Sunday, October 31, 2010

Ghost Walk of New Bern

The above flower is called Turk's Cap. This bush captured my attention in the gardens of the Tryon Palace. Another plant which I noticed in the gardens is the loblolly bay. I knew there was a loblolly pine, so what is the connection?  An interpretive sign by the bay tree explained that loblolly was the term for a thick soup dish, in this particular case it refers to the swampy areas where the trees are found. We started our second day of touring in New Bern again back at the history museum. We wanted to catch a  show presented by the local radio station, WHT. The show, Count Dracula, was produced by the station in the 1940s. The stage production of the story was done so the audience could see how the sound effects were produced when the story was heard over the radio. The"Ghostwalk" is an annual Halloween event in historic New Bern. This year it involved more than 30 spirits at 16 ghost sites sharing the stories of their lives. These ghosts were people who lived, or had a connection with New Bern, at some time during the 300 years of the town's existence.New Bern certainly has talented people who did well in acting as those ghosts! We heard the spirit of Harry Truman speak about his visit to the First Baptist Church in 1948, and Will Rogers talk about his newspaper article in 1933 complaining about the outrageous cost of the federal court building in New Bern. In 1862 the Battle of New Bern occurred and the city fell to the Union Army. We stopped at a civil war encampment depicting the aftermath of that event. There we saw the dead or dying soldiers;  there was lots of blood and gore with screams of agony in one of the surgery stations. It was all set up to be quite frightening for Halloween, but the fact that in 1862 it was a real happening hit me pretty hard.  At the historic masonic theater we saw pieces of  the shows over the years. Elvis Presley performed there at one time with a band, so we saw his ghost perform. Then we went to the sublime part of the evening and attended a concert of Gospel music at the St.Peter's AME Zion Church. It would have been fun to hear the spirits speak at Cedar Grove Cemetery, but by the time we were ready to walk over there the mosquitoes were out in large numbers. After getting our free samples of soda at Bradham's Drug Store ( we also heard his ghost there talk about how he created Pepsi), and then hearing Madame Moore (1760s) speak at the Episcopal Church, we were more than ready to call it an evening. We would have like to have seen a lot more than we did, but four hours was all the time we had that evening to cover everything.  Today, Sunday, we stopped at the town's historic cemetery after church. A sign there explained that yellow fever in New Bern in 1798-99 filled the cemetery and additional lots needed to be purchased. We saw the gravestones there of soldiers who died in 1862 at the Battle of New Bern. Below is a picture of the monument marking that area and honoring the 70 confederate soldiers who died protecting the city.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Tyron Palace Historic Site and Gardens

New Bern has seen her share of history for 300 years. There are over 150 historic landmarks throughout the city. An important first stop in this city is the North Carolina History Education Center. It features exhibits  and educational galleries covering three centuries of history in North Carolina. I certainly discovered that there is still a lot I do not know in regards to the early years of our country, in particular its land on the eastern coast and the differing races of people who inhabited that land over the years. For the price of one admission ticket we were able to tour the museum, Tryon Palace and gardens, as well as three historic homes from the 18th and 19th centuries. Tryon Palace was the 18th century residence of the governor of the Colony and state of North Carolina. After the Revolutionary War the Georgian-styled mansion served as the capitol of the independent state of North Carolina for a couple of years before the capitol was moved to Raleigh. In 1798 the palace was destroyed by fire and almost a century and a half later it was rebuilt on the old brick foundation. The new palace was built following the original architect's drawings.
 Unfortunately there were no written details as to how the gardens were designed. The landscape architect could only design the current gardens from what he knew of the 18th century estates of Great Britain.
 I found the yaupon arbor interesting. Yaupon is in the holly family, and is the only holly which has caffeine in its leaves. Native Americas boiled its leaves and drank it as a black tea.
 Another unusual bush which I saw on the grounds was that of the french mulberry, also called beauty berry. In the fall the berries hang in clusters on bare stems. It is a very striking pretty purple berry.

