Sunday, February 22, 2015

Illinois River Little Falls Trail & more

We decided to once again venture out to one of those signs on the highway that you often ignore, which points out some vista or viewpoint.  This one along highway 199 indicated "Eight Dollar Mountain Botanical Wayside" turn right.  So we did.

But how did Eight Dollar Mountain get it's name you might ask......well some say it got the name from a nearby discovery of a gold nugget worth $8.00, while another story is that a man wore out a pair of shoes worth $8.00 walking around its base. Regardless of it's name origin, the area is beautiful and worth far more than $8.

About 7.5 miles of Eight Dollar Mountain Road is designated as the TJ Howell Botanical Drive.  We only drove a short distance before parking at a large area on the left side by the Jeffrey Pine Loop trailhead.  We then walked across the road to the Eight Dollar Mountain Botanical Wayside Boardwalk trail - the first of four trails we would hike but the winner for the longest trail name of the day.

This trail, as the name implies, is a boardwalk that stretches one-eighth of a mile out into a botanical area.  The main time for seeing the numerous flowers and plants would be late April till early June -- see the link for more details.  Nothing was in bloom for us today, but we definitely want to come back in a couple of months!  At the end of the boardwalk is a viewing area that overlooks a fen full of the California Pitcher Plant.  The boardwalk is handicap friendly, so if you know someone who enjoys flowers but is handicapped, this would make a nice destination during the blooming time.

The large fen area of California Pitcher Plants

A portion of the boardwalk trail

We then hiked back to the parking area across Eight Dollar Mountain Road and hiked the Jeffrey Pine Loop.

This trail took us through some wooded areas and eventually down near the Illinois river.  There are some side paths one can take to get to the river, but we stayed on the trail (for now).  The loop eventually was intersected by the Illinois River trail which heads downstream for one mile to the Little Falls Loop.  The trail gave us great views of a very beautiful river, and we did make a few side trips down to the river.  As a result, Katie made a few trips into the river.  There were also some side creeks and water seepage that ran across the trail, but none posed any hiking issues for us.

The Illinois River - view from one of our trail side trips
Trail view

One of the sandy beach areas along the river - view from trail

After our beautiful one mile hike downstream, the trail intersected the Little Falls Loop trail. This loop, just like the Jeffrey Pines loop, is just under a mile long.  We hiked the shorter half of the loop down to the river where we took a break on some rocks directly next to and above the water.  What a beautiful spot!!  The sun was out, blue sky with no clouds, the sound and sight of the river - we were lovin' it!!!

Upstream view from where we took a break.......
downstream view from where we took a break.

Carol enjoying the sun and river at our break area.

Afterwards we made our way around the rest of the loop to view the falls.  The Illinois River Little Falls are much like Rainie Falls in Galice or the Rogue Gorge area near Union Creek, not a typical waterfall but a narrowing of the river with small falls and very fast water.  It is a very, very beautiful area!!  If you only wanted to hike the Little Falls Loop, there is a parking area just above the loop on Eight Dollar Mountain  Road at the Little Falls Campground.  There were also numerous places along the river that had sand beaches which would make a great place for a summer day of swimming and fun.

Illinois River Little Falls

River area below the falls
 We completed the Little Falls Loop and hiked the river trail back to the Jeffrey Pine loop and completed that loop trail back to our car -- did you follow all of that?   These trails treated us to numerous river views, wildflowers (trilliums and western spring beauties), and beautiful woods in less than 5 miles of hiking, but provided us with over 3 hours of pure enjoyment.  All because we followed one of those highway signs that are often ignored.  Reminds us of the words of Robert Frost:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Trekking Together
Glenn & Carol

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