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Burden Falls

Burden Falls

Burden Falls Wilderness is in Pope County, in the North West corner of the Shawnee National Forest. Just a short drive from Bell Smith Springs and Jackson Falls. I would highly recommend combining this with one of these other hiking trails.

Burden Falls Wilderness is composed of hiking and horse trails, but why most people visit is the actual Burden Falls.

The top of the waterfall is located almost directly off the parking lot, making this ideal for someone who doesn’t want to hike far. When entering or exiting the tiny parking lot, you probably drove through Burden Creek that becomes the waterfall in a few feet.

The upper cascades is only a few feet tall, but very lovely to see the creek dropping over standstone ledges.

The path crosses Burden Creek after the first upper cascade. From the north you can see a side view of the main falls. Continuing down the rock wall will give you the best views from the bottom of the falls.

   

View of the falls as you’re coming down the side of the rock wall.

In dry summer weather, the falls are only a trickle. But if you manage to visit after a rainy period, you can really see it flowing. This is a great spot to visit in Spring, when it’s rainier and not as hot.

 

      

   

I hope you’re all blessed with friends who will dance under waterfalls with you.

  

View of the creek as it flowed away from the falls.

Disclaimer: Some of these were taken on a cell phone in 2016, so they aren’t up to my normal dslr quality.

Rocky Bluffs

Rocky Bluffs

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Rocky Bluffs Trail is a 1.8 mile loop trail featuring two waterfalls in heavy rainfall. A shortcut trail turns the loop into less than a mile. The trail is located on the East side of Devil’s Kitchen Lake, past the spillway on Tacoma Road. The trail head has a small parking lot that can get full during the popular hiking times.

This is one of the better maintained trails in Southern Illinois. It features foot bridges, stairs, benches, and clear trails. The trail head has two paths. The left takes you to the bottom of the large waterfall, the right takes you to the top. The second cascade is found by following the right trail to where the shortcut trail begins. Both of the waterfalls only flow during heavy rainfalls. I have gone the day after a big rain and they have already dried up.

Even without the waterfalls, however, this is a worthy hiking spot. The trail to the right goes over the top of the first waterfall and then follows a path through the woods. Eventually the path loops to the left. Make sure to pay attention to the signage. It intersects with a trail called Wild Turkey Trail that does not lead back to the parking lot.

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The trail follows the top of the hill until turning again left to start your descent. On the way down, the trail has several switchbacks. From the top you can see a series of footbridges, but you don’t reach them til about half way down. This section of this trail offers a pretty view of the woods and Grassy Creek.

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For the last half of the trail, the path meanders between Grassy Creek and a set of bluffs. The bluffs have beautiful crevasses and layers in their formation.

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After the bluffs, you reach the base of the waterfall. The stairs on the far side take you back to the parking lot.

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This trail is fantastic when there’s been heavy rain, but still worth it to see the bluffs and creek. In the Spring, this area is known for its wildflowers. In a wet cold winter, the waterfall can turn into a frozen sculpture of icicles.

To see the waterfall in heavy rain check out this post.

Tennessee and Georgia Road Trip

Tennessee and Georgia Road Trip

I’ll take about any excuse I have to travel. When my childhood friend invited me to her wedding by Atlanta, Georgia, we decided to road trip down through Tennessee and Georgia. If I had it my way, we would have spent four days in the Smokey Mountains hiking and maybe doing some white water rafting. Donovan, however, was coming too and he loves exploring new cities. So we compromised, two days hiking, two days in the city.

Click on the links to read more about each adventure!

Day 1: Waterfall Chasing in Central Tennessee

We drove from Southern Illinois to an area just East of Nashville that features several waterfalls. You could easily spend a few days here. Not only are there several state parks featuring waterfalls, there are also several featuring caves and caverns! We spent our time at Cummins Falls State Park and Fall Creek Falls State Park.

The extra perk about hiking vacation days: all you have to pay for is a place to sleep, gas, and food. The entertainment is free!

Day 2: Smokey Mountains

This was our day actually in the Smokey Mountains. Although I had planned on going to Grotto Falls and Chimney Tops, the travel time took longer than we thought and we only did Chimney Tops. This trail, however, killed us, so it was really for the best. Chimney Trails is only 4 miles round trip, but it’s 2 miles straight up and 2 miles straight down. One of the more difficult trails I’ve done and our legs were burning the next day!

The views when you’re literally on top of a mountain are SO worth it. The last part of the trail, you are actually climbing the rocky summit and no longer on a trail. If heights scare you, don’t do this trail! I don’t think it would have been worth it without that final climb.

Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg were pretty much exactly as I imagined them, over priced and extremely touristy. Maybe if I had a week in the area, I’d come down from the mountains for a dinner show, but nature is definitely my priority. There was also an Apple Barn winery that looked delicious. Just gives us something to go back for!

Day 3: Helen, Georgia and Little Five Points, Atlanta

On our way to Atlanta, we stopped by Helen, Georgia. This city is a replica of a Bavarian alpine town. It was a little touristy and most of the other visitors were older couples, but a fun stop that wasn’t too far out of the way. We ate some German food, walked around, went into a fudge shop and a jerky shop (something for me… something for Donovan!). Donovan lived in Germany several years back, so he was a great tour guide. 🙂

We stayed in Roswell, Georgia where the wedding was going to be. It was a half hour drive to Downtown Atlanta, when you aren’t battling rush hour traffic.

Our first evening in Atlanta we explored the off-beat neighborhood Little Five Points and ate pierogies at Joystick Gamebar.

Day 4: Atlanta, Georgia

I really wanted to visit a farmers market, one of my favorite things to do in cities, but many of them were only open on Wednesdays and Saturdays. We did find the Atlanta State Farmers Market, which may have Farmers Market in the name, but was really more of a distribution center for farms across the state and nation! The Mexican restaurant, Don Burrito Grill, was very fresh and delicious.

We also explored Westside Provisions District, Oakland Cemetery, some local game/comic shops, ate dinner at the Fickle Pickle, Donovan played Magic the Gathering at a card shop in Atlanta. A great perk about exploring neighborhoods is you get a feel for the city, not just the touristy parts and window shopping is free!

Finally, we picked up my best friend Kathleen and her boyfriend Matt from the airport, and stuffed ourselves with cheese fries at The Varsity. It was a full day.

Day 5: Aquarium and High Museum, Atlanta

This was wedding day! But the ceremony didn’t start until 6 PM and it was Kathleen & Matt’s only day in Atlanta, so we made the most of it! The morning was spent at High Museum of Arts, lunch was served up at the Atlanta Food Truck Park & Market, and the afternoon was spent under the sea at the Georgia Aquarium!

Our evening was spent watching my wonderful friends, Olivia, marry her dream guy. It was a beautiful ceremony at the Founders Hall in Roswell, Georgia.

Day 6:

All too soon, we dropped Kathleen and Matt off at the airport, and made the 6.5 hour drive home. It was a great trip, but as always too short for me! I’m already planning our next adventures.

Chimney Tops Tennessee

Chimney Tops Tennessee

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The Smokey Mountains have been on my to-see list for quite a while now. They’re just far enough away that I haven’t made it there. Our road trip through Tennessee and Georgia only included one day in the Gatlinburg area, but the Smokeys definitely left an impression!

There are so many different trails in the Smokey Mountains that choosing was difficult. When it came down to it, I decided I wanted a hike with a view, since we had seen several waterfalls the day before. Chimney Tops did not disappoint!

 

Even the drive up to the trail was beautiful. There are many areas to pull off and take in the view. We stopped at quite a few! Build in a little extra time to your day for this.

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The round trip length for Chimney Tops is only 3.8 miles, but the difference in elevation is 1487 feet! That means hiking straight up on the way there & straight down on the way back. My legs were shaking by the end!

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The first part of the trail meanders through woods, following Road Prong Creek and crossing it on several occasions via bridges. The creek is really beautiful and I loved constantly hearing the roar of the water.

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Then the “fun” begins. There are stairs cut into the trail with wooden beams and stones to help, but it’s difficult either way as you climb up, up, up.

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Once you’ve been hiking for 1.5 hours (we stopped a lot for rests and pictures), you start to see beautiful views of the other mountain tops.

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Finally, you reach the end of the trail. This is NOT a hike I would recommend for anyone with a fear of heights. Beyond the trail head 50 feet is the mountain summit. To reach the summit, you actually climb hands and feet up the rock face. The website warns that there have been injuries and you are climbing at your own risk. While it wasn’t quite narrow enough or steep enough for me to feel like I was going to fall to my death at any second, it definitely got my heart pounding. I stopped maybe 40 feet up, because the final 10 feet were a little to steep for me.

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The website says the rock climbing summit part is optional and that you still get decent views with out it. I suppose it’s true, but you can bet that since I climbed 1437 feet, I was going to try for the final 50. If you aren’t going to attempt the final bit, I would say pick another hike. The views are OK without it, but not worth that amount of vertical hiking to me.

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The trip down was quicker at about 45 minutes. Round trip we spent about 3 hours on the trail. My legs were sore for two days after this hike. With these views though, I never once had to ask myself if it was worth it.