Earlier last week, Julie and I set off with a loaded pack a couple of water bottles and our hiking staves. This time our destination was a bit closer, Ferne Clyffe State Park, near Tunnel Hill, Illinois. It is by far one of my favorite places. Perhaps because of it’s close proximity to our home. It is thousands of acres of woodland right in the middle of the Shawnee National Forest. It also has some beautiful terrain and a lot of local wildlife to see.
The morning was a beautiful sunny day and as always as I was packing, I put some foul weather gear into our packs. We headed about 12 miles NW of our home and arrived at the park about 1230. Our plan was going to be a quick hike around the lake, and perhaps another short trail, then home for a late lunch.
After a few days of rain, the trailhead near the lake was a bit muddy. but I figured since we had a 5K trail run coming up the following weekend, it would be good training. We walked the mile or so around the lake, encountered two of our fine feathered friends who were swimming year the levy as we neared the end of the lake trail. This trail is a very short and easy trail. There are a few places to stop and a few park benches around the lake. While Julie and I were having a snack at one of the benches, we encountered a couple of anglers who enquired about the possibility of fishing the lake. DNR certainly encourages it and the lake is meant to be a walk around lake for anglers (it is too small for boats). This make them both happy, since they had planned on being on one of the larger lakes nearby at Crab Orchard Wildlife Refuge. With wind in excess of 25 knots and the thought better of putting their boat in the water.
After following and photographing the ducks, we set off on the next nearest trail head from the lake and walked the Blackjack Oak Trail. This trail goes up a steep ridge and basically follows the top of the ridge line for about three miles. As you near the end of the trail there are a number of beautiful caves and cliff overhangs. From the end of the Blackjack Oak Trail we then followed the road back around to the parking area by the lake. Total of about 4.6 miles. No rain but the wind was brutal, good thing we packed a sweat shirt and jacket. As is usual on these outings I also turned my ankle a bit going back down the ridge and took slight spill. At least this one wasn’t in a creek. No real harm done, and fortunately my boots protected the ankle. Without the staff to assist there would certainly be many more mishaps on the trails, so I recommend if you aren’t in the habit of taking a walking staff of some type, you look into it. If you don’t like the traditional hiking staff there are a number of modern expandable ones on the market. Julie and I have several of each.
The following Saturday, Julie and I headed over to Cape Girardeau to participate in the annual Unforgettable 5K Run. This is a 5K trail run, and is a beautiful run, just off Cape Rock Road. It is sponsored by one of the local Churches and one of the local Christian Camps there in Cape. Many of the local venders also went all out by donating to the run. The run is dedicated to those who are imprisoned for their Christian faith around the world. It was a very good time, and Julie and I haven’t run a 5K together since I left Naval Station Great Lakes back in 2004 or 2005. I think we’ll be doing more of them in the future. Worst that can happen is our times might get better.