few.  not as many as the steps we climbed in ireland – i think that might have been 600 steps?  haven’t posted that part of our wales/ireland trip yet.

it didn’t take quite as long to get back, but i didn’t take any more photos, i think because i just wanted to get back.  also, we hurried right along because we encountered a large group of preteens who were loud because they were mostly boys.

we were happy to get back to the lodge and rest.  kevin napped and i hot-tubbed, which i always want to do when there’s a hot tub around, but i don’t usually do it.  we had another nice dinner there at the lodge, and decided that we wouldn’t do much hiking on thursday before heading out.

that’s kind of like how amy and i always say we’re not going to do that much gardening, but then end up working til we drop.

here’s one excuse why i haven’t written so much lately.  this is most of the six scoops of mulch that were delivered here.  i did make a dent in it, but i have a great excuse to not do any of that at all today.


all right then, i hope you have a fun, peaceful, restful and very good weekend.

mrs. outdoor hughes.



happy friday!

by grace on April 29, 2016

i hope you have fun weekend plans, and if you’re here in spfld, i hope they don’t involve any outdoor activities because it’s supposed to rain a lot.  but of course you never really know about the weather until you’re actually right there in it…

last week i went to a one-day massage workshop in ottowa, and kevin and i spent three lovely nights at the lovely and historic Starved Rock Lodge.  there are hiking trails all over the place, and it was fun to hike all around.  Starved Rock has many canyons with waterfalls, but it had been dry up there, so we were advised that the waterfalls wouldn’t be flowing so much.  we didn’t care.

we drove up on monday afternoon; it was only a two-hour drive.  i’ve heard about starved rock for so long, and i don’t know why we’ve never been there!  i was under the impression that it was a lot farther away.

we stayed in the older section of the lodge, in a big room with a bay view.  it was nice, but kind of dark.


of course we brought enough stuff to last a week, but there was ample room to spread it out all over the place.


it was so warm last monday, in the 80’s.  it was just as warm up there, but by the time we decided to take a little hike before dinner, it had cooled a bit.  we were going to hike to the first waterfall, only .4 miles away, but we passed a guy standing on a little bridge and took a different route, and that later turned out to be the direction to the first waterfall.  instead, we hiked a mile, and came to this waterfall.  not gushing so much.


a few girls were down in the canyon, taking selfies and pictures of each other.  to the right of them is a pile of water bottles.  the amount of litter in the park was shocking.  the vast majority of the little was water bottles, and we couldn’t understand how people could be so destructive.


i just read online that the park had almost 2.5 million visitors last year, the most ever.  the reason the park has so many wooden walkways and stairs is because all the visitors were starting to erode it.  the park was voted the #1 attraction in illinois!  another reason for all the water bottles and other trash, but come on people, pick up your litter.  i assume that park rangers walk through and collect the garbage, but the amount of debris must be overwhelming.


one of the many overlooks.




the photo-op girls were stopped at this eagle statue, taking pictures of each other and i offered to take one of them, then got them to take this.

we then had dinner in the nice lodge dining room.  a very pleasant evening!

my aunt sandy said she’d always wondered why it’s called Starved Rock, and here’s the grisly story:

The park derives its name from a Native American legend. In the 1760s, Chief Pontiac of the Ottawa tribe, was attending a tribal council meeting. At this council of the Illinois and the Pottawatomie, Kinebo, the head chief of the Illinois tribe stabbed Chief Pontiac. Vengeance arose in Pontiac’s followers. A great battle started. The Illinois, fearing death, took refuge on the great rock. After many days, the remaining Illinois died of starvation giving this historic park its name – Starved Rock.

Starved Rock because…they starved.

the next day kevin drove me the scenic 15 minute drive to Ottowa.  it was a good workshop, and the place where it was held is fantastic.  it’s called Salt Tree Yoga, and i can’t say enough good things about this fantastic place.  the workshop was held in the lovely yoga room, but it’s they also have a himalayan salt cave.  more on that later.  they also had lots of cool stuff to buy – jewelry and salt lamps and all kinds of stuff.

this is the cool art in the bathroom.


meanwhile, back at home, winnie found a safe place to nap.


kevin drove back for lunch, and we went to a little pretzel place nearby.  we took our sandwiches to a park, and i wish i had one of those sandwiches right now.  the place is called Didoughs Pretzels.  i don’t usually care about pretzels, but man, the sandwich was good.  i could have eaten another one, and this is just half of it!  the little pile of white powder next to it is sweetner that i spilled, FYI. not cocaine!

it was fun to stroll over to the park.  Ottowa is a small town, but it seems to be doing quite well – there were quite a few interesting shops and restaurants all around the town square.  i haven’t been to any small towns around here that are doing so well.  maybe it’s because ottowa is only an hour from chicago?  hard to say.


after a good afternoon of learning, kevin came back and we ate at Bianchi’s pizza, the place that the girls at the pretzel place said was great.  it was.




on our way back to the lodge we stopped to take picture of the sunset over the river.




luckily we were going to spend wednesday hiking around, to try to burn off a little of those million delicious calories.

soon, i will post many photos of our big hike.

ok then,

still mrs. friday morning hughes.


