Even after a good night's sleep at the Illinois Welcome Center I was still feeling pretty beat up by long miles and the stress of saying a permanent goodbye to an Aunt who's been pretty danged important to me all my life. So I was ready for some 'normal'. And in my world a little bit of solitary hiking fits that bill.
The Shawnee National Forest was a morning's drive away and calling to me.
After stopping at the NF Headquarters in Harrisburg to pick up some brochures and get some advice (As it was, the kid behind the desk was way too young to have accumulated all that much useful advice, but I did get the brochures.) I headed for Redbud Campground.
though in order to get at the water here you have to hand-pump it and the pump squeals loud enough to require hearing protection, that's assuming you can stand it at all since it sounds a whole lot like fingernails on chalkboards there in the otherwise silence of the forest!
So I set up camp, fixed a snack, and promptly went about making productive use of the rest of the afternoon.
As many of you know, I guard my privacy and identity pretty tightly so I think I did an admirable job here of disguising my broad shoulders, incredible biceps and chiseled abs. And, of course, we all know that the camera adds 40 pounds!
One word of advice, if you're in a large motorhome or pulling anything other than a small trailer, or if the weather has been wet, you might not want to follow the Forest Service directions from Harrisburg down Illinois 145 and across Burden Falls Rd.!
OK, so it wasn't as bad as the photo above, but Burden Falls Rd. is gravel, narrow, twisty and just after it crosses Burden Creek there's a steepish, twisting, rocky scramble to climb up and away from the creek that could be tricky in anything but the best of conditions. As it was, I had no trouble getting The Van up it, but if it was any wetter it might have been more challenging.
An alternative is to take US-45 south out of Harrisburg then follow the 'from Vienna' directions and come in across Ozark Rd. instead, which does eventually turn into gravel but it stays pretty flat and fairly well graded along the way.