Three hours from St. Louis, two and a half from Chicago, one and a half from Indianapolis, and less than an hour from U of I in Urbana-Champaign, Forest Glen Preserve is close enough to be a great day hike and/or picnic destination, but challenging and remote enough to be an excellent one or two-night backpacking destination. Mix and match trails to make your hike as easy or difficult as you’d like, but following the River Ridge Backpack Trail as mapped may be physically challenging for unconditioned folks to accomplish on a one night trip. A .pdf of the trail map is available here or can be found at the trailhead.
Between ferry rides and the camping reservation fee, Rock Island State Park may very well be one of the most expensive backpacking destinations in the Midwest (if not the most). But it offers history and beauty, with views like no other backpacking destination within six hours of Chicago. It’s four hours from Milwaukee, and 2.5 hours from Green Bay. It’s also great for day hikes, family camping, paddling, beginner backpacking trips, or any nature lover spending time in the Door County area!
This trail memoir was originally published on Liberty.me in September, 2014, and is based on a backpacking trip taken in the spring of 2014. I had an unusually long backpacking hiatus leading up to this trip due to preparations surrounding the birth of my daughter in March, and subsequent time spent enjoying family. I promise a proper trail summary at some point, so stay tuned!
For a long, flat stretch of Interstate 39 between DeKalb and Rockford in Illinois, I had no 4GLTE coverage. This wouldn’t have been a major issue if sufficient 3G coverage was provided, but I was left with EDGE, 1G, or GSM. A few times I turned on my screen only to reveal a red “X” where there should have been bars. Our plight continued this way between Rockford and Beloit, from Beloit to Madison, and from Madison to our destination. Continue reading How to Appreciate Civilization (or “Memoir of a Desiccated Man”)→
Over the past several years I’ve had the great fortune of introducing some of my favorite people to nature through backpacking. The most meaningful of those introductions occurred this May, when I took my three-year-old son, Charlie, on his first backpacking trip. He absolutely loved it, and so we shared our second trek together just last week (mid-September). He has his very own Osprey 12L backpack that he picked out himself, and in it he carries his snacks, rain jacket, mini water bottle, headlamp, a change of clothes, and most importantly, his favorite teddy bear named Patchouli Bear.
My good friend and long-time backpacking buddy Kevin has a similarly aged son, so it was natural that we co-planned these trips. (It’s also a convenient excuse to get the wives to let us out of the house for the weekend.)
As I’m sure you can imagine, these trips aren’t anything like the treks that I take when traveling solo or with other adults. They’re within two hours of the Chicago metro area, we typically get cell service the whole time (definitely not “Zero Bars” destinations), and the hike to the camp site has to be less than two miles (because three-year-olds have short legs).
But we’re beginning to learn that this style of backpacking has its advantages; it lends itself to new luxuries, especially with regard to the food that we can bring. You’re not forced into a dehydrated and freeze-dried menu when you only have to carry your food for two miles, and you don’t really need to worry about refrigeration when you’re going to be cooking your food within a couple of hours of leaving the car*. Our most recent trip was our first foray into backpacking gourmet, and it turned out exceedingly well. Continue reading First World Backpacking Food→