Shawnee National Forest – Rim Rock Trail
This series, Notes from the Trail, focuses on thoughts and events that happen with the interactions in nature.
Monday, August 23, 2010
Backpack. Check. Camera. Check. Tripod. Check. It’s time to go. I hop in my vehicle and make the drive to Garden of the Gods County, but today I am not headed for the Garden of the Gods. My destination lies beyond Karbers Ridge and into the Shawnee National Forest.
I pull into the parking area of the Rim Rock Recreation Area and relish having the place to myself. I jump out and lace up my well-worn hiking boots and throw on the familiar weight of my backpack. As I head out the sound of tires crunching against loose asphalt breaks my concentration. I am not alone. We exchange “hellos” and talk about the cooler temps and then head our separate ways.
I have been wanting to return to this area for sometime. The previous visit here was when the leaves were off. The main reason for the last visit was to scout the area for potential photographs. The visit this time is to film the trail and to photograph a man-made feature for a future Top 3 Gottados Series.
The trail leads to a set of displays and then breaks up into three separate paths. I take the trail that goes straight and in a short distance see the eroding remains of a 150 foot stonewall. The lichen covers the rocks that lie strewn downhill reminding me of the War Bluff stonewall. Once again I find it difficult to capture a photo of this relic that was originally piled up over 1500 years ago by the Late Woodland Native Americans.
I follow the trail beyond the stonewall and hear my feet thumping under the flagstone path that replaced the gravel trail in the 1980′s. It is the kind of path that is normally reserved for more suburban city parks, not hidden within a National Forest. This may be one the reasons that in 1980 Rim Rock was designated a National Recreational Trail.
National Recreation Trails are designated to recognize exemplary trails of local and regional significance.
The flagstone delves into the forest and begins to descend towards the rim of a 70 foot bluff. A boardwalk perched upon the bluff rim gives views of the surrounding hillside. The boardwalk continues and comes to a fork. The left path continues on the flagstone and hugs the rim, the other path leads down a steep set of stairs that appears to end facing a huge wall of rock. I chose the stairs.
I willingly descend amongst the moss-green rocks. The trail actually continues to the right of the dead-end and goes between two house size rocks. I squeeze between the cool damp boulders and am forced to make an immediate left. The bluffs give way to a narrow corridor that resembles a castle corridor. Even though I have been here several times, I am still struck by it natural beauty.
I spend well over 30 minutes filming this section and am amazed that no one has joined me. My camera clicks away as I attempt to capture a photo that does the area justice. I head toward the end of the corridor and descend a claustrophobic set of steps. All the sudden I am out in the open and midway down the bluff. Steps continue to head down amongst fallen chucks of boulders. I take the time to film the descent because of its photogenic proprieties.
I stop for a lunch break in this area and dangle my legs off of a car size rock. A cool breeze exists below the bluff rim. I had forgotten how beautiful this area is. I try to think of other areas that I have hiked that are similar to Rim Rock and come up with nothing. Whoever designed this trail had to be a nature lover. Instead of taking the easy way out they decided to go to the trouble of designing a staircase that would take visitors threw a scenic split down the bluff. I am thankful that they brought me here to experience a unique area in Southern Illinois.
I continue the descent down and encounter the presence of Ox-Lot Cave. The cave is actually a rock shelter that has been carved out by the patient force of creek that is off to the left. I look up and take in the mass of sandstone that looms above. It almost resemble a natural amphitheater. I test out an echo and receive an resounding answer back.
The rock overhang received its name in the early 1900′s as loggers built a fence to keep in livestock and other animals. The bluff provided a natural cover and easy access to water.
I begin the hike back to my vehicle, but instead of backtracking up the stairs I decide to go to the end of Ox-Lot and shortly come to the intersection of two trails. The trail straight ahead follows a creek to Pound Hollow Lake, the right path winds its way back to the parking area down below the rim of the bluff. In the past I have seen this valley fill with spring wildflowers. This was the first place I identified the plant called squirrel corn. The rocks and bluffs on Beaver Trail are impressive and I think to myself that I could film another video just on the trails that lie beneath the rim, but not today.
I arrive back at my vehicle and encounter two other cars beside mine. I remind myself to come back this fall so that I can once again experience the National Recreation Trail at Rim Rock.
Disclaimer: The author and Shawnee Hills Outdoors disclaim any liability or loss incurred as a consequence, directly or indirectly, of the use and application on any information contained in this blog. Please check ranger stations and park superintendents for latest information regarding these areas.
Rim Rock Recreation Trail is about 1/2 mile in length on top of the bluff. There is also a trail that goes below the bluff called Beaver Trail and will eventually intersection with Pound Hollow Lake trail which is about another 1/2 mile. The stairs section can be difficult and slippery so take your time on your descent. The Shawnee National Forest Harrisburg Headquarters has a nice handout with a map to help you with exploring this area.
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The author and Shawnee Hills Outdoors disclaim any liability or loss incurred as a consequence, directly or indirectly, of the use and application on any information contained in this blog. If you do attempt to explore any of these areas make sure you are have the proper knowledge to survive in the woods, do not rely on a cellphone for help. Please check ranger stations and park superintendents for latest information regarding these areas. This website is for entertainment only.
Use the map below to get directions by clicking on the tab and entering your address. The tab is the approximate trailhead location.