Shawnee National Forest – Part II Ferne Clyff Waterfall Trail and Cave in the Rock

 

The waterfall trail (#5 on the map) is a ½ mile long trail in the Ferne Clyffe State Park.  The park itself covers 2,430 acres and contains 18 trails of varying degrees of difficulty.  The waterfall trail is rustic but not difficult.  By rustic I mean it is not paved or really even flat, but easy to navigate.

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This time of year, the waterfall is typically dry, however, the day before our hike, southern Illinois got an unseasonal couple of inches of snow.  I was hoping, with the warmer temperature that day, we might see a small one with the melting snow.  Sadly, no, but we got some other great views.  During our hike, the sun was shining and the melting snow from the trees made it feel like we were walking through a rain forest.

The precipitation also provided a beautiful snow-covered landscape for our hike.

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At the end of the trail, during a wetter season, you can see the waterfall cascading over the top of a giant rock formation.

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During our weekend trip, we also found our way to the Cave in Rock State Park.  Specifically, to see the cave in the rock.  Technically, this scenic point is just over the border into Kentucky.  So now I can say I have been to Kentucky.  Although there are other trails nearby, this geological wonder is a popular destination even for non-hikers.  I wouldn’t even call this one a hike.  At the base of a fairly short staircase, you can see the mouth of the cave to the left.

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The cave itself is not very deep and there is nothing particularly creepy about it.  No bats or hibernating animals to worry about.

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My favorite picture was taken upon leaving.  The view coming back out was of the sun shining down on the Ohio river.  Spectacular.

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There are so many hiking trails and points of interest in the Shawnee National Forest.  I plan to spend another long weekend down there exploring more of them!

Road Trip: Shawnee National Forest – Part I The Garden of the Gods and Rim Rock Nature Trail

The Shawnee National Forest, in Southern Illinois, consists of over 28,000 acres of land situated between the Mississippi and Ohio rivers.  There are many different trails to choose from depending on how far you want to hike or how much effort you want to put in.

The Garden of the Gods is one of the most photographed trails down there and for good reason.  It is breathtaking.

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The trail itself is only ¼ mile long and is nicely paved with flagstone.  The sandstone rock formations can be walked across, how far out depends on the daredevil in you.  But you don’t need to risk your life to fully experience the panoramic views from that high up.

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We were there in November and the leaves were mostly orange and there was still some snow from the early snowfall that hit the area a few days before.  This only added to the beauty.

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Rim Rock Nature Trail is nearby and another short hike.  Unless you veer off the path like we did.  More on that later.  The trail itself is a 1.7 mile loop that includes an upper and lower trail.  The lower trail takes you down a steep staircase and then through a maze of rock formations.

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From there, the trail is rugged in some places and a bit of a climb back up to the parking lot.  The views along the way are mostly sandstone bluffs that tower above you.

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There is a point in the loop where you can take a side trip away from the trail.  It is another ½ mile path that, unfortunately, does not loop back into the original trail.  So, you have to hike another ½ mile to get back on track.  The bonus, however, is the detour ends at Pounds Hollow Lake.  So you can relax on the “beach” before you head back.

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I already cannot wait to go back in the Spring or Summer to see everything in bloom!

Adventure Film Festival

Not from the Chicagoland area?  This is a traveling film festival and could make a stop in your state.

Adventure Film began in 2003, according to their website, with “a vision of a community-based, mission oriented outdoor adventure film festival that tied indie film with art and activism.”

Over 400 films were submitted this year, from all over the world, covering all aspects of adventure.  The Boulder Festival in Boulder, Colorado is the kick-off event before the world tour.  The selection committee narrows it down to the top 30 films, all of which can be screened at the kick-off event.  This is also a multi-day festival that includes speakers, outdoor activities, and a street fair.

The world tour is not as extensive, depending on where you live, but totally worth your time.  Chicago hosted their 4th annual Adventure Film Festival this year at the Music Box Theater on November 11, 2018.  Here, they narrowed it down to 11 films that were screened over three hours (plus a short intermission).  The shorts varied in length from 3 minutes to as long as 26 minutes.  Below are the films we had the privilege to see this year:

Adventure Films - part I

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These were not just films about adventure seekers jumping off cliffs or skydiving in volcanoes.  No, these were human interest stories that made you appreciate the good that people do for others.  And also for themselves.  There was one story about Lonnie, a blind man who found a love of kayaking and travels all over the country teaching other blind people how to kayak with their disability.  Another story covered the aftermath of Hurricane Maria and how a rock climbing community is using their unique skills to help clear trees and roads in Puerto Rico.  Our favorite story followed three U.S. veterans, all of whom did tours in Iraq, who returned to that country to explore the natural beauty of the country absent of the war.  They actually went skiing in the mountains!

There were two options for admission.  You could simply purchase a general admission ticket ($20) which covers the screening of the films.  The VIP option ($45) included the screening, a private VIP reception that included food, two Revolution Brewing beers, a small popcorn, and a gift bag.  Here are the goodies from our gift bags:

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There were also some pretty good raffle items available.  All of the proceeds from this event went to the Sierra Club’s Chicago Inspiring Connections Outdoors.  Chicago ICO is, according to their website, “a volunteer-run community outreach program that provides opportunities for urban youth to explore and protect the natural world, while developing their leadership skills and honoring a love of the outdoors.”  They take kids hiking, canoeing, camping, etc.  They raised over $6,500.00 for this small event.  It might not seem like much but it will go a long way for an organization like this.  And we were happy to be part of it.

Look for this event next year and make you way into the city for an inspiring evening!  You won’t be disappointed.

Jack’s Pumpkin Pop-up – An Adult Pumpkin Farm

Jack’s Pumpkin Pop-Up is an interactive pop-up experience in the city.  It sits on 2 acres of land in the Goose Island neighborhood.  This past weekend were the final dates for the 2018 season but I’m sure it will be back again next year.

While they are promoting themselves as an “adult” pumpkin farm experience, it is open to all-ages.  When we went, on a Friday night at 7:00 pm, there were only a handful of kids there with their parents.  The “adult” part seemed to simply be the three bars set up on the property.

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Your options for entry can be just general admission or it can include +1 or +2 drinks.  If you choose the later option, your drink choices are limited.  You have more choices available if you purchase your drinks separate from the admission.  The other “adult” aspect is they allow you to walk around freely with you drinks.

Having lived and raised my kids in the suburbs, I can tell you I have been to much larger pumpkin farms.  This was smaller, but unique.  Every couple of feet or so was another set up for the perfect photo opportunity.  Giant chairs, shadow boxes, old cars, farm equipment, and lights everywhere!

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Not to mention the most incredible skyline as a backdrop for many of your photo-ops.

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In addition to the selfie/Instagram/snapchat photo ops, there was a small corn maze, some carnival games, and a real camel ride (didn’t expect that one, did you?).  There was also one food truck there that night.  Not sure if that was a rotating option or if it was the same truck for the whole run.

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And yes, there is discounted admission on Groupon if you can go on a Sunday-Thursday.