We knew we wanted to take advantage of the long Labor Day weekend, and go hiking at least once, but we also knew that the most popular parks would be far more crowded than normal. That in mind, we settled on Lowden-Miller State Forest, a pretty large entry on it’s own, but often overshadowed by the other three parks in the area: Castle Rock, White Pines, and Lowden State Park. But the main reason we picked this one for the holiday weekend was for the 22 miles of trails to choose from, and we felt it was less likely to have an issue with parking since there are several different trail heads.
Lowden-Miller State Forest, as well as Lowden State Park, is named for Frank O. Lowden, who was governor from 1917 to 1921. Though he only served one term, he is remembered for his love of nature and for his contributions to the study of forestry and tree growth in the region. In fact he is directly responsible for planting around 500,000 trees in the forests around Oregon, IL. Some of the white pines he planted before 1910 are considered to be the oldest in the state. They called the property “Sinnissippi Forest”, meaning “rocky river” or “troubled waters”, which is fitting since it borders the Rock River. The forest was originally owned by the family before they sold it to the State of Illinois in 1992 and 1993.
We opted to do the Logger’s Trail, which was 1.5 miles long. We found that the trails were all reasonably well maintained, and didn’t have any issues trying to find where we were going. Also along this trail were several signs with infographics about the different trees and other plants, which is always nice to see. This forest has been a subject for study for people interested in forestry from the start, with Lowden himself inviting the University of Illinois to conduct research, with nearly 80% of all data about hardwood forests within the state being collected within this forest.
Our one issue we had with this trail was the amount of bugs. We always wear bug spray and normally would not be bothered by them, but the swarms of gnats and mosquitos were so numerous out there that we could not stop anywhere for more than a few seconds. This was the quickest we hiked thru any trail of this length, simply because we could not stop to take photos or to drink water. We certainly could not stop to read any of the signs along the trail to learn about the forest. If you decide to do this trail, bug spray is a must.
There are many trails within Lowden-Miller, and the map for this park is very good with every intersection being numbered. We would have liked to explore some of the other trails since everything was so well marked, but unfortunately we had to stay true to the Logger’s Trail since the bugs were so bad.
We ended up going to Obscurity Brewing in Elburn, IL. This brewery is a bit of a triple threat; not only do they brew craft beer but they also have a mead hall and serve pretty good barbeque. We visited on a Sunday, and the mead hall was unfortunately closed, however we both enjoyed our beer flights Stephanie highly recommends the grilled bologna sandwich.
We feel that Lowden-Miller has so much to offer, between the size of the park, the proximity to the river, the very interesting history, and the surprisingly well maintained trails that provide a lot of information about the trees. It really was just the bugs that we were not expecting to be as bad as they were.
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