Monday, October 5, 2009

Late Fall in beautiful Southern Illinois

I took this photo a few years ago at the Garden of the Gods in the Shawnee National Forest, which is located in extreme southern Illinois. It was almost winter, so most of the leaves had fallen already. Can you imagine how beautiful this rock formation would be with the Fall colors surrounding it! This particular photo is of a formation called "Camel Rock." The camel's head is on the left and you can see the hump to the right. This is a gigantic rock formation, so large that people professionally rock climb on it.

Springfield's Illinois Times did a feature article in May called Exploring the Shawnee National Forest. Click here for the link, which includes several stunning pictures of the natural beauty.

One of my first summer jobs was at a very young age (about 14), when I worked in the Youth Conservation Corps program. I was so happy to get to work at the Garden of the Gods. We built and maintained trails, retaining walls, cleared brush, painted signs picnic tables, etc. We worked in crews of about a dozen kids and had a Park Ranger as our crew leader. Each day about two hours after lunch, we would gather around for thirty minutes and have "Environmental Awareness," which we called "E.A." During that time we would learn details about our surroundings. For instance we learned what kinds of trees were among us.

I still remember from that time learning how to tell a White Oak Tree from a Red Oak Tree. I bet you don't know, but it is so simple. The White Oak has "rounded" tips on the leaves and the "white man" used bullets fighting the Indians and those bullets had round tips. The Red Oak has "pointed" tips on the leaves and the Indians (red skin) fought with arrows, which were pointed. I hope that makes sense!

As far as I know the YCC program is still available in areas that have a national forest. This National Park website gives you all the details. Many teenagers that work for YCC go on to become Park Rangers after high school. I know several Rangers, including my aunt who worked for 40 years before retiring! I thought about going into that line of work, but during YCC I once stepped right over a poisonous Copperhead snake. Luckily I had protective leg gear on, but it still scared the crap out of me. Rattlesnakes are also very common in southern Illinois. My fear of snakes was enough to keep me from being a Forest Ranger!

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Larry Ohio said...

I love that area of the country. It's real close the "the land between the lakes" in western Kentucky, another beautiful place.

That pic of Camel Rock is fantastic. There is a rock formation like that up on top of Mt. Cheaha in Alabama. I love spending time there (my brother lives real close to it).

John said...

@Larry Ohio, Oh I know all about Land Between the Lakes! It's not far from where I started college amt MSU in Murray, Kentucky and I also worked in Benton, Kentucky. Unfortunately I didn't finish my education down there and moved to Springfield not long afterwards.

Hey, I have some readers from Alabama and plus my stepmother lives between Huntsville and Birmingham, so where is Mt. Cheaha located in AL?

Thanks for the compliment on my photo! Hey I hope you see this comment, because I added a link (after you commented) to the Illinois Times feature article on the Shawnee National Forest and you MUST see the pictures there! They are amazing!

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