First Hike With My BFF!

I’ve never had a fight with my BFF Crystal! We’ve been friends since 7th grade. We just celebrated our 55th birthdays! We’re both Leo’s…whatever that means. We’ve cried together, we’ve laughed & laughed & laughed & laughed until we cried & cried! We’ve gotten ourselves into so many predicaments…lost, stuck, stranded, lost, bad dates! We always have so much fun together! The one thing we haven’t done together is hike. Since I started hiking, I’ve been trying to get her to go with Russ and I. But it never worked out with her schedule. Until our sort of annual road trip to Ottawa Illinois Riverfest. The Riverfest is a great weekend (for us) of live bands and local food! The drive up is just as fun as the stay in Ottawa! This year was going to be extra special. Our favorite tribute band, and the reason we started going to Riverfest, Silver Bullet STL A Tribute to Bob Seger (Bob Seger is the reason I live and breathe 💖) was playing Saturday night which happened to be Crystal’s birthday! What a perfect way to celebrate! And, there is a state park just a few miles from Ottawa, Starved Rock State Park, that has fabulous hiking trails, or so I’ve been told. So we made plans to do some hiking on Friday and Saturday during the day and we’d rock out to the bands at night. Sounds simple, right? I forgot to mention that Crystal and I are easily distracted! On our first road trip to Ottawa, we ended up getting lost with the help of GPS Kelly (we both know a Kelly we don’t like & we didn’t like the GPS when the snarky voice got her name!) in the little town of Atlanta Illinois trying to find a gas station that was open! In the process we found a giant man holding a hot dog with feet on Route 66! OMG, we laughed until we cried!

Crystal and Kim in Jr High, where it all began!
Crystal and Kim, Jr year high school at a football game
Giant man holding a hot dog with feet on Route 66

Isn’t that thing creepy?! What in the heck does it mean? We were too busy laughing to think about investigating. Of course, we’re talking about giant man on this trip again and there on the side of the highway is a giant man and a lot of other giant beings! We had to go back and check them out.


Needless to say we were cracking up! There were so many giant beings there, but we decided to go with a theme…We Like Big Men and We Can Not Lie…posted it on Facebook along with the original giant man picture. The comments were hilarious! Our next stop was for gas, yep…in Atlanta! We didn’t realize it was the same little town at first until we saw the sign for the library. We drove around and sure enough, there was giant man with a hot dog with feet! Turns out, the feet are really his fingers and thumb! I still don’t know the significance of this giant man with a giant hot dog but there was a girl named Crystal selling hot dogs from a cart on the sidewalk by him. A guy offered to take our picture together next to giant man.



You guessed it, another picture was added to our theme Facebook post! Our friends think we’re still as nuts as we were back in the 70’s! Maybe they just wish they were having so much silly who cares fun?! We’re driving through the cute little town of Utica illinois and there on the side of the road, yep another big man…of sorts! Oh man were we glad I turned around and went back for that photo opp! Happy Birthday Crystal!


You just have to stop when you see a pepto-bismol pink sasquatch wearing an apron with a cupcake on it! He’s the lure for Two Girls and a Cupcake. The best cupcakes I’ve ever tasted! (Yes Crystal, my Jilly’s cupcake that you got me for my birthday was wonderful 💜💜) we went to that dang shop 3 times! Talking about a sugar high! Yikes! Here’s the Facebook page link to their page

