Another amazing weekend with my fellow Corn Desert Hikers is in the books. As mentioned last week, we traveled to the Shawnee National Forest and camped at Pounds Hollow Recreational Area. The weather was fantastic, the food amazing and the company, always exceptional!
Thursday, we arrived to Pounds Hollow Recreational Area to set up camp just before dark and started our fire and quickly began cooking dinner and catching up. On Friday more and more members of our group arrived throughout the day and began setting up. A few of us decided to take a short hike to the north around Pounds Lake to check out some of the smaller rock formations and the low lands around the lake.
As the afternoon continued and more of our cohorts arrived we transitioned our gear and prepped for our visit to the Garden of the Gods. We were blessed with amazing weather and a beautiful sunset at GOTG. A spectacular sight and vista as you can see from the pictures below. I am so happy to have finally gotten to see this location and check it off my list.
As is with any Corn Desert adventure, food takes priority and I was happy to share a culinary experience from Hell Hike and Raft with my mates. As mentioned in last weeks post "Mmmmmm Hell Hike and Raft Pork Loin", I prepared and marinated a rather larger pork loin for my friends for this trip using Hotlime and following the same recipe as used during HHAR. The meat marinated for over two full days and was cooked in foil then charred over the open flames. I heated the remaining marinade over the fire and used it as a dipping sauce prior to serving these delicious hunks of meat around the campfire.
Even though the planned hike was short, many packed full packs and then continued on to get some much needed training in for longer upcoming hikes, needless to say the group worked up a large appetite. With the group now at fifteen members we decided that two campfires are better then one. One for cooking and one for warmth. I began cooking brats for all and soon a symphony of mmmm's filled the early evening air as all enjoyed the evenings main course.
Also, while on this trip I took time use and test the following gear:
Resection Athletic Trail Shoes by Rocky®
Sierra Designs Mobile Mummy 800 4 Season Bag
d.light S300 Solar Lantern
Native Hardtop Sunglasses
Please stay tuned to Hiking Forward for upcoming reviews on these products and a giveaway.
The Shawnee National Forest is within a short ride from St. Louis, Memphis, Louisville and Indianapolis and offers a host of short and long trails as well as many fantastic sites to explore. The River to River Trail passes through Garden of the Gods and goes from the Mississippi River in the west to the Ohio River in the east. Two of my good friends and members of the Corn Desert Hikers Tom (Arbor) and Jana (Willow) just completed the hike this summer. They blogged about their R2R adventure and other experiences at www.tauspotting.com. Take a moment and check out their blog, they take great pictures of their adventures and write with a style that makes you feel like you are right there with them.
I hope you had just as much of a fantastic and adventurous weekend as I did. If you didn't, the good news is your only a few days away from creating a epic weekend.
Keep Hiking Forward!
This coming weekend, I get to return to the woods and mingle with the Gods in the Garden of the Gods in the Shawnee National Forest in southern Illinois. I have been waiting, rather impatiently for this trip to arrive. It's been way to long since I have been able to get out. My adventures lately have been filled with hoping from plane to plane or cab to hotel, living in the urban jungle adventuring from one city to another. Enough of that! It's time to get outdoors and enjoy time with my friends from my local hiking and adventure club.
This trip will allow me three nights and four days to explore the Shawnee National Forest and Garden of the Gods. Even though it is the beginning of November the colors in Southern Illinois are supposed to be fantastic still. This is a trip I am really looking forward to for the purposes of seeing my good friends for the Corn Desert Hikers and relaxing by the fire, however their is work to be done.
I want to give you a sneak peek into some of the amazing gear that I will be bringing a long to put to the test and review for all of you. Stay tuned once I return for full reviews on the following products:
Resection Athletic Trail Shoes by Rocky® are men's extreme sport and trail shoes. It's about performance and comfort with a special, unexpected safety feature. These are shoes that will keep your feet dry on the trail while gripping the terrain; or they may help save your life.These trekkers have a VapourFlex® four-way stretch waterproof shroud. VapourFlex is a patented waterproof, breathable and elastic tech fabric designed for outdoor gear. Run or trek where you like, these are waterproof shoes. Forget zippers; these trail running shoes have waterproof self-locking asymmetrical zippers. Water isn't getting in!
