A river vessel of some sort was making its way, ever so slowly, north on the Mississippi River. The soup that was passing for air made photographs a bit of a challenge from the overlook at the Trail of Tears State Park."Treasures of the Great River Road" are highlighted on a sign at the Trail of Tears State Park. If you ask me, and even if you don't, I think the Great River Road is itself a treasure.A little bit of history: Another sign at the Trail of Tears State Park tells the story of French explorer Father Jacques Marquette, who also passed by what is now Union County on a journey south along the Mississippi River.At the end of this walkway at the Trail of Tears State Park, there is opportunity to catch a rather spectacular view of the Mississippi River. If you happen to have a problem with heights, the overlook could be a bit of an adventure.

Please read this...Reacquainting ourselves with an old friend

We renewed acquaintances with an old, old friend one day last week.

In this case, "we" involved The Other Half, yours truly and a visitor from Tarheel country, AKA Nawth Carolina. 

Our grandson was able to share two weeks of his summer with us in the Land Between the Rivers. As might be expected with such things, the two weeks pretty much flew by.

One of the things he seemed to notice while he was in Southern Illinois was the absolutely wonderful stuff that passes for air during the "dog days" of summer. This summer seems to be particularly wonderful, thanks to never-ending rain, the accompanying humidity and the sweltering heat, which, as I understand it, was going to return again this week. Oh, well, it is summer time.

On the last Wednesday in July, we decided to take a bit of a day trip to Southeast Missouri. More specifically, our destination was the Trail of Tears State Park, which is just north of Cape Girardeau.

A glance at a map showed that the state park is located almost directly west of Ware. However, there really is no way to go directly from Ware to the park, unless one travels by water craft. Seems there's a bit of a river between here and there. I think somebody needs to start thinking about building a bridge from out in the middle nowhere near Ware over to out in the middle of nowhere across the river in Southeast Missouri.

On the day we made our trip, the weather was, well, nice and humid, and nice and hot, which seemed appropriate.

Way back in the first paragraph, I mentioned something about how we renewed acquaintances with an old, old friend. Our friend would be the Mississippi River.

I've touched on this several times over the years, but for the Other Half and yours truly, the Mississippi River is, well, just part of our lives, and has been for a long, long time. Our grandson has had a chance to become acquainted with Old Man River a couple of times over the years. 

We also wanted to share a little bit of the Southern Illinois area's history with our grandson. The river, as you know, is part of that rich history. Same goes for the Trail of Tears.

Our day trip journey took us along Illinois Route 146 to Illinois Route 3, AKA the Great River Road, across the Mississippi River on that nifty, not-so-new-but-still-looks-new bridge, through downtown Cape Girardeau and along a winding, curvy road to the Trail of Tears State Park. 

For those of you who have never been to the park (I would encourage you to go), an item printed by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources explains that the "tragic history that gives Trail of Tears State Park its name provides a sharp contrast to the peaceful, serene setting enjoyed by visitors today. The 3,415-acre park is a Trail of Tears National Historic Trail certified site containing a section of the original removal route.

"The park is located on the site where nine of 13 groups of Cherokee Indians crossed the Mississippi River in harsh winter conditions in 1838-39. Thousands lost their lives in the forced relocation, including dozens on or near the park's grounds." Today, we know that forced relocation as the Trail of Tears, and it's a story we all should know. 

The park is home to a scenic overlook which gives visitors an opportunity to take in a breath-taking view of the Mississippi River valley. On the day of our visit, the view was filtered by hazy summer sky, thanks, I think, to the heat and humidity which our grandson found so appealing. 

We took a break from the summer heat at the visitors center at the park, which also is well worth a stop. I know you'll find this hard to believe, but while we were at the visitors center, yours truly had a nice chat with a staff member about trilobites, which would be fossils. Surprise.

On the way back home, and back over the Mighty Mississippi, we completed our mini-history lesson with a stop at the Trail of Tears State Forest in Union County. By the time we got to the state forest, the temperature was well into the 90s, the heat index was well above 100 degrees, and The Other Half was ready for a nap. Someplace where it was cool.

We have plenty of opportunities right here in our own backyard to learn about local, state, regional and national history. It's good to reacquaint ourselves with those stories – and to share them with others.

Enough for now. See you at the Peach Festival this weekend in Cobden.

The Gazette-Democrat

112 Lafayette St.
Anna, Illinois 62906
Office Number: (618) 833-2158
Email: news@annanews.com

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