Today’s post is 1450 words, 30 photos, an 8 minute read. Enjoy!
After long stretch of posts from the archives, I’m here with some new material! A couple of weeks ago, my Traveling Partner and I hitched the Minnie (our travel trailer) to the Red Rover (the tow vehicle) and headed south. It was a cool 40°F when we left Madison. Our first stop was far southern Illinois, across the Ohio River from Paducah, Kentucky. It was a mild 70°F when we arrived with sunny skies and hardly a breeze. We spent the next five nights camping in Fort Massac State Park on the Illinois side of the river.
Every morning, I would drive my Traveling Partner across the Ohio to Paducah where she attend the American Quilter’s Society QuiltWeek 2023. She was in her happy place, looking at the quilts, attending classes and lectures, and visiting the many vendors. I can testify that the area was filled with quilt ladies and a few men!
Here’s the bridge I crossed four times a day to take and retrieve my Traveling Partner from the Quilt Show.
Watching the tugs and barges go up and down the river is fascinating. Here’s a tug pushing coal up the river.
The curious might be wondering what I did while my Traveling Partner was at the Quilt Show. Stick with me and you’ll find out!
Fort Massac State Park
I wrote a bit about Fort Massac after we stayed in the park back in 2019. Ft. Massac was built along the Ohio River by the French in 1757 during the French and Indian War. After the war, the French abandoned the Fort and it was destroyed by the local Native American tribe. A new fort was built on the site to fight the British during the Revolutionary War by George Rogers Clark. Clark’s brother, William and Meriwether Lewis stopped here in the fall of 1803 on the way west to begin their expedition to the Pacific Coast.
Fort Massac was decommissioned in 1814 and fell into disrepair and most of the usable materials were carted off for other uses. The site of Ft. Massac became Illinois’s first state park in 1908 and later a replica fort was built to resemble how it might have looked in 1802.
In addition to camping, the park covers nearly 1500 acres and offers visitors shelters for picnics, hiking trails, fishing, a boat dock, and an eighteen hole disc golf course. I should mention here that the campground has a new restroom and shower facility since our last visit. A very nice upgrade.
Plus they had one other feature that I used almost every day during our stay, the George Rogers Clark Discovery pedestrian and bike trail. Yup, I loaded my new e-bike, the Blue Bomber, into the Red Rover specifically so I could ride this trail while my Traveling Partner was at the quilt show.
The Bike Trail
The 8.7 mile trail connects the cities of Metropolis (more on that next week), the town just outside of Ft. Massac, and Brookport. About 4 miles of the trail are within the boundaries of the park with the remaining portion on a shared roadway. The park portion follows abandoned tracks of the Illinois Central Railroad that cross southern Illinois. Since the old railroad bed is nearly flat, riding this trail is quite easy for an old guy like me! According to my Apple watch, the elevation change over the nearly 18 mile roundtrip was a mere 54 feet, most of that change was near the beginning of the trail.
Users of the trail can enter in one of two places. One is from near the entrance of the park, this portion of the trail bed is crushed rock. The second entry is by following the paved road through the park to the trail. This portion has about three miles of concrete. I did both during my stay but missed a few turns when I was on the gravel portion and came to a dead end, all part of the adventure.
In the photo below, the trees provide a canopy over the straight as an arrow trail. There were benches strategically places along to give walkers and bike riders a bit of respite. I stopped a few times to listen to the gentle breeze rustle the newly emerge leaves, the many birds making their songs, and watch the squirrels do whatever they do. On one of my rides, a squirrel ran out in front of my bike. We both took evasive action thus preventing another case of roadkill for either of us!
The park has done a nice job with three or four well-maintained bridges that cross creeks and ravines along the route.
The park portion of the trail ends after about four miles, the rest of the route to Brookport is along lightly traveled paved backroads. On this seemingly quiet street on the outskirts of Brookport, I pedaled (with the pedal assist set at 1 out of 5!) past the first house, the dog in the fenced yard started barking. This set off a cacophony of barking dogs at every house I passed for the next quarter of a mile. On the return, the same thing happened, only in reverse. I think I made their day!
As the last dog barked, I passed Bethel Cemetery. I noted that the Sims family appears to be buried near each other. Further back some of the headstones were so old they were hard to read. Looks like a lovely, quiet place to spend eternity except for the barking dogs!
A little further down the road and around the corner, I stopped to take a photo of the car, an Oldsmobile. I believe a 1980. It’s missing the hood ornament and has weeds or shrubs growing through the grill. I’m thinking a fun project car. Then I looked at what appears to be a ramshackle trailer. However, I think someone lives there as the driveway looks used. That makes it someone’s home.
As I rolled into Brookport, I passed at least four churches. This one was closed. According to Wikipedia, Brookport has a population to 725 people (2020), a 25% decrease from 2010. Unfortunately, it looks like it too with many homes and buildings sitting empty, slowly returning to the earth. I didn’t see a grocery store but there was a tavern with a couple of guys standing outside having a smoke. About 20% of the population lives below the poverty line including many seniors.
The trail ends at the Brookport Community Park with a couple of small shelters, restrooms, and a playground for the kids. It was clean but seemed rundown.
The American flag was proudly displayed along with bricks memorializing those who served in the military.
The water tower included the bulldog as the mascot for the local elementary school.
The Irvin S. Cobb Bridge (more commonly known as the Brookport Bridge) connects Brookport with Paducah. My guess is that many of the residents of the Brookport area use this bridge to travel to jobs and shopping in Paducah.
This was the turn around point in my ride. After finishing off a bottle of water, I was on my way back to the campground at Ft. Massac.
With a quick internet search, I discovered this is a new business to Brookport. Although the office next to the barbershop was quite small, it was open for mediation and providing consulting services with Mexico.
This old building looked like it had been recently rehabbed. Maybe things are looking up in Brookport.
Soon I was back on the state park trail towards Metropolis. Just beyond where the trail enters the heavily forested area, I saw a flock of wild turkeys having a walk after pecking their way through a corn field.
On return trip, I noticed this small sign next to the trail. It pointed to a tree about 20 feet away on the edge of some brackish water. Ok, maybe it looks like a winking boars head, I saw a grumpy turtle!
The trail passes under I-24 that travels southeast from I-57 near Marion, IL through Paducah, Nashville, ending near the Tennessee/Alabama state line. It’s a busy highway with a lot of truck traffic. I stopped to rest for a few minutes and listened as the traffic passed overhead. I could feel the ground shaking when the eighteen-wheelers flew by after they exited the bridge over the Ohio. When I moved on, the noise from the road was soon gone when I was under the canopy of trees. Ah, back to birds, squirrels, and rustling leaves.
So that’s what I did while my Traveling Partner was at the quilt show. The one day it rained, I spent at the McCracken County Library in downtown Paducah writing and getting caught up on email.
Finally, thanks for checking out last week’s post, Postcards from London. If you missed click here.
Next up, Superman!
Until then, happy travels!