Clouds. Talk of rain. As I watch the weatherman a radar appears showing a line of rain moving from the south to the north. Sprinkles this morning and pop-up thunderstorms this afternoon. I wonder if the rain will prevent me from filming today.
This summer has been exceptionally dry and the threat of water from above has not affected any of my outings. We need the rain. I find some trash bags and a rag to wipe off my lens. My main HD camcorder is not waterproof, so I pack my cheap waterproof camcorders just in case.
Where to go? I need somewhere that I can stay close to the truck, but long enough to make an interesting post. Several thoughts come to mind. Garden of the Gods is near the top of my list to film. It is one of the most iconic places in Southern Illinois and I do not have any footage of it yet. Sand Cave is, also, high on the list. I had previously written a Top 3 Gottados article on the area, but again no footage of the area.
I start out towards Ozark, IL. My mind is still not made up as I point my vehicle towards Garden of the Gods. A place flashes through my mind that I have only visited four or five times since I began exploring the Shawnee Hills, One Horse Gap. Somewhere between Eddyville and Karbers Ridge resides an area that very few hikers explore. It is more well-known among horse riders.
There are several ways to get there, but all involve long drives through the forest and all eventually end up on gravel roads. I break out my Shawnee National Forest map and plot the way to the trailhead. I pass through the former town of Raum and make a sharp turn on Dutton Chapel Rd. My windshield wipers are turned on intermittent to wipe off the occasional sprinkles that are attracted to the glass. An intersection comes into view and a sign states that One Horse Gap is 3 miles straight ahead. I ignore the sign and turn left.
My destination is not the lake today, but a road that lies west of the body of water. The road does not seem to have a name but is a continuation of Lusk Road. I pass a horse campground and soon the gravel road narrows after a sign for Collier Cemetery.
I drive slowly around some potholes and navigate around a small branch that has fallen onto the gravel. The road is in better condition than the last time I was here. Previously it was muddy and had deep mud holes, making it difficult to navigate with a car. I am glad that I brought the high-clearance vehicle today, because one can never know how well the road will be.
I park at the first pullout on the left side. I back in and leave enough room for another vehicle. I jump out and organize my gear. Pale blue can now be seen through holes in the dissipating clouds. I take a gamble with my regular camcorder and head towards a forest gate that indicates that foot travel is welcome.
The path is surprisingly well maintained and cleared of low hanging branches and overgrown weeds. I travel for around a half of mile and met the intersection of the River to River Trail. A sign indicates that I am another half of mile away from One Horse Gap. The path begins to wind up a rocky hillside and in places looks like someone has tried to lie uneven cobblestone, but it just the rocky nature of the trail.
Blackjack Oaks release their leaf growth early because of lack of rain, giving a section of the trail a late fall feel. The smell of decaying leaves fills my lungs with its fragrant aroma. Even though I am not ready for winter, the sights and smells of fall is alluring.
As I top the last hill, the sight of massive rocks comes into view. This is what I have come to film today. I climb up a fracture in the sandstone and top out on rounded lumps of rock. This place reminds of the “slickrock” found in the southeastern Utah. The color is not the rust reds of the desert, but a blueish-gray that is more at home in Illinois. I jump between gashes in the sandstone and feel the rush of my youth when as a child I explored rocky outcrops on our farm.
I take time to enjoy these oddities nestled deep within the forest. I wonder how they formed as I slowly film footage. The sound of dogs loom of to the north. Barks from at least two of them can be heard. I have forgotten to pack my pepper spray, so I find three palm-sized rock if I need to defend myself and slip them into one of my large cargo pockets. I am in a state of alertness as I continue to explore.
Check out Part II by clicking the following link One Horse Gap – Shawnee National Forest – Part II.
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Use the map below to get directions by clicking on the tab and entering your address. The tab is the an absolute approximation trailhead location. Go past the cemetery and locate the first pullout on the left.