American Locations 9

The trip is from Lewis & Clark Monument, Illinois, to Kickapoo State Park, Illinois, by way of the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, Arizona

Top of the Rockies Scenic Drive & Glenwood Canyon, Colorado

The next morning we drove north on Hwy. 24 from Leadville on the west leg of the Top of the Rockies Scenic Drive (which took us across Tennessee Pass (10,424 ft.). This time we stopped frequently to look around.

This is an abandoned mining town.

I could have hiked down for a closer look, like this guy in the bottom right did.

But it was a steep climb, so I just zoomed in.

Both the drive in and the drive out on the Top of the Rockies Scenic Drive were incredibly beautiful. We roved around mountain after mountain, one fourteener after another, up and down high mountain passes. An impressive drive. Eventually, we arrived back at I-70 just west of Vail. We continued west on I-70 into Glenwood Canyon. The Interstate through this canyon is an engineering masterpiece. The road follows the Colorado River through a canyon so narrow often the east and west bound lanes are stacked on top of each other. As you can see in these photos.

The Colorado River.

There are several tunnels.

We stopped at a rest area to hike the Hanging Lake Trail. It was rocky and very steep.

But well worth it. Hanging Lake at the end of the trail was a wonder.

There was a higher waterfall feeding into the waterfalls feeding into Hanging Lake.

You could walk behind it.

After sitting down for a while to admire the lake, it was a long rocky way back down.

Near the bottom the Interstate came into view. Almost there.

Then it was back in the motor home to crash. That’s one of several advantages of traveling in a motor home. Your bed is always with you. Anytime you get tired just stretch out in back. After a good rest, it was back onto I-70 to continue west.

Next Location – Rifle Gap State Park, Colorado

American Locations 8

The trip is from Lewis & Clark Monument, Illinois, to Kickapoo State Park, Illinois, by way of the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, Arizona

Leadville, Colorado

Leadville, Colorado, is the highest incorporated city in the country. At 10,152 feet, they call themselves the 2-Mile High City. We had crossed Freemont Pass, which has an elevation of 11,318 feet, yesterday coming into Leadville. Visible side by side to the south of Leadville are Colorado’s 2 tallest peaks – Mt. Elbert (14,440 ft.) and Mt. Massive (14,429 ft.).

After resting a bit, we took a walk through the historic old mining town. It was a sunny day, but at this altitude chilly.

There were a lot of murals.

This mural was especially eye-catching. This is an actual event the town holds in the winter:  horse-drawn skiing.

And this statue of a prospector, which I didn’t get a good angle on.

This old saloon looked impressive.

By the time we finished our walk through town we were finished. At this elevation we were gasping for breath. We had not had a chance to get acclimated, passing from the flatlands of Kansas up to over 10,000 feet in one day. That night it got down to freezing, but we turned on our tank heaters and we were okay. But the next night it was supposed to get even  colder, so we decided not to risk it. We left the next morning for lower elevations and warmer temperatures.

Next Location – Top of the Rockies Scenic Drive & Glenwood Canyon, Colorado

American Locations 7

The trip is from Lewis & Clark Monument, Illinois, to Kickapoo State Park, Illinois, by way of the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, Arizona

I-70 into the Rocky Mountains, Colorado

You don’t notice driving out of Kansas into Colorado on I-70. Eastern Colorado is as flat and barren as western Kansas. People tend to think of mountains when they think of Colorado, but the eastern third of the state is flat. A lot of cattle ranches. But once you can see the Rocky Mountains in the distance the drive becomes much better. Although the mountains don’t ever seem to come any closer. That’s because they rise up out of the flat plain without the benefit of foothills, which makes them even more impressive. Driving through Denver wasn’t bad. We arrived in the middle of the day, no rush hour traffic. Driving up out of Denver into the Rockies on I-70 is one of the best drives you’ll ever do.

We pulled over frequently to take pictures.

This lake was ice-covered, even though there was no snow on the surrounding mountainside.

The original plan had been to camp at Frisco, but none of their campgrounds had opened yet. So we went a little further west on I-70 and exited at Copper Mountain. We drove south on Rte. 91 and took the east leg of the Top of the Rockies Scenic Drive. It was beautiful, but we were tired and anxious about finding a campground. We found one at Leadville. It was only  a parking lot with the units squeezed in as tight as possible, but that didn’t bother us at all. The view was fantastic.

