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Shawnee National Forest & Garden of the Gods ~ Southern Illinois


Workaholics have a hard time taking time off. But if work is already bringing one to an out-of-the-way area rife with natural beauty, and a small part of your job involves collecting nature photography for brand materials and fantasy world-building, well.

One might be convinced to take one full day "off" to go hiking and fulfill a hobby bug.

No part of Illinois is particularly warm in the winter, but this weekend it was absolutely weirdly warm for January, getting into the 40s and 50s during the day and around freezing at night.

It was grey, misting if not outright pouring, and the winds, especially on the sandstone cliffs, howled with a rattling fury. It was not optimal hiking weather to be sure, especially when by oneself. Moreso when one has already gone more than a day without seeing another human.

When was the last time you felt, not felt, but appeared to be completely alone on this planet, for an extended period of time?

Especially in a place, like the Garden of the Gods Observation Trail where the biggest complaint about the place is that it's always packed with people.

It's awe-inspiring. And in weather like this, super unsettling. And then upon further area exploration, you run across a cemetery off a little, unpaved road in the forest that if anywhere is haunted, it has to be this place.

It wasn't all eerie stillness, though. Well, it was, but there were some laughs in there too, because barbers never tire of dick jokes.

Speaking of eerie stillness, there was this. Not at all going to get murdered here.

So what is Garden of the Gods, and why was Blademaiden so keen to get there? Inside the Shawnee National Forest is the Garden of the Gods Wilderness, a 3,300 acre area that was a shallow sea 320 million years ago.

The rock formations are spectacular, and there are all sorts of trails and tunnels to explore. Which we will more one day when the mud isn't trying to literally suck our boots off.

Will you look at these? The rock formations here look like rusted metal or something.

Walking through the wilderness is pretty great, but most people come here for the views, which you can't get through the trees when you're hiking down below.

Trying not to fall off a cliff.

Turned back by an oncoming storm, Blademaiden took refuge in the cozy cabin for the night, waking to growing mists which continued o build through the day like an overzealous fog machine had descended upon the world. 

It was as if smoke was building and pouring out of the forests all around. Just an extra little bit of ominous effect to cap a magically, perfectly, creepily unsettling weekend.

Please read no snark into that. This was an introvert's dream weekend away.

Want to read more about the Scumbassador trip? Click Here.
Want to read more about the cabin (with the Blademaiden Gets All Up in the Shawnee National Forest video?)  Click Here.
Want to go to there? Look down.

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