After a beautiful hike at Matthiessen State Park, our day outdoors continued on as we made our way to the LaSalle/Peru KOA Campground. It was about a ten minute drive from the park, past the highway and down a long road lined with cornfields. The front of the campground was filled with campers and RVs. We checked in at the general store/information desk, where we also purchased s’mores ingredients and one of those handy extendable forks with which to make them. The wonderful staff at the information desk gave me a map of the grounds and pointed out how it was divvied up between RVs, cabins, the campsites with water and electric, and the primitive sites without, which was where we were going. We were told we could pick any open site we wanted past the creek, so we went on our way.
A lot of the sites were already taken, so we drove a ways before we settled on one towards the back and parked on the grass next to it. Just as we had pulled out the tent and tarps from the car, it started to rain again. This, coupled with the fact that we set the tent up incorrectly the first time, made the experience a little bit frustrating. Once we had the tent set up the right way, we realized that the rain had made our selected campsite very muddy, particularly the area we chose for our tent. Luckily we hadn’t secured it to the ground yet, so we dragged it by the tarp underneath to a grassier spot.
It was such an ordeal that all we could really do was laugh about it, especially because it finally stopped raining once we had everything set. Mike got the fire going while I set up the rest our paltry camp with our two chairs, collapsible table, and dinner supplies. While Mike ran back to the general store to pick up some more firewood, I wrapped sweet corn in tin foil and threw them in the fire to cook and set the picnic table with a waterproof tablecloth.
We had hot dogs and corn and chips for dinner and it was actually pretty delicious. It was wonderful to be able to sit outside and enjoy it next to the fire and take in our surroundings. Our fellow campers were also enjoying their dinner and that amazing summer barbecue smell filled the air and the view from our picnic table was beautiful. Our campsite was across the makeshift gravel/grass road from a gorgeous green field that was separated from the grounds with a barbed wire fence.
After dinner, we started a game of rummy that we played intermittently throughout the evening, continuing by lamplight after it got dark. It turned out to be a beautiful night after the rain. Mike and I both really enjoyed being off the grid and having a conversation without any distractions. We drank wine and made our s’mores after dark; the fire was still going strong thanks to my boy scout boyfriend.
After a while, we retired to the tent, tuckered out from the day of hiking and setting up camp. All the wine I drank hit me around 2:00am, and I walked down a ways to the facilities. Because we were so far back from the main building, the closest bathrooms were porta potties. They weren’t so bad. You haven’t lived until you’ve used a porta potty by lamplight.
It was definitely an interesting experience, but the stars that night made it completely worth it. You don’t get to see that many in Chicago, and it was a stunning sight. We woke up bright and early the next morning to clean up and head to breakfast. We broke everything down way quicker than it took us to set it all up. Next time we will have to camp for longer so we have more time to enjoy the hard work.
Once everything was packed into the car, we drove back to Utica to Joy and Ed’s Supper Club for breakfast. I am typically pretty easy to please when it comes to breakfast places, but this one was just bad. The coffee was way watered down and the food was not great; we felt generally unwelcome while we were there. Luckily, while we paid our bill, Mike was secretly googling another place to go and took me directly to Nonie’s Bakery when we left.
This lovely little café more than made up for our first breakfast attempt and cheered me up completely. Nonie’s is cozy and cute with mismatched mugs for coffee and mouth-watering baked goods. I had one of their sprinkled doughnuts and it was amazing. It was the perfect end to a wonderful outdoorsy trip.
Where is your favorite campground?