Thursday, October 6, 2011

McGregor IA to Blanding Landing IL

McGregor IA to Blanding Landing IL
October 5, 2011

We were up early – Jane walked around all the campground roads at 7 AM – so peaceful. 
 Our Campsite at Pikes Peak
We did not realize how close we were to the bluff overlooking the river so we hiked that way before leaving the park. There were some Indian mounds near the bluff and there were also some really great views. We were able to see where the Wisconsin River comes into the Mississippi. Fog hanging over some of the river was an interesting view.

 Mississippi from Pikes Peak

We left the park thinking we could retrace the detour back to McGregor – no such luck. The road we had come on last night was now CLOSED!  We went the opposite way because there was no choice. A few miles down the road we stopped where we saw two farmers harvesting soybeans. One of the guys came over quickly as he must have been having lots of lost souls come by his farm!  He wanted to know if we could drive on a gravel road?  Ben said yes so he gave us the shortest way back to McGregor.
According to what the farmer said everyone was angry with the road contractor. They have had the contract all summer and are just now getting the work done. Children can’t get to school and folks can’t get to work.  He was angry because he had rented a combine for his harvesting and now can’t get it returned.  The people never know from one day to the next which roads will be closed! The route must have been 15 miles and it was crooked and if I had not known where I was I would have believed east TN not eastern Iowa. Iowa is supposed to be flat!  Beautiful trip but it was only 3 miles to the park from McGregor according to the sign in the town.   
 Ben gets directions
 Our detour

We found the post office to mail Dan’s post cards and were on our way a few miles north to Effigy Mounds National Monument. At the National Monument we watched an interesting film with about 60 4th or 5th graders and looked around their museum. The shortest hike to see the Effigy (resembling animal shapes) Mounds was 2 hours and it was half uphill. Jane’s back is feeling much better but not up to uphill hikes yet. We passed this by and headed on down the GRR. We took our own detour so we could avoid the road closure that prevented us getting to the park last night. The GRR was what was closed for some unknown reason. 

In Guttenberg we stopped Lock  at # 10 and were lucky enough to arrive just as a tow (this is the combination of barges and the tug boat or pusher that is guiding them up or down the river) was going through the lock.  The 15 barges and tug is too many for the lock. They put as many barges in the lock – raise the water level and then open the doors and they are pulled out by a cable and wench. Then they wait while the same thing happens all over again for the remaining barges and tug or pusher.  The lock here raises or lowers the water level 9 feet.  At each of the locks that are placed strategically along the river they locks change approximately 8 feet.  There was a beautiful park along the river in Guttenburg and we parked and enjoyed lunch on the riverbank. Fantastic weather in the 70’s.
 Barges in lock, Tug outside waiting with 2 more barges

We continued on down the GRR which primarily ran along the crest of the bluffs – maybe a mile or two back with very neat and prosperous looking farms along the way. Everyone in a while we would drive down to river level for a small town and then back up to the bluffs. There were some beautiful views to but photos could not do the landscapes of fields of brown corn interspersed with green cover crops justice.
The GRR ran us right into down town Dubuque IA – the first large city since Minneapolis-St Paul.  There were old buildings and then beautiful new hotels and casinos. Many of the homes are up on a much higher level than the city center. Mr. Brit took us to the Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium where we planned to learn lots about the river and we hoped the GRR…nothing about the GRR. We did enjoy information and displays on the fish and wildlife of the river, about the barge traffic, about the steamboats and paddle wheelers of the past.

 Jane visits with  Mark Twain at Museum
 Ben tries his hand at Driving a tow

About 4PM we decided to head to the Corp of Engineer Park – Blandings Landing near Hanover IL. Supposedly 23 miles from the Aquarium. It was supposedly right on the river near lock 12 and had everything we had to have – showers, flush toilets, and electricity.  We did fine getting to Galena – stopped at a grocery and picked up chicken and some salads for a picnic supper as Jane did not want to cook and we were going to be 8-10 miles from a town.  We drove and drove – finally got down to a one lane paved road….Ben said – think I want to go back to Galena and get gas if we are going out into this remote an area!  So back we went to Galena – bought gas and retraced our way to the one lane road…we went about 2 miles further than we had gone the first time and what did a sign say – ROAD CLOSED – no not again!  We continued on a ways until the road was no longer paved, had trees down on both sides and was barely wide enough for one car with NO shoulder and water not too far away. We turned around and went back a few miles.  We later discovered the damage was from the spring flooding.

Now the unique thing we saw here along a one lane road near the Mississippi was the bottom of a ski slope with 3 lifts. The slopes were approximately 250-300 feet to the top as we could see the top where a lodge was located. Certainly not something we had expected to see!  Later Jane read it was Chestnut Mountain Ski Resort.  
Chestnut Mountain

 When we got back to the last intersection Mr. Brit tried another road – this one had signs to Blandings Landings!  Progress!  We drove on about 7 more miles to find the campground. There are two camping units here. It is on the banks of the Mississippi. Jane caught a photo of the sunset just as we drove in at 6:30. 

We had been on an adventure to find this place for 2 ½ hours!  It is certainly peacefu with one exception.. It is now 9:30 and we have had 8 trains pass by on tracks not very far to our east.  They always blow their whistles so it may be a LONG night.  There are bright lights on the locks and dam that are quite pretty at night.  Things do not always go as planned and I guess that is part of the fun of this trip. (note next day - Ben says there were at least 24 trains while we were there  but neither of us were kept awake by the trains all night so there were probably many more).

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