Petit Jean State Park
September 27, 2003

Why is it that God put so many amazing things in such a small area at Petit Jean State Park? This excursion was supposed to be a hike with a group of Stacey's co-workers, but every last one of them cancelled. I had my heart set on seeing the Seven Hollows trail, so Cliff and I went anyway.
We started off by snagging a geocache near Rock House Cave. We then walked over to the "cave" (actually a huge bluff shelter), stopping first at a platform overlooking Cedar Falls. Cliff and I were most impressed by the Turtle Rocks below the parking area for the cave.
We then had lunch at the Mather Lodge restaurant. That's easily the best view from any restaurant in the state, and the food was pretty good too.
We then headed off for the Seven Hollows trail. As of this writing in March of 2004, Seven Hollows is THE best trail I've ever hiked. It seems for about a mile we stayed in one hollow, with huge rock formations in many locations. Next we came to the Natural Bridge - it was too big to get it all in with my camera. Cliff and I found a way to the top. From there, we found ourselves looking at a completely foreign site - while we had just been down in a lush, shady hollow suddenly we were looking at a harsh desert-like sandstone glade covered with turtle rocks and scraggly pines. My 7-year-old said it looked like a wasteland! I had Cliff stay up on top of the Natural Bridge while I climbed down to get some pictures of him, then I climbed back up partly to make sure he made it down safely.
After that the trail started making a series of ascents and descents from one hollow to a ridge to another hollow. We took a short spur trail up a narrow canyon to The Grotto, where a waterfall spills into a pool next to a bluff overhang.
Upon leaving this particular hollow we got our wish to see some collard lizards. We didn't see any big ones, but one in particular amazed us because he was guarding a freshly-killed grasshopper. When we tried to grab him, he would dash just out of our reach - but he never left the turtle rock where the grasshopper was. There was a second geocache near here that we left the trail to go find. The trip to the cache took us through an amazing sandstone glade we would otherwise have missed. This glade was actually just upstream of The Grotto. At that point the memory card on my camera was full, so I didn't take any more pictures.
The loop trail seemed to stay on the dry ridges for a long time after that, but we were treated to a super finale. The trail took us up a wide, shady hollow with the tallest bluffs along the trail, and they were on either side of us. This canyon went on for what seemed like more than a mile before we climbed out of it, and walked through dry meadows and pines a short distance to the parking area.