Recently Amy & I packed up the RAV4 with our tent and headed out to Rockford for a little camping and mountain biking.  The weather couldn't have been more cooperative.  We had an awesome time!

Steve conquers... the bridge!

Rock Cut State Park is located on the northeast edge of Rockford, approximately 1.5 hours from Chicago.  We've camped here before with larger groups, but this time around it was just us.  Having spent the summer of 1995 living in Rockford during my internship at WIFR-23, Rockford holds an "interesting" place in my heart.  I think I'll leave it at that.

Our Campsite at Rock Cut State Park

Amy relaxes with a book

We didn't make advanced reservations, but had no problem getting a campsite.  Thanks to some advanced notes my parents took on their last time at the park, we had a good idea which campsite would be best suited for our tastes.  We ended up with a nice spot completely surrounded by trees, which made for a quieter, less chaotic experience.

My sister and brother-in-law gave us one of their older tents last fall, so this was the first time we got to try it out on our own.  Having grown up as a pop-up trailer-type camper, living on campsites at state parks isn't a new experience for me… but the "we just have a tent" thing is.  We brought along our Coleman RoadTrip grill, which is designed for tailgating, however with proper stove attachments, worked great while camping.

Cooking on the grill

One of the things we looked forward with this trip was a chance to ride on some mountain bike trails.  Rock Cut actually has a rather extensive system of trails, including 23 miles designated for biking.

Trail map of Rock Cut State Park

The park made a big deal in their literature about the trails being "completely remarked," which is probably true, but that doesn't help when the map doesn't exactly match what you encounter in real life!

Riding through a pine tree forest

That said, we had a great time on the various trails in the park.  Aside from the confusion over "where exactly are we going?", they proved to be challenging for our skill level and wonderful opportunity to combine to things we really enjoy… biking and getting out into nature.

Trail Marker

Abandoned shelter we discovered on a lost trail

Well, maybe it was almost a perfect time.  There was this moment when we were biking up a pretty rocky hill that had a lot of erosion.  Amy got a bad positioning on the dirt and fell into a thorn bush on the side of the trail.  We laughed about it at the time, but she has some battle scars to show from the experience!

Quite the imaginative sign... not!

One of the lakes at Rock Cut

One interesting element of Rock Cut State Park is that it actually has an interstate highway running through it.  On the eastern end of the park, I-90 separates the two lakes.  It's probably the only time I've seen a state park have its own overpass to connect two portions of the property.  One minute you are riding in the woods… the next your bike is parallel to high speed traffic, separated by a fence.  Very odd experience.

It's Volcano Falls!

Steve finishes off a putt

We took a break from the "roughing it" thing one night and headed into Rockford to play some mini golf at a place called Volcano Falls Adventure Park.  It also was literally next to I-90, which made the tiki-inspired theme seem a bit out of place.  The course itself was very visually attractive.  If the cult-classic boardgame Fireball Island could be made into a mini golf course, it would probably look like this.

The skies were blue!

Amy's disappointed... and it's not because I-90 is right there!

That said, have you ever played mini golf at a place that was very pretty, but not very challenging?  That's what we ended up with.  All style and flash, no substance.  It didn't help that some of the water features were turned off and apparently there was a lack of music as well.  I'm not sure if maintenance is needed with the end of summer upon us, but we found that disappointing.  In the end, however, I defeated Amy, so all was not lost!

Yes, we needed this!


We enjoyed some nice fires at night.  Thankfully the weather was not too hot.  It actually was a tad chilly at times.  Thanks to the emerald ash borer, we paid some inflated prices for firewood given that there's a quarantine on bringing your own wood into the park (well, we brought a little wood, but don't tell anyone!)

Someone is goofy in this photo... guess who?

By the way, have you ever tried making s'mores with a little peanut butter spread on the graham cracker?  I gave it a shot and found it quite tasty!  We contrasted our low-tech fire with some nighttime music pumped in from Amy's Blackberry streaming Pandora.  That was quite the juxtaposition!

Overall, I'd say our little camping weekend was a success.  Probably the biggest challenge was jamming everything into the RAV4, as we don't yet have a rooftop bike rack, so both bikes plus camping gear was all inside.  It fit… but it was snug!

When can we go again? :)

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