Friday, October 29, 2010

New Bern, North Carolina

 We drove through Dismal Swamp as we took a southeastern route into North Carolina. We stopped at a rest area right after entering the state and found out that it was adjacent to Dismal Swamp State Park. At the park is a channel of Dismal Swamp and there we saw many boats queuing up for passage through the canal. Apparently a storm the night before had made the inter coastal waterways unnavigable for small boats, which then created a traffic jam of boats in the canal. John went over to the boats and chatted with the men for awhile. He found out that some people travel like we do, except that their home and mode of travel is on water.
After driving by miles of swampy forests and bogs, we started seeing many cotton fields. It is the beginning of harvest time for that crop. We are now parked in New Bern, the second oldest city in North Carolina. It is a very picturesque seaport town located at the confluence of the Neuse and Trent Rivers. We did a walking tour of the town today and discovered that it is the birthplace of Pepsi. It was the creation of Caleb Bradham ( his picture is in the lower left hand corner below) and originally just called "Brad's Drink". After 1898 it was marketed as Pepsi. We stopped at the old pharmacy where he created the product and joined other tourists there drinking small glasses of Pepsi.
The founder of New Bern was a Swiss nobleman who named the town after his home town of Bern Switzerland. Bern means "bear" and is a symbol for both cities. There are decorated fiberglass bears all over New Bern. The one pictured below is titled "Freedom Bearer".
 One beautiful spot in new Bern is the outdoor chapel of Christ Episcopal Church. The walls of this chapel were erected over the brick and ballast foundation of the first colonial house of worship built in 1750. The floor of the chapel lies over the burial ground of its charter members. Presidents George Washington and James Monroe worshiped at Christ Church when they visited New Bern.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Delmarva Peninsula

Yesterday, Wednesday, was one of those days for us when we had only a hazy notion of where we were going or even how far.  John's main goal was to drive over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel to the Delmarva Peninsula. The bridge-tunnel links mainland Virginia to the southern tip of the peninsula, parts of which belong to Virginia, Delaware and Maryland. The bridge tunnel is supposed to be one of the world's most incredible engineering  feats. Parts of it dips under the water so massive ocean-bound freighters can pass over the top of it. There are two sections of the bridge where the tunnel plunges under water.
Immediately upon arriving on the peninsula we stopped at the Eastern Shore of Virginia National Wildlife Refuge. This area straddles one of North America's most important avian migration funnels. Each fall millions of songbirds, monarch butterflies and raptors converge here to rest and feed before continuing south. By the time we arrived there it was about noon and getting quite warm. We did some hiking in the refuge and at one time counted about a dozen raptors in the sky.  The songbirds were there but flitting about so rapidly that we never identified any particular one. The guide at the visitor's center  informed us that the songbirds were there to feed on the butterflies and the raptors were after the songbirds for food. I think somehow John and I also were part of that food chain because the mosquitoes were certainly feasting on us! After visiting the refuge we continue further north on the peninsula, finally deciding that we wanted to make the 64 mile trip north to see the wild ponies on Assateague Island. It was an interesting drive up the peninsula. We passed fields of cotton, two large chicken processing plants, as well as a NASA Flight Facility. The U.S. space program began on the Virginia coast. It was about 3PM when we arrived at Chincoteague Island, so we drove straight from there to Assateague Island National Seashore. The wild horses stay around the salt marshes  and we were able to view them in several locations of the park. There is usually about 150 of them on the island but we saw only about twenty. Many of the horses are pintos in all colors marked with patches of white.
 I do not believe I have been at a seashore before that is teeming with so many shorebirds and waterbirds. We saw a great number of herons, egrets, snow geese, and a variety of ducks, to name but just a few.
There is both seashore and forest to explore on this island. While hiking in the forest we read an interpretive sign which noted that the Delmarva fox squirrel, once almost extinct, is now making a comeback at Assateague. We were fortunate to see several of them while hiking around. At least I am fairly certain we saw that particular squirrel as he has particular physical features that are different from those of the common gray squirrel. Never thought I would get excited over seeing a squirrel!  Their numbers at one time were dwindling because of the harvesting of the loblolly pine trees; the nuts of that pine tree are a food source for them. 

