2017 Summer Travels: Illinois to Wisconsin


In Illinois, From Lake Rend (green dot) to Utica (B) to Tomson (C). Then to Dodgeville (checkered dot), WISCONSIN!

Oh where to start??? It’s been a month since we last wrote a travel post. Let’s back up to June 6, 2017. We’ve been hitting the road hard and we have had an AMAZING summer so far! If you want to see details/pictures, we post almost daily on our Travel Facebook page, so stop by, look around at our photos and like it if you haven’t already. If you have, thank you! In addition to this lame excuse for not blogging, some of the remote areas we visited didn’t have many cell towers. Oh the internet access woes of full time travelers!

We decided to spend a month in WISCONSIN! How did that happen? When Bill was trying to plan our route back to Virginia, he originally planned to go via Michigan and a northern route. But then something drew his eye to Wisconsin. And we learned a lesson recently: No more “flying” through a state – we want to savor our journeys as we go….

So we decided to see a few new places as we headed north to Wisconsin from Lake Rend near Mount Vernon, Illinois. Bill does an amazing job of finding GREAT places to explore on our routes. Our first stop was in Utica, Illinois, home of Starved Rock State Park.

Our first leg there, to Utica was our longest so far, 284 miles, nearly 5 hours of driving – and not what we prefer, but thankfully, the trip went smooth as silk! We stayed in Hickory Hollow Campground, which had it all! It is a Passport America park ($20 cash and excludes weekends) for full hook up, 50 amp and wifi. It was conveniently located with easy access in and out and very well maintained. Our site, G3, was relatively flat. We did have an issue with the 50 amp circuit breaker. It blew a few times – so they sent out their on-site electrician who fixed it in a flash! He said they were going to close soon for a short time to re-do their electric hook ups. 

We arrived around 3:00 pm. While Bill hooked up, I drove about 15 minutes to Starved Rock State Park to get a hiking map – the on-line access to figure out which trail to hike was complicated! Plus, it was great to get oriented as we are never sure how things will be until we get there….

After I returned with the map, I was excited as it looked like there was an easy hike to see a small canyon….Only for Bill to THEN say we were fortunate as we could have had a disaster like Wheeling It when their tow car became detached on one “arm” and suffered car and motorhome damage! Their clamp actually broke, but ours just didn’t properly attach – Bill learned a GREAT lesson that day! He hadn’t realized with over 10,000 tow miles there is a certain way to insert the pin.

After we thanked God for our safe journey, we were energized and decided to take on an “easy” hike – and of course, you have to know it wasn’t easy! We didn’t take our poles – I couldn’t decide while I was crawling up the hillside on all fours if the poles would have helped or not! And sadly, we didn’t get a picture of the trail hill we conquered…we were too busy hanging on for dear life and wondering why they said this was an easy hike. Turned out, there was a MUCH easier way to tackle it.  Here are a few pictures from our first day hiking adventure:


This is my “after” picture.  We thought we were going to take an easy hike to Aurora Canyon. We’re newbies when it comes to canyon hiking….


This was where we “climbed” up to on all fours – but to the bottom of the Aurora Canyon. And now we have a bird’s eye view. So how does that work?


Finger pointing to where we were at the bottom of the canyon. It wasn’t as glamorous as we thought a canyon would be, but the challenging hike made it worth it.


We didn’t know we’d see another canyon on this hike! Not much different from Aurora Canyon.

We are loving the longer days in Central Time! We started this hike around 5:30 pm, after dinner. We finished it by 7:30. We stopped and talked with a few families, but by 7:15, the mosquitoes came out for their dinner! So we hustled back to the car. We had no idea how much we accomplished. Below are some map images of our three days of hiking, where we nearly hiked the entire park – but sadly, we didn’t go to the actual Starved Rock!

Let’s get oriented before we show you more pictures. This main overview of the hikes with individual hikes are on this website (go there and you will see why it was confusing to figure out the trails.) First is a snapshot of an overview of the park, with the hikes we completed outlined in yellow highlight. French Canyon, Lover’s Leap and Eagle Cliff were just too busy (and had lots of stairs) for us to try.


Overview of 16 hikes and the point of interest. We completed hikes 5-16.

Day 1 Hike

Day one, we hiked from Aurora Canyon to St. Louis Canyon. We didn’t see Kickapoo, but apparently it was there. This was just over 3 1/2 miles and took us just over an hour to complete in moving time!

Day 3

Day 2 was very aggressive, over 8 miles! It was Thursday, so we didn’t really see too many people on the trails. We parked near Lasalle Canyon (see the P in brown?).  We went to Owl Canyon Overlook, then Hidden Canyon, over to Hennepin Canyon, Ottawa Canyon and Kaskaskia Canyon and back. We got the car and drove over to  parking near Illinois Canyon as you had to walk on a busy road to get there!

