Yes, winter brings cold, shivery weather.
But ... think "nestled." Think "cozy and warm" and "feel good."
Imagine watching snowflakes lace a veil over trees outside, building a blanket across the forest.
Think cabins in Starved Rock Country.
If this sounds enticing, then here's where to go this winter:
KISHAUWAU COUNTRY CABINS
A former Boy Scout camp established in the 1920s, Kishauwau has been, since 1986, in the hands of the King family, several members of whom live on the grounds.
About five miles south of Starved Rock, Matthiessen and Buffalo Rock state parks, Kishauwau offers 17 cabins of differing sizes — the largest accommodating as many as 14 guests. The cabins are spaced well apart beneath a canopy of oaks, maples and pines.
With limited cell phone coverage, television cable service in only one cabin and WiFi restricted to the camp office, isolation is key to Kishauwau's appeal.
Arlene Brennan, a frequent guest from the Northwest Side of Chicago, uses that key to unlock a sense of serenity.
"The way the cottages are set up, you don't even know anyone else is there. And it's gorgeous and clean. In all my travels, it's one of the best places. You have nature sounds instead of Chicago sounds. We'll walk along the river, then stop and read. It's wonderful," Arlene observed.
Arlene, a retired teacher, and her husband Michael, have regularly visited Kishauwau since 1992.
"It's really restorative and made me a better teacher and strengthened our marriage to have that time away from everybody and Chicago. It's been wonderful to be connected with the King family. They're good friends. It's a real community there," Arlene noted.
Michael pointed out Kishauwau guests may very well relax in a rustic setting, but many amenities are within easy reach.
"The cottages are very well appointed, but you look out windows and see nature, you see trees. It's very refreshing, but you're not roughing it."
Amenities include whirlpool baths and a wall stacked with DVDs and VHS tapes there for the borrowing. The office's landline phone can be used anytime and food items can be bought there by putting money in a jar — the honor system prevails. Bundles of firewood also can be purchased for a few bucks.
Kishauwau caters to family reunions and couples, not for teenagers wishing for an out-of-the-way spot for a party.
Quiet is craved at Kishauwau.
STARVED ROCK LODGE AND CONFERENCE CENTER
Cabins at Starved Rock State Park are less isolated than those at Kishauwau. In fact, at Starved Rock you're centered in one of the Midwest's premier natural attractions.
Winter is perhaps one of the best times to rent a cabin at Starved Rock, when views are unobstructed by vegetation and the rugged beauty is all the more visible. Winter also makes snuggling inside a log cabin an especially inviting prospect — who can resist a glowing fireplace and a glass of wine? And enjoy the history. Some of the cabins were built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps.
Of course, there is the call of the great outdoors — if you are staying in a cabin, the great outdoors is one step outside your door, where miles of hiking trails unfold before you through an inspiring landscape culminating with the Rock, which provides a memorable view of the Illinois River and beyond.
A number of cabins of varying sizes can be booked, some that feature handmade furniture. All have wireless Internet, but only some have televisions. Arrangements differ as far as bed sizes, fireplaces and other amenities.
Available are five, two-room Pioneer cabins with two king beds and gas fireplace that sleeps five with the help of a pull-out sleeper chair. (No TV in these cabins.)
There are also three Pioneer cabins with two queen beds that sleep four comfortably. (No TV here either.)
There are eight Sunset cabins off the indoor pool area that have a king bed with a fireplace or double beds with no fireplace but all have flat-screen TVs.
Keep in mind the Starved Rock Lodge is nearby. The Lodge has intriguing shops, delicious dining, a lively lounge and a heated swimming pool and sauna. And check out the twin stone fireplaces in the Great Hall.
FOX RIVER EAGLE CABIN
Lyman's Mound Road runs along the Fox River in Ottawa, through thick timber. Near the end of the dead-end gravel road is a treat for the visitor to Starved Rock Country who does not mind roughing it a bit.
There you will find Fox River Eagle Cabin. This 1,200-square-foot cabin is an unpretentious little getaway that lies in a clearing about 35 yards from the water's edge.
"It's quiet, relaxing. Leave your cell phone alone," said owner Stanley Johnson. "I've had Cub Scouts, couples and families. Many are from Chicago, but some are from south of us."
The cabin has a kitchen, bath, bedroom and large, open living room, with two large windows opening onto the river. There is plenty of kitchenware and bath supplies.
Johnson lives adjacent to the red-painted cabin, so he is sometimes on hand for guests. Pets are welcome and firewood is furnished for the outdoor fire pit, on which Johnson suggests a meal or two be cooked. There is an electric fireplace inside the cabin.
If Old Man Winter is not acting up, Johnson offers canoe rides. And of course, the smallmouth bass are often biting.
In the cold months, bald eagles will dive for fish and nest in trees just yards from the cabin, and deer, fox, turkey, hawks, rabbits and other forms of wildlife also put in appearances on the property.
Fox River Eagle Cabin is only minutes from downtown Ottawa and less than 20 minutes from Starved Rock State Park.
Kishauwau Country Cabins
901 N. 2129th Road, rural Tonica
Starved Rock Lodge and Conference Center
Fox River Eagle Cabin
1914 N. 2959th Road (Lyman's Mound Road), Ottawa