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Virginia Beach

Just yesterday we were enjoying the fall colors and today we saw mainly palm trees. What a switch, and to add to our enjoyment today it was 80 degrees with a cool breeze coming off the ocean. Well, I do have to admit that the humidity was high so it was not all that perfect. I did enjoy taking my shoes and socks off to walk on the beach. The picture below is of the boardwalk and was taken from the outdoor restaurant where we ate our lunch.
In 2005 a sculpture of Neptune, a Roman mythological god of the sea, was placed along the boardwalk to commemorate the founding of the city of Virginia Beach. It is now one of the most populous cities of the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Also along the boardwalk is the Norwegian Lady Statue. In 1891 a Norwegian ship, the Dictator, ran aground near Virginia Beach. Seven people including the captain's wife and son were killed. In 1962 two identical Norwegian Lady Statues were erected, one in Virginia Beach and the other in Moss, Norway. They face each other across the Atlantic Ocean. Inscribed on the pedestal are these words: " I am the Norwegian Lady, as my sister before me, to wish all men a safe return home".
I had the impression that Virginia Beach was a favorite vacation destination any time of the year. But the streets and beach had only a few people on them while we were there. One restaurant owner said she was starting to close at 2PM because there were not many diners after that time.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Cape Henry Lighthouse

 Today we first stopped at Fort Story before visiting Virginia Beach. Fort Story is a military base that is home to a variety of U.S. Army and Naval Units.  It is also the location of the Cape Henry Lighthouse. The first one, pictured in the above picture, was made of stone and built in 1792. It is America's first federally funded lighthouse, and only one of nine federal octagonal lighthouses that survive today. I am proud to say that John and I climbed all 191 steps to its top. From there we had quite a panoramic view of the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. From that spot we also had a good view of the second Cape Henry Lighthouse, which was built in 1881 and made of cast iron (the original one was made of stone taken from the same quarry which also provided the stone for Mount Vernon).
There is a small park located near the lighthouses. Located in the park is a cross which was placed there in 1935 as a reminder of the first oak cross erected near there in 1607 by the first settlers to America. It was a month later that those same settlers established Jamestown.
In the park there is also a statue honoring Francois Joseph de Grasse, the French naval commander who, by blockading English ships,  prevented General Cornwallis from receiving supplies and reinforcements at Yorktown. Cornwallis was then forced to surrender to General George Washington and America's independence from England was assured.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Chesapeake, Virginia

We certainly enjoyed our stay at Bull Run State Park. Melissa, Dan and Amanda stayed out there with us Saturday night. Dan and Amanda did a ten mile run there Sunday, in preparation for a run they are doing in North Carolina next month. The park is at its peak of autumn colors, but the trees are fast loosing those brightly colored leaves. Leaves and acorns are coming down at a fast rate. Those acorns sure make a lot of racket as they drop down on the roof of our home! Today we left the park and headed south on state highway 17 on the coastal plain of Virginia.  It was quite a beautiful drive because of the fall foliage. And it is an area rich in American history. We  passed many historical markers noting sites of  battles fought during the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. Appropriately enough, we crossed a road named Muddy Gut. And equally strange was the next road after Muddy Gut, its name is Upright. There has to be a connection between those two roads! After driving through the town of Newport News we drove over quite a few fingers of the Chesapeake Bay where the York and James Rivers flow into its tidewaters. We stopped for the night just outside of Portsmouth.  It is hard to believe that earlier this year we were driving along the western coast of our country and looking at the Pacific Ocean!

Rock Creek Park

This park is a city park in the heart of Washington DC. Our son Dan's former place of employment, Environmental Law Institute, had organized a group to help pick up trash in a portion of Rock Creek Park, so John and I volunteered to help with the clean-up. We did not even give it a thought that we would be caught in a traffic jam coming into the city on a cool fall morning, but that did happen and we  arrived at our destination an hour late. The city streets were fairly navigable once we passed the Mall area around the capitol. We spent two hours clearing a section of the park of trash, and our group filled about 22 bags of the stuff. I thought we would be just picking up small scraps of paper, in fact I was given a tool for that purpose, but once I peered into the underbrush, I soon tossed that implement aside and started pulling out beer bottles and soda cans. It was not long before I was also adding wine and whiskey bottles to my collection of refuse. And we could open a hardware store with what we found in that department!  Dan found what he called the "quintessential lead pipe". There were also parts which came from bikes, a broken hammer and a cracked pail. What stories they could tell if they were able to!  I puzzled a lot about the nice padded stroller we found; except for being dirty, it was in good condition. Who threw that away and why?  Another puzzlement to me was the empty bottles of beer placed back in their original cardboard container, and into a plastic bag. If a person goes through all that trouble, why not go a step further and put it in a trash barrel?  We also found many discarded items of clothing, as well as boots and shoes. Hey, if it gets too hot, or if it stops raining, just toss off your clothes and boots. It is fairly easy to find another set of clothes and shoes. Sadly, I imagined, such is the life of the homeless. They do not have the luxury of a car and home, the keys of which some unfortunate jogger dropped in the brush, and which we found among the trash. The people on the sidewalk walking pass where I was working were interesting too. Most of them acted like it was not unusual to see an old lady plunging out of the woods with trash in her hands and smelling like she had spilled a few beers over herself ( I had somehow managed to pour some beer down my leg when I picked up what I thought was an empty bottle). One person did stop and thank me for making the area look better. After hauling all of our bags to the nearest trash barrel, John and I headed out to do some sight-seeing in DC. Dan wanted to show us the building where he is presently employed, the Environmental Protection Agency. It is located in the old post office building. What an impressive old structure! A statue of Ben Franklin stands in front of it. I think he founded the concept of a national postal service.
 It was interesting walking around that whole section of the city. We passed by the Justice Department, also the FBI and IRS buildings. Also in that area is the Archives building as well as the national museum of natural history.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Benefit for Rebuild Sudan

In the next few postings I may be showing more pictures from United States Botanic Garden, as the orchid pictured above. Hope you enjoy them. After we toured the garden Wednesday, we took a short time to tour the Supreme Court building, and then drove to the Eighteenth Street Lounge to attend a benefit for Sudan. Our son's fiance, Amanda, has a friend (Jill Sornson) who is President for the Board of a new organization, Rebuild Sudan. She encouraged Amanda to attend this benefit so she could hear Michael's story. Michael Ayuen de Kuany  is one of the "Lost Boys of Sudan". He is pictured below with Amanda and our son Daniel.
Michael's story is an amazing one. At the age of six years soldiers set his village on fire. Young African boys are always instructed to "never be captured" ( if that happens they will either be killed or placed in an army). Michael walked to the Ethiopian border and was taken into a refugee camp. That was his home for four years until Ethiopia went into war with Eritean forces in 1991. He fled from there to Kenya where he stayed for ten years, still not knowing where his family members were. He made it back to Sudan in 2007 and was reunited with his family at that time. In  2001 Michael was able to make it to the United States where he was given assistance and became a US citizen. He received a bachelor's degree in political science and international studies, and a master's in Conflict Transformation. He has been able to work for the United Nations Development Programme in southern Sudan. Regardless of limited resources he has always felt that God has a plan for him, so he founded Rebuild Sudan. As a little boy he had dreams of getting an education, and now he wants to share this dream with the children of Sudan. I will quote him here: "Children are the future leaders of southern Sudan. These children need to be prepared to lead southern Sudan into a new chapter of peace and global participation". Plans have been made to build a school in his village. The goal of Rebuild Sudan is to raise $200,000 by November 1st so construction on the Jalle school can begin before the rainy season starts. I was happy that John and I made the effort to attend the benefit to hear Michael's story. He certainly deserves to be heard and given assistance in his efforts to build a peaceful Sudan. If you wish to help his foundation out, monetary donations can be made online at www.rebuild

Thursday, October 21, 2010

United States Botanic Garden

By the time we were on our way Wednesday afternoon there was not much time left to do any touring in Washington DC. We always feel a bit over-whelmed when considering what area to explore in that city, and we do try to avoid what we have toured in the past. So that brought us to the United States Botanic Garden. The garden  had its origins back in 1842 when the United States Exploring Expedition to the South Seas brought to Washington a collection of living plants from around the world. The garden was then opened to the public in 1850, and moved to its present location in 1933.  Despite the cool weather now setting in, the gardens outside still had some beautiful flowers blooming. Below are smooth blue asters, and Yakin River Goldenrod.
Shortly after we had arrived at the garden it started to rain. Most of the plant collections were located inside so that did not prove to be a problem at all. After we returned home I chanced to read the park's brochure
and came upon this statement: "from jungle to desert to primeval paradise, the indoor gardens and galleries of our Conservatory offer the perfect foil to a winter day.."  There certainly was plenty to see inside. It is the largest indoor garden which we have ever seen. Below is the garden court.
The garden's collection of orchids is awesome to see. The USBG has 5,000 orchid specimens and
hundreds of them are on display at any given time.
The west gallery is a permanent display which demonstrates how plants provide livelihood, theapy, art and tools in our everyday lives. There are metal sculptures here of plants, in which there are videos explaining some of those details. It is quite a unique way of delivering information.
In this gallery I learned a lot about the many spices which plants provide, and they are even available in bottles so they could be smelled. One thing I learned is that curry powder is not one spice, but a mixture of seven spices. There is some much more I could share with you about the United States Botanic Garden, including many pictures, but I will just conclude that it is a must see on your next visit to Washington DC.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Bull Run Regional Park

We moved our home to this park today, Monday. Last week we were outside of Richmond, Virginia helping our daughter Melissa with her move to Fairfax,Virginia. We managed to get all of her belongings in a 17 foot U-Haul. Fortunately we did have help. Melissa's friend Ryan helped us in Richmond, and in Fairfax our son Daniel and his fiance Amanda gave us a hand with the unloading. At her new apartment we had three flights of stairs to climb, and I am happy to say that John and I are not hurting too bad after that! I told John that we need to keep on hiking and climbing mountains as those activities seem to keep us in shape. Sunday afternoon we drove into Washington DC to attend church with Daniel and Amanda.  Is was another one of those times when we felt we were in a particular place of worship at a time where it was meant for us to be. The organ music and choir provided some awesome music and Pastor John Kidd gave an inspiring sermon on the importance of being persistent in our faith life- both the epistle and gospel readings for that day related well to that subject.  A "Mission Minute" was provided by a inter-racial couple who spoke on what being a part of Augustana meant to them. The church is located in downtown Washington DC, and in a community of people who come from diverse cultural backgrounds. All are welcomed in that church, and, in testimony to that fact, Augustana on Sunday had a goodly number in attendance. Many large inner city churches which we have attended are half empty, and I must say that was not our experience Sunday !

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Beckley, West Virginia

We got into this town late last evening, and found a city park there where we could park our rig. The park overlooks the Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine, a preserved coal mine which offers daily tours.
As I mentioned in my last posting, we have seen some awesome fall colors on the trees as we have traveled east. Right outside our door yesterday in Beckley there was a maple tree with  very brilliant red leaves. Just as we were getting ready to leave, the sun came out and lit up that tree.
Our trip today, continuing on Highway 64, was very scenic as we drove over the New River Gorge and through the Shenandoah Valley. After seeing the Rocky Mountains out west, the Allegheny Mountains did look like hills to us, but local people are quick to point out to us with pride that they have mountains here. The fall colors did not seem to be as brilliant as we continued on further into Virginia, but the trees that covered the mountains still had intermittent splotches of red and yellow hues.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Corydon, Indiana

The fall colors are quite prettier here in Indiana than in Missouri. This evening we stopped in Corydon, Indiana for the night. It is about 23 miles west of Louisville Kentucky. After supper John and took a walk around the town, initially our purpose was just to see the old capitol building. From 1815-1826 Corydon was the state capitol until it was moved to Indianapolis. This town is rich with history. During the Revolutionary War George Rogers Clark captured this territory from the British and gave it to the United States (Indiana was the nineteenth state to join the union). In the early 1800s William Henry Harrison (our ninth president) purchased the land on which Corydon was later built. He had his daughter Jenny name the town. She picked Corydon because that was a character from the Pastoral Elegy, a favorite hymn of her fathers. In 1863 Corydon was the site of the only Civil War battle in Indiana. Brigadier John Morgan, with his troops called the Confederate Raiders, easily defeated the home town guard (his troops numbered 2,400, the home guard numbered 400 men). After plundering the town he "paroled" the captured 345 men, and left with his troops. It was amazing that we were able to glean the history of this town by reading the historical markers with a tiny flashlight! It was tempting to change our plans and stay another day to take pictures of  the historical buildings here in town, as the capitol building, but we must move on.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Rocheport, Missouri

