At some point in junior high our school bussed us over to Turkey Run State Park. I wish I could remember the exact year or the teachers, or much else apart from me learning never to jump to a wet rock in the middle of a creek (feet went right out from under me, as I probably should have learned BEFORE that). My chief takeaway was that the park was quite pretty, particularly trail 3, which winds up a limestone river gorge.
Now, approximately forty years on, I’m better equipped to understand that many of the trails in Turkey Run State Park, near Marshall, IN, are among the prettiest American places you can see that don’t involve mountain vistas or trips west. And probably they’re comparable to even those, in a small scale way. My kids, who are considerably better travelled than I was at their age, name it one of their favorite places on Earth, primarily because of trails 3 and 10.
But we don’t live very close to Turkey Run anymore — it’s about a three hour one-way drive — so when a friend at karate mentioned that a much closer park, in southern Illinois, was almost as lovely, my wife and I took our daughter and drove over for a look.
It turns out that my friend Jim was right. Pounds Hollow isn’t QUITE as pretty as Turkey Run, but it’s a very close second. There also aren’t nearly as many trails, but then the bonus is that it’s much closer to home and far less crowded. As a matter of fact, you can’t call Pounds Hollow crowded at all, from our experience. The word is out about Turkey Run, which is frequently overrun, but people haven’t yet heard about Pounds Hollow.
There are only two main trails at Pounds Hollow, one around the top of the hills, which has some lovely overlooks, but for my money the trail that circles with the small river is even more striking. I’ve tried to give some sense of the beauty in the accompanying photos, but I don’t think they quite convey the sense that you’ve entered a really majestic place, one with such stunning natural beauty it suggests there’s something magical afoot. You really need to click to enlarge to get even a little sense of what I’m talking about.
According to what I remember from a sign posted near one of the picnic areas, Pounds Hollow didn’t always look like this. During World War II the Civilian Construction Corps came in and planted trees all over this land after it had been denuded of forest and farmed to hell and gone. That explains why so many of the trees are still so young. Boy, am I grateful for their hard work. It was truly a wonderful afternoon. We even saw a bald eagle sitting in a high branch of one of those youngish trees — unfortunately it was so far away that it doesn’t show up in the photo I took on my cell phone camera.
We intend to go back in the spring, hopefully with my son along the next time. And I’m looking forward to telling Jim just how much we appreciated his tip. If you live anywhere close to Pounds Hollow, it is definitely worth the trip. Caveat — bring your own food. From the direction we came, at least, there didn’t seem to be anywhere to purchase food, fast or otherwise.