Monday, July 22, 2019

Where'd Everybody Go ?

It's May 25, well into the Memorial Day weekend, and I decided to give my butt one more day of rest from the Quad-B's seat.

Less than 30 miles from where I'm camped in site 49 of the Oak Point Campground, now well and truly full with campers in every site as well as crowded cheek by jowl in the picnic areas and around the boat launch, is the popular Illinois State Park of Ferne Clyffe. (Yep, that's how it's spelled.)

I thought I would run over there and see about hiking the Happy Hollow Trail, counter-clockwise this time since I did it clockwise last time.

As I've said before, Illinois does a pretty crappy job of providing decent trail maps either on-line or on paper, in fact, like last time I was here, the only one available was this big sign-board at the trail-head with a less-than detailed map of the trail. (Not only is it out of scale with the left loop being quite a bit longer than the right loop, despite what this map shows, it is also missing some key data, such as the switchbacks over in the area of the bluffs in the upper left as well as depicting the left-most extent of the trail as coming to a point which it does not.)

Since the sign-board was too big to pack in along with me, I took a photo to carry along with me instead.

I expected the park to be crowded on this holiday weekend, and it was, which is why, instead of parking near the trailhead, which is also the parking lot for the primitive camping area, I parked around the corner at a second trailhead that is only a trailhead, though I had to walk back around to the first because there was no sign-board with map at the second. But before I could make that walk I had to convince a ranger that I was just there day-hiking and not trying to camp in a non-camping area.

Crowded is not my favorite thing, but this whole holiday weekend experiment is all about finding out just how bad things would be.

Most of the colorful fungi come and go quickly

OK, I don't know what the hell all those people crowding in here do during the day,

so ya gota catch them while you can.

but they sure aren't out hiking.

I was expecting a near constant line of hikers rushing past in both directions, but according to my GPS I was out on the trail for a little over 8 hours (Some of which was unnecessary but I'll get to that in a moment.) and during that time passed a grand total of two couples, that's right, four people, half a person an hour; all headed the other way.

If you want to sit around next to your car, feet away from the road, listening to your neighbor's conversations, smelling other people's cooking, and choking on someone else's smoky fire, (Which is somehow necessary despite the 80 degree temps.) you might as well save yourself a whole lot of time, frustration, money, and wear-n-tear on your vehicle, and just hang out on your suburban porch instead.

But Hey! I'm not complaining here, just observing. As far as I'm concerned, if you want to stick around your campsite and haunt the over-crowded bathrooms, that's fine by me.

Last time I was here the trail brushed right by the shoulder of this double-trunked tree.

This time there was a minor detour around the hole left in the ground when winds took the tree(s) down. (The hole is deeper than the photo depicts.)

And this closeup of the shallow roots wrapped tightly around the broken rock that makes up parts of the local geology shows that it wouldn't take an excessively strong wind to bring a tree down. (Our property is heavy on the gravel so I don't walk the trails if the wind is high because I don't particularly want to be driven neck-deep into the ground with a single blow like some sort of squishy nail.)

As for that unnecessary trail-time I mentioned before - well - in addition to poor mapping, Illinois is also pretty bad about trail-markings.

About a hundred yards beyond some power lines I stopped and looked back. "Hey! I don't remember crossing a power-line right of way last time I was on this trail. And I sure thought I'd be heading south by now instead of still going north. Maybe it's time I checked my GPS."

Confused by an arrowed sign that said nothing more than "food plots", I had missed a critical turn in the trail and was over a mile down the River-to-River trail and more than halfway to the little town of  Goreville.

Well that's not right!

I didn't realize how far out of my way I'd gone until I had to backtrack the whole of that goin-the-wrong-way, to regain the proper trail. . . (OK, so Danial Boone I'm not. . .)

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