Next Location – Leadville, Colorado

American Locations 6

The trip is from Lewis & Clark Monument, Illinois, to Kickapoo State Park, Illinois, by way of the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, Arizona

Monument Hills, Kansas

Early in the afternoon, after finishing our hike on the Rockhound Trail at Wilson Lake, we continued west on I-70. Since we got such a late start we didn’t get very far. We pulled off the Interstate at Oakley, about 70 miles east of the Colorado state line. We set up in a private campground and crashed for the evening. There was a glorious sunset.

A serious storm was predicted for eastern Colorado, so we sheltered in place for 2 more days. The first day was nice, so we explored. People at the campground told us about Monument Rocks Natural National Landmark. We drove south from Oakley on Hwy. 83 to turn east onto Jayhawk Rd. At the junction with 460 it went from paved to gravel, and we continued east on Grove 3. We followed this until it ended, then turned south on Grove 14. This gravel road zigged and zagged until it reached Grove 16, which we turned south on. We followed this to Monument Rocks. Kansas is supposed to be so flat, but these rock formations were impressive since they rose up out of such flatness.

This photo with our motor home gives some sense of scale.

We were the only people there. So we parked and roamed all over.

On the way back to Oakley, we stopped to see a Buffalo Bill Memorial.

The next day we stayed in, since it stormed all day long. So by the next morning we were antsy go go.

Next Location – I-70 into the Rocky Mountains, Colorado

American Locations 5

The trip is from Lewis & Clark Monument, Illinois, to Kickapoo State Park, Illinois, by way of the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, Arizona

Wilson Lake State Park 2

We woke up to a rainy day, which we spent touring around Wilson Lake. First, we drove north on Rte. 232 to the town of Lucas to see the Garden of Eden.

Here is some information I found online concerning this site:

S. P. Dinsmoor was a retired schoolteacher and Civil War veteran who moved to Lucas, Kansas in 1891. During most of the remaining 31 years of his life, he created a unforgettable legacy in three parts:

The “log cabin” was completed in 1907.  The “logs” are up to 27 feet long and are carved from limestone. Dinsmoor called the home “the most unique home for living or dead on Earth,” and conducted tours of the 11 room house.

The garden surrounding the home was built during the following 22 years. Built of limestone and 113 tons of concrete, the garden tells the history of the world starting with its creation. There are 150 figures plus other forms, from insects to 40 feet tall trees in the Garden of Eden. Sunflower Journeys calls it a work of art, a statement of political & religious beliefs, and a record of Kansas history.

The pagoda at the northeast corner of the Garden of Eden is a stone and concrete mausoleum. It houses Dinsmoor and his first wife in a glass lidded coffin.

After, having nothing better to do on a rainy day, we drove an entire circuit of the lake.

The next day was much better. We left the campground to hike the Rocktown Trail along the lake. Note the limestone fenceposts.

It started with an easy hike through prairie.

Down to the lake.

Where there were some unusual rock formations.

Then it was a hike back up from the lake.

Past some forlorn limestone fenceposts.

And back up to the motorhome.

After completing the hike, we drove south from Wilson Lake on Rte. 232 to I-70, and continued west.

Next Location – Monument Hills, Kansas

American Locations 4

The trip is from Lewis & Clark Monument, Illinois, to Kickapoo State Park, Illinois, by way of the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, Arizona

Arrow Rock State Park, Missouri, & Wilson Lake State Park, Kansas

We drove west on I-70 until we came to the exit for Rte. 41. We drove north to Arrow Rock State Historic Site. We set up in their campground and relaxed the rest of the day. The next morning we left the campground to see the old town. It had originally been an important trading stop along the Missouri River for pioneers heading west, and a ferry had operated there. But the course of the river changed, leaving the town high and dry. But the state has maintained the old pioneer town.

This was the jail. They couldn’t have had too many criminals since it was so tiny.

Since we were 10 miles or so north of the Interstate, we decided to roam through the countryside and get back on I-70 further west. Big mistake. The road we turned onto soon turned to gravel, and sections of it was very rough. We wound all over creation trying to get back to the Interstate. Although it took much longer than we wanted, we did see some nice countryside.

