Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Mississippi River Walk - Welcome to Iowa

Colorado or Bust, Days 36 through 38:

Illinois went fast.  Once I finished hiking the Hennepin Canal, there were just a few miles of road walking into East Moline, and soon I was crossing the Mississippi River and being greeted by Davenport Iowa.  The photo above shows my view of the Davenport skyline from approximately the state line on the double-decker Government Bridge in the middle of the river.

But let's go back a step.  That road walk into East Moline.  I did it on a Saturday.  The route uses Highway 84, Colona Road, because it's pretty much the only way to get across the Rock River into the Quad Cities other than on an Interstate highway.  Just across the Rock River from Colona is the town of Silvis.  And on the left is the entrance to TPC Deere Run Golf Course.

Now, I'm a casual fan of Golf.  I haven't played the game since the '70's, but I love watching it on TV.  What appeals to me is the serenity of people strolling in a perfectly manicured park.  They have microphones picking up the birds singing.  It's always so green and peaceful.  When my hiking route takes me past a golf course I often look in longingly, wishing the cart paths were part of my trail.  Sometimes they are.  The North Carolina Mountains-to-Sea Trail has an arrangement with the Indian Valley Golf Course along the Haw River near Historic Glencoe.  The trail runs right through parts of the course.  In Verona, Wisconsin, earlier this spring I followed the Ice Age National Scenic Trail as it runs through the University Ridge Golf Course, owned by the University of Wisconsin.  But today I was not expecting a golf course stroll.  The trail just follows the road past TPC Deere Run and continues onward.

But, as I passed (and I should have been aware of this), I noticed lots of activity, a big temporary admissions tent with pictures of famous golfers plastered on the front window, people getting off shuttle busses and going in, even though it was only 6:45 in the morning.

Turns out that the annual John Deere Classic PGA Men's pro golf tournament was underway.

Well, I had not planned any spare time into my schedule, but I changed plans in a heartbeat.  As I suggested, it's sort of a bucket list item, and I knew I would regret it forever if I just walked by and didn't take the time to check it out and make it part of my Personal Continuous Footpath.

I paid my thirty bucks, checked my camper's pocket knife with security, and marched in, intending to do a circuit of the course.  Here was my chance to stroll a world-class golf course in the best condition it is possible to get a golf course, while rubbing elbows with famous players.

The course fronts on the Rock River (glimpsed in the photo above) and takes advantage of some seriously hilly terrain.

The 16th hole is the 'signature hole', featuring panoramic views of the river from the green.

I walked the front nine backwards, and started early, coming to the 18th before any players had arrived.

It was a brutally hot day, so I took full advantage of the many concession stands to hydrate with $4 bottles of ice cold sweet tea.  I actually finished my circuit before the leaders teed off, but I had miles to go.  By the end of the day I reached the Mississippi River at East Moline.  Next day would be all Mississippi River Walk, All the time, on both sides of the river.  Here is a sampling, starting with a look at the channel separating Illinois from Arsenal Island, with the bridge crossing in the far distance.

Here's Centennial Bridge as seen from the Davenport side

And here's the more laid back Ben Butterworth Park area back on the other side in Moline, Illinois

The river was very high.  This spring it had flooded at near record levels--the fifth highest water level ever recorded.  

Wildlife, of course, didn't mind at all.

Nor did I.  Officially this road (part of the trail route) was closed.  I wonder why.  But no problem for the intrepid hiker.  It made for great wading.

Finally on the third day I passed through the half-mile-long river-front park in the town of Buffalo.  It doesn't have bike trail yet, but again, no problem for those of us on foot.

Here's the set of GPS Track maps covering days 36 through 38.

There's more River Walk to come, but not much.  Then, well you might say the trail starts to 'Hoover'.  But that's another story for another time.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Hiking Hennepin Canal State Parkway across Western Illinois

Tropical Illinois?  The American Lotus, Nelumbo Lutea, was brought this far north in prehistoric times to serve as a food source. Global warming seems to have recently brought the diminutive little green tree frog here.  Online resources say that it can't be found this far north, only in the southern-most three counties of Illinois.