Yes, we did hike! Starved Rock State Park was insane busy! They have overflow parking lots…for a park that’s mostly about hiking! I couldn’t believe the cars! The people walking to…I don’t know! We weren’t about to park in an overflow lot then walk forever to the park HQ just to find out we had already passed the trailhead. It reminded me of trying to get into 6 Flags! Not the way I like to hike…too many people. We headed to another park, Matthiessen State Park. Again, overflow parking lots but not nearly as many cars or people. But still a lot. At the trailhead…stairs! It looked like thousands of stairs! I hate stairs! Not gonna happen late on Friday afternoon after driving for hours. We decided to just go listen to music and hike somewhere in the morning.  Feeling a little bummed we headed back to the hotel on a different road and saw a sign…Illinois Canyon Trail. That was one I wanted to do at Stared Rock! WOOHOO! We found a trail, only 2 cars in the parking lot and it was just about 2 miles in and back. We didn’t have much daylight left so this was perfect for our first hike together! It was easy, relatively flat terrain. But we were really going into a canyon! It was so cool. There was a stream that wound around through the canyon and we had to cross it several times. At the end there was a small waterfall that spilled into a pool. It was so pretty and peaceful. It was a great first hike with my BFF! I’m glad we didn’t do anything harder or longer that day because we ended up needing every ounce of leg & butt muscle we had for our adventure on Saturday morning!


The Nature Institute, part 2

As I said at the end of my last blog post…I didn’t think anything else we’d encounter would top Hop Hollow. Wrong! We knew there was a place called Beaver Falls somewhere within the institute’s boundaries. We ran into a family looking for Beaver Falls and we could hear running water so we followed the sound. Never did see the family again. Guess they didn’t find the waterfall. We did! 😄 like I said before, I didn’t check out the Nature Institute’s website before we started and we didn’t have a map. There was a map posted at the trailhead with points of interest but no information about them. We were expecting a little waterfall like the ones we’ve seen on other trails that were said to have waterfalls…pretty, but they’d barely get my knees wet. So Russ and I are following the sound of running water and come to a pretty little stream. We’d had heavy rain that week and could see how far the stream had been out of its banks. It must have been crazy high and fast!


After a little bit we saw The Waterfall up the stream a way!! Woo-hoo! I wanted to get a picture of it straight on, so I proceed to rock hop out to the middle of the stream. I don’t make it but a couple rocks and I find the ejector rock! Waterproof boots don’t mean a thing when the water is deeper than your boots are tall! Luckily I didn’t drop my phone or land on my butt! Kinda pulled a groin muscle and smashed my left toes into the end of my boot but it was well worth it…the best had yet to come.

Ejector Rock
Standing on Ejector Rock, after I moved it around to stabilize it. The water wasn’t deep, just over my boots in the spot I went in!


It turns out, there was a succession of waterfalls as we followed this stream up. None of them were very high but the sound…wow! They sounded huge! I want that sound right outside my bedroom window. On 3 different trips to Colorado, I stayed in cabins with a rushing stream right outside the cabin…amazing! It doesn’t get any better than that…well, yes it would if I lived in one of the cabins!


There is a Wilson soccer ball floating in the pool at the bottom of this fall.



At the last and biggest fall, so far, there was a Wilson soccer ball floating in the pool below the falls. Of course, I think of the movie Cast Away, when Tom Hanks’ friend Wilson was floating away in the ocean and he’s standing there on the raft yelling “Wilson!!” Yep, I made my own mini movie remake of that scene! Unfortunately or fortunately more than likely, I can’t post it here! Russ thinks I’m crazy when I do that, but I have fun and if you can’t laugh at yourself, what’s the point of having fun?!

At this point the terrain was getting pretty steep. It was pretty hot that day and we were getting a good workout.  We were both using our new hydration backpacks, something I had balked at because I like to use my waste pack to carry my must-haves…my phone (the size of a barge), chapstick, tissues, zip lock bags, small first aid kit, my pain meds, car key, cliff bars. But it only holds 2 water bottles. I found the hydration packs on sale at Aldis, of all places, for $14.99 & thought what the heck. My daughter uses one. She puts a frozen icepack  between the water bladder (she keeps that in the fridge until she’s ready to go)  and the back of the pack so her back feels the cold too. It worked great!  Russ and I were thrilled with our choice of hiking destination, with the packs and still 100% happy with the mosquito and tick spray we had been using…Repel Tick Defense. This place was thick with mosquitoes! We haven’t had a bite or seen a tick since we started using it! We still didn’t think our hike could get any better…it did! After I bid Wilson goodbye we continued to follow the stream. Then we heard a distant roar. The trail had been gradually getting higher than the stream. Then, there it was…THE WATERFALL! The biggest waterfall we’d seen while hiking yet! Way down below us! I’m going down there, Russ thinks I’m crazy and I’ll probaby break something! It was a bit treacherous getting down to the bottom. A fall would have been really bad. Going back up was just as hard, but omg it was so worth it! My pictures don’t do it justice. The sun and the water dripping from the over hanging rock and vegetation and the spray from the falls made getting pictures difficult. Russ didn’t want to get wet and I didn’t want to get my phone wet. I was soaking wet by the time I climbed back up! I think that was the first time I’ve ever played in a waterfall! By the way, Russ sucks at taking pictures! He took several of me but they got deleted! It was absolutely gorgeous down there! And LOUD! We had to yell to hear each other.



