Monday, July 30, 2012

Fort Creve Coeur

I must admit that I have lived in the area since 1980 and had never visited Fort Creve Coeur until today.  I learned about the trail yesterday (Sunday) while hiking Illinois Bluff Trail (Robinson Park - North).  In the midst of the approximately 6.5 miles walked, the Fort Creve Coeur trail was mentioned.  My curiosity was piqued and I decided to check it out.  At the end of Park Street, one will find the monument for the old fort that celebrates the early French settlers and heritage.  Near the monument is the trail that leads to the woods and ultimately to Fort Creve Coeur.

The trail starts with a few steps, then a path and then a lot more steps!  On the way back, I counted the steps.  There are 197 of them.  It wasn't bad going down them, but we won't talk about going back up!  At the bottom of the steps the trail continues to a dry creek bed that serves as the crossing to the trail that then begins to go up hill.

From the trail head, there is no indication as to how many steps there will be.  They just keep going and going! 

The path is well marked.  After crossing the dry creek bed where a remnants indicate a bridge once was, the trail begins to climb the opposite side of the gully.  It is a very nice wooded area .  There are several types of wildflowers and native grasses along the way.  Large power lines cross the trail and allow a view of the Illinois River with Peoria in the distance.

The trail continues climbing until it ultimately comes out onto a well maintained grassy area.  Looking to the left, Fort Creve Coeur comes into view!  The fort was open.  Inside there were four small "lean-to's".  There appeared to be an area for horses and another for bunk beds.  It is too bad that a small amount of graffiti marked each lean-to.  There was no view of the river from the fort although there may have been at one time.

Going back the way I came, I took a side trail right before the dry creek bed.  The trail led to the railroad tracks where a long coal hauling train sat waiting for the signal to go.  The Chicago & Illinois Midland engines were brightly painted and appeared in good shape.  Round trip for the walk was approximately 1.6 miles and actually a pretty mild, but enjoyable hike.  After returning to the car, I decided to take a little drive.

I drove along Wesley Road and found a little park on the opposite side of the train tracks that had benches, grills and picnic tables.  It provided a great area to sit near the Illinois River and contemplate the state of the world.  The park also offered a visit to the past.  It has an old two-swing swing set.  The seats were weathered wood and all the metal parts looked really old.  From the park, you can look to the right and see Peoria in the distance or to the left and see barges, the lock & dam area and the I474 bridge in the distance.

This was a really pleasant way to spend a Monday morning!  I have to wonder what other trails I have not discovered.  Any suggestions?

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

An Unknown Treasure

The locals probably knew about the trail at Cooper North Park along Route 29 in East Peoria, but I didn't.  I went looking for a different place to walk and found nothing that looked interesting.  I was on my way back to the house when I decided to pull into the park.  It has a nice parking lot and picnic area, but did not give much of a hint as to the adventure to come.  Toward the Illinois River, there is a choice.  To the left, a trail leads to an area near Jonah's Seafood restaurant.  Straight ahead, the trail leads directly to the river's edge.  I chose the trail to the right.

The trail goes through the woods and is wide enough for a vehicle.  It is mostly gravel.  I do not necessarily like walking on gravel, but it wasn't too bad.  Since the trail is near the Illinois River, the topography is pretty flat.  About half way to the end of the trail, there is a boardwalk that takes the hiker over marshland and backwater from the river.

The boardwalk is fairly long.  There are some views of the river along the way.  Other than guessing how far the boardwalk goes, it was interesting to see the wildflowers and the water plants that grow in the marsh.  The trail and the walkway are a pleasant walk.  I had no idea where I would come out.  As I would discover, the end of the boardwalk ended at the parking lot for Spindler Marina.  I decided to keep going.  Through the parking lot and the campground to the trails north of the campground.

These trails were compacted sand that were little more than ruts from the golf carts in the campground.  The best part was taking the side trails to the Illinois River.  Hard to believe that there are beautiful sandy beaches along the river.  There were quite a few geese, both on the beach and in the water.  Even though they leave a mess, they are beautiful to look at.  It has been a long time since I had walked along a beach.  Sand and tennis shoes do not necessarily go together.  I took the side trails to the river as often as I found them.  It was so peaceful and quiet.  Although I had seen some people biking and hiking along the boardwalk, I did not
see anyone on the Spindler Marina trails, just me, the woods, the sand
and the geese.
The McClugage Bridge was seen at a distance.  I kept walking in a northerly direction and eventually reached the bridge.  Standing under the bridge spans is a whole different perspective.  The trail continues going north, but I stopped at the bridge and went back the way I had come.  By the time I reached the bridge, I was ready to sit a spell, but there was no chair in sight!  Next time I will park at Spindler Marina and keep going on the trail to see where it goes. 

What a great walk!  It was different walking on flat land since I usually hike where there are steep climbs.  It was a nice change of pace.  As much as I would like to walk these trails again, I will probably wait until the heat subsides a bit.  Otherwise, I would have to start very early in the morning.  Walking is great exercise, but it is also good for the soul.  I refer to my hikes as going to the Temple of the Tall Trees.