Midwest National Parks – Part 3

Mississippi National River and Recreation Area

Mississippi National River and Recreation Area

We then made our way to Minneapolis, Minnesota to the visitors center for Mississippi National River and Recreation Area.  There were several areas along the river we could have visited, but we unfortunately did not have enough time.  We took a very short walk along the river, and spent some time in the visitors center, reading the literature and chatting with the rangers there.  Then we headed to an icon of Minneapolis culture, The Mall of America, where we marveled at the rides in the center of the mall and I managed to collect several new smashed pennies.  We managed to make room for another great meal, at Hard Times Cafe.  I had the seitan Philly sub, and Anthony had biscuits, sausage, scramble, and hash browns covered in gravy.  My mouth is watering now just thinking about it!

Pipestone National Monument

Pipestone National Monument

The next morning we drove all the way across the state of Minnesota in order to go to Pipestone National Monument.  Another small, yet really interesting, site, the unique topography of Pipestone really engaged us during our visit.  Pipestone was created in order to protect the ancient quarries of rock, that are still mined today by members of various tribes who claim connection to this land.  In the visitor center, we were able to chat with one of the men who still carves the pipes while watching him work.  Once outside again, we walked the circle trail, which leads visitors through some of the quarries and to Winnewissa Falls.  The pink quartzite and redder pipestone are prevalent among the restored prairie grasses.  A beautiful walk, we managed to finish up just as rain drops began to fall.

The following day, we began at Effigy Mounds National Monument in Iowa.  We were pleasantly surprised by just how beautiful this spot was.  We arrived early in the morning, and after visiting the visitors center and watching the introductory film, we hiked to Fire Point to check out the mounds.  Strangely, many Indian tribes have ties to the area, but the reasoning behind the mounds is lost in the mist of history.  The mounds are best seen from the air, but from the ground they are pretty amazing too.  From Fire Point and Eagle Rock, we had beautiful, unobstructed views of the Mississippi River.  With the early morning fog still lifting, and our elevation, we had a stunning view across the water.  That was our favorite part of the short hike.

Future birthplace of James T. Kirk

Future birthplace of James T. Kirk

Next we visited Herbert Hoover National Historic Site.  In West Branch, Iowa, Hoover grew up in what he claimed was an idyllic town.  Quiet and perfect for young children, he felt a great sense of community within his Quaker upbringing.  He held fast to the American Dream, and followed his success as a mining engineer all over the world, before he became the 31st president.  As well as visiting his birthplace, and several other restored buildings, we were able to visit his presidential library.  The museum there contains tons of exhibits detailing his life and political career.  We learned much more about Herbert Hoover and his wife Lou.  Their humanitarian efforts impressed us the most, both before and after his presidency.  Our last stop for the day was Riverside, Iowa to visit the future birthplace of James T. Kirk.  For those of you who are not Star Trek fans (myself included), he is a major character in the TV and movie series.  The town has capitalized on this and we posed by the sign marking the spot and by a recreation of the U.S.S. Enterprise.

Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore

Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore

The following day we drove to Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, on the very southern tip of Lake Michigan, in Indiana.  This is a strange park.  It seems that the idea was driven by citizens who were concerned when proposals arose for a Port of Indiana in the sand dunes.  The arguments escalated between both sides until JFK proposed creating both the port and the national park in 1963.  So now, the dunes are surrounded by industry and mills, with the port in the middle of the park.  It’s a strange set up.  It’s wonderful that they managed to preserve the dunes, but a lot of the park acreage is actually marschland and though much of the lakeshore is preserved, the land directly across from the water is often not.  That meant that we could drive on Lakefront Drive, for example, but were constantly reminded by insistent signs that we could not park anywhere on the road, except for one small parking lot.  Also, the signage in the park wasn’t that great, the map in the brochure didn’t show all the roads and there signage we did see wasn’t always intuitive.  That being said, we enjoyed walking around inland at the Chellberg Farm and the Bailly Homestead.  Also, the Lakefront Drive was very pretty and we could get out at the parking lot and walk around on the beach.  In either direction though, we could see what looked like industrial buildings.  Chicago was visible across the water too – which was really neat.  We also really enjoyed seeing the 1933 Century of Progress Homes.  Nothing was said about them in the brochure, though they appear on the map and the park website, but they are from the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair and were built to showcase modern architecture.

