Last week Melissa and I decided that Monday would be our day off. We knew I had to work all weekend to get a client’s restaurant open and that would mean a couple of overnighters.
The day dawned early and foggy – something that happens almost every morning. A dense fog usually sits on the river until the sun gets sufficiently high in the sky to burn it off. It’s beautiful to watch in the morning with a cup of coffee. You can hear the cranes and other birds in the background and smell the dew.
As we talked over breakfast (a delicious bacon, egg and hash brown delight), we decided to head west to a town called Prairie du Chien. It’s located at the junction of the Mississippi and the Wisconsin rivers. It’s a little further west of my last adventure to Bridgeport and back. This time we were on the hunt for prime hiking trails nearby.
So we hopped in Brutus, taking along the camera, the video recorder and a few sandwiches we had put together.
Along the drive there is a brief little town – OK – it’s not really a town. But it is called Boydtown. The funny thing about Boydtown is that it’s about a ¼ of a mile long, right on the river, and has as it’s landmark, a sign that reads, “Scenic Boydtown.” It’s hilarious! This little road off of the main highway literally encompasses maybe 8 houses. And that, my friends, is Scenic Boydtown!
Our first stop was some DNR land (Department of Natural Resources) about 15 miles west as the crow flies….. The land is called Knapp Creek. It’s located on the land side (not the river side) of the road and looks like it heads straight up the mountain.
We made it about ½ a mile in before the bugs got to be too much for us and we had to turn around. But the highlight of the morning came just before we turned around as we made our way up the trail.
As we were talking and walking up the steep incline of the trail all of a sudden there came a giant whoosing of the air. Out of the corner of our eyes, a great big owl had been roused from a tree we were walking beneath and began flying away. It was spectacular. Neither of us is sure what type of owl it was but it was big. Tan in color with spots, its wings seemed to stretch out grandiosely and made a deep rippling sound in the air. The sound the wings made was awesome. I can’t wait to see another owl!
Prairie du Chien & Effigy Mounds National Monument
Next on the agenda was Prairie du Chien. This river town began as an outpost on the western frontier back in the early 1800’s. Nestled right above the junction of the Wisconsin and Mississippi rivers it was once a major hub of commerce and river traffic before the interstate highways were built.
It’s still a beautiful town and it’s magnificent to look from a vista over the great Mississippi and try and spot an Eagle or two searching for food above the river.
We decided to cross the border over to Iowa and check out Effigy Mounds National Monument. In order to get there we had to go through a tiny town (just on the other side of the river from Prairie du Chien) named Marquette.
Effigy mounds are ancient mounds (sometimes burial) that the Indians built as far back as 3,000 years ago. They are all over the southwest of Wisconsin, part of Illinois, Iowa and Minnesota. (Rumor has it that there was once a mound on our property and our neighbor Frank owns a hill with many of them on it). What’s particularly interesting about them is that they are often associated with lunar cycles and farming of crops. For instance – some of the mounds near our house are directly lined up with the Spring and Autumn Solstice. It’s truly amazing to see the significance of these earthen mounds and the precision with which they were built so long ago.
Marquette was a very cute, quaint town and the park was just another 15 minutes up the road along the Mississippi. Hiking the park was easy – it’s a state park and that means that it’s very well maintained and the paths are nearly paved.
The vistas from the top of the trail were beautiful. Great overlooks onto the Great River and the bluffs of Wisconsin on the other side. The mounds were very interesting but difficult to see, as we were actually ground level with them.
Finally cut short on the hike by vampire mosquitoes from hell, we headed back down the river and ended up in a very funky town named McGregor.
Part of McGregor looks like it’s an old west set for a movie studio. As you can tell in the pictures it’s a great place to stop to have lunch. And that’s exactly what we did. We found a tiny little park in the middle of the ‘Old West’ section of the town and ate the sandwiches we had brought with us.
Hiking in Eden
When we decided that we would take the day off there was only one real objective: to find the DNR site I had nick-named Eden and hike it. And so that’s where we headed. It was awesome. The drive up County C along the southern rim of the river was beautiful. The dog – by now pretty tired from the two previous hikes of the day, had no idea what was in store.
After parking and hiking in for a couple of miles we came across a beautiful field that had been harvested for hay (I think?). It was full of those large round grass things that look like fruit roll-ups. (Wow. That’s a terrible description…..Missy I need your help on this one!).
The pup by this point was completely toast but gamely keeping up with us. The smells and the sights were just fantastic. Nothing but nature and blue skies and the smell of the earth. Talk about being on cloud 9.
We finally wrapped it up by driving back and enjoying a relaxing dinner at the house. But not before one last thing happened.
Just as we were going around the bend about 2 miles away, I heard a noise. I wasn’t sure what it was. Well, as we’re turning into the driveway it got remarkably louder. Initially it had sounded like air flowing around the mirror on the Jeep. When we parked and got out of the Jeep we discovered that the sidewall of the tire (which was only 1 year old! – Dang!) had been punctured by a framing nail. All that noise was the air flowing out of the tire.
Amazingly, we made it perfectly home right before the tire took it’s last gasp. What are the odds on that?
That’s pretty crazy. And lucky!
Note: There are tons of pictures on the photo website! Just click HERE.