Sometimes after 9 days in the field you look back to something that happened on day 1 and think, "wow that seems like years ago." Such were our adventures in the wilderness areas of southern Illinois this past week. We spent the first several days in Lusk Creek Wilderness, a spectacular area where the trails wind slowly through the rolling valleys, over natural bridges, past cliffs and rock shelters, and through the clear streams. With an extensive network of trails we definitely got to know the place well by sometimes hiking sections 2 or 3 times to get to the next trail.
Each trail in a TrACS survey must be completed by beginning from it's designated starting part and moving forward from there. Trying to survey in the most efficient way is like trying to trace every line without lifting your pencil from the paper.
One day we spent most of the day moving from one rock shelter to the next dodging rain drops. We averaged about 5 miles of hiking per day with 8 miles being our longest day. After only 5 days we had set foot on, or surveyed almost every mile of trail in the Wilderness, twice!
We moved on from there to an area known as Jackson Hole, which is a popular horseback riding area on the Shawnee National Forest. In the area there is a place known as Crow's Knob. A location where a flat rolling landscape dominates the view, but tucked back into a random corner of the forest is a spot where the sandstone is thrust up from the ground out of nowhere. It was a location used as a part of the underground railroad years ago where fires would be lit on top as signals to people in need of a safe refuge.
On to Jackson Falls Monday where the sun was shining and the falls were sparkling. Jackson Falls is a highly touted rock climbing area and it was easy to see why. The nearly 100 foot cliffs seemed to stretch on forever and we followed the trail along the top of one side of the valley. The stream from the falls moved on down the valley with us and we strolled along enjoying the afternoon and soaking up the sun.
Tuesday we moved to Bay Creek Wilderness where we again found ourselves on a trail finding adventure. Any area designated as Wilderness quickly reclaims its dominance over human construction and trails are no exception. After the path we were on disappeared, we bushwhacked through the underbrush with map and compass in our attempt to find the start of the trail that we had come to survey. Some time later after following streams, game trails, scrambling on rocks and backtracking a bit we found the junction for the start of our trail. An adventurous morning and fun way to finish our hitch.
We surveyed approximately 20 miles of Trail this hitch.
Nearly 12 miles in Lusk Creek.
6 miles at Jackson Hole.
1 mile each at Jackson Falls and Bay Creek.
Next Week it's on to the Garden of the Gods and Pounds Hollow.