Autumn colors are really starting to show around here so we thought that a trip to Shawnee National Forest was in order. SNF occupies a large chunk of southern Illinois and is the largest tract of publicly owned land in the state.
Auntie decided she wanted a break from studying and tagged along. Frugal Boy was glum until he saw Auntie get off the shuttle bus.
With Auntie’s bags loaded up we hit the road on Friday night so we could get a fresh start in the morning and see all of the sights. We made a few stops on the way down. Rest areas are great for babies because they usually have clean bathrooms with changing tables. Failing that, there are usually plenty of places that they can be changed outside.
That night we found a hole in the wall diner that offered up southern comfort food. Mmmmmmmm. Delicious!
The next morning the drive became more interesting as we left the flat plains behind and entered rolling hills. Our first destination was the Garden of the Gods.
The main attraction at Garden of the Gods is Camel Rock. There are series of rock formations and cliffs that offer sweeping vistas of the surrounding wilderness.
Proper footwear and maintaining three points of contact are good rules to follow when scrambling around rocks.
While it may be tempting to leave your mark in such a beautiful place, please refrain yourself. Once one piece of graffiti shows up, it tempts others to add more.
Besides, why would you want to distract people from views like this?
Relax grandparents, I was farther away from the edge than the picture looks.
If you are passing through the area or are looking for a nice day trip destination, Garden of the Gods was a lot of fun. The featured trail is not very long, but there are longer trails and it probably isn’t as crowded on non peak foliage weekends. Seeking a reprieve from the hordes of people, we went to a lesser known place called Rim Rock. Rim Rock is an escarpment that was used by Native Americans and early settlers for protection and shelter. It is easy to see why the place is defensible when you hike around it.
Down on one side is a “Cave”. Big overhang is probably more accurate. Lumberjacks used the cave to corral their oxen and keep them out of the rain. These steps led down from the escarpment to Ox-Lot Cave.
All of that morning hiking worked up our appetites so we paused for lunch. Like our earlier Missouri trip we saved time and money by buying a giant deli sandwich from the grocery store deli that morning and then split it up three ways and added in our prepackaged snack food.
After lunch we drove down highway 1 to the Ohio river and Cave In Rock state park. There is a free ferry that will take you across the river into Kentucky but we decided just to watch from a nearby bluff.
Wandering about the bluff we spotted a fenced off sinkhole. It was a warm day, in the low 80s and there were many other visitors milling about enjoying the unseasonably warm weather.
A short walk on the main path and we found David.
This large cave was hollowed out by water long ago. You can still see where the water cut down and carved out the rock.
Near the back of the cave was a column of light coming from the before mentioned sink hole. I have been in a lot of caves and most have a nice earthy smell. This one stunk of rancid river water. Outside we found another spot to do a group photo.
It was starting to get late and we still had a long drive to get home. A couple of rest areas provided much needed breaks for all size passengers.
It was a fun trip and nice to reconnect to nature. There are a number of little cabin rentals if you are feeling adventurous and we passed by so many brown signs for points of interest that we could have easily spent a few days exploring all of the nooks and crannies of the East Shawnee National Forest. I say east, because there is a whole other chunk of SNF that is closer to Saint Louis and includes Little Grand Canyon. That’s a trip for another day.