On day two, Thursday, June 7, 2017, we hiked about 8 miles and saw the majority of the Canyons and they were amazing. But it hadn’t rained for a while so the falls were not so magnificent – but it was still so amazingly beautiful. Here are just three pictures to try to show the magnitude of these canyons!

Sad we didn’t see the waterfalls, more like water trickles this time of the year. But the hike through the canyons was amazing anyway!
Pretty amazing we are in Central Illinois! Who knew there were canyons like this???
Bill snapped a pic of me snapping a picture of the canyon. Who knew there would be so many trees in a canyon, too?

On our day three, a Friday, June 8, 2017, we figured it would be a busier day so we planned accordingly. But we never expected such HUGE crowds! We love solitude when we hike. We were so glad we covered most of the trails the day before. We tried to enjoy the magnitude and beauty of the remaining canyons, but we skipped some because of the crowds. We still managed to hike about 5 1/2 miles.

Day 3, we basically hiked to the LaSalle Canyon (it was like spring break at the beach), then to Tonty Canyon – not as many people hiked to it, but due to a bridge shut down, we had to go back through LaSalle to go back to the main trail. We hiked along the Riverview trail to the Beehive Overlook. We had hoped to see more, but the crowds just zapped us!
LaSalle Canyon, was like Spring Break! The teens loved it! We were glad we had our poles as it was a bit slippery and they helped us….but we sure felt old next to all the youth hopping around without a care!
Some canyons just had a sign off the main trails!
We were mainly on the River Trail after LaSalle Canyon. It was wide enough we could share the trail, but it did get a bit crowded at times.
The River Trail – was actually beautiful. We didn’t really need the poles as some of it was concrete, but we never think to fold them up and put them in my backpack!

To see more pictures of Starved Rock State Park, click here for day 1, click here for day 2 and/or click here for day 3. Sorry, there are just too many for me to try and process….internet connectivity issues????

Our next leg of our journey out of Illinois was much easier and about as perfect of a route as it can get. BUT since we were heading to VERY unknown territory,  we only traveled just under 100 miles. It only took over two hours drive time. We selected Thomson’s Causeway, a US Army Corps of Engineers due to it’s proximity to our route into Wisconsin. We arrived the first day it opened for the season, due to flooding! It was rather pleasant park, small and had electric only (we had a 50 amp site). They had water spigots around the campground, but we were about 5 feet to far away to top off our tank! We stayed there June 10 – 15, 2017 and at $10 a night, it was a real bargain!

We were on site 100. Nice and flat on concrete!
There were a few sites that had a view of the river, but of course, they were booked well ahead of time.

Since the park was small and the town very rural, we decided to explore the area. We saw a “Visitor Center” when I googled it, only about 10 miles away, so we headed out to get information about the area. What we could see via the internet, there just wasn’t much to do or see around here…and as it turned out, it was no longer a visitor center. It was now called the “Ingersoll Wetlands Learning Center.” This is a very rural and remote location we were staying in. They tried to be helpful, but couldn’t help us with hiking options.  The center had nice geographic maps on the walls of the area so we were able to quickly learn, our best “hiking” was going to be around our campground. We went back to the campground and learned our way around – we discovered we could get in a 5 mile walk a day without going in circles! And we learned what “pit” toilets were! Thankfully, since we have our own bathroom, we’ll do all we can to avoid visiting a pit!

Our route around the campground. While much of it was in the shade, there were a few stretches in the sun! It was 91 this day!

The next day, Sunday, while looking for a church, we learned we were close to Iowa! We selected a church there to attend and discovered a sweet little town with some tourism options. We ended up spending a few days touring around Clinton, Iowa.  We hit up a grocery store but missed a 1:00 pm tour of the Lock and Dam 13. So we went back on Monday, we watched a barge go through it on our way back over to Clinton.

Bill’s first time to watch a barge go through a lock and dam! It was fascinating and I was able to “interview” several crew members while they were waiting for the water to fill the lock. They basically live on the barge for 30 days then are off 30 days. It’s a rough life but someone has to do it!
What a beautiful welcome sign! Too bad about the name, though. We didn’t hold it against them…..

We then visited the unique Sawmill Museum and learned about the lumber business that put Clinton, Iowa on the map!  Here is an excerpt to explain what we experienced in a nutshell in this quaint museum:

Located at 2231 Grant Street, Clinton, IA, Phone: 563-242-0343
Lumber built Clinton, not just the buildings and barns, but it fathered the industry that brought the railroad, the immigrants, and the entrepreneurs. Listen to the legends and stories that made the lumberjack a national hero, then experience what life was really like in a lumber camp. Hear the buzz from the saw mill as logs are cut into the lumber and envision the workings of the Struve Mill where hundreds of pieces of wood became beautiful trims, doors and flooring. Catch a glimpse of a worker’s life or entertain with the millionaire’s family as you visit “Clinton, the Lumber Capital of the World” and other exhibits at the Sawmill Museum.

