Shawnee National Forest Group Hiking
My Overall Opinion on Hiking with Groups in the Shawnee National Forest…
Shawnee National Forest Group Hiking is… well…
Let me begin from the start! I’ve always been more of a solo hiker than a group hiker. It’s not that I don’t like groups of people, social anxiety isn’t really a problem for me, I love people but I’ve always been the type that hikes alone because most of my hikes are strenuous, rugged and challenging for most folks. I often go off trail, bushwhack, climb hills and end the hike pouring in sweat because I’ve basically got a full body workout. Most of my hikes are over 2 miles and some of them are over 10 miles per trip. I love being out in the forest, all day and sometimes, all night as well.
Then after joining a group on Facebook, I started getting these Shawnee National Forest Group Hiking event reminders. I thought to myself, ‘Why not give it a shot and see what it is like?’… And that is exactly what I did…
River to River Trail Society
The Facebook Group that was reminding me of these Shawnee National Forest Group Hiking events was the River to River Trail Society, a group of Shawnee National Forest lovers with the common goal of promoting the forest and maintaining the River to River Trail, a 150+ mile trail that extends through southern Illinois starting from the Ohio River in Elizabethtown to the Mississippi River in Grand Tower. This group seemed like an interesting group to do my first Shawnee National Forest Group Hiking adventure with so I winged it!
Of course when I arrived for my first Shawnee National Forest Group Hiking adventure with the River to River Trail Society, I wanted to film it. Not everyone wants to be filmed and I learned that lesson after the first outing. The next outings after that, I get some footage of the people but more of the environment. Our first group hike was within Pine Hollow or better known as, The Fist of God!
Pine Hollow – Fist of God
Shawnee National Forest Group Hiking Adventure #1
But back to the hike – it was a different experience for me. Now I’m no stranger to hiking with other people. I commonly hike with Two Bobs Adventures, a father and son YouTuber duo and good friends of mine as well as Matt Gholson and Nate Buker. But most of the time folks, it is usually me, alone and talking to the video camera. I can only imagine what other hikers think when they see a big guy stomping through the woods talking to his hand – LOL! That’s funny right there, I don’t care who you are! But 38 people!!! You could imagine the opportunities to converse. I mainly stayed at the back because I felt it was a good filming approach to get the whole group in front of me. Plus while they did their thing, I could break away from the pack, here and there and wonder around myself to explore this new area that I had never been to before…
But then I met Chris…
Chris was in charge of keeping the back of the group on route. Now being a solo hiker for the most part, I commonly do my own thing and commonly break trail and bushwhack when distance sights draw my attention. The River to River Trail Society called their hike a guided group hike which was something I wasn’t used to. Chris made sure everyone stayed within the group or at least as close to the group as possible. I’m not criticizing him at all for doing it, I was actually impressed by it – he was making sure everyone could safely be accounted for and that no one would get lost or fall behind. That impressed me because it was appropriate and the responsible thing to do. And you know ole, Hiking with Shawn… how many of my videos where I go off trail only to end with saying “Well folks, I got myself lost again” – LOL. So thank you Chris for not only keeping people safely within the close distance of one and other but also for entertainment of you doing so. Chris is a very funny guy and I enjoyed making a friendship with him.
Chris isn’t the only one I enjoyed meeting on that hike. Bill, the main man in charge of the Society is well influenced in the art if traveling the Shawnee and I can promise he was been to more places than I have in the forest event in all my 33 years of life on this earth. Vicki, Gillum, Jim, Todd – so many people to mention here – folks that I am really happy to have met.
When it comes to my age group, I’m a bit of an Old Soul so to speak. I have trouble fitting in with the younger ages (if I can still call myself young at 33 that is) and getting into what they get into. I’m single, no kids and enjoy that type of lifestyle. I don’t get into major partying, loud concerts or most sporting venues. I like history, especially local history and getting outside, in the woods, in the forest and really seeing something that is way older than I’ll ever get such as the bluffage and the occasional virgin growth tree that survived European settlement. So in all honesty, I don’t often fit in with my age group. I fit in more with those who are older than me and in most cases, old enough to be my mom or dad. Now that isn’t me calling anyone old, there!!! I just prefer the company of older folks because they have more stories to share, about the past and what life was like before it became so digital as it is today. Of course, I still enjoy many friends who are my age as well. So this group was mainly made up of folks who were much older than me and I really felt like I fit in with them, perfectly.
On that note, one fella is in his 70s and after hiking with him a few time now, I really do hope I can do what he does when I am that age because the guy could probably out-hike me if we were competing for it!
Cedar Creek Wonders
Shawnee National Forest Group Hiking Adventure #2
We hiked quite a bit that trip. We did more bushwhacking than anything else. But the things we got to see – made it worth it. When you go off trail, you are enabling yourself to find something new that most hikers won’t see. But always remember safety when going off trail and make sure you have something to help you find your way back home. Going off trail, we found waterfalls, a window arch and even a tiny little arch that I gladly walked up. Matt even had his famous hiking beverage with him – a can of soda – LOL. And it was very much a day of BLUFFAGE celebration, ha ha. (Note to the reader: Add Bluffage to your digital dictionary because I say it a lot, LOL).
Overall, this hike was worth getting out in the cold wet muddy conditions that the forest had to offer us that day…
The Touch of Nature Hike
Shawnee National Forest Group Hiking Adventure #3
Steve, I’ll be meeting with you again to check out those photos and documents one day – LOL! But another interesting fact about this Steve guy was that I had previously been conversing with him through email for a potential collaboration between Touch and Nature and Hiking with Shawn, so a chance to meet him in person was really ideal and now after being a student of his great knowledge, I really want to make some Touch of Nature videos on my channel.
On this hike, we also got to go off trail a lot to see old foundations, wells, flowers and historical monuments of a time that once occupied the area long before the second-growth forest was even considered. Seeing signs of the past was magically all in its own little way and I really am glad I got to experience such an education hike as that one…
My final thoughts about Shawnee National Forest Group Hiking…
Really! It has been worth it the entire experience. I’ve met a lot of good people who care a lot about the forest and historical references that have been left behind. I’ve befriended others that I can learn from. I’ve seen new places that I hadn’t visited before. I have made new experiences that I have always hoped for. Solo hiking is fun and will probably always be my main form or forest exploring but I’m pretty game with joining a group hike here and there when I am able to. Hiking with the River to River Trail Society has not only been an awesome adventure but it will be a memory that I will be able to cherish, forever.
So do I recommend Shawnee National Forest Group Hiking? You bet your bottom dollar, I do! Get out there and explore the forest with others who also love to explore the forest and make memories of adventure with like-minded folks, folks! 😀
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Shawn J. Gossman