Colorado or Bust, Days 33-35:

The Hennepin Canal was a late comer, and never a commercial success.  It was completed in 1907, long after trains had taken over most of the work of heavy materials transport, and at a time when the automobile and truck were beginning to replace the train.  The canal was closed to commercial traffic in 1951.  All maintenance stopped.  But almost immediately a grass-roots 'Save the Canal' campaign began.  The state of Illinois took full possession of it all in 1970; and as a result the canal remains well preserved.  Unlike other famous canals I've hiked, such as the Miami and Erie Canal in Ohio and the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal in Maryland, this canal remains a functioning waterway along its whole length, and can be paddled and enjoyed as a continuous waterside hike.

Some of the interesting preserved features are two 'lift bridges' located at locks, where the road bed was 'cranked up' to lift it out of the way while barges passed,

Most of the locks exist, including the original wooden gates and some of the original lock opening hardware is preserved.

One early 20th century truss bridge remains in place.  Looks like a flimsy structure, certainly not for trucks of heavy farm equipment.  This particular bridge now goes nowhere.  The construction of Interstate 80 nearby means that it is now a bridge to nothing but a field next to the interstate.

Six of the original nine concrete aqueducts survive--places where the canal crosses a major stream via a 'bridge'.

One of the aqueducts that has not survived crosses the lower Green River not far from the Mississippi.  The Green River is a serious river there, and floods over the years have plagued the canal.  Currently the Trail is 'officially' closed, near that former aqueduct because of a major washout during the big Spring 2019 floods.  As I hiked through, a section of the canal levee was gone, washed away, but the route through the breach was dry.  Every time it rains, however, the ranger at the visitor center warned me, this spot washes over and floods and may be impassable due to swift current.

Hiker take warning.  At the visitor center they suggested that it may be a long time before they have enough money to make the repair.

Elsewhere, the trail remains in great shape, and is reasonably well maintained by mowers.

85% of the trail I hiked is paved, but there were a few grassy sections of overgrown crushed gravel.

Hiking waterfront all day, day after day, is a treat.  My encounter with the patch of American Lotus (Nelumbo lutea) in full bloom, with its giant 'lilypads' was an unexpected surprise.

Other summer flowers provided canal-side 'splashes' of color too.

But who would have expected a genuine 'sock puppet flower'???

Rare sighting indeed.  Here are the GPS Tracks for these three days of hiking the canal.

On Day 35 I reached the place in the town of Colona where the trail leaves the Hennepin Canal and heads into the Quad Cities, first to the Rock River and then to the Mississippi.  Flooding there has also been a problem this spring.  The result:  I got a chance to hike *in* the Mississippi.  Stay tuned for that report, coming soon.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Hiking Hennepin Canal, linking up with the cross-country trail to Colorado

Colorado or bust, days 30 to 32:

The road walk is done (at least for a while).  Now it's all waterfront hiking practically all the time for a week and a half.

It starts beside the Rock River at Sinnissippi Park in Sterling, Illinois

There's a continuous pedestrian/bike trail from there across the Rock River at Martin's landing

to the lock that brought boats off the river and onto the Hennepin Feeder Canal

Canal views are almost continuous from early morning among the cottonwoods to the heat of midsummer noon in the open prairie.

The Feeder Canal crosses the Green River via a concrete 'bridge' called an Aquaduct.

One of the few places, other than your infinity pool, where water overlooks water.  Here's what the Canal was bridging--the Green River

Freshwater mussels live in the canal, and something likes them for dinner

My dinner consisted of the trailside Black Raspberries, coming to the peak of ripeness

This mostly pictorial report ends at the 'Feeder basin' where the  North-South Feeder canal joins the east-west main canal.

Here I rejoined the route of the meandering Fifty Trail and the only two 'official' trails that span the American Great Plains--the Great American Rail Trail and the American Discovery Trail.  Here both use the Hennepin Canal Parkway's east-west trail to traverse the western half of Illinois.

I ended the third day at a well-preserved lock just west of the Feeder Basin.

Hiking was hot.  Summer is in full swing now, and having passed the age of 70, I find that I have to be a bit more careful about keeping cool and hydrated.  My body doesn't handle the heat as efficiently as it once did.  During the hottest days I try to get out early and quit early, shortening the hiking day.  Here are the GPS Tracks for the first three waterfront days back on real trail.

So now I've finished heading south, and begin the westward trek to Colorado in earnest.  Looking forward to it.