Monday, November 26

Hickory Ridge Trails

Continuing with our monthly series, "Adventures With Uncle Bob-Guide to Self-Adventure in Southern Illinois," we feature Shawnee National Forest trails along Hickory Ridge Road.

Directions: Follow south 20th street from Murphysboro until you ascend a hill near a church. Turn left onto Hickory Ridge Road. This road is paved all the way to Pomona. After several miles, we arrive at a four-way stop. Turn right. Note a FS trail near Fairview Church. Forget this overgrown trail-no prominent features. Continue on to the sign for Little Grand Canyon. That area was already described at Set your odometer and drive 1.2 mile to an unmarked firelane on the left (just past Mason Concrete). Park here and walk if the lane is muddy; if not, drive in to the turnabout. The ridgetop trail has good views during leafoff. Note the unmarked trail junction. I took the left fork for a while. It suddenly makes a very steep descent to the bottom of a circular cliff line. Returning to our junction, I took the right fork. At some point there is an ATV spur trail steeply descending to the base of pretty cliff walls. Returning to the right fork, the trail makes a gradual descent to go on forever. I turned around after 40 minutes.

Back on Hickory Ridge Road, drive another 1.3 mile and arrive at a gate (on your left) at the bottom of the hill. This is FS 741. This old roadbed trail runs approx 2 miles. During leafoff, our walk affords unobstructed views of the cliff line. At some point, note a large canebrake patch, creek, and boulder. Bushwhack left about 100 yards to find a pretty rock canyon, waterfall, and a shelter cave to the upper right. Back on the trail, we cross a powerline clearing and continue into the woods. We soon navigate a huge canebrake forest and the trail ends at a creek. In the spring, I noted acres of blue flowers. ,As of May 2009,due to an inland hurricane we cannot follow the trail past the powerline clearing. Unfortunately the remainder of the trail took us to several buzzard roosts high up in the trees. very impressive!

Retrace your route back to the car. Drive about 100 yards to a trail on the right (FS 346C). The first segment traverses a Pine plantation. The trail is often muddy due to ATV riders. Just before the creek, look to the left and follow a long cliff line to its end. Note the unique texture of the rock. Retrace this 0.5 mile back to the car.

Drive another 1.2 mile to find Wolfe Creek Trail. There is a vineyard on the left: continue approx 200 ft and park on the shoulder near a log pile on the right. This faint trail travels in a northwest direction thru woods to reach the start of continuous 2-3 mile cliff canyon. Prior to reaching this point, you will have passed the foundation of an old CCC camp. There is no defined trail in the canyon; Just stay close to the base of the cliff line to avoid getting lost. Do not continue past the waterfall without permission of the landowner. The private property boundary starts here, even though there is no sign. In autumn, the stretch of road from Little Grand Canyon to this point is a continuous blaze of yellow leaves.

The photos are of the bluff line on trail FS 346C and the rock cave along trail FS 741.

More info from Bob Tyson at 684-5643. the GPS coordinates for fr 741 are 89 22' 55.20"w and 37 40' 7.90"w.