Monday, April 30

Hickory Canyons Natural Area

Continuing with our series,"Adventures with Uncle Bob-Guide to Self-Adventure",we feature hickory Canyons trails. This is a reprint of an article which fell off the former website.  This area is owned by the LAD foundation and managed by the Missouri Dept of Conservation.  Directions: From Chester,ill., take missouri 51 to County H,follow to St Mary, turn left, turn right on County Z,and go to I-55 north.  Take the exit for MO 32 west.  Follow it to county C, turn right and travel 3.2 miles to Sprott rd( if the sign is not visible, look for some big boulders near a homestead).  Take this gravel road 2 miles to the parking area. GPS coordinates are N37.872036 and W-90.302476. Two trails emanate from here: the one on the south is 0.3 mile out and back leading to a tall semi-circle box canyon.
The second one is to the north as a one mile rugged loop. At the junction, go either way.  It is easier to take the segment on the right.  As it descends, the Lamotte sandstone cliffs seem to get taller and some are 100 ft high.  Note the various fern species and other unusual ice-age plant relicts as we reach the canyon floor.  We view steep ravines,box canyons,cascades,a rock shelter,and a rock gladetop as we ascend the trail back to the parking lot. There are several good pictures at If this link does not go,write it into your browser.
While here, why not also visit nearby Pickle Springs loop trail( scroll down the index on this blog. There is a winery in a cave by taking county rd B when taking MO 32 back east. Any questions, contact Bob Tyson at 684-5643 or

Thursday, April 19

Pine Hills Scenic area

Continuing with our series,"Adventures With Uncle Bob-Guide to Self-Adventure in Southern Illinois",we feature Pine Hills in Shawnee National Forest. Directions: From Murphysboro,ill., take rt 149 west to Rt 3, turn left,and travel approx 20 miles. Upon crossing the Big Muddy bridge,turn left on the levee road and arrive at a junction near a steep cliff line. Turn right and park at Winter pond( GPS 37 35' 2.07"N and 89 26' 25.75"W). Walk this 2.5 mile road which bisects this beautiful cliff line and LaRue Swamp. The road is closed to vehicles during snake migrations from cliffs to swamp from March 15 to May 15, as well as Sept 1-Oct 30 each year. At the end of this road,we can turn right onto LaRue road as it joins Rt 3.
Back at Winter Pond, drive north, pass the levee road,and follow signs to Pine Hills drive which switchbacks to the top of the 350 ft bluff line. This 7 mile road provides frequent overlooks over adjacent deep ravines, ridges,swamp, and farm land. It descends eventually to end at the Trail of Tears state forest road, where you can either return to rt 3 or go to the state forest. The first trail at the top is Inspiration Point(o.75 mile) which leads to the obvious. The next trail on the drive is the Godwin. This runs 6 miles to Bald Knob Mountain trailhead. The River to River trail overlaps it. The first 3 miles can be hard to follow. Additional short trails occur along the drive until the last one at the Allen's Flat sign. This is the White Pines trail. It can also be accessed from #10 spot in the campground at the bottom.
This 2.5 mile trail is a continual descent so easier to start at Allen Flat. Along this trail, we experience excellent views of ravines above and below the trail. There is a junction later for Hutchins creek trail if you want to extend the hike; Otherwise, end it at the campground. For another adventure, instead of turning onto Pine Hills drive, continue north on the gravel road which soon becomes Macedonia road thru Clear Springs Wilderness. It affords conntinuous cliff lines, rock formations, and ravine views. Eventually, it is a blacktop road which will meet Hickory Ridge road to go to Murphysboro. Any questions, contact Bob Tyson at 684-5643 or

Monday, April 16

Little Grand Canyon

Continuing with our series, "Adventures With Uncle Bob-Guide to Self-Adventure in Southern Illinois, " we feature Little Grand Canyon in Shawnee National Forest. Directions: From Murphysboro, IL, take 20th St. south from town and look for the brown sign at the top of the hill. Turn left onto Hickory Ridge Rd and proceed about 8 miles to a 4-way stop. Turn right and continue approx 3 miles to the entrance and parking lot. GPS 37 40' 49.64"N and 89 23' 41.49"W. This is a 4 mile rugged loop trail. I suggest starting on the west trail segment.
We hike along a rim trail overlooking deep ravines on both sides. Just before the final descent: great overlooks over farms and adjacent ridges. Soon we switchback onto rock glade and both cliff walls get deeper. One spot looks like a 10 ft dropoff: don't be deceived, below the ridge are foothold indentations into the rock. Very spectacular! We reach the bottom of the canyon and go east(right) and the trail weaves in and away from the 300 ft continuous cliff line and its unusual rock patterns. At approx 0.75 mile, you note a steep ascent on solid rock carved between cliff walls, plus a seasonal cascade. Surely we are not expected to climb this to the top? Yes - again we have foothold rock indentations. At the top, follow the trail back to the parking area. Before you make the ascent, you may want to bushwhack straight ahead to a couple nice rock shelters.
Don't come here after icy weather for obvious reasons; likewise, if a rain storm is forecast, this canyon floods quickly. More info from Bob Tyson at 684-5643 or

Thursday, April 12

Camp Ondessonk Trails

Continuing with our series,"Adventures With Uncle bob-Guide to self-adventure in Southern Illinois", we feature Camp Ondessonk trails. I am re-printing a previous article which appeared on a defunct website. Directions: From Marion,ill.,take rt 13 east to rt 166, go thru Creal Springs to us 45, turn right and follow to Ozark. Turn left into town and note the Camp Ondessonk sign and arch. Follow about 3 miles to St noel administration building. Check in here for permission to proceed to the camp parking lot. no dogs allowed. This is usually closed to hikers from mid-May thru mid-September. If you are taking a group in here to hike on a weekend, call first; another group may have reserved the whole place(618-695-2489); Otherwise, just come during a weekday should be no problem.

Cross the covered bridge. The first stop is a short trail below the dining hall/chapel to see the big shelter bluff which serves as an ampitheater. a seasonal waterfall over the bluff may occur. Go back up and follow a road east, turn by the tree house bunks and follow this beautiful cliff line. Be sure to visit each slot canyon grotto for fantastic views. Later, a dead end side trail goes up wooden steps with a semicircle cliff line and waterfall. Back on the trail, the road forks. Let's turn uphill and then another switchback. Now we are on an old rail bed for approx one mile. Upon noting an old horse barn, start looking for a user-made trail on the right to descend to Cedar Falls. GPS coordinates 37 30' 60"N and 88 44' 17"W. On 02/17/12, it had a drop of 80 ft over the top of this scenic bluff line.
Return back to the fore mentioned fork in the road. Turn left and follow to a beautiful cascade over 5 ledges. Continue on the levee road to a swinging bridge, cross and back to the parking lot. For a top view of the falls, you can drive east from Ozark and note a sharp curve, turn on a road going south (road sign has the word "tuck" on it) and follow to the end at the gate. An obvious short trail will take you to the top of the falls and cliffs. Any questions, contact Bob Tyson at 684-5643 or