TOURISTS WHO VISIT HARRISBURG OFTEN LIKE TO SPEND A FEW DAYS ADMIRING THE BEAUTY OF THE SHAWNEE NATIONAL FOREST. THAT FOREST STRETCHES ALL THE WAY ACROSS ILLINOIS, AND ON THE OTHER END, NEAR CARBONDALE, IS GIANT CITY STATE LODGE.>>GIANT CITY STATE PARK WAS FOUNDED / PURCHASED IN 1927. STATE OF ILLINOIS BOUGHT LAND. OF COURSE, THE PARK THAT SOME OF THE TRAILS, ROCK FORMATION, AND, OF COURSE, THEY WERE IN EXISTENCE. THAT’S WHEN THE PARK WAS FORMED. PARK IS NOW OVER 4,000 ACRES WHICH MAKES IT ONE OF THE LARGEST ONES IN ILLINOIS. OF COURSE, WE ARE BIASED AND THINK IT IS ILLINOIS’ MOST SCENIC PARK. THE LODGE WAS STARTED IN 1933, AND THAT WAS THROUGH THE CIVILIAN CONSERVATION CORPORATION ENACTED WITH FRANKLIN ROOSEVELT’S ALPHABET SOUP OF PROGRAMS, PUT YOUNG MEN TO WORK. CCC ALL TOTAL, PROBABLY PUT MORE THAN 3 MILLION MEN TO WORK FROM 33 TO ABOUT 42, BY THE TIME WORLD WAR II STARTED IS WHEN IT WAS DISBANDED. THE LODGE WAS SOMEWHAT PATTERNED AFTER OTHER LODGES ALREADY EXISTING AND BEING BUILT IN THE COUNTRY RESEMBLING THE GREAT LODGES OUT WEST SO TO SPEAK. AS LARGE A BUILDING AS THIS IS, AS MASSIVE AS IT MAY SEEM, IT IS REALLY NOT THAT LARGE COMPARED TO MANY OTHERS. CERTAINLY SOME OF THE ONES OUT WEST WHERE THERE IS BALCONY AFTER BALCONY, ILLINOIS HAS PERE MARQUETTE, STARVED ROCK ARE MUCH LARGER. ONE OF THE THINGS UNIQUE TO GIANT CITY IT IS MORE COMFORTABLE BECAUSE IT IS NOT SO TALL, IT IS NOT SO MASSIVE YOU FEEL SMALL, OR IT APPEARS TO BE DARK OR IT APPEARS TO BE DUSTY FOR LACK OF A PROBABLY A NICER WORD, BUT GIANT CITY SEEMS BRIGHT. IT SEEMS COMFORTABLE, AND THOUGH IT IS LARGE, IT IS NOT AS MASSIVE AS SOME OF THE LODGES. SOMETIMES PEOPLE WILL COME IN AND ASK WHAT THIS WAS BUILT FOR, JUST WHAT IT IS TODAY, FOR THE CITIZENS, PEOPLE TO ENJOY. OF COURSE, IT WAS BUILT WELL. THIS PARTICULAR GREAT ROOM WAS FINISHED IN ’37, ENTIRE PROJECT WAS FINISHED IN ’39. THEY SPENT A COUPLE OF YEARS BUILDING THE RESTROOMS, THE DINING ROOM, KITCHENS, CABINS, AND ORIGINALLY THERE WERE 12 CABINS. BUT NOW THERE ARE 34. ORIGINAL 12 HAVE BEEN TAKEN DOWN AND TOTALLY REPLACED WITH SOMETHING THAT RESEMBLES THEM. SOME OF THE THINGS THAT THE PARK WILL OFFER THAT IT IS KNOWN FOR BEST IS ITS NAMESAKE WHICH IS THE GIANT CITY NATURE TRAIL. A PARTICULAR TRAIL IS A MILE LONG TRAIL THAT HAS BEEN IN THE PARK, THAT IS REAL POPULAR. WHEN YOU WALK THAT TRAIL, YOU GO THROUGH ROCK FORMATIONS THAT ARE VERY TALL, VERY