Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. I may receive a small commission from these links, but it doesn't cost you any extra. All opinions are my own and I wouldn't recommend a product I wouldn't use myself.
Last weekend we headed out for our first camping trip of the season! We've been looking to explore some new places, so we decided on Mississippi Palisades State Park. It's about a 2.5 hour drive from us, allows dogs, has great hiking, and has a primitive campground with flushing toilets. Right up my alley!
We headed out Friday afternoon and arrived shortly before dinner. We unpacked, the carefully packed Prius, set up camp, and immediately headed out for a hike.
The original site I chose was flooded out so they switched us to a different one. I was a little nervous because I spent so much time trying to find a site that wasn't too close to the road or the bathrooms, but it turned out fine. We were on a slight incline, but when it rained later in the weekend- at least we were at the high point!
Our campsite was really nice. It had a firepit, grill and a picnic table. All of the campsites came with these amenities, and some included electric. There were no water hook-ups at any of the sites, but there were a lot of water pumps around which was nice. We brought water, but it goes quickly, so it's nice to have extra nearby. It's well water, so it's drinkable, but tastes like, well....well water, so we mostly used it to boil water for coffee and food and for cleaning dishes.
One of the things that intrigued me about this park is that you can reach almost all of the trails from the campground. The trail systems are divided into two parts - north and south. Both sides of the park are connected by a main road that runs through the park.
The northern trails are just a short walk from the campsites. They are considered the easier trails, with wider paths and less hills. We did the High Point Trail which you can read about here.
The southern trails are a a little bit longer of a walk to get to. They are a little bit more narrow and much steeper. You can also drive to the trailheads if you'd like or drive to one of the scenic overlooks which have a parking lot and a short walk.
After we set up camp, we headed out for a hike on the Sunset Trail in the South Trail System. You can read about that here. Then we headed back to camp for dinner.
It took us FOREVER to start a fire! We bought wood at the park, but it was wet from all the humidity and we had such a hard time starting a fire. I ended up running into town and buying dry wood and lighter fluid just so we could finally get a fire started and eat! I usually do NOT recommend using lighter fluid to start a fire, but alas, desperate times call for desperate measures. At least it was odorless so we couldn't smell the fumes we were breathing in.
I had planned on taking some pictures for a post in my So You Wanna Be a Camper? series on how to make Hobo Potatoes over the fire, but that didn't happen. So hopefully soon.
The next morning we woke up early and headed out to the High Point Trail. You can read about that here. But before we left we made some breakfast. Thanks to the lighter fluid we were able to immediately start a fire and get breakfast going! A few months ago, I saw an advertisement for Wise Foods, a freeze-dried survival and emergency food company. I reached out to see if they would be interested in sending me some samples for future backpacking/camping trips and they sent me a 72 hour pack. I can't find the exact one they sent, but it is similar to this. We've had freeze-dried foods before (mostly camping or backpacking) and they have all been pretty good, so we thought we'd give these a try on our trip. My favorite part about them is that they pack flat and are really a no-brainer when it comes to prep. Heat some water. Pour it in. Stir. Wait. Eat. We had both the Apple Cinnamon Cereal which was really quite delicious and the strawberry granola crunch, which was good. but not my favorite. The Apple Cinnamon Cereal has a 6-grain mix of red and white wheat, barley, rye, oats, and triticale, which, in my opinion, is what made it particularly tasty.
We came back to camp for lunch and then headed out to find a swimming beach! I thought I remembered reading about a swimming beach across from the park, but we didn't see anything. After asking around, we found a lake/swimming beach (the ladies at the gas station were not in agreement about what it actually was) in Sebula, Iowa a little island in the middle of the Mississippi. (Iowa's only island- Fun Fact!)
Not gonna lie, it was kind of weird at first. We had to cross a bridge to this island and then go under the railroad tracks to the marina. There we parked and followed the signs to the beach! I think it may have once been an old sand quarry or something like that. When in Sebula! Anyway, the water was warm, we saw our camp neighbors and met some very friendly locals! We spent a few hours here and probably could have stayed longer, but Knox was ready to go back.
We headed back to camp for dinner and decided to try out some more of our Wise Company foods. I had the creamy pasta chicken. Dennis is lactose intolerant so he had the Chili Mac. Many of the products seem to have milk in them, but there was no lactose in the chili mac, just casein, which is a protein- so we were good to go! Veggies- there are some vegetarian products as well. Sorry vegans. You're out of luck. One of the great things about these is that the meal cook right in the bag. I would wait the entire 12-15 minutes to make sure everything has been cooked, so you don't end up with a crunch pea or something. I have to say these were surprisingly good. We brought some back-up food in case these were gross, but they were quite tasty! Both Dennis and I think they tasted better than Tuna/Hamburger Helper and Weston loved them! Definitely not something to eat everyday, but after a long hike or a backpacking trip when you've sweated all day and are just exhausted, these taste absolutely delicious.
We explored the campground a bit after dinner and chased butterflies. They were all over! We found some cool bugs to check-out like slugs, spiders, and beetles. It's amazing to me just how many little creatures there are out there that all have a job to do.
We just chilled by the campfire for the rest of the night. Out neighbors had us over for Brown Bears (recipe coming soon) and we brought stuff for S'mores. A mad thunderstorm came in Saturday night, which kept us and most of the campground up all night, I'm sure. Most people didn't even get out of their tents until 9 am. But I am happy to report that our tent weathered the storm excellently. The rainfly stayed tight and there was not one drop of water in the tent!
I really recommend this campground if you are looking for a place to get away and disconnect. It's about 2.5 hours outside of Chicago. There is a town close by in case your forgot something or don't want to cook camp food and the people are friendly. If you are into boating, there are plenty of places to drop-in or rent. And the hiking is fabulous. There is a 3G signal, but its not that great. But that's OK. It forced us to put down our phones and look around, which is always a good thing.
Have any of you ever been to the Mississippi Palisades? What is your favorite part? If not, will you go?
MISSISSIPPI PALISADES STATE PARK
HIKING CAMPING ROCK CLIMBING PICKNICING
BOATING AND FISHING NEARBY
BRING CHILD CARRIER FOR HIKING
STEEP HILLS ON HIKING TAILS- WATCH CHILDREN