How To Get The Best Out Of The Great Outdoors
Camping and Hiking
Our Camping Trip to Southern Illinois
I have been camping most of my life. I started camping with my parents and siblings, and also with the Girl Scouts. I really enjoy being out camping and hiking. When my husband and I got together we started to camp and fish. Every summer we would pick a different lake in Southern Illinois to camp at. We eventually had 3 or 4 favorites that we would go to every year and then usually pick one new lake. My 2 sons started to camp when they were still in my tummy. Neither of them particularly like to fish so we made sure that there were other activities to do as well as the fishing that my hubby and I so love. Hiking was a big thing for us. We put on many many miles over the years. An especially nice hike my kids loved was a hike that had caves along the way. I have to admit that I liked the caves as well. They were usually much cooler than the outside was and it was a welcome relief from the heat. I was constantly yelling at the kids to slow down and let me catch up, being an over protective mother I wanted to keep an eye on them when we were on a high ridge or a cave I was not familiar with.The boys always wanted to be the first one in the cave. In Southern Illinois there is a state park called Giant City that has always been one of our favorites because of all the caves along the hiking paths. Giant City State Park is located in Makanda, Illinois. Another lake that we like is called Horseshoe Lake State Fish and Wildlife Area located in Miller City, Illinois. This is a unique lake because it is the northern most Cypress Tree lake in the country. The lake has Bald Cypress, Tupelo Gum, and Swamp Cottonwood trees. The lake is on average 6 feet deep which is very shallow for a lake and the Cypress trees go out into the lake some 200 feet before you hit the main body of the lake that has fewer trees. The canopy from the Cypress trees makes it dark from the shore to the main body of the lake, and this makes the fishing a bit different than most other lakes. The catfish in the lake seem to be a bit more active than in other lakes because of the darkness from the thick canopy overhead. Catfish are usually more active at night except in this lake which makes for some exciting fishing. We have seen many more owls on this lake again because of the darkness under the canopy. Once we were fishing and a bluegill had swallow my hook and broke off near the boat maybe 20 feet. The bluegill was floating and an owl swooped down and got that bluegill and went up into a tree to feed. It was one of the most awesome sights I have ever seen in the wild. The next day we went back to the same spot and that owl was waiting for us. Of course I had forgotten my camera never thinking I would see that owl again and he flew down and sat on a stump not 10 feet from our boat waiting for us to feed him again. I will never forget that. I live in the northern part of Illinois and its very flat but when you get down to southern Illinois it becomes very hilly. The Shawnee National Forest is also located in southern Illinois and its just breathtaking. There is an amazing amount of lakes in southern Illinois and even after 20 plus years of camping down there we always seem to find something that we haven't seen before. We will continue to camp these lakes and state parks for many years to come.
Reelfoot Lake in Tennessee
On my honeymoon my husband and I decided to go to Reelfoot Lake in Tennessee. What an experience that was. Before this area was a lake it was a forest. It formed during the winter of 1811 - 1812 when the New Madrid Earthquake happened. History shows that after shocks occurred for about 2 days after the initial quake. Then about a month after the first earthquake another earthquake occurred similar in intensity to the first quake. Again 2 weeks later another earthquake occurred as destructive as the first quake some 2 months earlier. A pioneer named Eliza Bryan, living in New Madrid, Missouri wrote a letter to her pastor, the Reverend Lorenzo Dow that from the period after the 3rd quake the Earth was in a tremor at different intervals for a year. Hard to imagine. Reelfoot Lake was formed. I was there in 1988 and it was a sight to behold. The lake is about 20,000 acres, about 5 miles wide and 14 miles of irregular shoreline. The maximum depth is about 25 feet, although most of it is about 8 or 9 feet in depth. Its said that the deeper parts are creeks and streams that ran through the forest before it was a lake. Almost every kind of shore and wading bird can be found on this lake. During the winter months the American Bald Eagle makes its home here. This lake never closes the fishing season and almost every freshwater fish can be found in this lake. Sometime in the early to mid 1990's another earthquake occurred on the New Madrid Fault, that was felt as far north as Chicago. I was sleeping when the earthquake occurred and never felt it. At that time I was living about 5 miles south of the Chicago border. It was a bit cold when I went to Reelfoot Lake but I do remember catching Crappie and Bluegills. That was the first time I had ever heard a bluegill called Bream. Apparently southerners call bluegills, bream. You learn something new everyday. Reelfoot Lake was beautiful, and a friend of ours told us that in the heat of summer you have to watch for the Water Moccasins that are in the lake. She told us she had seen them hanging from the trees. Boy I was glad it was chilly when I was there. Reelfoot Lake is huge and there is a lot of camp sites and hotels and restaurants around the lake. We spent a lot of time just finding our way around and the trip there was spur of the moment and we were not prepared for how big and how many camp sites and such were around the lake. I would suggest to anyone wanting to go there to research the area so you don't spend so much time just trying to find what you want. I will go there again, it has been many many years since I was there but I do know that I want to explore more of the lake with my fishing pole.