WGN COMES TO TOWN
It was late-February not long after the 5 Icy Photos in the Shawnee National Forest was released that I opened my Gmail to see an e-mail from Julian Crews of WGN-Chicago. He had seen the photos and was interested in restarting his Cruisin’ Illinois series for the new season.
He was wanting to come down and film some of the Icefalls that had been a staple for most of the winter season, but the weather was not cooperating and was calling for a warm-up into the 50’s.
FLASHBACK: LITTLE GRAND CANYON
Wow, it was great to hear from Julian again. It was almost two years ago to the date that Julian and Sean had contacted me for the our first visit.
Sean (the cameraman) had originally found me of all places on YouTube. He had seen the Pomona Natural Bridge video and had told Julian he needed to contact me.
About a month later, we were climbing down the steep, rocky, sandstone of Little Grand and my first time on any type of news segment was in the book. (Click here to view Cruisin’ Illinois Little Grand Canyon Segment).
FLASH FORWARD: THE COOPERATION OF BORK’S FALLS
On March 11, 2014, I was waiting patiently for Julian and Sean to show up in the parking lot of Goreville, IL small community park. I had taken off early from work for the occasion and the freezing temperatures of earlier in the week had changed to the comfortable 70’s.
What was funny was they had driven from Chicago that morning, which was under a Winter Storm Warning. What a great welcome back to the Shawnee Hills. Just days before, the remaining frozen water of the previous week’s ice storm were quickly melting and even though it had not rained in a while, the waterfalls were flowing.
THREE HOURS AND ONE HOUR OF FOOTAGE
We made our way down the steep road to Bork’s Falls. I wasn’t for sure if they would like the area or that the scenery would be scenic enough for Sean to film. Within minutes that concern was removed as Sean climbed over rocks and around the falls with Julian and I being directed on where to walk and where to set up my camera to “take photos”.
The actual taking of photos was all staged. The sun was way to harsh and the conditions not ideal, but the point was to get the footage, so that it could be edited together.
ONE SLIP, I’M DOWN
We made our way behind the falls, where Sean filmed and Julian and I had previously done some interviews, but the waterfall was too loud to be of any use. Julian asked if I could show them where I took the frozen icefall photo behind the waterfall.
As, I made my way to the area and while Sean had his camera pointed toward the falls, me and my camera had an abrupt encounter with the rocky ground. I was just relieved that the camera had been pointed the other way. It was embarrassing considering I was the more “experienced” person with hiking. Oh, well.
By the time we finished with the interview segments and filming unsuspecting hikers who were enjoying the falls it was three hours later. Just in this tiny area Sean had filmed over an hour of video and we still had Burden Falls to film the next day.
… BUT, FIRST WE HAD TO TRAVEL TO THE OTHER SIDE OF THE FOREST
We had stayed to long. Julian needed to get to Rim Rock’s Dogwood Cabins to do some filming before the sun finally set. The timing was close, as I punched in Karber’s Ridge on my GPS, which is just a little past Garden of the Gods.
We travelled the back roads, with Julian keeping me company in my truck as Sean followed behind. The roads were curvy and unmarked, but we pulled into Rim Rock with time to spare.
We pulled up next to man who was feeding his horse. Julian immediately recognized him as Bob Dart. He greeted us with the kind of smile and country demeanor that makes you know you’re in for some good conversation.
He told us to meet him at one of their cabins. This is where I met Dixie. I had been in e-mail communication with Dixie giving her permission to use my videos on her new website, IllinoisOzarks.com. She was just as easy to talk to as her husband.
Bob built a campfire and Julian, Dixie, Bob, and I set around talking as Sean filmed away. Soon we were being invited inside for some great meatloaf and a full supper. Yum! Two hours later I was saying my goodbyes as Julian and Sean settled in for the night.
NEXT DAY: LOST & BEER CANS
I had arrived about 20 minutes before our meet up time the next day and got out to check the waterfalls and to see how well they were flowing. I made my way to the edge of Burden Falls and saw beer cans and their cardboard case at the bottom of the falls. Arrggh!!
This wouldn’t do, so I made my way down and climbed over slippery rocks to collect the litter. As I got back to the top I received a call from Julian saying that they were lost. I tried to direct them in and then told them I would meet them near the town of Eddyville. As I was driving there, we passed each other and I asked them in a southern drawl, “You city folks lost.”
SLIPPING & SLIDING AS WINTER RETURNS
The warmer temperatures of the day before were just a memory as the temps plummeted overnight into the 30’s. High winds were now blowing through the forest, but down in the valley of Burden Falls we were protected from the cold breezes.
Today, they were filming walking scenes of me and some more footage of me taking photos. We made our way down the slick rocks, and Sean tried to balance a $16,000 camera over rocky surfaces. It was amazing to see just how agile and capable he was with lugging around that huge camera.
NOW IT’S TIME TO EAT
We filmed near the bottom to put the waterfall in full perspective and within about an hour and half we were done. They had enough probably to do a 30 minute segment, but it would be edited to less than 3 minutes.
After filming we headed to Marion and ate at 17th Street Bar & Grill. This for me was probably one of the best aspects of the two days, just getting to set down and talk to these great guys about what they do, their families, and their interests.
Julian owns and operates a business called Old Havana Foods, which is a gourmet, all natural ingredients, Cuban food. This has been a passion of his for over seven years and I loved to hear him talk about what is going great for his business and what could be done better.
Sean is a cameraman veteran, who worked for CNN for several years and then came back to where is family is in Chicago to work for WGN. Found out that he loves the rush and excitement of chasing stories down in Chicago. His camera still smelled from a massive fire in Chicago, just the day before he came down to Southern Illinois.
These two guys are some of the best people you can meet and it was honor and my pleasure to work with this professional crew. Over the years, Julian has focused a lot on our part of Illinois, with segments featuring hiking, biking, canoeing, and several great places to stay.
I personally cannot express my gratitude for them showing an interest in what a small town country boy does for enjoyment. Julian has given me confidence that what I do has significance and that others are interested in Downstate Illinois.
THANKS JULIAN, SEAN, & WGN!