Monday, May 26, 2014

Southern Illinois, Day 2: Garden of the Gods, Pounds Hollow, and Golconda

Click here for Day 1: Sunday Drivers.
Click here for Day 3, Morning: Fort Massac.
Click here for Day 3, Afternoon: Superman.
Click here for Day 4: Record-Players and Fireflies.

The Blue Street Journal (27 May 2013) 
On Memorial Day, Dear Husband and I set off for Shawnee National Forest. All of the promotional materials were happy to tell us about the Native-American prehistory of this area, how white settlers cleared the land (presumably of both forests and Native Americans), ruined it with row crops, and finally called in the federal government to save them in the 1930s. But we couldn't find out how the park got its name.* Since the 1930s, the National Park Service has carefully cultivated the flora and fauna and controlled access to seven "wilderness" areas within the park.

* Shawnee only lived in southern Illinois for a couple of years in the 1680s (near Fort St. Louis) and again in the 1740s (near the Ohio River), giving what became the capital of Gallatin County its name: Shawanoe Town (that's what they call themselves) --> Shawneetown. We later read about Old Shawneetown being a banking center in the early 1800s and once denying Chicago a loan for being located in the boonies. The British called the Shawanoe the "Savannah." There's a long and detailed history of their altercations with the Iroquois and their subsequent migrations all over the eastern half of the continent here.

We headed for the famously beautiful Garden of the Gods Wilderness, one of the most photographed areas in the state. The day hadn't turned hot yet, so we rolled down the car windows to smell the honeysuckle as we discussed The Grapes of Wrath and why the internet blew up last Memorial Day about the photo above, which purports to show recently freed slave children saluting an American flag during a memorial celebration for Union soldiers whom their parents had disinterred from a mass grave at a Confederate POW camp and reinterred in proper graves.

View looking south from Indian Point

The hike to and from our first destination was mostly quiet, and we were almost entirely alone. We listened to the frogs, watched butterflies and hawks, and identified a few plants. Along the way several fire circles and one tent revealed that several people had camped illegally overnight, and at Indian Point we sacrificed the rest of the contents of our water bottle over campfire pit that was still smoking. DH quipped something about stopping forest fires. We enjoyed the view (above)--and the breeze. The long hike back under the tree canopy was hot, and the path was so narrow that we spent most of it looking down, trying to avoid anything shiny green with "leaves of three." We also had an uncomfortably close encounter with a small-to-medium-sized black snake in the brush just off the trail (timber rattlesnake?), so we were glad to return to our car.

What an adorable face--who couldn't love that face?
Not quite ready for lunch after a big breakfast at the B&B, we went a little farther to the short and popular Garden of the Gods observation trail. Depending on how much time you spend on the bluffs, it can take 30 minutes to an hour to make this circuit. We climbed around a bit and took a few photographs, but all the other people--mostly families--made this scenic overlook less idyllic than the first one. Below you can see how the layers of hard rock and soft sandstone have been eroded into impressive bluffs and whimsical "hoodoos" such as Camel Rock.

Hump-ity, bump-ity!
Then it was back to the car to drive a short ways to Pounds Hollow for a picnic lunch of tuna fish wraps, raspberry jello with berries, and kettlecorn from the farmers market--the best $3 I spent that week. Then, swimming. I had just told a couple at church that we were not the lying-on-the-beach kind, but I have to confess that sunning on the sand next to the lake was undoubtedly my favorite part of this day. I think it was because I wasn't moving, wasn't trying to be anywhere, and wasn't really thinking of anything in particular, a rare state for me to be in! DH observed that he liked lying on the beach as long as the sun was behind a cloud, so he wouldn't get too hot. He preferred being in the water when the sun was out in full force, because some pockets of lake water were still shockingly cold.

DH finally dragged me off the beach to change clothes and drive along the Ohio River Scenic Byway to Golconda, IL, which was founded at a ferry crossing in 1803. There we parked the car, climbed the levy to visit the riverside, and ate a small dinner at the Sweetwater Saloon: "Hunters, boaters, bikers, and locals meet where the water is sweet." While walking up and down Golconda's little Main Street, we discovered the Pope County Historical Society's museum, which would be easy to mistake for one of the numerous antique stores or someone's aunt's house. I took this photograph because among the Coca-Cola memorabilia was a soda-fountain clock I recognized from the Lost in the 50s Diner in Baltimore. (If you would like to see a better image, click here for my second post about eating out in Charm City.) After that it was home to the B&B for cheesecake from yesterday's over-generous dessert platter at the casino.

Pope County History Museum, including
Coca-Cola soda-foundation clock


  1. If'n that snake was black it weren't no timber rattler. Them has a diamond patterned body and a arrarhead shaped head and you all will hear 'em afore you see 'em. Sides they live in the river bottoms mostly, like they do at Allerton Park and in the timber along camp creek. Prolley just a Black Snake looking for a mouse to eat.

  2. Well, Michael and I both heard a rattle. I looked up venomous snakes in Illinois and was surprised to discover there are timber rattlers in southern Illinois. According to Wikipedia, some individuals have melanism and can be nearly black. It was certainly a surprise for all of us!


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