I think I started a new tradition. 

Months ago, I wrote about how I've been fortunate enough to explore National Parks on and around my past four birthdays in September.

Well, for the past two years now, I've also used the New Year's holiday to explore state parks in Iowa and Illinois. 

A week ago today, we packed a picnic and planned to meet two friends from Chicago at Matthiessen State Park — about halfway to the Windy City off Interstate 80 — but they both bailed.

I immediately thought of veteran rock climber Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia, and the words he shared about "adventure" in 180° South, a 2010 documentary. He thinks the word is overused today: 

"For me, when everything goes wrong — that’s when adventure starts.”

While the cancellation of plans probably doesn't qualify as an adventure in Chouinard's book, we pursued the day trip without our "too busy" pals.

My hiking partner, Maria Ontiveros of Moline, and I explored Matthiessen's canyon and caves and snacked on soup, Wisconsin sausage and aged cheddar cheese. 

From there, we darted to the more popular Starved Rock State Park, just a few miles away, to catch the sunrise and views of the Illinois River.

During our outing at Matthiessen, we met an area expert who invited me back this spring to learn more about the neighboring parks, which the Illinois Department of Natural Resources manages. 

In 2017, I hope to interact with more kindred spirits who chase outdoor adventures in the Quad-City area.

Share your experiences — hikes, harvests, bike rides, snowboarding sessions and whatever else — with us on social media by using the hashtag #QCOutdoors.

See you on the trail.


Jack Cullen writes about various sides of life across the Quad-City area in his Notes @ Noon column, which appears online at noon on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. He also covers the outdoors for a weekly section that runs in Saturday's print edition of the Quad-City Times and online at qctimes.com. Outside of work, you can find Jack on the tennis court, where he serves as a coach at Augustana College in Rock Island, his alma mater.