Saturday, March 22, 2008

Hiking Shawnee National Forest, Illinois

Somewhere in the middle of the night the temperature dropped. We had the electric blanket with us in the tent but we weren’t using it. In the early morning, before sunrise, we cranked it up and laid it across the sleeping bags, covering it with a comforter to trap in the heat.

My travel alarm went off a little later, but we didn’t budge for a long, long while. It was windy, cloudy, and cold outside and we were warm inside the tent. When we finally did get up we decided that since it was in the 30’s and it would have to warm up some before we went riding. We would find something else to do this morning.

Leaving the bikes behind

We didn’t waste any time. We got the trailer separated from the truck. Left the trailer and bikes at the camp site and drove about 30 miles east to do some hiking. Figuring that in a few hours it would be warmer and we’d be able to go for a ride then.

Nice twisty roads to Garden of the Gods

There were a few places nearby that I read about and wanted to see and hike. The first one on my list was Garden of the Gods Wilderness Area located in Shawnee National Forest near the town of Harrisburg. By the way, there is no admission fee for the Garden of the Gods Wilderness Area.

We hiked out to Anvil Rock, but further past there the trail got muddy, so we made our way to the parking lot and walked up to do the Observation Trail, which is a short .25 mile stone path that takes you to some spectacular overlooks and rock formations. This is the trail that most people do because of the great scenery.

The temperature wasn’t any getting warmer. The clouds weren’t going away either. We made some sandwiches for an early lunch since we didn’t have much of a breakfast. We ate them in the truck and decided to drive just a few miles north to the Pounds Hollow/Rim Rock Recreation Area.

Sandwiches for lunch

Pounds Hollow Lake and Rim Rock Recreation Area are right next to each other. If you’re driving from Garden of the Gods, Rim Rock comes up first and that’s where you want to start the hike. There is no admission fee here either. The Rim Rock trail starts right at the parking lot. It is paved with flagstone and offers views of ravines and the surrounding forest. Actually, it’s really nothing special and I’m just glad that we kept going because half way through the trail there is an observation deck and just a bit further there are wooden steps leading down to a moss-covered maze of boulders that you have to walk though.

More smooth pavement on the way to Rim Rock Recreation Area

We didn’t continue the Rim Rock trail after that because what we found on the other side of the moss-covered rocks was so amazing that we ended up spending hours hiking the area below the Rim Rock trail.

Rim Rock Recreational Area

At some point we knew that if we stayed any longer we wouldn’t have enough time to do a decent ride on our bikes today, but we didn’t mind. We were having a really great time exploring and the weather hadn’t improved anyway, so if we rode, it would have been a really cold ride. The high temp only climbed in to the low 40’s today, but with overcast skies and wind it felt even colder. At least hiking here in the valley, protected from the wind by all the rocks, it seemed warmer. We hiked past Ox Lot Cave and went all the way to the lake and back. There was one more trail, which we started near the cave, but we were getting tired since we had been hiking since morning.

Deer in the road near Rim Rock Rec. Area

We didn’t want to get be back to the campsite earlier then 6PM so we still had some time to kill. We decided to drive out to one more place that we’ve wanted to see. About 30-40 minutes later we arrived at the town called Cave-In-Rock. Located on the Ohio River, the Cave-In-Rock State Park is a popular tourist attraction and where the cave can be found. Unfortunately, the cave was under water right now, the Ohio River has swallowed it up because of all the flooding.

Stairs under water leading to Cave-In-Rock

We’ll have to plan a future trip down here since I’d really like to see it. From what I read on the internet, the cave is periodically flooded by the Ohio River, so once it dries out it should be just like before.

Curves along the Ohio River

We took off toward the campground. Upon arrival we tried to build a big fire, but the fresh cut wood wasn’t burning as hot and as big as we wanted it to. Dinner was easy tonight, hot dogs and chili. It was a cold night. We climbed in to our tent with our sleeping bags, electric blanket, and comforter. We were pretty comfortable with all the warm gear.

The chili still has the shape of the can

Wheat bread, chili, hot dog and shredded cheese

Our not so big fire


Anonymous said...

must hae been awful cold. Reminds me, I need some winter biking gear.

Taylor said...

Nice photos - I'm a local, if you'd care to see some more photos of the area or what it looks like during the nicer times of the years, check out my site: