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Rustic Hideaway Review - Vineyards, Hiking, and History in Southern Illinois

By Noel Schecter

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Rustic Hideaway

Rustic Hideaway is anything but rustic.  Make no mistake about it, Rustic Hideaway is located smack dab in the middle of the Shawnee National Forest.   But rustic places do not have a comfortable and quaintly decorated bedroom, a full kitchen complete with every gadget you can think of including a kitchen island, a large and sheltered deck with an oversized hot tub, a gas fireplace, and a living room with a vaulted ceiling.  It also has central air and gas heat.  Sure, the television has rabbit ears, but it also has a DVD player and a large selection of movies.  And judging by the entries in the log book, no one seems to mind skipping out on cable for a few days.

A very comfortable living room

The cozy but perfectly functional kitchen

The upstairs loft makes a perfect kids room

Since my wife and I first honeymooned here ten years ago, we have come back almost every spring.  In that time we have soaked at night in the tub while our daughter slept and owls hooted, played Monopoly on raining days (after one extended game my daughter dreamed that I had been sent to jail for real!), sipped local wine, grilled everything from salmon to steak, held Easter egg hunts, read books and celebrity gossip magazines, and thoroughly explored the surrounding area.  Nearby natural attractions include a hiking trail right behind the cabin that ventures up and onto a ridge and then deep into the forest where we have glimpsed wild turkeys, deer, and one very large (but later confirmed as harmless) snake.  Within a short drive are Giant City and Fern Clyffe State Park, the Little Grand Canyon, and the Pomona Natural Bridge which offer hiking from easy to difficult.  Those willing to drive closer to an hour can also explore the stunningly beautiful Garden of the Gods as well as Cave-In-Rock State Park and the Cache River National Wildlife Refuge.  Those are just some of the choices serious hikers have to ponder; a more thorough discussion would make for a good book.

The Pomona Natural Bridge

There is also much culture and history in these hills as the so-called Little Egypt area of Illinois culminates in a southern tip that joins the vitally important Ohio and Mississippi rivers.  Not surprisingly, Native Americans settled in this area well before steamships worked the river.  Some evidence of their time along the river banks can be found at places like Giant City State Park with its display of a prehistoric stone fence.  More plentiful artifacts exist of its European influences.  While places like Chicago were still just smelly swamps devoid of many people, towns and small cities sprung up all along the river banks.  One such town was the Mississippi river town of Cape Girardeau, MO with a historic waterfront district that offers a picture history in the form of colorful murals painted on sea walls.  There also exists a plethora of nineteenth century buildings including a very picturesque court house.  Other places such as Shawneetown’s historic bank (along the Ohio River) hint at the grand eloquence that once permeated this region. 

The waterfront town of Cape Girardeau

Beginning in the 1980s people began planting grapes and now, with twenty plus years of experimentation, the area wineries are proving their worth.  Besides featuring many hybrid grapes capable of withstanding winter frosts (the Chardonel anyone?), vintners have discovered the virtues of the Chambourcin grape.  Alone or combined with other grapes, the Chambourcin grape offers a distinctive and complex flavor that more than holds its own to the standard grocery store collection of cab and merlot choices.  A few places such as the Pomona Winery also offer apple wines that are surprisingly dry, tasty, and not at all like cider. 

A Vineyard in Southern Illinois

It is always good to have choices

For us the charm of the area lies in the sense of discovery as places here are often tucked away along some gravel road.  Many a time we have taken a route to a small paved road to a gravel road to a rougher gravel road and then, just when we thought we were hopelessly lost, found ourselves in a wooden chalet with a friendly person guiding us to the perfect wine.  Along the way a fox might have crossed in front of our car and the turkey vultures circle above.  And we smile and hope that we can find the place again next Spring Break. 

Bottom line:  Rustic Hideaway, as well as Southern Illinois as a whole, is highly recommended for a weekend or longer vacation.  Rustic Hideaway is composed of two cabins with each cabin renting for $125 weekday/ $135 weekend nights with deals given for stays of three or more nights.  Guests are advised to bring bottled water as the available water comes from a well.  The cabins are located in Jonesboro, Illinois (approximately a six hour drive south from Chicago).  For more information or to reserve a cabin, click here.   For more travel related adventures and ideas, go to hennacornoelidays.

All photos by Noel Schecter



Published on May 24, 2012

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