Our Last Hike of 2022 was a doozy!

We decided to go to Fountain Bluff for the last hike of 2022.

If you don’t know, Fountain Bluff is on the west side of the Shawnee National Forest near Grand Tower. It’s an area once inhabited by ancient people from the Mississippian period. The Native Americans were long gone by the time European settlers arrived. However, they left many signs of their existence, including several petroglyph sites around the bluff.

We visited two of the sites: the Whetstone Shelter and Trestle Hollow.

I purposefully do not record GPS coordinates of rock art sites. I don’t for two reasons. (1) Vandals and (2) It’s really dangerous to get to these places, especially Whetstone. However, I don’t discourage you from looking for these sites. All I ask is that you visit responsibly and understand that once the art is gone or covered up with modern trash graffiti, that’s an ancient art that is gone forever. And also, please be safe. If you fall out there, you’ll likely die.


The Last Hike of 2022 was about a Barge Rope

Someone told me there was a barge rope tied to a tree.

They said if I lowered myself down on the rope, it would take me to a cave opened that I could get into.

That’s the original reason we went. We wanted to see if the cave story was real. I’m not sure if I would enter the cave or not, but I would have at least liked to have seen it. I’ve been lucky enough to have seen many caves in the Shawnee, sealed and unsealed.

We couldn’t find the rope, so we decided to visit Whetstone.

On our way down one of the steep power line right-of-way roads, I slipped on the mud and fell pretty hard. I tensed up before impact, which only made it worse. Since then, I’ve been in some pain.

We went when it was way too wet. So if you ever go looking, please do it when it’s dry.


Digging My Fingers Into The Dirt

After we visited both sites, we decided to trek up a steep but less steep side of the hillside to skip the super muddy power line roads that I feared falling on again.

That choice may or may not have been a wise choice.

As you can imagine, about halfway up the side of the massive steep hillside, I was on my belly, digging my fingers into the dirt and grabbing saplings to pull myself up.

It was not an easy task.

Michelle and I are both feeling it today with sore muscles and a sore back from my fall.

I don’t tell you this story to make you jealous or envy a place I visited. Instead, I tell you to give you a word of caution if you try to visit.

It is one of the most challenging areas I’ve ever hiked.

There is no easy way to these sites; climbing down and up from them doesn’t get easy.

The Natives likely wanted these sacred sites to be hard to reach. They succeeded.

If you do venture out to these sites, please put safety first. Visit on a dry day during the winter. It’s an area where rattlesnakes will be during the summer. Tell someone where you are going. There isn’t a cellphone signal, and rescuing workers from a victim will be difficult.

Stay safe, and I hope you had an excellent last hike of 2022.

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Thanks again for checking out another one of my articles and until next time, I’ll see you on the trail!

Shawn Gossman

Shawn Gossman

Founder, Hiking with Shawn

Howdy folks! My name is Shawn Gossman and I founded Hiking with Shawn. I’m an avid hiker, cyclist and outdoorsman here in the Shawnee National Forest. I was born and raised in Southern Illinois and never want to leave. Click here to learn more about Shawn Gossman

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