It had been a long month in Alaska. Alaska may be a Mecca of adventure. But working at a field station in the middle of nowhere doesn’t quite stand up to our usual weekend fun. I was pretty excited to get back to the Midwest and Kerry. From Toolik Field Station, I woke up at 5:30 AM and got on the Dalton Highway as early as possible. I drove eleven hours to Fairbanks, from which I flew seven hours. I got into Chicago after a full 24 hours of traveling, having slept less than one. A relaxing day of sleep would have been the appropriate thing to do. But when Kerry showed up to pick me up at O’Hare, there was a canoe strapped to the roof of our car and sleep was not on the schedule… Until about 20 minutes later when we realized we were absolutely exhausted. So we pulled over at a rest stop and passed out.
A couple hours later we woke up and drove to Castle Rock State Park, Illinois. Our plan was to canoe on the Rock River to a primitive campsite a mile downstream. The dire warnings of thunderstorms were completely unfounded and the night was great. The paddle back the next morning was significantly more strenuous. In fact it was about an hour of non-stop hard paddling just to avoid losing distance. We did some hiking in Lowden-Miller State Forest, just across the river on a shady, overgrown trail, but were soon chased away by swarms of bugs. The final stop on the way home was a section of Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore where we went on a short hike near the beach with an every, thick fog surrounding us.
There are much lazier ways to spend a weekend, and that may appeal to some. But once we lay down plans for a trip, it takes a lot to change them.
One aspect of trips that I’ve always found important is documentation. After you’ve been on so many adventures, it gets hard to remember many of the details. When years later somebody asks me how a specific place was, I often can’t remember the first thing about it. I’ve always kept good logs and photos of trips and I spend much time organizing my collections of these. For this trip, both of us experimented with alternative techniques. Kerry put her video editing skills to the test with a music video of the trip. And I employed my GPS receiver and self-taught GIS knowledge to make a couple maps that record our paddle and hikes. Make no mistake, these things are time consuming, especially when you first start out. But the finished product is usually pretty nice to have and it fills the time between weekends.