Finally arriving back on I-70, we continued west. We drove through Kansas City out of Missouri into Kansas. There is the World War One museum there I would have liked to seen. I also would have liked to spend more time in Flint Hills. I realize we can’t stop for every little thing, even with us being retired. But since I’ve learned more about Flint Hills, which is west of Topeka, Kansas, I really want to spend some time there. Here is a Wikipedia entry about it:

The Flint Hills, historically known as Bluestem Pastures or Blue Stem Hills,[1] are a region in eastern Kansas and north-central Oklahoma named for the abundant residual flint eroded from the bedrock that lies near or at the surface. It consists of a band of hills stretching from Kansas to Oklahoma, extending from Marshall and Washington Counties in the north to Cowley County, Kansas and Kay and Osage Counties in Oklahoma in the south, to Geary and Shawnee Counties west to east.[2] Oklahomans generally refer to the same geologic formation as the Osage Hills or “the Osage.”

The Flint Hills Ecoregion is designated as a distinct region because it has the most dense coverage of intact tallgrass prairie in North America. Due to its rocky soil, the early settlers were unable to plow the area, resulting in the prevalence of cattle ranches as opposed to the crop land more typical of the Great Plains. These ranches rely on annual controlled burns conducted by ranchers every spring to renew the prairie grasses for cattle to graze. This has created in an unusual alliance between the native ecosystem of the Flint Hills and the people who use it.

The Flint Hills Discovery Center, a science and history museum focusing on the Flint Hills, opened in Manhattan, Kansas, in April 2012.

The rocks exposed in the Flint Hills were laid down about 250 million years ago during the Permian Period. During this time, much of the Midwest, including Kansas and Oklahoma, were covered with shallow seas. As a result, much of the Flint Hills is composed of limestone and shale with plentiful fossils of prehistoric sea creatures. The most notable layer of chert-bearing limestone is the Florence Limestone Member, which is around 45 feet thick. Numerous roadcuts of the Florence Member are prominent along Interstate 70 in Riley County, Kansas. Unlike the Pennsylvanian limestones to the east, however, many of the limestones in the Flint Hills contain numerous bands of chert or flint. Because chert is much less soluble than the limestone around it, the weathering of the limestone has left behind a clay soil with abundant chert gravel. Most of the hilltops in this region are capped with this chert gravel.

The highest point in the Flint Hills is Butler County High Point, with an elevation of 1680 ft (512 m).[3]

Four tallgrass prairie preserves are in the Flint Hills, the largest of which, the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve, (the former Barnard Ranch) in the Osage Hills near Pawhuska, Oklahoma, also boasts a large population of bison and is an important refuge for other wildlife such as the greater prairie chicken (Tympanuchus cupido). The other preserves, all located in Kansas, are the 17-square-mile (44 km2) Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve in northern Chase County, Kansas near Strong City,[6][7] the Flint Hills Tallgrass Prairie Preserve east of Cassoday, “the Prairie Chicken Capital of the World”,[8] and the Konza Prairie, which is managed as a tallgrass prairie biological research station by Kansas State University.

Here are a few photos I found online:

So much for what we didn’t get to see. We continued west on I-70, exiting at Wilson. We drove north on Rte. 232 to Wilson Lake State Park. At the visitor center they informed us they were full, but recommended a campground on  the northeastern end of the lake called Lucas Park Recreation Area. This was a primitive campground with no hook-ups, but it was spacious and more away from everything else. So we set up and spent the rest of the day in the campground. We hiked a trail beginning in the campground through some interesting rock formations.

We also saw a lot of old fence posts. There was scarce wood on these prairies, so settlers used the abundant limestone instead.

Next Location – Wilson Lake State Park 2

American Locations 3

The trip is from Lewis & Clark Monument, Illinois, to Kickapoo State Park, Illinois, by way of the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, Arizona

The Cofluence of the Mississippi River and the Missouri River

We drove south from Pere Marquette State Park on Rte. 100. Well-rested, we stopped several times to enjoy the view. Our first stop was in Grafton at the confluence of the Illinois River and the Mississippi River.

Gazing across the Illinois River we saw a barge coming down the Mississippi.

