Monday, April 13, 2015

Little Grand Canyon in Shawnee National Forest

As I noted in my last posting, we saw some quite a variety of colorful wildflowers in this park.  Pictured below are bluebells.
We also saw two different kinds of trillium, the white variety as well as the dark purple called wake robin.  We also saw large patches of what looked like the poppy flower.  I checked later with the Illinois Department of Resources web site and found out that there is a wood poppy in this part of the country.
One other unusual looking wildflower, which Melissa found, is the yellow bellwort.
Our hike in the park took us along woodland paths as well as 365 feet down into a canyon.  Unfortunately we chose to do this after some hard rains, so the trail down and up was a wet one.  Weathered ledges and steps helped us somewhat in navigating the many streams of water.  Our daughter Melissa was carrying Nathan in a backpack, how she managed this 3.6 mile trek into the canyon is beyond my understanding.
It was fortunate that Melissa's husband Spencer took a break from his studies to join us.  I do not think John or I could have given Melissa and Nathan the assistance needed to climb over wet rocky ledges!  It was enough of a challenge for us to manage on our own, and our walking sticks certainly helped.  At the top of the canyon we had a panoramic view of the Big Muddy as well as the Mississippi floodplain. 
Pictured above is the creek flowing through the park, looks like the Big Muddy backed up into it after the recent storms.  It took us about three hours to hike the loop down into the canyon and back up along Hickory Ridge.  Nathan slept through most of the hike.  We were fortunate it was a cool day.  And what with the abundance of wildflowers in the park, it was a good time of the year to hike this trail.  However, it was a bit wet and muddy.  I think we did good going through the canyon, all of the mud was on our shoes and not our clothes!

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