Rocheport is part of the Columbia, Missouri metropolitan statistical area. Clark, of the Lewis and Clark expedition, made mention of the area in his journal when he visited there on June 7, 1804. Besides writing of the flora and fauna at this convergence of  Moniteau Creek and the Missouri River, he noted native pictographs on the river bluffs. By 1875 Rocheport was one of Boone County's main river ports on the Missouri River. Today Rocheport is a small river town, noted mainly for being the trail head near the middle of the Katy Trail. My sisters and I drove over there Saturday from Columbia to walk that trail. Some of you, not being from Missouri, may need a clarification as to what the Katy Trail is. It is a 225 mile-long bike path which stretches across the state of Missouri. It used to be the railway line for the Kansas, Missouri, and Texas. Saturday we saw on the trail an old marker of this railway on a river bluff along the trail.
The initials on the wall are MKT, which is how the current Katy Trail received its name. Along the part of the trail, which we hiked Saturday, we also saw an old bunker built into the rock wall. It was a former explosive storage room for the railroad.
 We had a beautiful warm fall day to walk the trail. On our left side we could view the tall river bluffs rising up from the trail, and to our right we had the Missouri river. Many people, besides us, were out either hiking or biking along the trail.  Fall colors in this area are not very vibrant yet, as you may note in the picture below.
 After our hike we were ready for lunch and a glass of wine. We drove over to the Les Bourgeois Winery where we were able to enjoy a spectacular bluff-top view of the Missouri River while eating our lunch.
 Shortly after we had purchased our lunch the winery became quite busy. People were flowing in from Columbia sporting the Missouri Tiger caps and shirts. A football game was the big happening later that afternoon between Missouri University and Colorado. Today, Monday, John and I are moving east to Virginia.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Laumeier Sculpture Park

This park is one of the St.Louis County Parks. We toured it Friday with my sister Linda and niece Katie. It is amazing that we can still find areas like this to enjoy after all the years we have lived in St.Louis. John and I had been to this park once many years ago with our children, but the park has changed a lot since then and I also think we had not taken the time then to fully explore the park. It certainly is a fun park both for the young and old. I enjoyed Ricardo Cat and had to sit inside him to completely enjoy his mosaic beauty. Katie, my niece, is sitting next to me in the picture below.
And in the picture below Katie and my sister Linda are climbing a hill just because there are steps to be climbed! It is a fun park with all kinds of surprises. Also a great place to take a young child for a hike.
John spent some time analyzing a shelter in the park. Its roof has an unusual design and he deduced that it could keep a person dry should one need to seek shelter under it from the rain.
There is a pleasant forest path through the park, which is where we found the sculpture pictured below. I rather like its title: "Ball? Ball! Wall? Wall!". It is 55 steel-marine buoys. Its creator Donald Lipski reclaims discarded objects and turns them into art.
There is a site map in a park brochure of where all the sculptures are located in this park, and from that site map I counted a total of 72 works of art. We certainly did not see them all!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Lewis and Clark State Historic Site- Hartford, Illinois

Since May of this year we have certainly seen many Lewis and Clark sites. There are a total of 53 sites marking areas of their journey from Illinois to Oregon. I think those two men would be amazed if they came back today and saw how hard we have tried to capture and remember the details of their exploration.  Wednesday we drove over to the Illinois Lewis and Clark  historic site which has a replica of Camp River DuBois. In 1803-1804 the Corps of Discovery established a winter camp there to begin the preparations for their journey to the Pacific Ocean. Initially the men were kept busy building the cabins in which they were to live for that period of time. The Illinois state historic site has a replica of that fort. Today we do not have any idea of its exact location, other than it was at the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers.
In this fort the expedition's men lived in cabins located at each of the four corners of the fort;  Lewis and Clark's cabin was  in the center. Their cabin had a large storage area which, besides the needed supplies for their journey, held about $700.00 worth of  Indian gifts. The visitor's center at this historic site had further details regarding their journey, as well as a replica of the boat which they built to hold the majority of their supplies.The replica is a full-scale 55 foot "cutaway keelboat". I had not realized that they built such a large boat for the trip! A mile from the interpretive center is two 150 feet high towers  from which one may view the confluence of the Mississippi and Illinois rivers in Grafton,Illinois and the Mississippi and Missouri rivers in Hartford, Illinois. The towers are connected by viewing platforms.
Below is a picture of the confluence of the rivers as seen from the towers.
This area is a major migratory pathway for many North American birds. Later in the day we rode our bikes along the levee and saw primarily egrets standing at the river's edge or flying overhead. This location will also be a great spot for eagle watching come January.