No WIFI but what a few days we have had. Thursday we entered Illinois and asked for suggestions of what to see. We were directed to Starved Rock State Park. The name itself intrigued us, so off we went and we were so glad we did. Spectacular hiking trails followed the edge of the Illinois River. We ventured into canyons of sandstone carved by tributaries. The waterfalls cascaded over the cliffs eroded by the passage of time. We climbed up steep stairways to the tops of the canyon then down again, played beneath waterfalls and thoroughly enjoyed five or so hours of hiking. The air was filled with the scent of wildflowers. Columbines and Jack in the Pulpit, along with many others, lined the trail. The park and town nearby is named Starved Rock because the Illinois Indians retreated there, chased by the Iroquois and all died of starvation on the cliff face.
We met David and Emily on the trail and walked with them awhile. They told us of another park along the Mississippi River. Since we wanted to do the “Great River Road” and drive north along the Mississippi river, we set out for Palisades Park. The drive along the river took us through many small communities and through farm land. We crossed the river into Iowa and back into Illinois again further up river. It was a lot of fun to poke around the countryside and the towns.
Palisades Park is only $10.00 per night. What a bargain. We thought we might stay a couple of nights. We found a great site, surrounded by bush and settled in for the evening. John wants the park renamed. He made a tasty meal for the blackflies and mosquitos. We showered and packed up, took a quick look at the lookout, and set off on the road again.
We soon found ourselves in Galena. This small town is filled with artisans and boutiques. The main street is mostly restored historical buildings which give the town a great feeling of history. We spent hours poking around, tasting cheese, tasting jams and trying on hats. We found a great little coffee shop named Kiladi’s. Once again we relaxed into the big comfy couch and read the local paper. We walked along the “riverwalk” on the levee. We tried to walk the rails on the tracks beside the trail and then checked out the local park. When I noticed a long stairway, I wanted a challenge, so left John at the roadside and started up. I surprised myself and made it to the top. On the way back down I counted 186 steps.
After leaving Galena, we crossed the state line into Wisconsin. Still following the Great River Road along the Mississippi, we headed north. There remains a lot of water in the nearby woods and fields, but the floods have receded in this area.
In one small town, Dickeyville, we made a quick U-Turn. We could not believe our eyes. The local Catholic Church built the most amazing place. They call it the Grotto. Most of it was built from 1925-1930 by the priest at the time. There are many shrines and statues, each one built with colourful stones, amber, agate, quartz and semi-precious gems, shells and coral. I am truly amazed. A beautiful experience.