Dinner that night was in Phoenix, IL, south of Chicago at Daisy’s Catering Cafe.  The decor and surrounding neighborhood weren’t all that fabulous, but the food more than made up for it.  Up there as one of the best vegan meals we’ve ever eaten, we stuffed ourselves with tasty sandwiches, battered tofu bits, and BBQ tofu bites.  Upon the recommendation of another customer, I had the P.L.T. (protein, lettuce, and tomato).  It was amazing.  Everyone who came in was friendly, and seemed to know each other.  We chatted with several other customers while there.  We left very happily stuffed.

The following day (which was our three year wedding anniversary!), our first stop was Lincoln Home National Historic Site.  You have to be on a tour to see the inside of the house, so our first stop was the visitors center to get free tickets.  While we waited for our tour to begin, we viewed a movie in the theater, telling us about Lincoln’s life in Springfield, Illinois.  This is the home that he and his wife bought and lived in until he left for Washington D.C. and the presidency.  Many of the original belongings of the Lincolns are no longer in the home, because they either put them in storage when they left or brought them to the White House.  Sadly, the Lincolns never lived there again, and it was maintained as a rental property until turned over to the people as a monument.  The tour was lively and I learned that fashion of the times dictated that the inside of the home be decorated in clashing fabrics to represent the frivolity of the colors in nature.  They considered it bringing nature indoors, and each fabric had differing patterns that always included a touch of either leaves, animals, or flowers.

Jefferson National Expansion Memorial

Jefferson National Expansion Memorial

After an Indian buffet lunch, we turned for St. Louis and Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, better known as the St. Louis Arch.  We declined to go up in the arch (tickets were sold out, though we could have reserved them ahead of time), but man made heights like that bother me to an extent anyway.  We spent our time there wandering the grassy park surrounding the arch and perusing all the exhibits in the museum underground.  The museum is quite impressive, with tons of material and information about Indian and new American conflicts and treaties, as well as information about the Civil War and other aspects of American History.  We also had a little time to check out the exhibits in the Old Courthouse, which focused on the Dred Scott case.

Our anniversary dinner was at Lulu’s Local Eatery, a vegan counter service restaurant with a really cute sitting area.  I think we both enjoyed the tater tots that came with our sandwiches the most!

Since we arrived early the next morning at Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site just south of St. Louis in Missouri, we were the only ones on our tour of his home.  It is actually the childhood home of Grant’s wife, Julia Dent.  Once the two were married, they settled in the Dent family home, which was a farm that utilized slave labor.  Apparently, Grant and his father in law had heated debates often about slavery, since they were on opposing sides of the issue.  Poor Julia must have had some fun with that.  Julia wanted to stay in the house with her family, since Grant was gone so often with the army, but although they did live other places throughout their marriage, they always called this “home”.  The house is beautiful and painted bright green – which was apparently very fashionable at the time.

George Rogers Clark National Historical Park

George Rogers Clark National Historical Park

We then went to George Rogers Clark National Historical Park in Indiana.  An historical figure we knew nothing about before our visit, Clark was instrumental in opening the midwest to settlers during the Revolutionary War.  The story of the march he and his men made during the cold winter in order to defeat the British and their Indian allies west of the Appalachians, is one of fortitude and perseverance.  Wading through icy waters up to the their necks for days, while starving, this small band of men managed to take a much larger force down and open up American expansion to the west.  The monument itself is very large and imposing.  Inside, we were able to listen to a recording describing all of the seven murals of George Rogers Clark.

Before returning home the next day, we stopped at our last NPS site of our trip – Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial.  This is where Abraham Lincoln grew up, and where his mother died.  According to historians, this is where he learned to work hard, study literature, and love his family – all traits he carried throughout his entire life.  At the site, we were able to watch a film, wander through the small museum, marvel at the sculpted panels on the outside of the memorial depicting places that Lincoln lived, and walk out to the site of his cabin.  After this, it was home to Asheville!

Advertisements

Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: