Summer for us means escaping the city in search of trees, stars and family time. We have a lot of favorite destinations but few match the surreal beauty of Pomona Natural Bridge, located almost three-hundred-sixty miles directly south of Chicago.
I first started going to Pomona Natural Bridge a decade ago, right after getting married. Honeymooning in Southern Illinois is not everyone’s cup of tea, but we take a certain joy in discovering places off the beaten path. Pomona itself is a lovely, mostly forgotten place in an obscure corner of the Shawnee National Forest that stretches over most of Illinois’ most southern tip. A couple dozen vineyards and a whole lot more cabins dot the area, but most places have a remote, rustic feel and getting to the good points almost always involve a little gravel under the wheel. The bridge is no exception and is reached usually after more than a few little stones have hit the windshield. The way also is not marked as clearly as it should be and many drives to the bridge involve the grumbling of a few choice words.
The parking lot fits maybe a dozen cars but we have never shared the place with more than one other vehicle. The short loop trail taking you over the bridge and then back to your car was hit hard by a storm a few years back and no one has bothered to clear out the heavy limbs. You can crawl over and under the gnarly, pointy sticks but it is probably best to cross the bridge and then turn around at the carnage. Afterwards you can celebrate with a picnic and a cold one at the nice picnic table near the trail head. (Noel Schecter)