I thought I’d help him hold his ax! Handsome guy, isn’t he?

Click here to see more photos of the Lock and Dam and the Museum.

One such millionaire we learned about in the museum was George M. Curtis.  We decided we had to tour his mansion (see our pictures here) the next day.

Beautiful mansion, but under some structural repairs. It didn’t interfere with the tour.

Located at 420 5th Avenue South | Clinton, IA | 563-242-8556
Constructed in 1883, the Mansion was the home of lumber baron, George M. Curtis. It served as a showcase for his business with each room featuring a different wood and decorated with the flower of the tree from which the wood was obtained. Feel the essence to what it was like to enjoy afternoon tea on the veranda of a Victorian mansion – home of millionaire lumber barons.

After we toured the home, we still have time to do something else interesting. A friend and her husband just did some traveling in their new Class C. They stopped in LeClaire, Iowa to visit the Antique Archaeology store, you know, the Pickers? Since we are fans of the show, we decided we’d make the additional 20 mile trip down there. This map shows us in Thomson, Illinois (green dot), trip around the lock and dam area of the Mississippi, to Clinton, Iowa (B dot) then down to LeClaire, Iowa. The round trip was about 60 miles – more than we normally like to do, but we’re so close!

Green dot is where our campground is, in Thomson, Illinois, see the lock and dam area of the Mississippi, then cross over the river into Clinton, Iowa, then followed the river down to LeClaire, Iowa, the checkered dot.

The day we arrived in LeClaire, they were filming the show. We could hear Dani on the phone with Mike Wolfe and Frank. If you don’t recognize these names, they are on the History Channel, The American Pickers. We weren’t able to see inside the storefront where Dani allegedly holds down the fort. But we were able to shop in the “warehouse” next door. Bill has been an iced tea drinker since a teen. NEVER would he drink a hot drink. But that changed with his “heart disease” (he’s fine, really, some doctors just overreact to what a heart CAT scan might reveal)….he had to radically change how he eats and drinks! He did a lot of research and learned a cup of hot green tea of a morning would be good for him. He was using a wimpy “tea” cup so we finally got him a manly tea cup:

Bill finally has a manly tea cup!
This is where you see Dani taking care of business! The man behind me is part of the filming crew and she’s inside. We could hear her distinct voice!
Bill, always the car man! Ii asked him what his favorite genre of cars is….geez, he just rattled off a lot – then said he likes them all except foreign cars (although we’ve owned a few).
Bill inside the warehouse, aka, store! He recognized so many things that were “picked” on the show!

For a few more pictures of our time in LeClaire, click hereI spoke to a new employee in the store. Since she was new, she couldn’t tell us much. She did tell us Mike’s mom lives in town so he does come by periodically. She did like the fact we said we were fans of the show – job security for her!

So why did we decide to spend five days in this remote location? And then we seemed to travel to do anything fun? Well, we really needed the time to also figure out what we were going to do in Wisconsin. We hadn’t had much time to do that research. Sometimes you just have to get away to get away! But we actually really liked this location since it helped us discover Iowa! We’ll add Iowa as a state to spend more time in after the positive experiences we had.

And finally, we headed to Wisconsin! So much to do and see and so little time!!! For our first leg there, since it was going to be all new territory, we kept it short. We only drove 90 miles and took under two hours drive time to get to our first destination. We were limited on where to stay as we learned many RV campgrounds don’t have full hook ups – we are spoiled since we have a full sized refrigerator – we need 50 amps, and I love to wash a load of clothes every day. Hiking like we do means we could “dirty” two sets of clothes a day. We had wanted to get closer to Madison, but as it turned out, Dodgeville was the perfect location and we had a fabulous introduction to Wisconsin. So stay tuned…..

I guess this is as big of a sign you’ll get on a back country road into Wisconsin….

Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust Him, and He will help you!” Psalms 37:5

10 thoughts on “2017 Summer Travels: Illinois to Wisconsin

  1. Great post. We traversed the same areas you did. Wasn’t it awesome. We were never aware of how many wonderful areas there were in that state. Thanks for taking us along with you and re-opening the memory bank.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Don’t you love finding things like canyons to hike in the most unexpected places? And to visit Antique Archeology and actually hear Dani on the phone! Your trip is off to a great start!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes it was a great start! Since I saw their one van up close, I easily recognized it in Wisconsin when we first arrived! Then we saw that show a month later talking about the Wisconsin pick! And they were at The House on the Rock-where we kept hearing his voice saying he was drunk on junk! The we were drunk on Falls! Things I hope to blog about!!!
      Canyons are amazing wonders!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. You’ve found some great hikes. Very nice canyons. Too bad it hasn’t rained so the falls had water. Keep up the great work hitting the trails!!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Mary Raymond

    I love your posts! I am just beginning to explore but I will be extending my travels soon. Thank you for sharing. It gives me so many ideas.

    Liked by 1 person

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