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
My first Shawnee National Forest Group Hiking experience led me and the folks from the River to River Trail Society to Pine Hollow or better known to locals as the Fist of God. We all met up at Dixon Springs State Park before heading out to where we entered the trail at. I have to admit, I had my window down and as I passed a group of people in the parking lot, I hear someone say “Hey, Hiking with Shawn is going with us” and it made me feel all cool inside. People are starting to know who I am and that is pretty neat because I never figured that would happen…
We all gathered in a circle there at Dixon Springs and introduced one and other. No I didn’t say “I’m Hiking with Shawn” lol, I didn’t want to go overboard with my brand. After the chit chat, we ventured out to the trail. At least 38 of us showed up! My first time on a group hike was with a really large group of people. Now I want to say this because I feel like it needs to be said. I sincerely apologize to anyone who might had become offended by my filming you or the hike. I make videos to promote the forest and hiking in hopes to get more people outside and more attention on our awesome forest – more attention means more use and that could mean more funding to make the forest better. So if anyone is offended, I truly am sorry for that and I hope you know my intentions were of the best strategy.
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
My second adventure in Shawnee National Forest Group Hiking with the River to River Trail Society was a bit different than the first one. This time, 38 hikers didn’t show up, there was only 6 of us including myself and my good friend and fellow YouTuber Matt Gholson. The day wasn’t the best. It was cloudy and it was misting from a recent rain and it was cold outside and muddy. Not a lot of people like to hike in those conditions. I’ll hike any condition though, even if there is ice and snow present but I always take safety precautions when hiking in bad weather and so should YOU! #ShawneeSAFE
This hike was a lot of fun although I felt bad for one hiker with us that had to turn back due to an issue. At least he got to see some of the waterfallAGE that Cedar Creek had to offer. We started at the Boot Camp trailhead where a rancher has cowboy boots draped over every fence post around his property. I love when locals put things like that out there for visitors to see – it makes the area warm and welcoming for folks who want to use the trails and forest. It is a lot better than seeing purple paint and “You will be shot!” signs everywhere – LOL. Matt, my buddy, didn’t bring a memory card for his camera and I could tell he was down about it. So I remember I had my GoPro with the Karma Grip stabilizer and thought why not test this thing out more and let Matt go crazy with it. He had a lot of fun and I’m glad I could have helped with that. Check out his video of the trip here to see what cool stuff he filmed.
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
I almost didn’t do this Shawnee National Forest Group Hiking adventure… But nearly at the last moment, I decided to go ahead and hike it. I have been through some of that area before but never really knew what I had seen in terms of previous settlement and that is what really made me want to go. Local history is so fascinating to me! I literally have 100s of bookmarked websites and articles detailing stuff from the past of this area, countless old photos and books that I know are rare finds these days. I am from Bloody Williamson County, Illinois – Local history is a big part of my life and I wish more folks would enjoy it as much as I do…
This hike was by far my favorite – for many reasons… For starters, I learned something new. I had previously hiked some of that area in the past and found old structures, cables in the ground and signs of some kind of past. But I had no historical knowledge to integrate into what I saw. That bothers me – if I see something of historic time, I want to know everything I can learn about it. Steve Gariepy of the Touch of Nature Environment Center (a part of Southern Illinois University) was our guide and he had quite a bit of knowledge about the area. He was a great guide and a great teacher! I learned a lot about that area that I don’t think I would had learned if I hadn’t went on that hike. I was busy filming while he was showing folks pictures and documents of the history of the area. I really wanted to put the camera down and dive into that paper-knowledge but I felt like his message deserved a chance to be on the spotlight especially because programs like Touch of Nature are worth preserving and promoting.
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…
I should have done it sooner…
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
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.