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Home » Adventures » North Shore Trail » Illinois Beach State Park

Day 4 — If Wisconsin does not want us, we will go to Chicago

Kettle Moraine State Forest

We woke up the next morning and found out that the trails around Black River Forest State Park were pretty nil for hiking, at least from what we could tell. Almost all the trails were for ATVs, and based off the map there did not seem to be any great hiking spots. We whipped out our Wisconsin state map again and looked for parks/forests on our way home. We saw that Kettle Moraine State Forest (Southern Unit) was not too far out of the way so we packed everything back into the van and hit the road again. I was starting to become a little bummed because we were doing a lot of driving, and not really any hiking at all. I hoped things would improve.

Kettle Moraine State Forest is closed

No staying here tonight

After several hours of driving we arrived at the state forest only to find out that it was not open for the season yet. They had a nice big barricade across the entrance to the campground. Nice and consistent of Wisconsin. The Black Falls Forest State Park was open (sort of), while this one was closed. Ugh. This was pretty disappointing too because it looked like this place might have had some nice trails to hike along. By now, we were too far south in Wisconsin to really find more campgrounds or trails, so we looked at the Illinois map that I just happened to pick up when we stopped at a rest area. Northern Illinois was quite lacking in state parks, but we did find one on the map —Illinois Beach State Park. It was on Lake Michigan, a little north of Chicago.

Illinois Beach State Park

We arrived at the park and drove all around the northern section (there were two parts), but discovered camping was in the southern section. When we got to the campground, the registration station was closed with a sign stating it was manned about every other hour. We drove around the campground and picked out a fairly nice spot. A short time later, the ranger came by and checked us in, so that saved us a trip to the office. By this time, however, we had pretty much given up any pretexts of trying to ruff it. After all, we were in an electric site (even though we had nothing to plug in), had city water twenty feet away, and bathrooms with running water. Also, between the two sections of the park I had just mentioned, there was a nice big power plant — not quite natural. We were also surrounded by suburbs of Chicago, so this was quite a small haven of nature. The animals in the “haven” were also quite used to people. The deer there basically ignored anyone until you got within ten feet of them. The event that really sealed the end of anything nature-like was when a Papa John’s Pizza delivery car drove through the campground. I had never seen someone order pizza for delivery at a campground. Maybe I just had not been camping in a while.

A water tower with a giant smiley face

Water tower by Kettle Moraine State Forest

Things seemed to be getting a little better though. We had been around each other a lot, so we were starting to talk to each other more. Also, I sort of gave up on the idea of “real camping” and just enjoying where we were. I did, however, get to take a four mile walk along the shore of Lake Michigan. The waves were actually pretty big for this area of the lake. (I have been to West Beach, south of Chicago, many times and waves this big are quite rare there). Of course, these “big waves” were still only two feet tall at most. The sound of waves crashing was pretty soothing. Walking along the beach I could see the Chicago sky line in the distance. At night though, I could still see a surprising amount of stars despite our proximity to Chicago. We built another big fire (notice a theme occurring?) with about six foot tall flames. Before I headed to bed, I shined my flashlight in the fields around us, and I thought I saw a skunk not too far away. Let’s just say that I shut off my flashlight before I had a chance to find out.

I also learned the sleeping in a tent can be pretty uncomfortable. I had a sleeping pad underneath me, but it did not help much. I like to sleep on my side, but when I only had about an inch of air between me and the ground, it did not work very well as on a mattress. My shoulder bore a lot of my weight, and it would be pretty stiff in the morning. Just one more of the things I love about camping.

Illinois Beach State Park

Caution Asbestos containing materials have been found on this beach
Sign on the shoreline (very reassuring)
Lake Michigan
Our campfire this night
Pretty fire…
Glass bottle distorted by the campfire
…which was hot enough to melt glass