I took a little break from the blog to regroup and take a harder look at what I want to offer in this space. Largely this is still the same, I want showcase outdoor spaces in the Midwest through my photography and words. I would also love to start sharing a little more behind the scenes on my Instagram (@bootsandblackcoffee) and provide more resources, gear reviews, etc. I hope you’ll follow along and don’t forget to add me on Bloglovin so you don’t miss any updates.
It’s now October but still hotter than I would like it to be. Outside Online keeps trolling me with cooler weather gear articles and roundups of the best flannel this fall. It seems only fitting to just now share a few pics from my camping trip in August.
My best friend lives in Nashville, Tennessee and we agreed to meet up (along with my reluctant fiancé and our dog) at the Pharaoh campground which is just a short walk to Garden of the Gods in Shawnee National Forest. As with many campgrounds in the Midwest, there wasn’t a surplus of information on what to expect.
We were pleasantly surprised to find fairly large sites each complete with a picnic table, removable grill top fire pit, metal hook poles for trash, nearby vault bathrooms, and a water pump station. We were easily able to fit 2 tents on the site and both our cars. While this might not sound as amazing as other campgrounds, it was luxury compared to the amazing, but primitive, Lily Pad Obed that I had last camped at.
The sites are first come, first serve and fill up fast since there’s only 12 sites total. There’s no one on duty for payment so make sure you bring the exact cash you need for the envelopes. We ended up getting a larger site on the left side since the only ones left on the right side were in the sun and we needed plenty of shade for my pup. Make no mistake though, if you get there early enough, the sites to right can provide a bit of a view and one in particular had a little lookout path next to it. I would also mention you don’t want to skimp on the bug spray, even a little higher elevation, there were still plenty of mosquitos and many of the hiking trails in Southern Illinois are prone to heavy tick populations.
My biggest tip for this site would be to make sure your food is put up. It might sound super obvious but this isn’t something we were thinking too much about since it’s not bear country or anything like that. After hearing some super loud crashing during the night though, we woke up to something (maybe Bigfoot?) having stolen a backpack with my dog’s food in it. More likely it was a raccoon or coyote but it sounded crazy loud in the pitch black. Luckily about 20-30 minutes away on the way to Bell Smith Springs was a gas station with dog food, PBR, and some other snacks. There is a little convenience store and souvenir shop right outside Gardens of the Gods and another small gas station close to there. If it’s something that matters to you, they don’t have beer and you should plan ahead. The convenience store does have milkshakes and Shawnee swag like t-shirts and patches so it’s worth popping in to.
All in all, this was a lovely wooded campground and I look forward to returning. This was also my dog Jack’s first camping trip at 8 years old. Since we’ve recently added a new puppy to our family, I can’t wait to take them both back for more exploring.