You'll have sure footing on and off the trail with outsoles that feature a Vibram® compression molded trek rubber compound. This trekker has a proprietary wave underlay texture for element traction and shedding.
(product description from Rockys2v.com)
Sierra Designs Mobile Mummy 800 4 Season Bag
The most innovative sleeping bag I have ever encountered on the market. I am trilled and excited to give this bag a true test. Living in the north I plan on using this 4 season bag rather often throughout the upcoming winter. And if this winter was anything like last winter the 800 fill is going to pleasantly welcomed.
In addition to the 4 season capabilities of this bag it offers some interesting features:
Ultralight Jacket Hood With No Cords Or Toggles It moves with you, while fitting comfortably snug around your face like the hood on a jacket.
Zipperless Arm Ports Ready for instant use, our arm ports have no zippers, toggles or hook-and-loop closures to get in the way.
Garment-Style Shoulder Design When you’re upright in the bag, our tapered design rests on your shoulders—not your head.
Centrally Placed, Ventable Zipper The 58" zipper is easier and more natural to operate. Dual sliders can be zipped from the bottom for venting.
Draft-Prevention The draft collar, tube, and curtains keep warm in and cold out.
Stowable Footbox Foot box can be tucked up with toggles to prevent the bag from dragging when you walk around.
(product description from www.Sierradesigns.com)
d.light S300 Solar Lantern
The d.light S300 provides bright white light at a wide angle, enabling the illumination of an entire room. The S300 features 4 brightness settings, providing up to 16 hours of bright light (100 hours on the bed light setting). A USB port provides the ability to charge smart phones, and a battery indicator shows the charge level. Lightweight (350g), it comes with an ergonomically designed handle and top strap, which offers maximum flexibility for use in the home, workplace, or outdoor environments.
(product description from www.dlightdesign.com)
Pat's Backcountry Beverages
What do all crave after a long day of hiking? Or want to have by our side during an awesome campfire with friends? BEER! Well thanks to good people and Pat's Backcountry Beverages not only are they giving us the opportunity to have beer but also awesome soda flavors too in the backcountry. I am really looking forward to trying this product out. Not only for its convenience and flavor but to show it off to my friends from my hiking group. People have heard of the backcountry beer but seeing and tasting will be believing.
Introducing the most environmentally-responsible carbonated beverage system on earth! This awesome little addition to your gear list is engineered with an emphasis on rugged durability and first of it's kind functionality. In it's more docile state, it functions as your standard, everyday water bottle (yawn). However, when you decide to kick it into high gear and unleash the technology hiding under it's cap, you get a burst of refreshing carbonation to energize any beverage of your choice. So no matter how far your wanderlust leads you down the trail, you can still enjoy a crisp, carbonated beverage anywhere on the planet. Cheers!
(product description from www.patsbcb.com)
Bell Smith Springs, located in Southern Illinois is one of the states recreational gems. We had a chance to visit the area and camp at the USDA Red Bud campground. A great group of sites, with water and port-a-jons for just $10.00 a night. A multitude of beautiful sights are within a short hike from the campground and even more are within reach with a short car ride as the part is in the heart of the Shawnee National Forest.
We used out new REI Kingdome 8 and she performed as expected. The biggest surprise was how well the zippers held up against Grace (7) and Gabby (5) constant use and inexperience with tent zippers. But, they never snagged and always worked like butter!
If you looking for a nice peaceful get away and an opportunity to play in the cool waters, pools and feel like you are not in Illinois anymore this is the place.
Click here to check out the pics for Bell Smith Springs.
Sometimes you just need a little fresh air, a long hike in the snow and like minded easy going friends to put you in that right frame of mind. I am feeling really good this morning. Every year I say I am going to put my money where my mouth is and commit to keeping my outdoor themed resolution. And this year I am actually doing it and feeling amazing as a result. Not only am I keeping my resolution but I am also including Grace (my oldest) and this past weekend my bride. It truly feels great to share that one thing you love and cherish with the people you love and cherish.
