Wednesday, July 21, 2010

A long-distance trail in Illinois?

According to the trail association's web site, the River to River Trail is between 160 and 176 miles long as it winds from the Ohio River to the Mississippi River across the Shawnee National Forest in southern Illinois.

I hiked a short, but iconic section of this trail in the Garden of the Gods in December 2004. This was part of a winter car camping / hiking trip through the Shawnee. i saw a side of my home state few people even know exist. Ravines, limestone bluffs, high overlooks and wilderness areas. The last time I was down there we even took a trail to the remnants of an ancient native American settlement, complete with petroglyph. Ever since then, I've longed to go back, ideally in the fall, and spend a week or two living out of my backpack. It's definitely on the life list.


From Wikipedia: Its eastern end is on Battery Rock, overlooking the Ohio River, and its western end is at Grand Tower, Illinois, at the Mississippi River. It forms part of the Southern Section of the American Discovery Trail.[1] [2]

From east to west, the trail serves the following settlements and resources: Garden of the Gods Wilderness, Lusk Creek Wilderness, Eddyville, Illinois, Ferne Clyffe State Park, Panther Den Wilderness, Crab Orchard Wilderness, Giant City State Park,
Makanda, Illinois, Bald Knob Wilderness, Clear Springs Wilderness, Grand Tower, Illinois.

From what little Internet research I've done, I realize there are two guidebooks associated with the trail. The one available through the "official" web site and endorsed by the River to River Trail Society is River to River Trail Guide Across Southern Illinois (3rd edition) by John O'Dell. It is available on Amazon. The other is The River to River Pocket Guide by John Voigts (not Angelina Jolie's dad!). It advertises that it is a detailed guide, at 52 pages, and provides such needed info as mileage between points, water sources, trailheads, and GPS waypoints. It is neither available on Amazon or the trail Society site. It's only available here.

The pocket guide may be a needed addition to the official trail guide, which may give a detailed trail description, but be light on nuts and bolts info. This is how the AT guides are/were (I haven't checked lately). An entire cottage industry of companions and data books has sprung up around that trail and the PCT. Or... this Voigts character is a fellow trail nut publishing a wild, rambling manifesto about nature and society under the mere rubric of being a helpful and sensible trail guide. His nefarious goal may to not only to get the hiker physically lost, but to also lose all metaphysical bearings as well!

If anybody knows anything about this Voigts character's screed, give a comment below.


A short survey article about the trail.

The American Discovery Trail in Illinois

Finally, something said about Voigts's book

Voigt's blog about the trail It's got a lot of neat pictures, many taken on horseback! Okay, so after checking out his site, he seems pretty credible and not the least bit ill of intent. Darn! Those are always the interesting ones.

This site's got a Google thumbnail map of the trail and links to official sites for places the trail goes to or near.

A cool article from WGN TV about the Shawnee tribe

Here's the only video I could find, a musical slide show:

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