On Thursday night, I stood on stage imploring the boys in my son’s Cub Scout pack to join us on an upcoming camping weekend. From the crowd came shouts of excitement.
“Will we go to Pebble Beach?”
“I want to go over the scary bridge!”
“Are we camping in Hickory Haven?”
We’ve never had any problem getting scouts and their families to go camping, much to my great pleasure. Our spring and fall camping trips at Camp Drake (near Oakwood, Illinois) are always well attended, and there are certain features — like the scary bridge — that the scouts look forward to every trip.
For the past several camping adventures, I’ve been in charge of leading the nature hike. Each time it’s become more of a challenge to find interesting things to talk about during the hike, because we’ve hiked the same trail each time. This fall, in order to spice up my interest in the hike and hopefully make the hike more interesting for the scouts and their families, I thought we needed to see a different side of Camp Drake.
Along with another leader and his two sons, I set out Sunday afternoon to scout a new trail for our upcoming trip.
It was the perfect time to visit the maple, hickory and oak forest that surrounds the Salt Fork of the Vermilion River. Yellow and bronze filled our sight, above and below and in the air, broken only by occasional splashes of dogwood red.
Despite the noise of our steps through the fallen leaves, wildlife were warily active around us — deer, wild turkey, squirrels, frogs and even a small snake. The new trail we discovered took us up and down ravines, along narrow switchbacks, to the river’s edge, and along the highest ridges. It’s a bit more strenuous than our traditional path, but I could already hear the excitement in the scouts as we worked our way along the trail.
Below are some of the images I captured along the way.