Tuesday was one of those magical days where it seemed our whole family had the day together uninterrupted. These days don’t happen often, but when they do we try and take advantage of them. The heat and humidity seemed to be easing up a bit on us but it was still a hot and beautiful summer day. The perfect type of day to try a new beach. I have seen pictures of the Illinois State Beach online a few times and instantly became intrigued with all the smooth rocks that inhabited the beach.
The Illinois State Beach is a bit of a drive from Rockford, but nothing that we haven’t traveled on our adventures before. It is in Zion, Illinois which I heard advertised often on the radio in Chicago but never had a reason to go there. It’s far north from Chicago, close to the Illinois-Wisconsin state border.
We got there at a great time in the early afternoon and found a small patch of beach that we were lucky enough to have all to ourselves for a while. When you walk from the parking lot towards the beach trail, you don’t feel like you are near a giant body of water. The area surrounding the beach is full of beautiful wildflowers and more trails that lead around different hiking paths in the park. We were warned by other park visitors about the rampant mosquitoes on the other trails, so we decided to play it safe and just enjoy the beach for the day.
It never ceases to take my breath away every time I see Lake Michigan. The sheer size of the lake just about knocks you down and demands you to relax. And that is what we were able to do during our time here. We decided to walk down to an area of the beach that was separated by the cement break walls from the main stretch of beach, mostly because we brought Kennedy with. We discovered during our short beach trail walk that dogs are not allowed onto the beach, the trails yes, but the beach no. Kennedy is a fan of swimming and used to spend hours at the Montrose Dog Beach during our summers in Chicago and I knew he would be heart broken if we didn’t let him put his dogs back in the lake.
This beach is much different than the the stretch of beaches we have grown used to living in Chicago. It’s amazing how the same lake can have so many different personalities depending on where you view it from. The waves were large and beautiful here. The beach was full of beautifully broken and sun-bleached trees with wild roots reaching out from under the trunks.
After taking the dog for a stroll up our newly found stretch of land, it was time for rock collecting. The stones were so beautiful and smooth, each one unique. There wasn’t a lot of beach in this spot that was exclusively sand, so most of the time we were walking barefoot on the rocks. Luckily the edges have been smoothed down over time, so our feet didn’t suffer too much.
During our time collecting rocks, a few other groups of people joined us on our little patch of beach. The waves were crashing onto the beach and the sun was hanging bright in the sky, it seemed prefect to try my hand at rock stacking, which is much trickier than I had anticipated.
Kennedy had a difficult time battling the waves. He decided to keep a safe distance away from the shore and watch as his sister played in the waves and created nests out of the sand.After spending some time building, digging, and creating with the rocks, sand, and sticks we decided it was time to take a break and have some lunch. To make up for the cost of gas for our trips, we always pack a lunch and plenty of snacks . Four year olds always seem hungry and me being 5 months pregnant means plenty of snack breaks! After our lunch, we decided to check out the main beach even though we have Kennedy with us. Finn was done swimming and excited about our latest idea: creating our own rock collection. The main beach had much more sand than the part we were at and also seemed to go on for miles. We walked north up the shoreline and started our hunt for a few unique rocks to have at home for building and other projects.
On our walk we found more sun-bleached trees and a few other interesting things. Some sand had been dyed by the rusty metal that lie in piles next to the trees.
On our way back towards our car we decided to explore a little bit away from the water and found some sparkley rocks that Finn said were made from glitter.
After a relaxing stay at the beach and some successful rock collecting, it was time to head back to the car and make the journey back to our town. This beach was worth the trip and will be one for us to visit in the future. The waters of Lake Michigan have never looked so clear, colorful, and inviting. The next time we make the trip to the Illinois State Beach will be in a cooler season and to explore some of the many trails.