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good monday morning to you…

by grace on April 25, 2016

it’s that time of year again – it’s a little warmer than usual, we had six big scoops of mulch delivered to our driveway, there’s so much to do outside…that’s how i spent most of my weekend, starting on friday morning.  i’m a little sore this morning and when i woke up i thought, “i WILL NOT do anything outside today.”  but it’s another sunny, lovely day, and i’ll have a few free hours this afternoon, and i’m already planning my outside activities.  i’ve spread so much mulch, but i feel there’s only a small dent in the pile.  yesterday was all about pulling weeds, digging up more roses of sharon bushes, planting stuff…because i’m starting so early this year, maybe things will calm down earlier in the summer.

but that’s probably not realistic.

will i ever finish my postings of our lovely wales trip?  someday.

meanwhile…sometimes the other side of the lake glows as the sun gets lower in the sky.  it’s not possible for me to capture how beautiful it is.




randy and i went to the opening of the Staley Museum in Decatur, which my friend Julie is in charge of.  it’s a lovely place, and a fun time.  randy sat at the big desk that looked very presidential.


randy’s cute little kitty, pee wee.




i actually went to hear a lecture, this one was at the library, about a guy’s very very long bike ride on the santa fe trail.  whew, it sounded kind of hot, and a little dangerous, riding sometimes on highways with trucks roaring past.  the guy never wears a helmet!  he stopped at the philmont scout ranch, and that rang a bell somewhere deep in my mind, so i took a picture of the slide to show kevin.  yes, kevin used to go there as a boy scout!  he would have enjoyed the talk immensely.


a perfect kitty resting spot.




one of the rare times that chester lies on anybody’s lap – he was so funny, all sprawled out like this.  he stayed that way for about 20 minutes, a record for him.


numie, sadie, mincy, all so tired.  amy and jim were thinking about getting two more dogs, but i think they’ve decided against that idea for now.  i think this is wise – these three are so cute when they’re sleeping, but when they’re awake they need constant attention.  maybe they could get a couple more dogs if they also got a full-time live-in dog nanny.


the other morning i walked down to the water, looked over at the old dock and saw some kind of animal stretched out.  it rolled around, having a nice time basking in the sun.  what was this thing?  he didn’t see me at all.


i crept closer and managed to get this photo before he dove under the dock.  it’s a mink!  doesn’t he have a cute face?  there was a mink right at our feet a couple summers ago when kevin, jim and i were standing down at the dock.  that time, he’d looked up at us in surprise and then scurried off.  i’m lucky that i was able to get this photo, and i’m pretty sure he must live under the dock.  our new pet.


last summer our tall grasses got totally out of control, and my friend beth wanted to get some of them.  she came over to dig them up, and brought me these beautiful flowers.


amy tok some of the dried grasses and made this nice arrangement.  digging up the grasses was insanely difficult; it had rained quite a bit, but those roots were so dense and thick that beth had to dig, and i dug, and then finally kevin dug, and it was a huge, huge effort.  i’d like to dig out a little more of them because they get so huge – it’s supposed to rain a lot in the upcoming week, so maybe i can try that again.


there’s always something to do around here.

but now i have to shower and look presentable for a while, before getting grubby and covered in mulch.

ok then,

mrs. monday morning hughes.


sunday morning…

April 18, 2016

and it’s another beautiful, warm sunny day.  yesterday i accomplished many things, and i’m feeling it’s all because it’s so great outside.  nice weather just makes everything better. *never mind about that.*  now it’s early on monday morning – the day got away from me yesterday, but the taxes have been filed, stuff has been […]

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good grief.

April 16, 2016

april 15th, tax day!  except it’s not, luckily.  we did the bulk of the work on the taxes, but they need to be filed, by monday. i’ve been busy, i’ve been gone, i’ve been more busy.  i started writing this post, for example, at about eight in the morning.  it’s now 7:15 at night and […]

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lester! plus already april here in illinois….

April 4, 2016

so many photos, so little time…i realize you might be craving a les paul fix, and i of course have many, many adorable photos of him lying around here on my computer…things have been busy around here, and this morning i’m taking a road trip with my friend jill; she’s picking me up in an […]

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the last bit of our stay at st. david’s on monday, august 17th

March 30, 2016

after touristing all around st. david’s, and resting a bit in our nice room, we decided that we’d take a hike.  this was our last chance to go on the pembrokeshire coast path, and even though we’d looked forward to not hiking, by the afternoon we really wanted to get back out of town. i […]

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HAPPY (day after) EASTER!

March 28, 2016

near the end of what had been a very un-eastery easter sunday, we got an unexpected surprise… a visit from the EASTER BUNNY! of course he passed out easter treats… …and was happy to pose with the surprised gathering. he even posed with darling numie… …and mincy… …and sadie! posing with the dogs reminded me of […]

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continuing with monday, august 17th – ruins of the bishop’s palace

March 27, 2016

after we left St. David’s Cathedral in the morning, we walked over to the mediaval bishop’s palace  ruins next door. it had started to get a bit busy over at the cathedral, but not so many folks at the ruins. it was impressive, and we had a good time tromping all around the place.   […]

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