Jackson Hole – Hike Aborted!

So I awoke today on December 31, 2017, New Years Eve with the intention of ending the year by hiking to a new spot that I had never been before. Before I went to bed the previous night, way too late mind you, I told myself it was time to go to Jackson Hole. The main reason was because of all the frozen waterfalls that I have been seeing lately. I wanted to see if there was anything special out there. So I went to bed with somewhat of a plan.

The next morning I did some last minute research on getting to Jackson Hole. I read on an old Sierra Club blog posting that the road Mustang Lane, which leads to Jackson Hole was once partially on private property. Apparently the owner welcomed hikers until some hunters shot his dog. He then closed it off and no longer welcomed anyone. I don’t blame him, I’d be pretty upset over that as well. Then I read on that same post that an update had been made where the county reclaimed the road and it had been improved welcoming people in trucks and jeeps to drive to the end to park.

I got on Google Maps and it looked fair enough. But I wanted to be sure, so I cruised over to the Shawnee National Forest group on Facebook to see if anyone could tell me for sure that the road was legal to go to the end on. I was told that I was 100% able to do so but that the road would be rough. I’ve driven my full size 4x4 pickup truck down some pretty rough forest roads in southern Illinois as well as rural Missouri. I was sure it would make it.

Once I got to Mustang Road which is near Cedar Grove Road that intersects the road that will take you to the Bell Smith Springs turnoff, it looked like a decent one lane road. Then it turned into a fairly rough road until finally turning into an extremely narrow and exceptionally rocky road that looked more like a four wheeler trail. My truck might had made it, I don’t know but it seemed sketchy. I started to pull over off the left side from where the road got really bad but then I noticed purple paint everywhere. For those of you who are not familiar with the Purple Paint Law, it is just a fancy way of telling you that you are not allowed to trespass on private property. Its main purpose is more catered to hunting ground more than anything.

So I decided it was best to just turn around and try again some other day. I didn’t want to hiker longer than I needed to because the temperature was about 10 degrees Fahrenheit with some pretty cold wind chill packed into it. So I aborted the hike. 🙁

Sand Cave – Hike Aborted!

So as disappointed as I was for aborting my Jackson Hole hike, I remember that Sand Cave was in the area. I left Mustang Lane and headed for Cedar Grove Road. After passing Cedar Grove Church, I found Sand Cave Road. I drove to the end where the make-shift trailhead was at and then I was greeted by two very large dogs barking and growing. Now maybe it was just my truck that bothered them, I don’t know. I have always been a firm believer in allowing you pets to roam free if you live out in the sticks. I did when I lived out in the country! However, if the animals are not friendly towards other humans, that belief is then void. Especially at a trailhead that is popular among hikers and equestrians.

Now I want to point fingers, here. Like I said, the dogs just may have been barking at my truck. I never got out of it to see. I simply turned around and left the area. That was the second time that I had to do that today. I want to think the dogs were nice. I keep meaning to take dog biscuits with me on my hikes for in the truck as well as my pack. I’d rather treat a dog with a treat in hopes that it would befriend me in its own sort of way than have to defend myself. I like dogs a lot and it would hurt me to have to hurt one but if it is me or the dog, it’s survival of the fittest. On that note, I have a plan A, B and C for dealing with potentially vicious dogs. Plan A is scaring it away whether its throwing your arms in the air and running at it or throwing a rock near it. Plan B is my sound grenade, a special device that emits a 120+ decibel warning siren. It is loud and it will likely freak out an animal as it was create to help ward off bears. Plan C is using a weapon whether that is my large combat knife or my handgun (I am licensed to carry concealed!). I hope to never have to use Plan C but I write this to prepare people to always be prepared, just in case.

So needless to say, Sand Cave was aborted…

Just a Stroll through the Forest

So I aborted two hikes and I was kind of starting to feel down. It is the last day of the year and hiking wasn’t looking good for me. I almost turned around and went to Jackson Falls before suddenly realizing that the River to River Trail crossed Cedar Grove Road. Yay! I figured, I just take a stroll through the forest on the River to River Trail. I didn’t plan on seeing any bluffage or anything that exciting. I just looked forward to seeing a section of Trail 001 that I haven’t been to.

