Because so many of our trips are short weekend getaways, I keep my eyes open for places not more than a couple hours drive. Sometimes that means finding a festival in small town and looking for a camping spot and sometimes it means finding a funky tourist spot and then looking for a nest for the egg.
One such spot is Arcola and Arthur Illinois. This is gateway territory to Illinois Amish areas. For years, there was a place called Rockome Gardens that celebrated the artistry of one man’s love for creating landscape with stones and the Amish lifestyle. I was told this attraction has recently shut and is now a wildlife preserve that can still be toured. It’s one of those quirky places that dot the Midwest and make it special.
Spaced along the Amish farm fields are the shops the Amish keep in their homes. It’s fun to take a day and wander through this quieter way of life. If time doesn’t allow for this slower method, stop in Arthur and there you will find Amish bakeries and homemade cheese shops (as well as a couple antique shops and restaurants). I have been trying to find a picture I have of a horse drawn gutted RV driven by an Amish woman, but alas, it is lost to a different camera or cyberspace. Close your eyes, though, because its worth seeing in your minds’ eye!
There are a couple covered bridges to see if you happen to be headed towards them but covered bridge territory is coming up in a post on Indiana camping.
We, generally, make this trip because of a campground and trails that we just love. I debated even sharing it because we love the fact that we often have the place nearly all to ourselves–a hidden gem it is! It’s really closer to Effingham than Arthur–just off Hwy 32 near Strasburg IL. It’s called Possum Creek Campground in Hidden Springs State Forest.
We were just there in April to enjoy a spring walk in the woods and had the back loop to ourselves. No hook-ups but there is water in season, picnic tables, nice fire/grills and vault toilets. The cost is an affordable $9 per night. Now you see the zen in this choice. In summer, there is a front loop that has less trees so those solar panels you see work a bit better and that loop is also the loop to enjoy on nights with meteor showers.
Spring in this park is lovely because the trails (both inside the forest and a few minutes drive away) are so pretty. My favorite trail is Rocky Spring Nature trail. To get to it, you have to exit the campground turning left and drive up to the second road and turn right. Follow the signs. Its about a 3 mile trail. When we were there, the turkey hunters were allowed access until 1pm and then the morel mushroom hunters and hikers were given free range. There are several small fishing holes in the greater forest area.
It’s a managed mixed use forest so they had recently done a controlled burn to thin the undergrowth and support the old Hickory and Walnut forest. Still, the wildflowers found their way in with a scent that overcame the burn. So pretty. On a warm day, you walk the bulk of the trail among the big hardwoods and then end up in a forest of pines. Its like a cool haven of luscious pine scent.
We rarely see anyone on the trails so that means hours of leash free trail running for the dogs and watching them run free is bliss immeasurable. The scent of the forests and flowers, the glee of the dogs and the happiness we feel at walking together in the woods, well, its heaven.
Adding to my joy is the fact that this area is a habitat for the Yellow Bellied Sap Sucker. I am not even sad if I don’t have the chance to spot one–just as long as I can say the name over and over. Say it out loud with me now. Yellow Bellied Sap Sucker. You didn’t say it loud enough: Yellow Bellied Sap Sucker. There. I know you are smiling. I swear I am going to write a song about the Yellow Bellied Sap Sucker and hopefully it won’t make my Hub file for divorce.
The bands of holes you see are from the Sap Sucker. Lovely, eh!
I included a picture of the Shagbark Hickory because it’s just so magnificent. To the far right is a picture of an overgrown piece of barbed wire fencing from the days of the early settlers who gravitated to the natural spring, nearby. Time and tide wait for no man.
And because you, dear readers, know of my penchant for old cemeteries and ghost stories, I will include one last photo of a nearby cemetery. A tiny little place, the church long lost to time, it’s still an active burial place. In the back, are the older monuments and just as I was walking into the older section (where the many sad stones of the families of children lost to Yellow Fever rest), I thought I saw a shadow move. Since this can be many things, I asked if there was someone present that they show themselves in my pictures. This is what resulted:
Now, there are other options for camping (and I do hope you will prefer them and leave this wee gem to us). Free camping in Arthur at the little town park, and a big fully developed campground at Lake Shelbyville–Wolf Creek section. We have tent camped dozens and dozens of times in the walk in section of Wolf creek. The Hub and I long distance dated for years and would often meet at a campground somewhere near the middle. Lake Shelbyville has shower houses and electric sites as well as a marina and a big kids play area.
And one last thing to mention. There is a fun Corn Broom Festival in Arthur in the Fall. They still make corn brooms there in the old fashioned way. It’s the only time you can get a broom with colored straw so be prepared to shop for gifts!
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