The weather has been so beautiful and even though it probably means big storms soon I'm just going to smile and enjoy this early spring.
This day was a gorgeous sunny afternoon with mid-seventies temps and I knew it would be a perfect day for getting out of the house and seeing some of the Shawnee National Forest sites we loved so much last summer and have been missing all winter.
Goose decided she didn't want to go with us since we weren't going back to Heron Pond, which was her favorite spot last year, so she stayed with her daddy and I took Bug and Nana along with me.
First we went to Rim Rock and took the long loop all the way around Ox-Lot Cave and underneath all of the giant cliffs. The views weren't as good as they are in the summer when the leaves are green and lush but it was still nice to venture out on the rocks and see a different view.
We always enjoy seeing the twisty cedar trees that grow along the trail and are fun to climb on. Bug enjoys sitting on these two for photo ops whenever we visit.
The cave is still the highlight of the visit to Rim Rock. On this day the rocks were dripping with overflowing water and there was even still some large piles of ice in some spots. The hike was a bit slippery in places but not enough to keep us from working our way down there!
Next up was a side trip to Iron Furnace which is a place I remember my dad taking me to when I was little. I have a few snapshot memories of running around the furnace and that's it so I was excited to see it as an adult and try to match the images in my head.
Unfortunately Iron Furnace is not as well maintained as it used to be. There was a small covered visitor's center there with pictures and history on the furnace but now it's taken down and the marker plates are bare. You can't even use the restroom anymore. There's a small trail up the side to climb up to the top but it has a fence through it now.
The furnace itself is still beautiful though and I'm glad we went because just across the street is the prettiest creek I've ever seen. The sound of the water was something I wish I could record and save as a sound machine tune because it was loud and bubbly and perfect.
Bug had the best time searching for these rocks. She came home with a huge pile to add to her rock collection.
The last recreational area we visited on our five hour trip was Garden of the Gods. My mom isn't a big hiker and I knew she wouldn't enjoy a rough trail or visiting one we weren't familiar with so I stuck to old favorites that I already knew like the back of my hand. Garden of the Gods is not only an easy hike but it's also one of the shortest ones we go on Twenty minutes of walking and you're already through it.
Since this was the first pretty day of the year it was packed to the gills and it was impossible to get photos without anyone else in them. There is always at least one fall off of the cliffs every year and you can see why in this picture.
We watched with bated breath as the boy sitting on Camel Rock's head tried his hardest to get down without falling. It took him several tries of up and down before he finally was able to get off.
After we left Garden of the Gods we made our routine stop at the "giant monkey man" that Bug loves to take pictures with.
I love exploring the Shawnee National Forest and I hope that fun trip was a great start to fabulous hiking year. There are so many new sites I want to explore and I can't wait to start planning future hikes for us!