Sunday, August 7, 2011
We Are Family
August 6: I walked on home turf today, traveling between my cousins in Ottawa and my cousins in Peru. Joining me on the trail are yet more of these cousins, Brian and Nick. Brian McCandless is an army veteran who spent his military career in the 10th Mountain Division. Nick Treest is the son of Al Treest and my cousin Heather Treest. He is currently evaluating the different branches in hopes of joining the military himself.
Historic Ottawa was our first destination. We arrived in Washington Park just as Saturday's Riverfest, an annual weekend festival thrown in Ottawa every year, was getting underway. One of the famed Lincoln-Douglas debates were held here, a series of events that first brought Baberaham into the national eye, leading later to his momentous meeting with Sewcrates in 1980s Los Angeles.
After visiting town we had to change course, as the canal trail threw up yet another roadblock for us. Bikers and hikers have reported bullets whizzing by from the gun range near Buffalo Rock. Although many, Brian included, are skeptical because of the distances involved, the possibility of an accident has caused a four mile stretch of the I&M to close while the reality of this danger is investigated.
Having sent my bullet proof vest home months ago to drop weight, I was more than willing to try an alternate route Brian had proposed.
So we headed across a bridge to the north side of the Illinois River and hoofed on over to Starved Rock Park. The paths were windier and much hillier once we reached the Park, but the scenery was some of the best since Hocking Hills. Canyons, gorges, and rock cliffs line the river here and the scenic views are outstanding.
The highlight is Starved Rock itself, where Illinois Indians were trapped by Fox and Potowatomi Indians seeking revenge. They held the high fortress against all attackers, but were unable to reach any food source, slowly dying from starvation.
At the end of the Park we recrossed the Illinois and found our way back to the canal trail in Utica. I learned about the I&M's brushes with celebrity. Wild Bill Hickok was a mule driver on the towpath during his teens. Al Capone stored his gin stills there, probably because mixers were no problem with Tonica so close. He also had a few dead bodies stored in the Illinois River for safe keeping.
The miles passed pretty easily as we enjoyed one another's company. After spending so much time alone I have decided that I really like people. The voices in my head get kind of dull after a while.
Brian and I were especially proud of Nick, who had never done more than seven miles in a day. He was very tired by the end and fell asleep as soon as we met Sue, my Peru cousin, at our end point in LaSalle, the terminus of the I&M. She took us to her home in Peru where we had pizza and beer with yet more family. One of their dogs made out with Nick's face as he slept.
Having the support of the McCandless clan at the end of the day makes the road work go by so much easier. I'm not looking forward to the fact that I don't know a soul once I pass Peru until I get to Denver. These are certainly moments to savor and appreciate.
19 miles/1234 total miles