Next time you go for a hike in Connecticut feel lucky. Not only do we have places you can go and hike like Case Mountain in Manchester or Devil’s Hopyard in East Haddam, but the places we have are simple paths through the woods without man made structures lining your walk. The most man made it gets in Connecticut is a hash mark on a tree or rock marking a trail.

Last week when I went to Chicago to visit my friend, Julie, we drove two hours outside of the city to go “hiking” at Starved Rock State Park. Julie will hate me for putting parenthesis around hiking because she really wanted to go on a hike, not a walk. And, since Illinois is pretty flat, and we’d driven through nothing by cut corn fields to get there, I’d been teasing her along the way that we were going to have a leisurely stroll through some woods. I think I can safely say that we were both a little surprised when the elevation actually increased about 100 feet upon entering the park.

Starved Rock is very cool. There are beautiful views and the canyons are really spectacular and worth seeing, but it’s not a challenging hike. What stuck me as odd is that where you walk is paved (or occasionally laid out for you with crushed stone). And anytime you need to go up (even be it a five foot incline), wooden steps lead the way. Wonder off the path slightly and you’ll find the woods littered with signs warning you about poison ivy. Fear tactics in action.

Admittedly, I’ve only been to one state park in Illinois so they may not all be like this, but I’ve been to many in Connecticut and have yet to find one that replaces dirt with pavement or rocks with a wooden platform as your lookout. It seems a little backwards to cover nature with a man made structure so that you can get a better look at nature.

I’m really glad we went, and I would go again and recommend the place. But I left feeling lucky that I live in Connecticut. I suppose that if you don’t have hills, let alone mountains, in your state, you might be a little more cautious of the countryside and a little more nervous about people getting injured. I’m not sure why they have the layout they’ve opted for at Starved Rock, but I was glad to know I’d get to hike again in Connecticut anytime I wanted. Our state may be tiny, but it certainly has a varied landscape.