I had a blast! I was a little worried about hiking the rest of the day in wet clothes and boots but it was hot out…being wet felt great and I dried off pretty quickly. There was another waterfall above the big one that was pretty far off the trail and down a really steep hill, plus it wasn’t very big…you’ve seen 5 or 6 small waterfalls in 1 day, you’ve seen them all!

Russ is heading to the last waterfall
The last small waterfall in the background

Well, that was it for waterfalls! We hiked up out of the valley onto a very flat trail and preceeded to get completely turned around and ended up in a farm field! Good grief, sometimes we absolutely suck at following signs! Thank goodness for the GPS map in the alltrails app! At one point we were going through an old growth forest. Massive trees everywhere! Again pictures just didn’t capture how spectacular, how beautiful it really was. I gave up trying after a couple shots. Then the terrain and vegetation changed again. It was so green and damp. Ferns everywhere. It was like a rain forest.

IMG_20170618_143907643According to The Nature Institute’s website, we missed several points of interest. Bald Eagle nests…gotta go back in the winter to see them! One thing we happily missed…Eastern Timber Rattlesnakes…Oh My!

The Nature Institute is quite the little gem. I can’t wait to go back and see what we missed, sans snakes of course! I can only imagine how beautiful it is in the winter.

Oh, we followed deer tracks on one trail for a long time, adult and tiny ones. Russ caught a glimpse of a deer bounding away into the thick trees.

Here’s the link to the website.  Check it out. Plan a trip. I know you won’t be disappointed!

The Nature Institute, part 1

IMG_20170618_114529596                                                                                                                                                                                                          Back in June, before the blast furnace hit the Midwest and called a halt to hiking for me, Russ and I decided to head for Illinois and see what we could find. To find hiking trails we use an app called Alltrails. It’s a nifty little thing. You can search for trails near you, or you can search by city, state, park, difficulty, distance, activity…there are all types of filters. Most of the trails will have photos that others have downloaded to give you an idea of what the trail is like. Once you find the trail you want, the app has GPS directions (Google Maps) to get you there. You can record your route (distance, elevation, time, speed) on a map of the trail. This comes in handy if you’re on a trail that isn’t marked well and you happen to get off the trail or turned around…yep, I know first hand! So, I found The Nature Institute in Godfrey Illinois. 3 miles, moderate, features a waterfall, lightly trafficked. 40 miles from home…SOLD!

The Nature Institute (TNI) is a non-profit land conservation and environmental education organization based in Godfrey, IL.

Our hike started out on an old crumbling blacktop service road and I’m thinking…crap, this isn’t what I thought the trail would be like! I hate walking on blacktop!

The blacktop didn’t last long! We eventually came upon an open area with a fantastic view of the Mississippi River, the Olin Nature Preserve Skeet Range. I’ve been reading through TNI’s website as I’ve been writing…it’s a pretty amazing place and I wish I would have checked out the website before we hiked!                                                                                        IMG_20170618_120546090                   IMG_20170618_120609337

On we went down into a hollow. It was beautiful! My pictures do not do it justice. There were several old growth trees that were massive and again, my pictures don’t capture just how big they really were. We came upon a little monument/plaque with a couple of log benches. Hop Hollow. The plaque tells how from 1790 to 1863 the picturesque Hop Hollow was an entry point on the Underground Railroad. Sympathetic landowners helped hundreds of slaves try to reach freedom.  Gave me chills. I’ve read dozens of books about the Underground Railroad, the Civil War, and slavery but I have never knowingly stood in a place that was part of the Underground Railroad. I want to take my grandson there so he can see it and maybe when he’s older, have a better understanding of what the Underground Railroad was, how difficult it was to travel…  There are a couple of big old dead trees at the site. I wonder, could they be from way back then? Probably not, but I like to think that they were part of that history too!


