Exploring the Illinois Valley

Laura Mancuso, editor

Bridge that crosses Sucker Creek behind Grayback Campground Friday, Nov. 24.
(Photo by Laura Mancuso for the Illinois Valley News)

Rivers, trees and falling leaves. What could be better?
I get asked all the time to please focus on positive articles for the newspaper which got me thinking about a new series. While Dan and I were on a hike with our dogs, I.V. and Lucy the News Hound, I remembered how the Illinois Valley has the most beautiful forests and rivers and instead of staying indoors too much this fall and winter, I felt determined to stay active in the scenic outdoors. Plus, giving our two high energy dogs (a beagle and a half Jack Russel terrier/chihuahua) exercise is always a good idea to make our household more peaceful. So a new series is born, called “Exploring the Illinois Valley,” a name idea I got from the IRVAC gate artist auction. I bid on this gate by Amanda Keller at the silent auction this year and it is now on display at the Illinois Valley Wellness Resources office. It resonates with me because I love to take photographs of all the sights in the I.V.
The Friday after Thanksgiving Day, we took I.V. and Lucy to the Grayback Interpretive Trail #1204. It was very pretty with orange and yellow leaves on the trail and very relaxing from the rushing water sounds from Sucker Creek.

Lucy (left) and I.V. making sure the coast was clear Friday, Nov. 24 on a hike at Grayback Interpretive Trail.
(Photo by Laura Mancuso for the Illinois Valley News)

To get to the Grayback Interpretive Trail, you head east for 11.5 miles on Caves Highway and pass Grayback Campground on the right hand side. After you go one-fourth mile and cross a bridge, turn right on a road and you will quickly see the sign for the trailhead. The trailhead is before the forest trail sign (closer to Caves Hwy.) on your right. It is an easy hike that leads to Grayback Campground. Along the way you will cross a bridge and the trail features incredibly scenic overlooks with benches. Currently, there are some places that you need to be careful at because the trail has been damaged and washed away toward the creek right before you hike to the bridge. If you go through the campground next to Sucker Creek until the end of the trail, and back to where you started, it is around a mile. The air smells even cleaner as you travel up Caves Hwy. It is worth the drive!
If you have any trails or scenic areas that you would like to share with me (that are not family secrets) please email me at laura@theivnews.com.