Finally, after weeks of searching and researching online, a perfect opportunity presented itself for me to find fall color.
Shawnee National Forest, Garden of the Gods Wilderness and the River to River TrailSouthern Illinois. Shawnee National Forest, Garden of the Gods Wilderness and the River to River Trail. I heard the colors were peaking and the weather was going to be warm after a couple of days of rain. So on November 1st with a day of vacation, 7 hours of driving, the dogs and I were heading down to the southern tip of Illinois to do a backpack trip on the River to River Trail out of Garden of the Gods Wilderness area.
I visited this area once before in October 2011 and was completely amazed by the landscape. The Shawnee National Forest is in the Ozark and Shawnee Forest area of southern Illinois and was the southern end of a glacier. Because of this, there are many hills, valleys and some amazing rock formations in the area. It also lies between the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers - thus leading to the River to River Trail.
|Garden of the Gods - Shawnee National Forest, IL|
Arriving at the backpacker's parking lot, I was one of two cars in the lot - and the other car was camping just inside the wilderness area. To me, that meant, once I was away from the parking lot - I probably had the forest all to myself (well me and my two dogs of course). And I was right. The tranquility of the trail, the beauty of the fall colors and the swampiness conditions of the muddy trail made for a perfect way to welcome in November.
|Fall colors from a side hike into Garden of the Gods Wilderness|
|Sun setting on the trees at camp on the River to River Trail|
|View out over the Hills of Shawnee National Forest from the River to River Trail|
After a restful night and watching an incredible sunrise - I packed up camp just as the next round of rain hit. A quick hike back to the car and we were off to do a little more exploring of the eastern side of the Shawnee National Forest for another day before heading back to Wisconsin.
Finding fall colors, spending a night in the wilderness was just what my soul needed.