Along the Mississippi: Perot State Park, WI

I have to thank my friend Louie for this one.  We were looking for a place to peep fall leaves and he suggested this State Park.  Does not matter the state, the Mississippi river side is almost always one of bluffs, hills, and tall vantage points.  In the Midwest this brings welcome change from the flat countryside although the un-glaciated or “driftless” regions of Wisconsin also have elevation respite (the glaciers moved laterally through much of the Midwest and flattened the landscape my beloved Southern Illinois and large swaths of Wisconsin escaped this treatment). 

Perot State Park is a little north of La Crosse near the town of Trempealeau.  We saw little of Trempealeau and were pretty disappointed with what we saw of La Crosse.  The Great River State Trail (an old train track converted to a bike trail) passes through this area and maybe some day we will get a chance to ride on it.  Louie said he liked it.  He also said he once saw a bear on a different bike trail an hour or two north of that one  (I’m assuming not on a bike).  Perot State Park has a great campground and many trails leading to views of the Mississippi and its valley.

We have seen much of the Mississippi, but in an altogether disjointed and segmented way (kind of like the movie Pulp Fiction).  I do not want to ruin the ending for anyone but (spoiler alert) its endpoint is New Orleans and Corey I saw it spill into the Gulf prior to getting married.  A few years later we were newlyweds and saw its beginning in Lake Bemidji.  We have also crossed it many times, usually by bridge but also by ferry both large and small (the small was a little barge that could not take more than two or three cars from St. Genevieve, MO to a corn field outside of Chester, IL.)  And it was just a couple of weeks ago we caught up with our old friend at is midway point in Cape Girardeau.  The old lady was looking good, her waves gently lapping onto the bank just east of the city sea wall.  There have been other meetings of course, some of them mentioned in earlier posts.  Don’t be too surprised if you hear us mention this friend again because each time we go over the mighty waterway we feel the pull of her power and a hint of her history.

River Towns of the Midwest: Cape Girardeau, MO

Crossing over the Mississippi into Cape Girardeau we smiled at the big sign greeting us; “Cape Girardeau, hometown of the big mouth idiot Rush Limbaugh.”  Actually I just made that up.  There was no sign that I could see, but the visitor’s guide did indicate that one could take a self-guided trip past the hospital he was born in as well as other markers to that dopey bigot.

For the same reason why I wanted to fall in love with Mark Twain’s hometown of Hannibal, MO, I wanted to find serious fault with Cape Girardeau.  Ironically, it was Hannibal that felt worn out and offered to us only the most narrow of glimpses into its past.  Cape Girardeau, in contrast, had a friendly and comfortable feel.  Like many river towns, it was built on steep bluffs and seemed to rise up over itself with an elevated courthouse standing guard over the city.  The historic waterfront possessed a good number of 19th century buildings and just enough bars to remind everyone that Cape Girardeau is the home of Southeastern Missouri State University.  And lest you forget that Cape Girardeau is a river town, the waterfront is protected by a sturdy floodwall that tells, through colorful murals, of the interplay between river and town over the last three hundred years.