Leaving Grafton, we continued south on Rte. 3. Although we were backtracking, we now were refreshed enough to want to stop and see the sights. This is a shot heading south on Rte. 100 as it closely follow the river on the right, with the bluffs on the left.

We stopped at Alton and walked around their riverfront.

Here is a better shot of the bridge over the Mississippi we would take into Missouri.

On this bridge we drove from the Alton riverfront on Hwy. 67 across the Mississippi River into Missouri. Less than a mile into Missouri we turned south onto Riverlands Drive. It started out paved, but soon turned to gravel. The road wound through open country into Confluence Point State Park. This Missouri state park is not developed at all. There is only the gravel road that leads to a parking lot on the Missouri River. A short hike through some trees along the river.

They lead to the confluence point with the Mississippi.

That is the Mississippi just beyond the island in the center of the photo.

There are markers at the point.

Looking across the Mississippi you can see Alton.

And the Confluence Point tower in Illinois we had stopped to see 2 days ago.

We walked back to our motor home and drove back out of the park back to Hwy. 67. This whole time the only other people we encountered were several workers planting trees. We continued southwest on 67 to I-270, and skirted the northern edge of St. Louis. Most of the time we try to avoid large cities, unless there is some point of interest we want to see. The traffic was heavy, and it was slow-going until we turned off the circle freeway onto I-70. As we continued west on the Interstate, the traffic grew lighter and the driving more enjoyable.

Next Location – Arrow Rock State Park, Missouri

American Locations 2

The trip is from Lewis & Clark Monument, Illinois, to Kickapoo State Park, Illinois, by way of the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, Arizona

Pare Marquette State Park, Illinois

After stopping to see the Confluence Tower, we drove north on Rte. 3 to Wood River, where we turned onto Rte. 143. We continued north  along the Mississippi River to Alton, where we turned onto Rte. 100. Heading north on 100 was a very scenic drive. On the left the road closely hugged the river, providing great views, while on the right it passed below towering bluffs. It proved very difficult keeping my eyes on the road. We didn’t make any additional stops since we had been driving all day and were anxious to reach our destination.

            We arrived at Pare Marquette State Park and set up in their campground. We relaxed the rest of the day. The next morning we began exploring the park. There was a picturesque log cabin next to the campground.

And a historic church.

The park is on the Illinois River where it merges with the Mississippi.

Outside the lodge trees were just beginning to bloom.

There were also several interesting statues outside the lodge.

Inside the lodge there was this enormous fireplace.

Also, a collection of leaves hanging from the ceiling.

That afternoon, we drove around the park and stopped to hike a trail.

From which we had a good view of the rivers.

Of course, whenever you hike up you have to hike back down.

We spent a second relaxing night there, then continued our trip the next morning.

Next Location – the Cofluence of the Mississippi River and the Missouri River

American Locations 1

The trip is from Lewis & Clark Monument, Illinois, to Kickapoo State Park, Illinois, by way of the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, Arizona

Lewis & Clark Monument, Illinois

I and my wife began this camping trip by heading northwest up I-74 out of Cincinnati, Ohio, into Indiana. At Indianapolis we turned west on I-70. The Interstate became extremely rough through western Indiana. We were happy to cross over into Illinois, and much smoother pavement.

This leg of the trip remained uneventful until we reached Effington, Illinois, where I-70 crosses I-57. There is a huge cross erected there. I found these images online:

This was an impressive sight, but we continued without stopping. We had just begun our journey and didn’t want to get sidetracked so early.

We continued west on I-70 until nearly all the way to the Mississippi River. We exited the Interstate onto Rte. 3, also known as Lewis and Clark Blvd., and headed north. Our first stop was at a replica of the fort Lewis and Clark constructed. It was on the actual site where the actual fort had been built. It was from this location Lewis and Clark launched their historic overland expedition to the Pacific coast in 1803.

We continued north on Rte. 3 to the Confluence Tower. This monument is located on the Mississippi River across from the mouth of the Missouri River. Lewis and Clark began their expedition by heading west from here across the Mississippi and canoeing up the Missouri.

Unfortunately, the tower was closed and we couldn’t ascend to the top. The view would have been great. Instead, we continued  north.

Next Location – Pare Marquette State Park, Illinois