Friday, August 19

Clayton Hollow Trails

Continuing with our series,"Adventures With Uncle Bob-Guide to Self-Adventure in Southern Illinois," we feature Clayton Hollow Trails. I used the Shawnee National Forest green interim 2011 map for this place. Keep in mind that the map is not drawn to scale, so distances are hard to determine on each trail. Directions: From Harrisburg, go east on Rt 13 to Equality and turn south on the Garden of Gods road. Travel several miles and go left at a stop sign. After a few miles, turn onto High Knob Rd. Take this until a stop sign appears and turn left on Leamington Rd. Follow this about 6 miles to Blackridge Rd. We ascend up this road, passing residences, and after the blacktop ends, start looking for a small parking lot on the right. Trail 184 crosses the road and bisects both Thacker Hollow and Clayton hollow. Cross the road and we will make 184 a loop trail.

We are gradually descending a rim trail overlooking deep ravines. 15 minutes later, we junction with #181. Follow 181 a short distance to a junction with #183. A right turn here takes you back to Blackridge Rd. We will go left on 183 and again we view deep hollows and ravines along the way. Later we reach a confusing junction: 2 unmarked trails, another says "to #184", and the 4th says 183. We continued on 183 and note Pounds Hollow Lake below the trail. At a point where the lake is no longer visible, note an unmarked spur trail (I put pink ribbons there) that took us to a free-standing natural arch 5 minutes away. It is next to a rock glade top.

I returned to 183, continuing north, and now junction with 184. We continue north on 184 with 200-300 ft Pines, fern areas, and the trail tuns west. We hit a 3 way junction: road goes to a campground, one unmarked trail, and 184 turning south. Continue 184 back to the car along deep ravines. This loop trail took 4 hours. The Forest Service did an excellent job on graveling most of the trails. The trails are wide and not very steep. If time is short, just experience the first 15 minutes of 184 along the rim until the junction with #181. GPS coordinates for the area are 37 37' 51" N and 88 17' 12" W. Due to limited parking on Blackridge, those with horse trailers may want to park at Double M campground and use trail 187-8 to access the area. Scroll down this blog to Thacker Hollow trails for more hiking without even moving the car. More info from Bob Tyson at 684-5643 or
10/12/12: the GPS was in dispute. you may want to try N37.37.172 and W88.16.509. For anyone trying to access Blackridge road from the south end, travel on Karber Ridge Rd past Garden of Gods. The county roadsign is gone at its junction with Blackridge. while passing the sign for High Knob along Karber Ridge rd, go further east 2.3 miles and then turn on blackridge. there is a R-R trails marker at the road too.

Thursday, May 12

FS 001T Loop Trail

Continuing with our monthly feature, "Adventures with Uncle Bob-Guide to Self-Adventure in Southern Illinois," we feature this new Forest Service trail, which also goes by the name Cove Hollow Trail. This can be confusing since a trail south of Murphysboro already has that name. Upon inquiry, the locals have always used that term for this place. Directions: scroll down this blog to East Trigg trailhead for directions from Ozark, Illinois. Coordinates appear to be 37 30' 0"N and 88 43' 0"W. It can also be found as N 37.801994 and W-90.70985.

The trail head has plenty of room for cars and horse trailers. Cross the road and follow the River to River trail signs for 18 minutes on this old service road until the junction with oo1T. This is a graveled surface thru a pine plantation and then changes to dirt. Suddenly this impressive cliff line appears and the serpentine trail weaves in and out a different cliff line and rock formations with each turn. Height vary from 30 ft to well over 100 ft. It looks like horse riders have also discovered this trail as dips in its surface have turned to mud. At some point we encounter a junction: upper cove and lower cove. I took upper cove to continue along the base of the cliffs. Then it turns to merge with lower. Now the loop will head south back to River to River trail (oo1). Did you miss the slot canyon near this junction? Now the loop moves away from the cliff line and running parallel with railroad tracks. Enjoy steep ravine views thru a long canyon. Despite previous user-made trails, oo1T is well marked. Eventually tread turns to gravel and meets up with 001. Turn right to return to the car. Turn left if you want to travel thru the RR underpass,left again, and follow the trail along pretty ravines and go on to a pretty rock area at Bay Lake. Our trail was 2.5 miles, gradually up and down but not steep. Overall, the Forest Service did a great job creating this trail. More info from Bob Tyson at 684-5643 or

Wednesday, April 20

Native Plant Project - Vienna Ranger Station‏

The Shawnee Group Sierra Club, along with several other non-profits, entered into a cost share agreement with the U.S. Forest Service to supply volunteer labor for native landscaping at the new Hidden Springs Ranger Station in Vienna. To date, students from Vienna High School have contributed a lot of time with some of the initial landscaping, but the Forest Service is in need of some additional help.

Projects that need attention now include:

Remove daffodils (you can keep what you dig if you like).
General springtime garden bed clean up.
Help with establishing a short nature trail through a tiny woodlot adjacent to the building -- requires some small shrub/tree and invasive species removal, constructing some brush/habitat piles, laying some weed fabric and mulch on trails, etc.

Please contact Terri Treacy at to schedule a time -- week day or weekend -- to lend a hand.

Wednesday, March 23

Hughes Mountain Natural Area

Continuing with our series, "Adventures With Uncle Bob-Guide to Self-Adventure," we feature this Missouri Dept of Conservation area. Directions: Cross bridge at Chester, IL, then Mo 51, then Co H, then Co Z, and enter I-55 north. Take Rt 32 exit to Farmington. Proceed north to Rt 8 and then a left turn on Co M. Follow several miles until you see the brown sign for this place.

