Hi Everyone!

Ja’Vonne, Howard, and I just got back from the Southernmost Illinois Shawnee area. I can hear you asking yourself, “Where?”  Most of you know where Carbondale is, Shawnee begins about 17 miles south of Carbondale and is some of the most beautiful country you will find. There is also a Wine Trail to explore.

We decided to take a road trip and left Chicago around 6 AM heading south on I-57. We were scheduled (according to our GPS system) to arrive at our lodging, The Water Valley Inn, at 10:20 AM.  Everything was cool and smooth until we got to the Shawnee area.  I will only say, our GPS lady wasn’t on her best game and we ending going in circles.  However, there are some great people that live in the area and after a few directions we made it to our destination.

Innkeeper Kim, Ja’Vonne and Howard

The Water Vally Inn ( is a bed and breakfast that is in a beautiful five bedroom farmhouse.  It is the perfect place for a large family or group of friends to stay when visiting the area, exploring the Wine Trail, or planning a golf or fishing trip.  When we arrived, innkeeper, Kim Aldridge greeted us and took us on a tour of this historic home that has been in her husbands family for almost a century. The kitchen comes fully stocked with anything you may need to make breakfast or have a snack.  The Water Valley Inn is very welcoming, comfortable, and relaxing. We enjoyed our stay there.

Carol Hoffman from the Southernmost Illinois Tourism Bureau was our guide and had prepared a itinerary for us that would give us a great feeling of the spirit of the Shawnee area and community.

The Bald Knob Cross
A top Bald Knob Mountain

We started off at the Bald Knob Cross ( which is at the top of Bald Knob Mountain.Yes, there are mountains in Illinois. Why a cross on the top of a mountain?  It’s a long story that you should go to the web site to read but in a nut shell, in 1937, Wayman Presley and an minister friend came up with the idea to hold an Easter service on the top of the mountain that would include all Christian denominations and other religious groups. That first year 250 people showed up.  The service has grown over the years and continues today.  We found the site to be peaceful and beautiful. From the top of the mountain you can see the Ohio River, Missouri, Kentucky and Illinois.  We even saw a red tailed hawk fly right in front of our car.  It was awesome.

Ja’Vonne taking the hike
Pomona Natural Bridge

We then went to the Pomona Natural Bridge which is surround by the Shawnee National Forest. We took a short hiking trail that led around to the natural bridge which spans 90 feet. It is just there, made by nature withstanding time. Ja’Vonne walked over the bridge and made the short quarter of a mile hike back to where Howard and I were taking pictures and filming. I could envision Native Americans of the Shawnee nation walking across this bridge through the forest centuries ago.

Anthill Gallery & Other Curiosities in Cobden

There is more to do in the Shawnee area then commune with nature.  There are antique stores and museums, golfing, fishing, artist communities and shops, and festivals, just to name a few things.

Bonnie, Betty, Ja’Vonne

Southernmost Illinois is known for having fruit orchards. We stopped by Rendleman Orchards’ Farm Market and met Betty who took us through the process of how the fruit is picked, sorted, handled, and packaged to be shipped to stores and sold in the Rendleman Market. This is peach season and in the fall the peaches will be replaced with apples, all grown and packaged by Illinois Farmers.

We then went to the Giant City State Park to have dinner at the Giant City State Park Lodge.  The Park and Lodge is located in another section of forest in Shawnee.  There is horse back riding, camping, cabins, and hiking trails.  If you decide to have dinner at the lodge, I suggest you get the all you can eat fried chicken dinner.  Howard (Video Twist Productions) gives it 4 winks of the Eye!

One of the main attractions of the Shawnee area is the Shawnee Wine Trail.  I will tell you all about that in my next post.

Until next time, keep you EYE to the sky!