Hiking enthusiast recommends Illinois trails

Illinois Wesleyan University physics professor Linda French has hiked to the top of all 48 peaks above 4,000 feet in the White Mountains in New Hampshire and along paths nearly 200 years old in England, but she also finds beauty in Central Illinois.

“My current favorite is Clinton Lake State Recreation Area’s North Fork Trail,” French said at a Lunch and Learn lecture at the McLean County Museum of History. “I recommend this highly.” The 9.3-mile trail is rated primitive and difficult, with many steep ups and downs in and out of ravines. French said the trail is particularly beautiful in spring when wildflowers bloom in the woods. Parts of the trail also pass through prairie areas.

She uses the trail to train for her more ambitious goals, such as hiking to the top of all 67 peaks over 4,000 feet in New England. For those training hikes, French usually carries a fully loaded pack, wears supportive hiking shoes and uses trekking poles. “What I love about hiking is you don’t need a lot of specific skills. You just walk,” French said. “There are no rules.”

And as much as she likes the challenge of “peak bagging” and wild trails, French said, “We are very blessed here to have access to Constitution Trail.” Other favorite places she recommended were Moraine View State Recreation Area, near LeRoy, particularly its Tall Timber Backpacking Trail, and Starved Rock State Park.

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