I didn’t think the hike was going to get any better than that…boy was I wrong again!!  Part 2…coming up ASAP!



A Little Local History Surprise

The Lewis and Clark Expedition’s final embarkation was at noon on May 14, 1804 from St. Charles Missouri, the first permanent European settlement on the Missouri River and the first one in Missouri. St. Charles was a predominantly French settlement dating from around 1769. There are 88 buildings dating from 1790 – 1804 on South Main St. that have been restored and are still in use today! I love to go to Main Street and wander through the shops…just imagining what they might have looked like when they were built, who might have walked the floors, who made the bricks, who forged the iron, who chopped trees and shaped the logs?? So much history happened in my little neck of the woods, history that had a huge impact on our country, history that I find fascinating and often miss when it’s right in front of me! Heck, the name of my school is Lewis and Clark Elementary!

It’s been too hot to hike…mid 90’s…forget it! So Russ and I headed to Main Street last Sunday to his favorite sweet shop to get some fudge and decided to walk around a bit. We headed to my favorite store, Native Traditions Gallery, to see if the sculpture I’d love to have (in my dreams) is still there. It is 😊 As we were leaving, Russ spotted a CD by one of my favorite bands…Indigenous featuring Mato Nanji…yep, he bought it for me! As you might guess, the band members are Native American…Mato is Yankton Souix, but the music is straight up Blues. If you like Blues music, check them out!

Ok, back to the topic at hand…music always sidetracks me! So, as we were walking back toward the car, I saw what I thought was an old barn behind a building with a walkway going to it. I had to check it out! I’ve been up and down that street hundreds of times since I was in my teens, but I’d never noticed the barn before. It wasn’t a barn at all! It was a building that had been reconstructed between 2004-2008! And an amazing building it is! It’s a church! The Historic 1791 Borromeo Log Church. It was rebuilt on the original building site, which is pretty cool. But the way it was built…Amazing! It’s a French style vertical log building, the first one built in this area, perhaps in North America, in 200 years. The work was done completely by hand with period tools and in the manner of the 18th century. The building is 15 feet by 25 feet. The Cedar vertical logs are 13 feet in length. They sit 3 feet in the ground and are hand hewn on the front and back surfaces from ground level up, leaving the log round underground. All of the iron hinges and locks are hand forged. A group of volunteers built the church. It was a product of JQH Historic Preservation for Education,  a non-profit Missouri corporation.


I can’t believe they were building that church for 4 years and I didn’t know about it! I can’t believe it’s been there, open to the public for 9 more years and I didn’t know that! Pay Attention Kim!!


According to what I’ve read about the Lewis and Clark expedition, while they were in St Charles, the men attended a mass by a local priest. It’s quite possible that original little 1791 vertical log church may be where they went. Now, that’s some history!

For more information about the reconstruction of the church click the link below.

For more information on Lewis and Clark in St Charles click the link below.

For more information about St Charles Borromeo Catholic Church history, click the link below                                                 


These Boots Are Made For Hiking

What you wear on your feet when you hike can make a big impact on your hiking experience. If your feet are unhappy, that can make for a bad day on the trail. Ill fitting boots/shoes can cause achy feet, blisters, achy knees or hips. They can even cause your back to hurt. I’m not an expert or even close to one! I just know what works for me and Russ and want to share that here. I did a lot of research on hiking boots before I started shopping to see what was out there and to get an idea of what to look for and what to stay away from. But in the end, I think it all boils down to your own individual comfort. Don’t buy the brand, buy the comfort. I guarantee, no one is going to stop you on the trail and ooh and aah over the brand of your boots or snicker behind their hands because you’re wearing an “off brand”.  And if someone does, who the heck cares? They’re just jerks that probably spent $1000 in gear to hike 1 time and decided they don’t like to sweat or there’s too many mosquitoes and you’ll never see them again anyway!!