This is an easy gradual ascent of 0.75 mile along the Devil's Honeycomb trail. Upon arrival, you have a 270 degree panoramic view over distant mountaintops. At this unusual glade-top, roam around among the polygonal rock formations. The pre-Cambrian and Rhyolite rock outcroppings are among the oldest exposed rocks in the US. It looks like a giant used a cookie cutter on this huge glade-top. Retrace the trail back to the parking area.

This area was featured in the February,2005, Shawnee Sierra newsletter but never got posted on the website, so a home for it is created on this blog. While this trail is further away from our normal postings, the motive here is to afford those with more limited hiking abilities to have an outdoor experience. On Mo 21, approx 10 miles away, take the trail at Elephant Rocks State Park ( This is a one mile PAVED loop around gigantic formations. If you plan a trip to Branson, continue south from there on to Rt 86 for Dogwood Canyon Nature Park. This commercial site enables the hiker to walk along a paved, flat trail along waterfalls, cliff lines, rock formations, and caves. A tram car comes by every hour for those who are weary. More info on the above areas from Bob Tyson at 618-684-5643 or More pictures at and this place on search line. Coordinates here are N 37.801994 and W -90.70985.

Monday, February 7

Secret Canyon Trail

Continuing with our monthly series, "Adventures With Uncle Bob-Guide to Self Adventure in Southern Illinois," we feature Secret Canyon which is part of Lusk Creek Wilderness in Shawnee National Forest. I have described other areas of this wilderness previously: scroll down this blog for Lusk Creek to see the trail for Natural Bridge/Saltpeter Cave. Also, our website to see Indian Kitchen Trail (

Directions: From Harrisburg, IL, take Rt 145 south for approx 9 miles and turn left onto Oak Road. Drive this winding paved road 4.2 miles and turn right onto Oak Blanchard Road. You can also access this spot from Herod, IL, by taking Williams Hill Road to Blanchard. Commence this gravel road and look to the left for a fantastic ridge top view over the valley! We will drive 1.7 miles until you see a small parking lot on the right and brown sign for trails 457/492A. There is also sufficient room on the shoulders of the road for 5 cars. This road was fine during my January,2011, visit; it may not be desirable after a rainy season. Since this is a designated wilderness, groups are limited to 10 hikers or horse riders.

492A proceeds in a circular fashion with excellent tread and easy grade subsequent to its reconstruction last year. Early on, there is an unmarked junction-veer left. We travel thru woods and ravines until a "T" junction. The sign says left for Secret Canyon (trail 457). Pressing on, we arrive at an overlook and waterfall at the mouth of the canyon. The trail slowly descends to the base,and now we have a continuous steep cliff line on both sides. This trail moves in a serpentine direction, showing off the long icicles, rock formations, small caves, slot canyons, and a huge shelter cave. The latter was approx 75 ft deep, 100 ft wide, and 25 ft high. There is a horse highline at that spot. GPS coordinates here are 37 32' 18"N and 88 31' 48" W.

Eventually, the trail gradually ascends thru cliffs which diminish upon arriving at a junction. The sign says left on 457 to Natural Bridge, or straight ahead for 492D. I retraced my route back to the car. While returning, there is one place that looks like an intersection-veer left at the orange ribbon. From the mouth of the canyon back to my car, it was 30 minutes. For any questions contact Bob Tyson at 684-5643 or

11/01/2011: sign for oak blanchard rd gets turned around in the wind. If unsure, when oak rd suddenly becomes williams hill rd, start looking on the right for this road. 10-12-12: I have found another route which may be either shorter or quicker. Take Rt 145 to Rt 34, go on 34 to the first county rd on the right. Follow this several miles. It will end at a intersection( a T). go left and travel to the next right turn. this will be the road to secret canyon.

Photo courtesy of Scott Campbell from the River to River Trails Society.

Tuesday, January 11

Seventysix Conservation Area

Continuing with our monthly series, "Adventures With Uncle Bob-Guide to Self-Adventure," we travel to Seventysix conservation Area trail 3 miles NE of Brazeau, Missouri. Directions: Cross the bridge at Chester, IL, and drive 4 miles to a left turn on County C. Follow this for approx 20 miles and look for County D. Ignore the first sign for D, and continue to the next one. So far County C is a good road, although it is hilly and winding. It suddenly ascends from a flat plain to a ridgetop road with frequent distant views. County D is paved until we reach the conservation area.

Look for the second parking area on the left and arrive at the trailhead. No information about the trail is noted at the signboard. The trail is well-marked, but its ascents and descents are rugged. We start out on a long climb with cliff walls on the right and steep ravines on the left. We switchback to the top and enter a field. The trail becomes a wide swarth between acres of soybeans, corn, and wild grasses, along with frequent views of the Mississippi River and opposite bank. There are spur trails which afford overlooks into sinkholes, including ones with ponds. After 0.3 mile on top, we descend steeply thru woods, hit bottom, and look for a bridge and stair steps. We now have a short climb which brings us to an overlook above a major sinkhole area. The trail appears to end here. The length of the hike was approx 40 minutes each way.

Upon returning to the trailhead, drive over to the river and walk along the tracks for some views of steep ravines. Note a number of places for primitive camping. Approximate GPS coordinates 37 40' 25"N and 89 31' 28"W. For better pictures at the top and cliff line, Google southeast missourian and seventysix conservation area (the website title is too long to write here). North of this area on County C, note a turn for Red Rock Landing Conservation Area. Near its entrance the road seemed very questionable, plus a creek flowing over the road. For further questions, contact Bob Tyson at 618-684-5643 or

04/09/12: correction on the GPS coordinates. 37 40' 27.411'N and 89 37' 22.239"W