Even though it was only one night away, it was what the doctor ordered. Getting in 4-5 mile hike in the deep snow up high on the Illinois River Bluff Trail was not only beautiful and serene and but rejuiced the batteries. Not only did I thoroughly enjoy the hike but the wife wanted to keep going!
My quest to be outside hiking, camping and exploring as much as possible is coming true and I couldn't be happier. I am also currently in the process of setting up the logistics for a mid-Spring AT section hike. More to come on that topic soon.
Keep Hiking Forward
I participated in my hiking groups annual "Freeze Your Butt Off" camping trip this past weekend at Kickapoo State Park and had a great time. Once again it always amazing me how the right preparations and gear can keep your warm in almost any conditions.
While en route to the campground the location was still under a winter weather advisory due to low wind chills from arctic air pushing through the area. Upon arrival my fellow campers had already started a fire, erected our dining area and their personal accommodations.
The only time I was remotely cold was when I was putting up my own tent. After my tent was up and camp was set my gear, the fire, warm food and my sleeping bag did the job for the remainder of the weekend.
The local news station came out and did a story on the crazy campers out in the woods in the dead of winter and did a little feel good piece on us. Check it out below.
As many of you know getting out into the woods and or nature, energizes your soul. For me it re-juices my batteries. And today I feel really good. I got to spend the weekend with like minded people who love the outdoors as much as I do. We of course, tried to solve the worlds problems around the campfire. And I think had we had another day we might have just done it.
I was able to try out my new ENO Hammock as you can see from the video and the pics linked below. Initial results are I love it and so do all my camping mates. I envision the first spring campout we all might be sleeping or swinging in hammocks. I will write up and post a more detailed gear review on it in the coming days.
Freeze Your Butt Off Pictures
As many friends and family members either in person or via social media exclaimed to me last week prior to my trip "Your Nuts"... yes maybe so. But, we all have one life to live and we all have some place that makes us feel good and right. Mine just happens to be in the woods with good people. So to those who are like me I say again...
Keep Hiking Forward.
The Illinois Department of Natural Resources just announced yesterday that all of the state recreational areas and state parks that have campgrounds, camp sites and group campsites will now all be reserveable on www.reserveamerica.com. Up until a few years ago you could not reserve any sites online. In order to reserve a campsite a snail mail or in person reservation system was in place. A couple years back rv style sites with power and water or just power were added to Reserve America, but not all sites were available. This latest addition now incorporates state park primitive sites. This is huge especially during the office season where at most parks there aren't paid staff around as their used to be to properly gain access to the site and pay for it.
Now I want to reserve a spot and head out this weekend!
Keep Hiking Forward.
Here is the information from IDNR:
IDNR and Reserve America have joined together to bring on-line camping, cabin, group camp, and shelter reservations. The new system is available by using the Reserve America website www.reserveamerica.com and using a Visa or a MasterCard.
IDNR camping and shelter reservations will no longer be taken through the mail or over the phone.
Reservations for regular campsites and group campsites require a $5 non-refundable reservation fee and payment of the full camping and utility fees at the time the reservation is made. For more information on our fees, please review our camping fee information.
Payment of the entire camping and utility fee amount will guarantee that the reservation will be held for the entire length of the stay. Shelter reservation fees are $25.
Campsites can be reserved for a maximum of 14 nights per 30-day period and reservations must be made between three to seven days before the campsite is needed, depending on the facility - see the chart below (Days in Advance for Reservation).
Reservations for Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Labor Day weekends may require a two-or three-night minimum stay reservation. Some facilities will require a three night minimum stay for Columbus Day.
The reservation fee is $5.00, plus the entire camping fee for each camp site reserved. This $5.00 reservation fee is non-refundable unless the campground is closed by the Department of Natural Resources.
Hiking Forward Stickers