Garden of the Gods

"mama the gods made all this"
"no honey mother nature did"

after our wonderful bike trip three weeks ago (which i still need to blog about sorry!) k and i were itching to get out of dodge again. about two years ago we went to a music fest with our dear friends gtb who were playing in the cave in the rock in the shawnee national forest. i had heard of the garden of the gods but we were not able to go see it at that time.

so i decided the seven hour drive must be endured and camping was to be had. we left chicago with warnings of watch out for ticks and the locals (who by the way i found to be all quite nice, the locals not the ticks) and you must get camp site #9 at the pharaoh camp grounds (thanks zack). we didn't get #9 but were right next to it and enjoyed it's view while we drank our morning coffee.

the image above is of the sunset view from camp site #9 on the evening we arrived. 

i spent the trip living in spandex yoga pants and my chaco's seeing very few people, and loving it all.  the people we did interact with were wonderful. camping next to us was a older guy named dan from indiana. upon his departure he gifted me a jar of honey from a bee keeper friend of his. you all know how much i love local honey. it tastes of apricots and wildflowers. also there were two artist brothers with their sweet dog, maggie, and their mother. they were from right out of chicago. the younger brother, matt showed us a sketch book of his work and gifted us a drawing. they spent some time hanging by the fire with us and were really nice guys. matt brought a drum and it echoed about as he played. otherwise, there we few other people at the camp grounds the entire time we were there. we met few people on the trails we hiked except the main garden of the gods observation trail which had tons of people.

i must say the best part was the lack there of mosquito's. this is very unlike our bike trip which once again i still really need to blog about and will soon!

it was hot while we were there. we welcomed the rain that started very late our first night there and laid in the tent listening to it's song. by morning it turned into just a light drizzle and we found a misty looking forest.

this is me stumbling around early in the morning drizzle

i have a hard time sitting and relaxing. well in fact i just have a hard time relaxing and being in the moment. that's chicago mentality. my mind is always on the next task and worried about it. high paced city life, high paced jobs always worried about the next task that needs to be completed.  k, however, is from the pacific northwest and knows how to take his time, take it all in, and enjoy. the garden of the gods observation trail is only 1/4 mile long but it took us almost two hours to complete. we bouldered up rock formations and spent time sitting looking over old growth forest where a sea use to be. this is how the garden of the gods was formed, by and ancient sea that no longer exists. at first i was ancy but k insisted we sit and take our time.        

after lunch we hiked the indain point trail then took a little drive and ended up at glen o jones lake.

above is the butterfly that loved the car below is me playing with lens flare. i love lens flare.

the next day after our coffee and granola we went over to ponds hallow and hiked the beaver trail from the pond over to the ox cave. this cave was used by the pioneers as as shelter and the would heard their oxen under the ledge and built a little fence (long gone) to keep them there. this cave protected hundreds of travelers keeping them safe.   

after our hike we were very hot and sweaty and took a dip in the pond. the water was warm and you could see baby trout swimming by the shore and full grown trout jumping in the distance. we had a little bottle of dr bronners with us and washed in the pond. it felt great to get the bug repellent, sweat, and sunscreen off. my hair was light and fluffy and clean and i felt great.

we meet an older couple that was from the area and the told us all about the concert's and events that go on while we had lunch. the man cracked me up especially when he said "sodie" pop.

after lunch we sat around and read for a while then got back in the pond for some more swimming. then some more reading as we dried off.

so the shawnee forest is huge. the garden of the gods and surrounding areas are more on the east side of the forest closer to the ohio river. it is however just a small part of the forest as a whole and there are lots lots more place to explore. one of the places i wanted to see was burden falls which is the tallest waterfall in il. k obliged my interest and we drove for about 40 min to where the falls were. the state of il is very bad about clearly marking things and roads and we never found the falls. we did however have a very nice sunset hike through the bell springs recreation area. we had wished we could have hiked longer but it was getting dark and we had left the head lamp at the camp site. we did however make it to these natural bridges made up out of cliffs. they were some of the strangest rock structures i have ever seen and almost felt hallow with black moss growing on them. it was very breath taking.
in the evening we ate our dinner and hung by the camp fire. the moon was almost full and lighting up the sky. later that night i work up needing to pee. i have no idea what time this was as but the moon had moved and the stars were out and dancing. i woke kev up and we sat in the dark star gazing.

in the morning we went and sat on the rock at camp site #9 one last time. i sat and thought about the history of the place. they even have the trail of tear marked on the map. i wondered if everything having native america themed names was a nice jester or if was all just something else that was taken. i though about what what life was like for the native americans when they lived in these woods.

after packing up and rearranging the car we took one more quick spin on the observation trail to look once more at the amazing rock formations.

afterwords we drove over to see the iron furnace which is a stone medieval looking tower with furnace in it used to make cannon balls during the civil war. i broke out the camp stove (thanks greg) and made us breakfast/ lunch siting on the side walk while k photographed the structure with three different cameras.          

on our way out of town we swung through elizabethtown (is that where the movie with the same name was filmed? im not sure). well it was a super cute town right on the ohio river. from there you can take a free ferry to kentucky and elizabethtown is home to the historic rose hotel, which is the oldest still operating hotel in il - constructed in 1818. after a quick spin we hit the road.

around three or four we stopped in champaign urbana to grab some lunch. it turned out it was the first day of school for u of i. kids were everywhere! they all looked so young and i suddenly felt old.    

there is a lot more of the shawnee i would like to explore. the entire time i was there i would find myself saying i bet this place is amazing in the fall. also i know they do horseback riding and would like to come back in the fall and do that. i called my mom and told her she should really come with us in the fall. say replied with she's not really the camping type but i think she would find it quite beautiful.  i saw places that had cabins and a few lodges and maybe ill talk her into it!

i have a few more photos and some video's that i would like to share. however the are on another camera and it's in a different location then i am right now. that's what happens when you live in two different houses and have two jobs. stuff ends up in different places then where you want it to be! i hope to be posting those soon so please keep a look out!

thanks for reading for i like to share with you.

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