When I decided I wanted to start hiking, my biggest concern was finding a pair of boots that would be comfortable on both of my damaged feet. I have that problem with any shoe. What works for my left foot more than likely won’t work for my right and vice versa. Shoe shopping in general is a nightmare and shopping for hiking boots, where the selection was pretty limited compared to shopping for a new pair of sneakers, was even worse! I went to sporting goods stores, boot stores, the mall, Cabela’s. I tried on name brands…Keen, Merrell, Solomon, Vasque, Hi-Tec and several others I can’t remember. I tried on store name brands. I was so discouraged and afraid my hiking days were over before they even started. I’m not picky, I don’t care what color my boots are, I don’t care what brand they are. The only MUST was a mid high top for ankle support. My left foot has the crushed toes problem so I needed a boot with a big toe box. That wasn’t too hard to find. My right foot…that’s the real problem child! I have a 6″ long scar from 2 surgeries that runs from my ankle down the side of my foot. I have nerve damage from the first surgery and a severed nerve from the second surgery. The entire outside of my foot is numb but really painful. Right at my ankle bone is where the nerve was severed and that’s a major “hot spot” for numbness and pain. That numbness and pain goes under my foot at the front of my heel and around the front of my ankle. That’s also where the point of my heel bone broke off and did not reattach. It’s hard to describe the feeling and pain. I trusted that my doctor was doing all of the right things…I was wrong! Anyway, finding any shoe or boot that feels halfway decent on that foot is a real challenge. I don’t like to have anything touching the outside of my foot, even a sheet or blanket when I sleep. If I can find something that has even compression from my little toe all of the way to my ankle and the arch is just right and has enough cushion for my heel…it might work! Sounds weird doesn’t it? No sheet or blanket touching my foot but even compression is OK? I can’t explain it. I went through Nerve Desensitization Therapy where they used various things from soft silky material to rougher material (eyelet type material) and lightly rubbed it up and down my foot. The goal was to desensitize the nerve but I couldn’t stand it! That was the worst pain I’ve ever felt! I laid there and cried like a baby through each session. As soon as I put my compression sleeve on…relief!  So, back to my hunt for boots! I was about to give up and remembered I had yet to try Bass Pro. BINGO!!! I found a pair of Red Head boots, Bass Pro’s brand, on sale for $49!! I couldn’t believe how comfortable they were…on both feet! Of course they were stiff so I wore them to work a lot to break them in before I actually hiked in them. Come to find out, a friend of mine and my daughter both have the same boots! I should have just asked them in the first place! My Red Heads are also water proof, but not so much when the water is deeper than the boots are tall! I found that out crossing a stream when a rock I stepped on tilted and in I went! I just stood there cracking up while my boots filled up, thankful that I didn’t fall or drop my phone/camera!!

Russ just bought a new pair of Merrell Energis yesterday. He had been wearing a pair of Bear Paw boots that he loved but they finally fell apart. He wears his to work too. He’s a Chimney Sweep and mason and he spends a lot of time up on hot roofs, climbing ladders and getting mason dust and soot on his boots. They take a beating! We’ll see how well the Merrell’s hold up. He says they’re really comfortable and lighter than the Bear Paws.  That’s one of the drawbacks with my Red Heads. They are pretty heavy compared to other boots. It would be an issue if I were going to be doing longer hikes I think. My niece Amy just bought a pair of Ahnu boots for her hiking trip in the Smokey Mountains in Tennessee and she said the Ahnu boots felt like she was walking on clouds! I tried on a pair yesterday just to see and yep, I can see what Amy meant! The ones I tried on were a different style than hers and they were pretty comfortable let me tell you…they were so light weight! And they were all leather!

