|see the tiny people on the wooden walkway?|
After 367 miles of Illinois driving yesterday (If you like flat, farms, and more flat as far as the eye can see should be their state motto) I was more than ready to arrive at Shawnee National Forest. I drove another hour to get to the Pharaoh Campground and started out my mid-week getaway by heading to the Observation Trail which has the best concentration of sandstone formations along with interpretive signs.
Millions of years ago the area used to be an inland sea. Unlike most of Illinois (85%!) this area was not affected by glaciers later on, they stopped just north of the Garden of the Gods.
It was really interesting to see the different colors in the rock as I walked around.
Of course some of the color was due to lichen growth, like the yellow in the picture below. The circular shapes are called "Liesegang Bands". I looked it up and tried to come up with an understandable translation of the process but since I'm no geologist I am at a loss. Maybe someone else will favor us with an explanation in the comments section.
My main goal on this little trip is to try to reset my metabolism and get back my motivation to move. I literally haven't left the couch in a month and now I'm up to 8 pounds gained this winter. I had to stop at the outlet on my way down and buy two pairs of pants in a bigger size in case I don't lose any of it. Stretch pants have become my friend.
With that in mind I lugged almost twenty pounds of equipment around the forest after checking out nature's artwork. I tried to keep up a good pace and figure I put in a little over 4 miles today. I'm sure the family of deer I spotted walked a little more than I did.
Even though southern Illinois is experiencing a warm-up for the next few days spring has not arrived and nothing is growing under the cover of fall's leaves. But I did spot a few fungi and lichen on the trees.
But really, the sandstone sprinkled with crustose lichen was much more appealing to photograph.
It's not as impressive as Red River Gorge in Kentucky, but it got the job done of keeping me curious and off the couch. It felt great to be outside. My poor legs and back will likely be seized up tomorrow after suddenly being thrust back into vigorous use.
Toward the end of my 3 hours wandering around the wind picked up, but who cares? The temps are going to keep rising, the snow is almost all melted, so bring it on!