Bushwhacking through the weeds is usually not a pleasant experience in the summer, thanks to the biting insects and snakes that are lurking underneath. Nevertheless, Southern Illinois does feature one location that is well worth the effort to visit in the summer.
Cave Creek Glade Nature Preserve, south of Vienna next to US 45, includes a steep hillside studded with limestone rocks.
The lack of trees provides an excellent view to the west toward the Cache River wetlands and Wildcat Bluff.
In June, the hillside comes alive with a particular wildflower: pale purple coneflower.
The name is quite appropriate since the purple flowers are, indeed, in the shape of a cone.
On their website, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources reports that Cave Creek Glade is "essentially undisturbed" and "one of the best limestone glades in southern Illinois."
Despite the superlatives, this natural area does sit right next to a busy highway, so it's not exactly peaceful and quiet. Thanks to the location, though, it's possible to visit this stunning display of summer wildflowers without requiring a lengthy hike -- as long as you don't mind a little bushwhacking.
From Cape Girardeau, take Highway 146 east through McClure, Ware, Anna and on to Vienna. Turn right (south) at the four-way stop with US 45. Drive 4 miles south and look for the bridge over Cave Creek. Slow down while crossing the bridge and turn right on a hidden driveway at the end of the guardrail. This drive leads to a parking area. The turnoff is easy to miss; don't feel bad if you have to make a U-turn and try again.
From the parking area, carefully walk back across the bridge and look for the Nature Preserve sign below the hillside on the opposite side of the road. Although hard to see, there is a faint trail leading up the hill near the sign. About half way up the slope, the deep grass gives way to thinner grass, making the rest of the climb easier.