The plan for today was relatively short so I was able to take it easy this morning. I noticed that Ruby was limping at the end of our long day yesterday so I thought another rest day was in order. I think I know exactly how she hurt herself. When we were at One Horse Gap on day 3 she was running very fast down a hill after I called her to come and the leaves were slippery from the wet mud beneath. I saw her scramble to remain in control, yet seemed to enjoy every minute of it. I think she sprained her leg on that move.
So I left her to rest on the couch, but I was not lonely because I had another hiking companion to accompany me. My wife joined me for today's section and driving two vehicles from home made the hiking arrangements easy. We drove one car to the trailhead in Goreville on the north side of Ferne Clyffe State Park and then continued in our other car to the trailhead at the end of Rebman Lane on the south side of the park. I left off the previous day by getting picked up on Tall Tree Lake Road so I skipped a few miles of road walking on a paved road and picked up the trail at Ferne Clyffe State Park.
|My wife and I at the natural bridge|
|Ruby back home on the couch|
This area is a treasure and I'm so glad it's in public ownership for all to enjoy. There's not much to link the trail up with in the central part of southern Illinois as well so this is a key piece of land for the trail to go through. I have been to this state park a hundred times or more, but I have actually only hiked the Happy Hollow area once, back in 2010. I visited in the summer and it was brutally hot I remember. The conditions were much better today, although I don't think it got above freezing and the wind was brisk in places, overall it was pleasant. There were lots of ice ribbons again today, all produced on the stems of Wild Oregano (Cunila origanoides).
The sun was shining and it's interesting how the sun can lift morale. My morale is not suffering that much, although my body is more sore than I expected it would be, I am excited to eat up some miles each day. I think it helps that I am section hiking the trail and not carrying all the gear necessary to camp in the wild. The point of doing the thru-hike this way was so that I could cover more miles each day and finish the trail in 10 days. I am finding out my feet are taking some damage from the pace and today I had to patch up both big toes, plus my right heel was sore from limping along on my left leg. It was good that today was going to be a shorter day.
|The trail signs were a little different through the state park|
|Huge slab of sandstone at the creek crossing|
|Natural bridge from below|
|Cliffs in Happy Hollow|
|Cliffs just west of lower part of trail|
|My wife looking at the cliffs|
|The weather was cold enough for icicles|
We made our way down the hill back to the trail and it went through some really nice forest. The Red Oaks were huge in this area! They sure made the most of out this park because the trail winds around from one end to the other. Soon we ascended the switchbacks to the top of the bluff.
|Red oak dominated forest|
|Switchback trail up the bluff|
Along the way, I spotted a neat fern that only grows on directly on exposed rock. Pinnatifid Spleenwort Fern (Asplenium pinnatifidum) is always a treat to find and the common name refers to the doctrine of signatures. Before modern pharmaceuticals, plants were used as medicine, and there was a belief that because God created disease, he must have also created a cure for each disease, and thus marked medicinal plants with his "signature" that indicates how it can be used. A plant that looks like a body organ was believed to be used as a cure for said organ disease. So spleenwort, due to the repetitive notching along the leaves, was used for spleen ailments.
|Pinnatifid Spleenwort Fern (Asplenium pinnatifidum)|
|Shelter bluff in Happy Hollow|
|Looking north at the huge overhang called Hawk's Cave|
The rest of the way up the hill to the trailhead at the north end of the park was a slow climb through the woods and past some wildlife food plots. Soon we reached our car and my wife drove me to the trail section that starts off Happy Hollow Road.
|This is where the trail through the eastern part of the park meets the road|
|Bluffs in the area of Bork's Falls|
|I hiked the two sections in blue today|