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Places Visited:

Illinois: Goreville, Ferne Clyffe State Park, Belknap, Cache River State Natural Area,
Heron Pond
Missouri: Cape Girardeau, Poplar Bluff

2003 Travelogue# 16 Goreville, IL

Mileage: 41384, Traveled: 111 miles
Ferne Clyffe State Park, Illinois Rte 37, 1 mile south of Goreville, IL 618-995-2411
30 amp electric, water access, dump station, gravel pads, $11

Sunday, October 12, 2003

Our major destination goal when starting this journey in July was to reach Mt. Carmel, IL and reconnect to Peggy's "roots". We did that plus had many wonderful stops along the way. Now, as we look at the calendar, feel the air, and watch the leaves fall; it is time to re-route our course southward. We want to see Peggy's Aunt Nola and sister's family in Marshfield, MO before heading to the Rio Grande Valley for the winter. So, today we left Indiana, re-entered Illinois and proceeded to Ferne Clyffe State Park in the center of the Shawnee National Forest in the southern tip of the state.

The first thing I learned was how to pronounce the name of the Park, how it received its name, and its history. The first written records indicate that George Rogers Clark and his group passed through here in 1798 and 100 years later the Cherokee used the area as their hunting range, while on their Trail of Tears march. Two brothers from Cairo, IL purchased a part of the park known today as Hawks' Cave/Rocky Hollow and chose Old English spelling for the name, Ferne Clyffe, because there is abundant fern growth, especially around the rocky cliffs.

We made somewhat of a strategic error in our travel plans by forgetting Monday was Columbus Day and a holiday for some businesses and all the schools in Illinois. Having only 59 camping sites, the Park was jam-packed and we knew we were in trouble. Usually, we travel the first part of the week and get set up by Thursday before all the folks come in for the weekend. We parked in a large handicap pull-through, unhooked the "toad" and drove up to the camp host site, where we met Kathy Vouchell, a most warm and friendly lady. She was walking the campsites as we circled and knew we would have a problem finding a spot, so she was on her way to meet us. She said, "I think some folks just pulled out and we have two sites available". We were off, following Kathy up the hill into a wooded area we only glimpsed when driving through. She said, "you should take this site because it's more level and no acorn trees above you." Wow, this was perfect and did we feel lucky, getting one of only two sites open in the park.

It was a beautiful afternoon in Ferne Clyffe, a 2400-acre park known as an outstanding natural scenic spot with an abundance of ferns, interesting geological formations, and great hiking trails winding through picturesque woods. Needing to get rid of our "driving kinks", it was time to go exploring and walk some of the trails.

Impressive rock formations can be seen from almost all the trails but the two most popular are Hawks/ Cave and Rocky Hollow Waterfall. We chose Hawks Cave trail for the afternoon, which led past one of the largest sheltered bluffs in Illinois, approximately 150 ft long. This is the only park we've found thus far in our travels that had warning signs all over the place reading, "Naturally occurring dangerous areas exist within the park, so exercise awareness and caution." Yes sir, cliffs, I mean shear cliffs, big time and straight down. Just to walk through the woods, listening to the gusty wind blowing through the sweetgums, maples, oaks, hickories and suddenly come to a rocky outcrop, walk out on the cliff, and look straight down 50 ft into a multi-colored wooded area was shear delight. From one high perch we, looked into the distance and saw a 16-acre lake tucked amid the trees. Some of our literature said April and May were the most scenic times to see flowering dogwoods, redbuds and October for the fall foliage…We did hit this one right!

Monday, October 13, 2003

Peggy couldn't stand it anymore; she was up, out of bed, put on her walking attire and with her encouragement we took off for a long 2 ½ mile walk through the park. We picked up Hawk Cave Trail where we left off yesterday; working our way along the bluffs into the valley below, then back up the paved Park Road to our campsite. That last half mile was straight up hill and I was huffing and puffing, but I must say it was invigorating

After our hike we hopped in the "toad" and headed for Cape Girardeau, MO, about 50 miles away. Driving through the countryside, we enjoyed the scenery as we approached the Mississippi River. In front of us on the left side was a bridge that appeared to be a copy of the gold bridge in Alton, IL, but it was still under construction. On the right was the currently used old bridge, which crossed into the Cape. When looking at this bridge, it's evident why a new one is under construction. It has two narrow lanes built for Model A's and the pavement actually dips between each steel horizontal beam. Old silver painted girders held the bridge together; the18 wheelers, and cement trucks, with only inches to spare would creep across. It was definitely a "Tums" moment, which would be repeated when returning.

We drove along the waterfront, which is the older part of the Cape, then through the South Eastern Missouri State University campus. The students were bustling back and forth to class or to lunch, which reminded us of lunch. So, we headed west of town, along Independence and Kings Highway, a major intersection in the city, looking for a place to eat.

One criterion for a restaurant, especially for lunch, is the number of cars parked outside. We call it the "ant test". If you've ever watched little black sugar ants, you know about the "ant test". When you see a lot of them parked around a morsel; you know they've found something good. That's our selection process, " not too high tech, but usually works.

