To celebrate our one-year anniversary of dating, my boyfriend and I planned a camping trip to southern Illinois. We wanted to visit locations like Snake Road, Heron Pond, and Trillium Trail, all within the massive Shawnee National Forest. Here is how our trip went.
We left at 5:40 in the morning and drove the five and a half hours down to our campsite at Oak Point Campground. The campground was first come first serve, so we wanted to get there early to ensure that we secured a campsite, but we had no need to worry. There were plenty of sites available, as we should have expected with it being Easter weekend.
We did little on our first night there. After setting up the tent, we walked a short trail and then returned to the campsite. At one point, I heard a strange noise. It sounded as if someone were blowing into some kind of duck call like what hunters use and I was very confused. After listening for a bit I thought that it sounded like a very strange crow, and then I realized. A Fish Crow! I hadn’t known that they were in that area.
The First Night
Our first night there, it rained. Lightly at first, so it was difficult but not impossible for us to get a fire going. We made burgers and baked potatoes. I had wanted to make s’mores, but as the sun set, I saw flashes of lightning. Soon, the light rain increased to a downpour and we retreated to the shelter of the tent.
To occupy our time in the tent, we played one of the camping games we had brought with us. It is called Camping with Sasquatch and it was a fun and simple game. After a few games, we went to bed. It was somewhat cold overnight, and with our tent being on a slope, our blankets kept sliding to the left. We did not sleep too well, but that is typical on camping trips.
The next day was when we planned to visit Snake Road, a famous 2.5 mile stretch of road within Shawnee National Forest that is closed to vehicular traffic during the biannual migration of snakes in the area. We were there within the middle of the spring migration period, and I was very excited with high expectations to see a lot of snakes.
Spoiler: we saw only one snake, but we did see plenty of other interesting wildlife that day. On the way there, we saw Black Vultures, a lifer for both of us.
Although I had hoped to see more snakes than we did, I suppose it was still a bit too cold for them. Everyone we talked to kept saying to give it a week and there would be more. We did not have a week, but we definitely plan on visiting again in the future!
Other Highlights from our Trip
In addition to the Fish Crows and Black Vultures, exciting lifers for both me and my boyfriend, we saw plenty of other interesting wildlife in our time in southern Illinois. We saw wildflowers we had never seen before, some cool birds, several interesting insects, a groundhog, and two beautiful salamanders. We also saw plenty of tiny frogs, invisible to us until we came too close and saw them jump. Here are the photos of the highlights from our camping trip.
Unfortunately, we did not have time to visit other locations, such as Heron Pond, as we had originally planned. We packed up on Sunday and then began the drive home. While our camping trip in southern Illinois was not everything that I had hoped it would be, it was still a wonderful trip and a great way to celebrate my anniversary. Someday, perhaps even in the fall of this year, I would love to visit again and spend more time in the beautiful southern region of my home state.