Having lived in Illinois for most of my 55 revolutions around the sun, I have never ventured to Shawnee National Forest. As a kid, my parents took me on those inexpensive, close to home, vacations as a treat. We loved spending time away from home together. Our main go-to as a family was spending summers in Wisconsin and hitting the Dells.
Memories forever etched in my mind.
As adults, we tend to go big or go home, and either pick that place where few may go or make sure we are there for the big party. However, our goal this summer has been to venture close to home again and explore our backyard. And consequently, I have fallen for Illinois all over again.
Why are You Going There?
Since starting this blog, our primary mission has been to connect with our readers. End of story.
While other blogs cover adventures to faraway destinations and, wining and dining in places that are hard to pronounce.The next grouping of posts from Gazettour will focus on exploring the Midwest in all its flat glory. So stick with us and see what we can find.
I Never Knew
This post is the first part of a multi-part series which gives way to the statement “Wow I never knew.”
I never knew there was such beautiful landscape in this state. Everything from rolling hills, to deep canyons.
I never knew we had a wine country.
I never knew we had rattlesnakes, cypress trees, a little Grand Canyon, or a trail that connects two of the largest rivers in the US.
I never knew mountain climbers flock here for epic climbs.
I never knew that thousands of Native Americans were forced through this region in an attempt to clear the land east of the Mississippi for European settlers.
After this trip, I now know there is a lot of beauty and history in my great state of Illinois.
Let’s Do Something Even if it is Wrong
Our journey started in Grand Tower, IL, a tiny town on the banks of the Mississippi. A campground sits right on the waters at the city’s edge. In the months prior, torrential rains flooded this entire area. With all the mud thrown by the river onto its banks, the campground barely remains. All in all, the grounds looked like a beautiful place to spend a night or two.
Now to the wildlife. There is a 2.6-mile section of road which closes two months a year for the snake migration. Thousands of rattle and other snakes travel from their winter home and head West to their swampy mating ground. And of course, the road is referred to as “snake road.”
There were no snakes during my visit, which was just a few days after the road reopening. But I did notice a lingering, eerie sensation as I strolled down Snake road.
You do not have to climb high to get inspiration
Not too far from Snake Road is Inspiration Point, a section of that very same bluff where the snakes hibernate. It towers well above the surrounding landscape, and the climb to the top speaks of it namesake. There is a parking lot at the bottom and top. Naturally parking at the bottom will give you spectacular views of the Mississippi Valley as you wind your way up. Out cropping of lime stone give you unobstructed views of the land to the west. I was not here at sunset, but I do plan to come back for the golden hour. The bottom trail head is the longer of the two routes at 1.4 miles.
This is Wine Country Take Time to Taste
Embedded in this region, is the Shawnee wine trail. We only had time to scratch the surface of the vintners offering. Pomona Winery was our stop and wow did it open our eyes.
For more information check out our article Southern Illinois is Wine Country.
Giant is an Understatement
Our last stop and home for the night after our first day is the Giant city. The State Park camping is large and spacious. Facilities are clean, and the grounds well kept. Also, you also have the Giant City Lodge if roughing it is not your style. This will give you a luxurious feeling stay in the heart of this outdoor lover’s spot. Continue reading about this region in the series Who Knew….
Pat Director of Touring