After lunch, we went to the Garden of the Gods in Shawnee National Park. It was interesting to see local folks’ reaction to our plan. Both our host at the B&B and the lady at the diner we had lunch at told us to be careful. They mentioned people falling and having to be airlifted to nearby hospitals. That was peculiar. I was a bit curious as to what Garden of the Gods was going to be like.
When we arrived, it was clear that this was a popular location. Lots of cars in the lot. The path was very short, about 1/4 of a mile. But then we got to the rock formations. These towers of rock rose up overlooking a verdant forest that stretched out for miles. The rock formations were varying colors and patterns. It was astonishing. People were climbing all over them. We saw some Mennonite boys and men jumping from rock formation to rock formation. Very impressive. We did a little climbing on some of the formations but kept our distance from the cliff side. Because it was very clear what the local people were warning us about! I have to say that Garden of the Gods was beautiful. I had no idea such places could exist in Illinois. I highly recommend going there. But please do be careful.
After our time at Garden of the Gods, we decided to head to Cave in the Rock, another park nearby. It’s on the beach of the Ohio River. To access it, you walk down a flight of stairs and walk on the beach with cliff faces above you. There were swallows darting in and out of little nests they had created on the cliffside. It was calmer than Garden of the Gods. It was not nearly as popular. We eventually found the Cave of the park. It was really awesome. Legend has it that pirates would use it for their mischief. You can just walk in through a tiny carved path in the middle. It’s fairly dark; we had flashlights to see a bit better. Water dripped from the ceiling. At one dark part of the cave, I actually found frogs living in the darkness. It was so cool. I tried not to think of what other creatures lived in the cave as well. There was one point where there was an opening in the ceiling where a single shaft of light could come through.
Later we learned that the cave was a den of murder and sin. I think at one point they found 40 bodies of people there. I also seem to recall they had used it as a bar at one point. A very dark bar.
We had time for one more park that day. Nearby was the promising Tower Rock State Park. However, after getting lost via Google, we made the park but could not figure out where there were trails. It seemed that the park was suited for camping and boating. Plus we did not see the structure that gave the park its name. Boo.
We decided to head to the local town for dinner before turning in. We ended up at 17th Street BBQ in Marion, IL. I had seen a sign with the motto “Love, Peace & BBQ.” Good motto. I tend to want to avoid chains but it was local. I also can’t resist BBQ. I ended up with a nice bbq pork sandwich with a baked sweet potato and sweet tea. Good times.
We headed back to our B&B after dark had set in. Google likes to be tricky with its directions. It tried to send us off in a different direction than our stated address. We had to wing it (in the dark) but we did find a landlocked lighthouse to guide our way. In the town we were staying in, there is a lighthouse with actual turning light that had been built by a local church. We had seen it the night before and had been very confused. But now, it was an actual lighthouse because it told us we were going in the right direction!
That’s all for now!