SMOOTH, AND THEY HAVE BENDS THROUGH THEM AND APPEARS LIKE YOU ARE GOING THROUGH CITY STREETS AND ALLEYS. THAT NAMESAKE, GIANT CITY COMES FROM THAT TRAIL ALONE. ACTUALLY THAT WAS NAMED BEFORE THE PARK WAS EVER AN ACTUAL STATE PARK. DEVILS TABLE, RAPPEL CLIMB, A BALANCED ROCK. IT IS A BEAUTIFUL TRAIL AS WELL. THE PARK IS KNOWN FOR PICNICKING, SHELTERS, RED CEDAR BACKPACK TRAIL. THERE IS HORSEBACK RIDING IN THE PARK WHICH IS REALLY NICE FEATURE, WAY TO SEE THE PARK FOR A NOVICE RIDER. BUT EVEN MORE THAN THAT, THE PARK ALSO HAS 15 OR SO MILES OF HORSE TRAILS FOR HORSEMEN TO BRING IN THEIR OWN HORSES AND THEY HAVE THEIR OWN CAMP GROUND. IF YOU HAVE HORSE, HOWEVER YOU WANT TO BRING YOUR TRAILER IN, CAMP FOR A WEEKEND, SPEND A NIGHT OR TWO RIDE THE TRAILS, SO THAT’S A PRETTY POPULAR FEATURE, TOO. THIS PARK IS INTERESTING, IT DOESN’T HAVE A WAY IN AND WAY OUT. IT’S GOT SEVERAL IT HAS COUNTY ROADS THAT GO THROUGH IT. IT IS NOT A GATED PARK. HOURS ARE PRETTY MUCH FROM DAYLIGHT TO 10 P.M. WE ENJOY A NICE REPUTATION OF HAVING GOOD FOOD. WE ARE KNOWN FOR ALL YOU CAN EAT FRIED CHICKEN DINNER. BUT IT IS THE KIND OF PLACE THAT I THINK THAT THOUGH IT IS IN THE BACKYARD OF A LOT OF PEOPLE, OBVIOUSLY A LOT OF PEOPLE ARE AWARE OF THAT, AND IT IS A SPECIAL OCCASION KIND OF PLACE. SOME PEOPLE MIGHT BE HIKING THE TRAIL AND COME IN JUST BECAUSE THEY ARE HERE. OTHER PEOPLE COME AFTER CHURCH OR SPECIAL OCCASIONS, ANNIVERSARY, AND IT IS A PLACE THAT REALLY WHEN YOU LOOK AROUND AND YOU REALIZE ALL THE COMMUNITIES THAT DON’T HAVE SOMETHING LIKE THIS IN THE BACKYARD, SOUTHERN ILLINOIS, AS A WHOLE, CARBONDALE, UNION COUNTY SPECIFICALLY, WE ARE VERY LUCKY THAT IT IS HERE. YOU CAN REALLY TELL WHEN SOMEBODY NEW COMES IN, AND THEY START ASKING A FEW QUESTIONS OR JUST LIKE LOOK AROUND AND APPRECIATE THE CRAFTSMANSHIP OR WORKMANSHIP. SOMETIMES I WILL JOKE THIS PARTICULAR PART OF THE BUILDING WILL BE PROBABLY STANDING A LONG TIME SOMETHING NEW WILL HAVE ISSUES, BUT THE OLD PART, CCC BOYS THEY BUILT WITH PRIDE, THEY DID WHAT OUR COUNTRY IS KNOW FOR THEY DID IT THE RIGHT WAY. WE ARE STILL BENEFITING AND ENJOYING IT TODAY.>>IN 1937, A YEAR AFTER THE LODGE WAS BUILT, A DINING ROOM WAS ADDED. THE MENU AT THAT TIME HAD A T-BONE STEAK FOR 85 CENTS AND WHOLE LOBSTER FOR $1.75. CUSTOMERS COMPLAINED THAT THE PRICES WERE TOO HIGH.>>TO BOOK A ROOM AT GIANT CITY LODGE, CALL (618)457-4921 OR LOG ON TO GIANTCITYLODGE.COM.