A view from the bottom of one of Starved Rock’s sandstone canyons
Starved Rock State Park is consistently ranked the most beautiful place in Illinois. I finally was able to get out there with a few friends on a gorgeous fall day to explore the canyons. Unfortunately there wasn’t much water flowing as far as waterfalls go, but the changing leaves more than compensated.
There are 14 main canyons that are accessible with a boardwalk. There are some stairs to climb, but the walking is relatively easy. The further away you get from the visitor center, the more peaceful it is! It’s easy to spend a full day wandering around and it’s nearly impossible to get lost.
Dandelions beside the river at Governor Dodge
On Memorial Day weekend I went to Governor Dodge State Park in Wisconsin with a few friends to do some hiking. It was my first trip out of Chicago since coming home from New Zealand and I was long overdue for some greenery. We braved the mosquitos and walked around the Stephens’ Falls area, which is an easy loop that has a storage houses and other remnants from when the Stephens family occupied the land in the late 1800s. The namesake waterfall is tranquil, and the track is well maintained. There are many wildflowers, such as the Virginia waterleaf, daisies, dog roses, wood violets, and dandelions.
A weka on the Queen Charlotte Track
One of my last weekends in New Zealand I headed up to Picton to do a long day walk on the Queen Charlotte Track. As with most other places on the South Island, it was stunning and peaceful and the town was filled with friendly and quirky people. I also had some of the best food during my whole trip, especially the mussels and other seafood. The Queen Charlotte Track is easily accessible and home to gorgeous views. I also walked up the Tirhohanga trail in town and got a view of the town.
View from the top of the Key Summit Alpine Walk of the Routeburn Track
From Bluff I traveled up to Te Anau and battled the crowds. I did some short sections of the the Kepler (Brod Bay to Dock Bay) and Routeburn (Key Summit Alpine) Tracks and checked out Milford Sound. The area is one of the most popular areas in the country and for good reason – the snowcapped mountains, reflective tarns, and diverse flora make for some of the most beautiful landscapes in the world. One day I’d like to go back and do an entire Great Walk on one of the tracks.
The Nugget Point Lighthouse
For my 10 day break from teaching in Christchurch, I took a 10 day road trip around the South Island of New Zealand. I headed south from Christchurch and spent a couple of days in the Catlins, then spent a rainy Christmas day in Bluff. This part of the country is less heavily touristed than most others and I was able to do quite a bit of sightseeing and hiking in relative tranquility. Highlights of the first few days were the Moeraki Boulders, Nugget Point, the trio of waterfalls (Purakaunui, Mclean, and Matai), and hiking in Bluff. There are amazing birds and flowers as well as spectacular ocean views from the Bluff lookout.
The view from Godley Head
I spent a gorgeous, but hot, Sunday afternoon walking Taylor’s Mistake at Godley Head with a Meetup group. It’s an easy coastal walk with amazing views and plenty of history. There are World War II fortifications and remains of old holiday homes from the late 1800s. It’s a wonderful way to spend a day not too far out of Christchurch.
The Macauley Hut
The Macauley Valley is an area north of Tekapo that is only accessible by 4wd, horse, bike, or foot. You follow a winding river for about 18 kilometers to reach a well maintained Department of Conservation hut. It’s well worth the trip to get there as the isolation has been unmatched by anywhere else I’ve been in New Zealand and the views of the Southern Alps are incredible. There is some good walking to be done up the hills or further down the river and there are a few swimming holes as well.