Most cities have a Chinese Buffet and they normally are not too high on our preference list. However, the one we found blew our "ant test" off the scale with its packed parking lot. The sign out front said "Lunch Buffet $4.95", so with faith in our theory, we gave it a twirl. They had three long steam tables filled with food and a fourth table with desserts. The food was fresh and fantastic. I guess with the high volume of business, the food trays are replaced often, and certainly well worth $5.

. We did have a shopping goal for Cape Girardeau, to find music stores that carried hammered dulcimers. We enjoy this ancient form of music. In fact, at our daughters wedding, two hammered dulcimer musicians provided the music during the garden reception. After some research we planned to visit two stores in the Cape area but drew a blank in finding even one dulcimer.

We noticed in driving to and from the Cape many Hunting Clubs adjacent to the fields on the east side of the levee. This is a major goose hunting area, and there are large waterfowl refuges all along this old Mississippi flood plan. It appears that fields of milo and maze are grown for the geese.

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Kathy, our camp host, was right in suggesting not to park under the acorn trees. Last night thunder and lightning woke us up, and by daybreak the wind was out of the north and howling with gusts of 25 to 35 mph. It rocked the coach. Going outside to check for damage, I saw my neighbor, who showed me where a large limb crashed through the middle of his awning. As one would say, he was not "a happy camper".

Looking around I saw that the skies were clearing, and the wet leaves shimmered as the sun sifted through the trees. Reaching down I picked up a golden sycamore leaf, about 12 inches in diameter; it looked like one of those hand held fans so common years ago.

Peggy, up early for her walk, was exuberant when she returned telling me about the glorious colors, the noise of the gusty wind through the trees and the many small whirlwinds of leaves she saw along the way. She said this was one of those days, that wherever she looked, it brought "immediate prayer" of thankfulness for this beauty, freedom, and peace. Truly, these places and feelings will be remembered. She was so excited and had to show me one special place down by the 16-acre lake. We hopped in the car and it was just as she said. We sat on the park bench, looking out over this small lake and just breathed in the serenity of this place. It was good to be healthy and alive this joyous morning.

This afternoon we drove to the Cache River State Natural Area, an 11,700-acre preserve near Belknap, IL. This Natural Area is situated in the southern part of Illinois in a floodplain carved by glacial floodwater from the Ohio River. The Ohio River changed its course over the years leaving the Cache River to meander across rich and vast wetlands, seeking a way back to the Ohio.

Since the Natural Area is so large, we selected to visit Heron Pond because of the 450 ft boardwalk into the swamp. We found the trail to the Pond, and wound our way along the Cache River in the thick forest. Approaching the boardwalk, we saw massive cypress and tupelo trees standing in the swamp. We walked out on the walkway to get a closer look at the "knees" of these 300 to 1000 year old trees. They have "knees" that are conical in shape, protruding out of the water and can reach 6 ft in height. The "knees" are part of the root system of the cypress tree. No other trees have root system like this.

Looking into the swampy water from the boardwalk, we saw "duckweed". These are millions of small floating aquatic plants forming an emerald green carpet over the water. The cypress leaves were turning a rust color and starting to drop, landing on top of the green "duckweed", creating a rich rust/green carpet with small patches of water in between. It was so very quite in this shadowy bottomland forest, as we stepped back in time to view a wetland and aquatic ecosystem that has remained relatively untouched for thousands of years.

We left the boardwalk and followed the trail back into the woods to the Champion Cherry Bark Oak Tree. There was no mistaking this tree as it loomed in front of us with its canopy high above the others. I took a picture of Peggy against the tree and she looked like a toothpick in comparison. This massive old tree was 22-½ ft in circumference, 100 ft high and had a crown spread of 113 ft…Only words for this was…"king of the forest."

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Mileage: 41506, Traveled: 122 miles
Camelot RV Campground, Poplar Bluff, MO 63901 573-785-1016
FHU, 50 amp electric, gravel pads, cable TV, very clean, $21 Good Sam Disc.

Pulling out of Ferne Clyffe State Park, we visited with our camp hosts, Jim and Kathy Vouchell. They will be staying down the road from us in Mission, TX, and we promised to rendezvous in the Valley this winter.

It was hard leaving this beautiful area, but it was time to continue our journey toward Texas via Marshfield, MO. We decided to break the traveling into two days and arrived in Poplar Bluff around 3 pm. I did some work around the motor home while Peg did some editing. We even watched a little TV.

Thursday, October 16, 2003

Mileage: 41676, Traveled: 170 miles
Routh's Home, Marshfield MO

We'll spend a few days here visiting family and then head for Texas. We've had a wonderful 3 months wandering through the mid -section of this great country. Many new places and people have crossed our path and we are thankful for the freedom to travel and record our feelings and events.

Moving south, we won't be writing as often, since we'll be mainly backtracking. But mind you, if we cross something that strikes our interest buttons, like something good to see or eat, it will be recorded.

Bob & Peggy Woodall


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