After writing about the National Trails System for the entirety of my fellowship, I finally decided to visit one myself. The Starved Rock State Park National Recreation Trail is a short two-hour drive from my house and was actually a location I used to frequent growing up.
Through my internship with the National Park Service as a National Trails System Communications Fellow, I have become incredibly familiar with the various trails that cover America. With my new knowledge, I was curious to see if my experience on this trail would now be different.
After picking up two of my closest friends, we headed on the road toward Starved Rock. Once we arrived, we slathered on sunscreen, picked up a trail map, and started our journey. Conversation flowed naturally between us and was only interrupted every time we excitedly saw a chipmunk or squirrel scurry on the ground in front of us. We only managed to hike around 6 miles of the almost 15 miles available of the trail system, but everything we had the opportunity to see was absolutely enchanting. Honestly, it was one of the most enjoyable days of the summer so far for me.
Throughout all my experiences with Starved Rock in the past, the one thing that has stayed consistent is my love for the trail. Now that I understand all the behind-the-scenes work that goes into the overall management of a trail, I found myself appreciating it even more. So many people contribute so many hours of effort in order to make these trails available to the everyday public. Unfortunately, most of that work goes unnoticed. In fact, it went unnoticed to me for years and years, until I was actually employed by the National Park Service.
My takeaway from my trip to Starved Rock State Park National Recreation Trail is to be more appreciative of the environmental opportunities provided to me. I didn’t have to pay a single penny to visit the trail, the only cost I ran into was paying for gas and the Mcdonald's fries we bought after we were done. Growing up, I never made the realization that I am very privileged to have these environmental recreation opportunities so close to me. Not only was I able to experience the trail system, but I was able to experience it with two of my closest friends, which makes it so much more meaningful to me. I want to thank the National Park Service for providing me with the opportunity to learn about the National Trails System. Not only have I gained an appreciation of trails 1,000 miles away from me, but also for the ones closest to home.