Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The River to River Trail

One adventure on the horizon would a thru-hike of the River-to-River trail located in Southern Illinois. This trail is around 160 miles through the Shawnee National Forest. I have seen several different mileages listed but the 160 seems to be about the average. That type of mileage takes some time, how much time will depend on the pace I can maintain over 7-10 days. It may be easy enough to hit the 20-25 mile per day with my current pack load, but can I sustain that over the extent of the trip? It is hard for me to know.

Therefore, to find out, I am planning up a section hike of one of the nicer areas of the trail, Garden of the Gods to the Lusk Creek Trailhead. This section is only about 25 miles but I will do it in a loop so I can get back to my car. The terrain is listed as challenging enough to reduce a hiking pace to 1 mile per hour. This is a heavy contrast to the standard 3 mph I usually do on hilly terrain. I had an adventure in the area I will be going back in February. I did not find the terrain that difficult and that was with a pack quite a bit heavier than what I plan to take.

So will I be able to make the 50 miles in the 3 days I have allotted?  Right now, all I can do is plan. To help I purchased the River to River Trail Guide written by John O'Dell. The guide is useful and contains all the color maps that can also be found on the Shawnee National Forest website. I had hoped the guide would provide clear detailed information on water sources, good camping sites or, in general, more details about the technicality of the trail. Unfortunately, it did not, but it is a good source on some of the touristy things that can be found on the trail like petroglyphs or other natural wonders.

A second book I picked up contains nothing but GPS waypoints along the trail. Written by John Voigts, the River to RiverTrail Pocket Guide. This book has quite a bit of information crammed into a small package. Locations of caves, possible water sources, campgrounds as well as scenic points. Between the two, this one is the most helpful. Compiling this with the maps available at the Forestry Service website gives a clearer picture on what to expect on the trail. 

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