Backcountry Camping – Sand Ridge State Forest

Many months ago my nephew Dakota brought up the idea of going for a long backpacking hike in the summer. We decided on Sand Ridge State Forest near Peoria, Illinois because it had many miles of trails to explore.

We packed up our bags with tons of water, food, and a camping gear, hit the road, and then hit the trails.

Dakota
Sand Ridge State Forest

Me (Birdfreak)
Sand Ridge State Forest

The habitat at Sand Ridge is much different from what you’d expect in Illinois. All the trails were coated in thick sand, making each step feel like a step and a half.

Sand Ridge State Forest

Sand Ridge State Forest

Our planned route was a near 15 mile loop but the trail conditions, 90+ degree heat, and our heavy packs urged us to deviate our path a little.

Sand Ridge State Forest

Some of the bird highlights during the hike included a pre-hike Red-headed Woodpecker and Northern Mockingbird and then mostly common stuff, especially Eastern Towhees.

We heard a Kentucky Warbler and some other interesting birds but it was difficult to take the time to identify while we trudged along.

Sand Ridge State Forest

We started at 10:15 am and didn’t get to our campsite until around 6:00 pm.

Our Back Country Site

Once the sun went down, the night birds came alive and we were joyous to hear Whip-poor-wills only several feet away.

Also nearby were a pair of Barred Owls that went through their entire repertoire of hoots and sounds. We even had a coyote howl closer by than expected.

Our Back Country Site

All in all it was a wonderful experience although quite exhausting!

Some stats
Ounces of water consumed: 120+ each
Miles hiked: 12 (approx.)
Dakota’s bag weight: 28 lbs
My bag weight: 39 lbs

Oh, and this was our first time doing a backcountry hike and camp.

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