Illinois didn’t take long compared to the other states I’ve walked through, yet I saw some of the most amazing things I’ve seen so far while passing through the Shawnee National Forest. Namely, I got to see the Garden of the Gods. I had heard about the epicness of the bluffs and giant sandstone rock structures in the Shawnee National Forest, but it was grander than i could have possibly imagined. Coupled with the breathtaking views, I rarely had to sleep outside while walking in Illinois. This must be the famous Midwestern hospitality I’ve heard so much about. Way back in 1994, I was born in Lombard, Illinois- much farther north from where i was hiking- on the west side of Chicago. My mind wandered through vague old memories on the days there wasn’t much to see. I learned a lot about my favorite president, Abraham Lincoln, as Illinois hosts many historical monuments from Lincoln’s time. I saw the Mississippi River in all of it’s glory. Well, some of it’s glory. The water level is extremely low right now as a result of the low levels of rainfall within the past few years. I couldn’t help but think of floating down the river on a makeshift raft, Tom Sawyer style. I saw the home of Popeye the sailor man in Chester Illinois and even got a free t-shirt from the Popeye shop. Overall, I really enjoyed Illinois for the couple weeks I was there.
Thanks to Heather and Ezra from New Haven for the warm welcome; to Tony Cox from Shawneetown for boosting my connections; to Dave Howard from Shawneetown for living the dream like so few people do; to JoJo at the High Knob Campground for being so helpful and generous and helping fellow travelers; to Jalina and Shawn from Minnesotta for living in the moment and being great company; to Pat and his family from High Knob for letting us be part of your family for a day; to Jimbob from Herod for a solid night of kicking out the jams; to Larry from Eddyville for totally saving my ass and others’ too; to Ben at the Hayes Canyon Campground for being so hospitable when I really needed it; to Mike Scott and Sophie from Simpson for having great taste and being the voice for the people; to Tom from Vienna for helping me get some reflection time; to Dan Yoder for being Amish and proud; to Desi, Mackenzie, Emily, Joe, Ellen, and Will from SIU for showing me how the Salukis do it; to Brad and Anne from Carbondale for some dank camp sandwiches; to Juan and Jay from SIU for keeping it real and chillin face with me; to Ike from Chester for being so nice and having the nicest view in Illinois; to Debbie from Chester for reminding me to always eat my spinach; to Todd, Lisa, and Mark from Evansville for helping those who truly need it; to Will, Tim, and their mom from Red Bud for the chill chillin and the jammy jammin; and to Brenda, Stan, Aaron, and Todd from Waterloo again for letting me join their family for a few days.