It feels like the season is beginning to wind down here in Southern Illinois. We made our final trip to the Hidden Springs Ranger District this week. After some slight campground issues on Monday morning, we finally settled on a spot at the Garden of The Gods.
A truly magnificent place, the Garden of The Gods has campsites situated along the tops of the Cliffs. We had great views out from the back of the campsite and a front row seat for some of the wild thunderstorms that ripped through the Midwest this week.
We saw lots of cool stuff this week. On Tuesday we stumbled across a grave site for an old homestead now crumbling and hidden from decades of forest overgrowth. The wildlife was abundant yet again, and each week it seems like more and more creatures make their presence felt in these lush forests. Stopped for ice cream after work at Harrison’s Country Market, a local gem, where folks are always stopping in to see what mom’s cookin‘ for dinner.
Tuesday night brought strong thunderstorms, and I mean strong! We beat the rain, lightning, and high winds by sitting in the truck, playing cards and watching the satellite images of the storm roll over us. We all fell asleep in the truck briefly and returned to our tents when the storm subsided later that night.
On Wednesday we started the day with a trip to the old Iron Furnace close by. Built in the mid 1800’s it produced high quality iron and required a 40 man team working 2 shifts to keep it in full blast.
After that we visited Thacker Hollow. It’s simply amazing to me that this place is not more popular. It was some of the most beautiful hiking on this forest so far. The rivers and streams were overflowing from the night before and we strolled past gorgeous cliffs and waterfalls coming from every direction. The sun would peak out every once in a while and give you that “storybook” forest look with rays of light coming down through the trees. Amazing!
Thursday morning we decided to hit some of the last hotspots on the Hidden Springs District that we hadn’t seen yet. We started with a hike of the Rim Rock Trail and met an SCA alum at the trailhead. Scott, who had worked at Glacier National Park years ago, was just as surprised to see us as we were to see him. It was a great conversation and we soon made our way down to the Pounds Escarpment at Rim Rock. The area has a network of trails that wind through the rocks and along the cliffs. Not a good place for you if you’re claustrophobic.
Next it was on to Burden Falls, where the spring rains really bring out the best in this waterfall. We hopped around on rocks, checking out the falls, and doing a little bouldering and scrambling with too many good rocks to pass up.
Our final stop for the day was at Bell Smith Springs. There is a natural arch there standing over 30 feet high and more than 120 feet long. Amazingly, there is even a waterfall that falls right behind it. A spectacular sight.
It’s been a great week and it’s hard to believe that there’s only 1 hitch left. We’ll be at Kinkaid Lake next week to finish up the season and visit the last corner of the Shawnee National Forest.
Work completed this hitch:
Trail 150 - 2.84 miles
Memorial Trail #160 - 0.85 miles
Snow Cone Trail #146 - 3.27 miles
Thacker Ridge Trail #180 - 2.12 miles
Trail #180c - 0.65 miles
Total Trail Surveyed This Hitch - 9.73 miles