Several weeks ago we went hiking at Garden of the Gods and Bell Smith Springs in Shawnee National Forest. The Garden of the Gods came highly recommended to us from people at work so we were sure to visit there. Someone else from work recommended Bell Smith Springs which was interesting and very difficult to find.
Shawnee National Forest extends "over 270,000 acres of rough mountaintops and rugged rock formations between the natural borders of the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers. This terrain, which is much different than the flat Midwest directly to the north, claims five different ecological divisions and hence creates vast diversity in topography, wildlife and recreation." [*]
According to the Ranger publication, "The rock formations and cliffs at Garden of the Gods are made of sandstone and are about 320 million years old. Long ago most of Illinois, western Indiana and western Kentucky were covered by a giant inland sea. For millions of years great rivers carried sand and mud to the sea, where it settled along the shoreline. Over time, the weight of the sediments turned them into layers of rock thousands of feet thick. At Garden of the Gods the sediment layers were over 20,000 feet thick or about 4 miles deep. Eventually, a great uplift occurred, raising the inland sea above sea level causing it to fill in with sand and mud. The uplift also fractured the bedrock exposing it to nature’s erosive forces. Since that time, windblown sand, rain and freezing and thawing actions have worn down the layers of sediment creating the beautiful rock formations at Garden of the Gods."
Panoramic View From Wikipedia
Here are the pictures that we took...
After hiking at the Garden of the Gods, we took my friend and co-worker's advice and attempted to find Bell Smith Springs. Bridget (the name of our GPS) took us 9 miles on a one-way gravel road. Somehow we finally made it. This was much, much different than Garden of the Gods where the trail was something you could actually find. At Bell Smith Springs there were several different trails marked by colors. Unfortunately it was nearly impossible to find the trees and recognize the colors. Thankfully, we were able to hike around a bit and find our way back to our car.
Near the beginning of the trail there was a cool narrow staircase that you see below. Micah found a tiny snake which of course he had to pick up. Good thing he didn't get bitten because I was told later that it doesn't matter how big the snake is because if they are venemous they can still bite you no matter how small. Check out the pictures...