Prairie Fever » Hiking

Southern sojourn

For the past couple of weeks I’ve been wandering through the southernmost reaches of Illinois gathering information for the outdoor guidebooks that I’m currently writing. In addition to charting a handful of road biking routes and dozens of camping destinations, I also was documenting hiking trails for the Backpacker magazine website.

I was especially eager to explore the Shawnee National Forest, a huge tract of wilderness at the southern tip of the state, known for its rugged beauty. As it happened, rain fell frequently. Floodwater swallowed up a few of the trails and campgrounds I visited. Two campground access roads were blocked with mud slides. My bicycle survived heavy downpours; my boots were frequently caked with mud.

While dodging the worst of the rain, I discovered plenty of scenic spots. The subtle beauty of the cypress swamp at Horseshoe Lake (pictured here) and the jaw-dropping drama of the rock formations at Garden of the Gods were just a couple of places that left strong impressions on me. In coming weeks, I’ll be sharing highlights from my downstate travels.



Tomahawk Lake at the Palos/Sag Valley Forest Preserve

Thanks for visiting Prairie Fever. My name is Ted Villaire, and I’m a writer from Chicago who delights in open-air excursions. I spend a great deal of time hiking, biking, and paddling.

My activities are typically focused near Chicago or elsewhere in Illinois. Occasionally, though, I’ll venture out into other corners of the Midwest. My outdoor travels allow me to gather information for books and articles. In 2005, I wrote a guidebook for day hiking near Chicago, and currently, I’m writing four more guidebooks focusing on biking and camping near Chicago and throughout Illinois.

I’m glad to reveal that not all of my excursions are work-related. Sometimes, I lace up my hiking shoes simply because I enjoy exploring the local landscape and seeing what’s around the next bend. In any case, through the posts on this page I intend to share my discoveries and offer suggestions on where readers can pursue outdoor wanderings of their own.