LaBarque Creek Trail Hike

I’m not a seasoned hiker…yet. I’m not in shape…yet. I’m working on it. It was Fall when I started hiking. Nice cool or better yet, cold weather…I felt like I was somewhat in shape! April 15 we decided to head to Pacific MO & LaBarque Creek Conservation Area and give its namesake trail a try. Only 3 miles and 572 feet in elevation…piece of cake. That day, summer decided to make an appearance, much to my menopausal, hot flashing body’s dismay. Temps in the mid 80’s. At the trailhead, right off the bat is a huge set of stairs! I hate stairs! A little further up the trail, another set of steps cut into the trail. I’m ready to go back to the car already!

Russ at LaBarque Creek Trail

Up we went! The Dogwoods were in full bloom but the other trees were just beginning to bud. The first 1.5 miles were pretty but nothing that made me think I wanted to do the trail again. By the time we got to the top of the ridge and the halfway point, I was done! I KNEW I was out of shape or I was having the mother of all hot flashes! I thought about turning around and going back down. Nope! I’m not a quitter. I’ll finish this damn trail if it takes me all day!

Russ leaving me behind!
A little toasty
Tree growing out of the rock
Flat ground at the top! Half way there!
Thinking about going back down…I’m toast!


After resting a bit and checking the map on the alltrails app, we knew we were at the highest point and we had a ridge to walk along for a while…ridge walking usually means breezes…and the skies were getting gray…a little rain would be nice 🙂 so on we went. OMG! I’m soooooo glad I didn’t turn back! The second half of the trail was AMAZING! It was like we were in a completely different state! Flowers, butterflies, cactus, ferns, creeks, grass trails! There were several side trails that led down to LaBarque Creek and many caves! We had no idea there were caves to explore. By the time we figured that out we didn’t have enough daylight left to explore and hike back out…dang it. I’ve lived in Missouri my whole life and as a kid lived on 40 acres out in the country. Our property had 2 caves on it and I spent a lot of time in the big cave and running around in the woods exploring. I’ve been out in the woods camping in several areas in Missouri and I don’t remember ever seeing cactus! That was my biggest WOW of the day!


It took us over 4 hours to complete the trail and it’s now one of our favorites! As we were leaving the parking lot, my daughter called and asked me if it would be OK for her ex-husband to drop off my grandson at my house because they were still hiking and wouldn’t be home in time. Sorry kiddo, we’re not home, we just finished a hike at LaBarque. With that she starts going nuts! No way mom! That’s where we are too! Somehow my daughter and I missed each other on the same trail, well different side trail!


It’s The Sunny Little Things

If my neighbors saw me today, crawling around in the grass, digging around in the brush pile that’s patiently waiting to go to the recycle center or messing with the 4 tiny blooms  on my giant hydrangea bush, cell phone in hand, while it was thundering and lightening…I’m sure they were wondering what the heck I was up to again!

My back yard has a lot of clover and there were so many bumble bees going from flower to flower! I just had to try to get some pictures. I took dozens and ended up with a couple good ones. I can’t remember ever seeing so many bees at one time in my yard. Most were the big fuzzy black and yellow what I call bumble bees. There were even some smaller fuzzy black and white bees and honey bees.

I managed to capture 3 bees in this shot as I was trying to photograph the closest one…buy 1 get 2 bees free!

My brush pile is a tangled mess! Several years ago I tried to grow black raspberries…the birds ate them before I could think about picking any. Then I broke my ankle and doing any gardening or yard work went out the window and the berry plants became spindly sticker twigs. To the brush pile they went. A couple weeks ago I discovered the brush pile is half black raspberry bush now! And today, I found the first few black raspberries! There are hundreds of little red ones waiting for the sun to ripen them…if the birds don’t get them first!


One ripe black raspberry


My hydrangea bush is probably 10 years old and huge and it has only bloomed big full blooms 2 times. I water it. I fertilize it. I prune it. I don’t prune it. It has a mind of its own for sure! What did I find today? 4 small blooms! I’ve done something a little bit right!



Just the right amount of sunny