13085
Ozark
Hiking in Southern Illinois
Get to know the natural wonders of Southern Illinois on expert-led hikes as you explore deep canyons, waterfalls, rock-bottom creeks, and cypress swamps.
Program No. 13085RJ
Length
6 days
Starts at
699
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6 days
5 nights
14 meals
5 B 4 L 5 D
Getting There
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DAY
1
Check-in, Welcome Circle, Tour, Welcome Dinner, Orientation
Ozark, IL
D
St. Noel Center at Camp Ondessonk

Afternoon: Ondessonk Guides will be available to greet participants and help you move into your rooms. Please feel free to go for a stroll around the main area of Camp, wander over to the pastures to view the horses, or enjoy the patio of St. Noel to get to know your guides and fellow adventure companions for the week. In the Welcome Circle, take an opportunity to introduce yourself, where you’re from and how you found yourself to be here at Camp Ondessonk with us. Your Ondessonk guides will lead you on a small guided tour of the main area of Camp. Take a sneak peak of Camp Ondessonk's Road Scholar programs on YouTube. www.youtube.com/user/CampOndessonk#p/u/15/HxnSmmv-6aU. Just copy and paste the link in your browser.

Dinner: Dinner served family-style in the St. Noel Center dining area.

Evening: We will sit down to frame the week, share with the group in more detail the lay-out of the week’s activities, get to know each other, and set our goals/expectations for your experience.

DAY
2
Hike Ondessonk's Trails, Evening Lecture on Local Ecology
Ozark, IL
B,L,D
St. Noel Center at Camp Ondessonk

Breakfast: Breakfast will be served family-style in the St. Noel retreat center's dining area. A warm start to a great day!

Morning: Our first day on trail will be spent hiking on Camp Ondessonk's trail systems, giving you a taste of the geological formations that make Southern Illinois such a hidden gem. Our 983 acres of oak-hickory forest, sandstone bluffs, and canyons are adjacent to thousands of acres Shawnee National Forest and boasts Illinois' highest free-falling waterfall. The morning will see us experiencing the East side of our property, visiting the highest free-falling water fall in the state of Illinois and exploring some of the intriguing sandstone formations unique to this area.

Lunch: We will be hiking to a picnic-style lunch served in the out-of-doors under a pavilion overlooking one of our many small lakes. A great way to recharge our energy before hitting the trail once more.

Afternoon: Once back on trail, we will head towards an ox-bow lake surrounding a sandstone monolith, once the site of a Native American stone fort from the Woodland Indian period. We will also visit Phantom's Canyon; one of Ondessonk's crown jewels and largely unknown even to Southern Illinois residents. Upon returning to the St. Noel Center, there will be some down time to clean up and an opportunity to visit with fellow participants before dinner is served.

Dinner: A warm and hearty meal will be served family-style in the St. Noel Center's dining area. Dessert to follow!

Evening: Enjoy a presentation from an expert naturalist who will reveal why Southern Illinois is unique on several different levels. From inland seas to that vast glaciation of ice ages past, several prehistoric occurrences impacted and shaped the geology of this area. Learn how this geology, and the convergence of several different natural divisions, allows for the astonishing plant and animal combinations found in this area. Cacti growing within a hundred feet of a moist oak-hickory forest? Southern cypress swamps in Illinois? Join us after dinner to find out more! Afterwards relax around the campfire and take in the nocturnal world.

DAY
3
Hiking in Ferne Clyffe & Giant City State Parks
Ozark, IL
B,L,D
St. Noel Center at Camp Ondessonk

Breakfast: A warm breakfast served family-style in the St. Noel Center dining area.

Morning: In addition to many acres of federal public land, Southern Illinois has many of the most premier state parks to enjoy. Spend the morning exploring the trails, waterfalls, and canyon systems of Ferne Clyffe State Park. You will certainly enjoy this local favorite!

Lunch: Enjoy a picnic lunch at one of the state park's covered pavilions.

Afternoon: After lunch we will travel to one Giant City State Park with its 400 plus acres of classic Southern Illinois landscape with deep oak-hickory forest, high sandstone cliffs, and much bio-diversity. The Visitors Center is very educational and the Giant City Lodge, built by the Civilian Conservation Corp (C.C.C.) during the Great Depression, will make you feel you are in a western lodge.

Dinner: Enjoy another delicious meal prepared fresh by our talented food-service director and served family style in the St. Noel Center Dining Area.

