Day #4: Horseshoe Lake State Park in Illinois

Today was “take a break from driving” day! I am so glad I included this non-driving, relaxation day. It’s been so hot at night, I slept in my tent with side tent flaps wide open wishing for a breeze, any breeze! Last night we had a severe thunderstorm and thankfully no tree branches fell on my tent. I do like counting the seconds between lightning and thunder to know how far away a storm is, although somewhat disconcerting when it is crashing overhead, but all was good!

For this relaxation day I needed an escape to some cool place, beyond my air-conditioned car. Purposely avoiding the hot city heat of St Louis, Missouri and thankfully remembering years ago already having visited Gateway Arch National Park, I drove a few miles to Horseshoe Lake State Park in Illinois for a change of pace.

The 90 degree weather, which my weather app reported “feels like 100 degrees”, had a heat advisory and was only bearable thanks to the 12 mph wind! While relaxing, reading and wondering where I could buy more gallons of water, I heard the Illinois State Wildlife officials were tracking a wandering black bear, at about a 9 hour human-powered walk southeast from where I was sitting. A bear would like this park but will not reach it. I wondered, how is that bear handling the heat?

I saw and heard many birds, but with the heat, humidity and thankfully a breeze I was not inclined to pull out my camera. All of it seemed like work and this was my relaxation day! Unless I saw a bird new to me, the camera with a longer lens was staying put. I did observe some mud-daubers on the inside of the pavilion and butterflies enjoying nearby white clover flowers. I walked in the large fields to a more shaded, but buggy trail, and walked roadside by the lake, saw geese with their young, and escaped back to the shade and breeze at the picnic table pavilion.

As I sat there in the breezy shade, people who stopped by were very friendly. One guy was fixing his drone when I arrived. He is a local person, seen most of the world during his career in the Army, and now enjoys photography. We had plenty to talk about. A few hours later two guys from St Louis on their Sunday drive arrived at this park to escape city heat. Interesting conversation. All of us agreed on this: doing close to nothing and staying hydrated was the best plan for the day!

But, typical of my travel I saw a place to visit and decided to stop by: Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site. Some of the mounds are quite large and have archeological ruins from an ancient 13th century Native American settlement. Researchers started excavating in 1988 and after 2 years of work discovered evidence of 80 houses and hundreds of storage places. I walked some of the grounds and did not have enough time to visit the museum, but many people were there visiting it.

I had to leave this area, return to the campground for a shower, dinner and be ready for an early morning departure. I loved the breeze blowing across the thousands of acres of land. I didn’t want to go, but then again, my car was air-conditioned, and my final destination was still hundreds of miles away!

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