Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Effigy Mounds National Historic Monument, the Mississippi and Pikes Peak State Park Mc Gregor IA

When I was researching our trip back eastward I saw a state park in IA that was located near Effigy Mounds National Monument.  Don read an article last year about effigy mounds and mentioned he'd like to see some.  So, even with the change to our travel plans (The Great River Rd to New Orleans instead of the Natchez Trace) we drove to Pikes Peak State Park in McGregor, IA.  

On the first day, of course, I set off to do laundry and groceries while Don went for a hike.  There were no stores or laundromats in McGregor so I had to drive over the Mississippi Bridge to Prairie du Chien, WI.  OK so I turned into a 5 year old child as I started chanting and smiling "I am driving over the Mississippi!"  Yes, we'd walked across it in Minneapolis but that was so far north and it really isn't that wide there.  Here, there were two bridges and as I crossed I could see the Wisconsin River meeting it.  It was like the first time I saw the Nile.  These great rivers were things I could only imagine as a child reading our Weekly Readers about far flung places.  Regardless of how much of the world I have seen and how many places I have lived, I am still thrilled when something I learned about in childhood becomes a reality. But, since I was driving, I could not take a picture.  I'd have to wait until Don was with me.

Approaching Marquette from McGregor with the Lady Luck Casino and the Mississippi Bridge

Looking north on the Mississippi with a train running along the WI side

The next day though was gorgeous, though cold, and we decided to go first to an apple orchard north of Prairie du Chien and then head back over the river and north to Harper's Ferry IA to the park.
Beautiful blue skies with bright sunshine = a place was filled with people, families having fun with parents and grandparents, young people trying their skill at slingshot apples and hayrides, face painting and a good bakery too.  It wasn't until later that we discovered it was not the place recommended to us.  But, we got delicious apple cider, fresh apples and a good jam.

They had apples too!

After a lunch of bratwurst with sauerkraut we headed toward the Effigy Mounds NHM, but stopped at a Fish Market to buy local fish-lake perch-then on to the park.

As usual, the staff and the ranger station/visitor's center at the NHM were excellent with informative and detailed displays of the history so we spent quite a bit of time there before driving to the day use area to begin our hike.  It's about a 2 mile hike-the first part of it straight uphill on an old logging road but then opening into fields of wildflowers and trees.  This time of year, I have to say, is not my favorite for the flowers as so many are gone and things are starting to die but seeing a number of butterflies (though no Monarchs) gave me hope that there are still spaces for them.

The museum was very interesting with displays like this

This is the Thunderbird mound.  Leading up to it were a number of bears but the lighting made it impossible to photograph.

We took a wrong turn at one point and after walking a very soft dirt path came to only one mound, though there were plenty of mushrooms for me to photograph!  We turned around after really reading the map and went back out onto the trail that would lead us to the quite incredible area filled with effigies of bears and thunderbirds.  Taking photographs of them is next to impossible as they are huge and the shadows cast by the trees make them difficult to see except with the naked eye. But, it was fascinating seeing these mounds.

There aren't a lot of flowers blooming in the fall but nature is still beautiful

Along the path there were clusters of these mushrooms

Another thing we learned was that this area (where WI, IA and IL meet) is called the Driftless Area.  Basically, it's because this area was not covered with ice in the last Ice Age (or Last Glacial Maximum) so it created bluffs and valleys that are not seen in the other areas of those states.  This is one area of the midwest that is decidedly NOT flat. In fact, it was our first really steep graded hill (7%) that we've seen since leaving the east.

The weather, which had been cold and windy when we started began changing for the warmer and I was quite warm in my fleece socks in hiking boots, long pants and heavy long sleeved shirt but...I survived.  Don had been smart enough to wear a short sleeved T-shirt but Phoenix always wears her fur coat and trotted along happily, stopping for drinks of water we'd brought.

We got back to the campground and decided to go for another walk to Bridal Veil Falls.  Just as the Blue Hen Falls in Cuyahoga NP, there was hardly any water so it was a very unlucky bride with a few strips of lace trailing down.  Beautiful but the effect was less than impressive.  There were however, two small round and oblong mounds along the way as well.

Bridal Veil Falls

small long mound

the walk was quite beautiful with the sun shining through the leaves

and some of the walkways had leaf staining.  Then it was back to the campground which was perched on a cliff overlooking the confluence of the Mississippi and Wisconsin Rivers.  It was a perfect time of year, clear skies and crispy air and we took several walks around the different areas of the park as well as a through downtown McGregor.

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