I arrived where the trail cut across the road. Parking – you have to park on the side of the road. It may seem sketchy to do so but I do it all the time. I’ve done it in front of Forestry Law Enforcement and they just drove by and waved. No one has ever messed with my vehicle, either. So that is what you will have to do there unless there is some trailhead that I don’t know about? I end that with a question mark because I noticed a gravel drive not too fair from the trail that didn’t have a mailbox, signage or purple paint… Those roads always have been in wonder – I just don’t want to be that guy who drives down it and it ends up being a driveway, lol.

Okay so I was happy to have finally found a trail and I decided to go towards where Crow Knob was. Note: the forestry sign at the trail start didn’t say anything about Crow Knob. I later saw a homemade blaze for that. Anyways, walking the trail was easy. It was singletrack and although there is a lot of leaf litter, the trail was easy to follow. It eventually came to an old forest road where I saw the Crow Knob blaze. THAT BLAZE got me excited! I thought to myself, I had always heard of Crow Knob but never made it out there. Now I might get the chance, pending on how far it was for me to hike to it.

Now folks, at this point, it was freezing outside. My nose-hairs were freezing up. That is cold! So I didn’t want to spend the whole day hiking. But Crow Knob wasn’t very far once I started trekking down the old forest road. Maybe 10 minutes away. I noticed the bluffage right away, OF COURSE! And then I saw the sign for Crow Knob (shown above this blog). I was soooooo excited. I love the bluffs. I love them so much that I started a trend calling them #BLUFFAGE, lol. So my somewhat of a downward spiral day starting coming back up.

Crow Knob is an amazing place nestled in the Shawnee National Forest. There are plenty of areas to tie off your horse if you ride so that you can enjoy the natural area by foot as well. There are old fences there. I wish there was history on those fences. Were they CCC? I always am fascinating by the history of stuff like that, old foundations and such. There is a trail that takes you right on top of the bluffage and yes, I took it, haha. I shot an amazing timelaspe scene which you will see once I edit and publish that video and I even did a live stream which I will link below. I was shocked to have signal out there to being with! It was cold up on top of the bluffs but it was very worth it in the end and it made my day!

If you haven’t ever been to Crow Knob, go check it out because you’re missing out!

Crow Knob Livestream
Crow Knob Directions

Crow Knob

But That Wasn’t The Last Hike of 2017…

Crow Knob was awesome, the whole hike to it and back was awesome but I didn’t want to end 2017 with that being my last hike of the year. I wanted go somewhere special and special is where I went. I went to Millstone Bluff, an archaeological area of the Shawnee National Forest. Millstone Bluff was an area of mystery of sorts because Woodland and then Mississippian cultures lived in the area with the bluffs rather than along creeks like all the others. The area features a very nice 1/2 trail that is uphill a bit at the beginning. It is a good workout but there plenty of resting benches if you need them.

The reason why I felt right to make Millstone Bluff my last hike of the year is the symbolism behind it. Millstone Bluff is a place of historical significance. It is a place of the past, of history. 2017, as I write this post will be history is about 2 and a half hours. So ending 2017 and archiving it away in history at a trail that is historic just seemed appropriate for to do.

I’ll share a previous video with you below, that I made at Millstone Bluff. Today’s video has yet to be edited and uploaded but expect it, soon, for sure!

And let me leave you the question of this… Where did you hike on New Years Eve and where do you plan to hike on New Years Day? It may be cold outside but the is the forest is yours to play in and why not start the new year with a new hike on a new day! Happy New Year everyone, thank you all for the support, I couldn’t have done it without you! Thanks again for reading this blog, feel free to comment and share it with others and until next time, I’ll See You On The Trail! 🙂

Millstone Bluff Video
Millstone Bluff Directions

Millstone Bluff

Shawn J. Gossman

Shawn J. Gossman

Founder, Hiking with Shawn

Shawn is the founder and host of the YouTube Channel, Hiking with Shawn as well as Hiking with Shawn LLC. Shawn hikes, backpacks and visits various forested areas in the Shawnee National Forest, local state parks and other areas promoting outdoor recreational activities to obtain video to show to locals and non-locals alike. Please support Shawn’s efforts by sharing this post and leaving a comment below.

“Shawnee National Forest is one of the smallest forests in the United States, yet it is so big to us in southern Illinois. It’s ours to enjoy, so let’s enjoy it!” -Shawn J. Gossman