Evening: After dinner, come sit around the campfire, roast marshmallows, or join us in exploring the enchanted nocturnal world with a night hike, where we'll listen to the distant calls of the coyotes, Great-Horned and Barred Owls. Or take part in an astronomy lesson, where you'll see the stars like never before. If you're tired from today's adventures, enjoy some time to relax in the common area of St. Noel and enjoy a good card game with new friends as you recharge for tomorrow.

DAY
4
Cypress Swamp Hike, Heron Pond & Champion Trees Hike
Ozark, IL
B,L,D
St. Noel Center at Camp Ondessonk

Breakfast: Breakfast served family-style in the St. Noel Center's dining area.

Morning: This morning we'll visit the northern-most cypress swamp in America. The Coastal Plain natural division makes its northern-most reach into the southern tip of Illinois offering a rare opportunity for scenery more characteristic of the South. Feel like you're in Louisiana as you stroll on floating boardwalks among the trees. The Barkhausen Wetlands Center is a state-of-the-art visitors center that interprets in great detail through pictures and displays the incredible story of the natural and cultural history of the Cache River Basin. Go on a through hike from Wildcat Bluff, through Little Black Slough, observing the great diversity of wildflowers, trees, and migrating birds.

Lunch: Depending on time and weather, we will enjoy a picnic lunch either at the Wetlands Center, at a picnic area near the state champion bald cypress tree, or somewhere on the trail. Lunches will be made and packed up after breakfast before we depart for the day.

Afternoon: After lunch, travel through the Heron Pond area where visitors can stroll out on a floating boardwalk that winds through cypress and tupelo trees. See the state champion cherry bark oak tree, hike beneath ancient bald cypress trees, and search for bald eagles. End the hike at parking lot where the vehicles will be waiting for you.

Dinner: Enjoy a delicious Camp Ondessonk tradition! Our foil dinners will be prepared on a bed of hot coals. Burgers, fresh fixin's, and the works, all enjoyed in the evening fresh air.

Evening: After dinner, come sit around the campfire, roast marshmallows, or join us in exploring the enchanted nocturnal world with a night hike, where we'll listen to the distant calls of the coyotes, Great-Horned and Barred Owls. Or take part in an astronomy lesson, where you'll see the stars like never before. If you're tired from today's adventures, enjoy some time to relax in the common area of St. Noel and enjoy a good card game with new friends as you recharge for tomorrow.

DAY
5
River-to-River Trail, Garden of the Gods Wilderness
Ozark, IL
B,L,D
St. Noel Center at Camp Ondessonk

Breakfast: Breakfast served family-style in the St. Noel dining area

Morning: Southern Illinois also boasts 8 federally designated National Wilderness Areas. We will drive through two of them and stop for a brief walk to Burden Falls; Illinois' tallest cascading waterfall. We will then continue to travel to the Garden of the Gods Wilderness to do a 5-mile section of the River-to-River Trail. This 180-mile hiking, backpacking, and equestrian trail that goes from the Ohio River to the the Mississippi River. We will be exploring a wilderness area that provides true solitude as the miles disappear under your boots, and the fresh forest air fills your lungs.

Lunch: We will be enjoying lunch at a resting point along the trail. This spot can only truly be communicated once seen. The trail opens up along the ridge we will be traveling and offers up a sand stone outcropping with an unobstructed view of the valleys and hills below. Lunch never tasted so good.

Afternoon: We will be leaving the trail at the Garden of the Gods Observation Trail, the most popular outdoor attraction in Southern Illinois. Unique sandstone formations have been carved by wind and time, offering a playground for those who appreciate time to explore the natural things around them. This is by far the most astounding view in all of the Midwest. The vehicles will be waiting for us in the parking lot where we depart back to Camp.

Dinner: Dinner served family-style in the St. Noel dining area.

Evening: An opportunity to again relax around the fire to reflect on the week spent in the natural world, share memories freshly made, and recognize new trail companions who made the experience meaningful.

DAY
6
Wrap-Up, Program Concludes
Ozark, IL
B

Breakfast: Breakfast served family-style in the St. Noel dining area.

Morning: After breakfast we'll wrap up with an opportunity to say your farewells to fellow participants and exchange email addresses to stay in touch if you so desire. If you're not staying an extra night, we will need to flip your rooms for our weekend guests, but if you're not in a hurry to get home, feel free to enjoy Camp for the rest of the day by going out on a hike on your own or ask us about other great things to do in Southern Illinois! "We have not ceased from exploration and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time." -T.S. Eliot. Thank you for joining Camp Ondessonk on this journey through Illinois' hidden gem.