Garden of the Gods Recreation Area, Herod, IL - Part 1 - Summer 2012, Trip to Glacier National Park
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Garden of the Gods Recreation Area, Herod, IL - Part 1 - Summer 2012, Trip to Glacier National Park

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The Shawnee National Forest, located in the southern tip of Illinois, was our first stop on the Grand Tour to Glacier National Park. Our rule of thumb for setting our schedule was to travel for about 8 hours, camp a few days, then continue on. Most of the campsites we had booked but there were several nights where we were just winging it. If you're RV camping, I definitely recommend having reservations for every stop. If you change your mind then call around. And you won't be heartbroken when you can't find an open site. But for us, we were tent camping on this trip and found it quite easy to find an open tent site at just about everywhere we wanted to stay.

The ride from Atlanta to Shawnee was pretty easy. We opted to take some of the lessor traveled state highways and stayed off of interstate highways as much as possible. I saw a sign for Land Between the Lakes, which sounded like part of an adventure so , I said, "Here we go." (Mental note - go back to Land Between the Lakes and camp to go fishing.) Even though it was a little bit of a detour, we were rewarded with an actual river ferry ride across the Ohio River on Cave-in-Rock Ferry. Crossing over, we saw an amish family living the simple life of a horse drawn carriage - and my mind started to wonder how good that would be... A little further and we were in Shawnee National Forest. I have to admit though, the route we took was through some very remote one lane dirt roads where we even lost GPS signal for a bit, and I'm pretty sure I heard banjo picking more than once.

But as it turned out Garden of the Gods Recreation Area in Herod, IL was the perfect first stop. The boys were 11 and 6 years old and a long 9 hour drive needed to be rewarded with adventure. I thought it would be a great thing to stop and do some bouldering, southern Illinois style to stretch their legs. What a great move! I was having a hard time keeping them off the rocks. We had a solid three or four hours of rock climbing, trail hiking and nature gazing before we settled in for dinner at camp. After dinner we went back to the rocks for an amazing sunset.

The campsite itself was spacious, easy to maneuver and not crowded. There was a good tree canopy to keep the sun away. Wildlife was everywhere with deer, squirrels and the distant sound of a pack of coyotes when I was having my morning coffee. Then it was time to pack up and hit the road for the next leg of the trip.

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