Back in June, before the blast furnace hit the Midwest and called a halt to hiking for me, Russ and I decided to head for Illinois and see what we could find. To find hiking trails we use an app called Alltrails. It’s a nifty little thing. You can search for trails near you, or you can search by city, state, park, difficulty, distance, activity…there are all types of filters. Most of the trails will have photos that others have downloaded to give you an idea of what the trail is like. Once you find the trail you want, the app has GPS directions (Google Maps) to get you there. You can record your route (distance, elevation, time, speed) on a map of the trail. This comes in handy if you’re on a trail that isn’t marked well and you happen to get off the trail or turned around…yep, I know first hand! So, I found The Nature Institute in Godfrey Illinois. 3 miles, moderate, features a waterfall, lightly trafficked. 40 miles from home…SOLD!
The Nature Institute (TNI) is a non-profit land conservation and environmental education organization based in Godfrey, IL. https://www.thenatureinstitute.org/
Our hike started out on an old crumbling blacktop service road and I’m thinking…crap, this isn’t what I thought the trail would be like! I hate walking on blacktop!
The blacktop didn’t last long! We eventually came upon an open area with a fantastic view of the Mississippi River, the Olin Nature Preserve Skeet Range. I’ve been reading through TNI’s website as I’ve been writing…it’s a pretty amazing place and I wish I would have checked out the website before we hiked!
On we went down into a hollow. It was beautiful! My pictures do not do it justice. There were several old growth trees that were massive and again, my pictures don’t capture just how big they really were. We came upon a little monument/plaque with a couple of log benches. Hop Hollow. The plaque tells how from 1790 to 1863 the picturesque Hop Hollow was an entry point on the Underground Railroad. Sympathetic landowners helped hundreds of slaves try to reach freedom. Gave me chills. I’ve read dozens of books about the Underground Railroad, the Civil War, and slavery but I have never knowingly stood in a place that was part of the Underground Railroad. I want to take my grandson there so he can see it and maybe when he’s older, have a better understanding of what the Underground Railroad was, how difficult it was to travel… There are a couple of big old dead trees at the site. I wonder, could they be from way back then? Probably not, but I like to think that they were part of that history too!
I didn’t think the hike was going to get any better than that…boy was I wrong again!! Part 2…coming up ASAP!