|Horseshoe Mound, just south of Galena|
Galena is located near the rugged banks of the Mississippi river among storybook hills reminiscent of Ireland. The town itself has a famously picturesque Main street lined with boutique shops and historical sites. Not surprisingly, it is frequently mentioned as a destination for bikers and road-trippers and nearly everyone in metro Chicago has spent at least 1 weekend here. This would likely be the first of many trips for us.
|Driving to Galena was just as enjoyable as the stay|
We got up early on Saturday and enjoyed breakfast at the hotel. Blueberry crêpes, potatoes, sausage, eggs and Irish crème coffee was the best "continental" breakfast we could ask for. With calories to burn, we headed across to our neighboring state and enjoyed Dubuque and the Mines of Spain Recreation area. I've not spent much time in Iowa but I walked away with the impression that the Mines of Spain had to be some of the better hiking in the upper Mississippi river valley.
|Main Street, Galena|
It is very fortunate that the hills of Galena offer much in the way of walking exercise because we must have consumed a week's worth of food in our weekend. Downtown Galena had about as many delightful and locally-sourced restaurants as our downtown Chicago neighborhood but with a distinctly rural sophistication. Fried Green Tomatoes and One Eleven Main lived up to their praises on yelp.
Galena has an abundance of open space and public parks that are as pleasant to walk as downtown. Grant Park pays tribute to General Ulysses Grant and the 8 other civil war generals which called the town home. A pedway across the river also gives one appreciation of how massively the river can swell during the spring.
|Grant Park Flora|
|View from the top of the town|
We felt that we had done enough walking and eating to justify a retreat to the hotel for the evening. Usually I'm one to stay out until the sun goes down doing outdoorsy things but we really enjoyed the ambiance of the Irish Cottage. There was live music and Irish Dancers at the pub and a surprising amount of talent with both.
|Stand Up Paddleboarders on the Galena River|
We spent another lazy morning gorging ourselves on another gigantic "continental" breakfast of quiche and sausage. Horseshoe mound was the destination of the morning. At over 1,000 above sea level, it offered a 40 mile panoramic view of the Mississippi River Valley and Galena. It was strange to think that we were still in Illinois- could have sworn I had somehow traveled back to New England.
Our return trip to Chicago was punctuated by several stops along Highway 20 with similarly sweeping views. Northwest Illinois had so much in the way of outdoors and I was eager to return for more exploration. We did make a brief stop in Apple River Canyon State Park. If there wasn't already a place in the state named "The Little Grand Canyon", I name it for Apple River Canyon.
Without a topographic map, it would be easy to miss this 300 foot gorge which is encircled by miles of dairy farms. We almost thought we missed it until the road took a precipitous drop into the canyon and it's shady oasis. Three creeks converge at this point to carve a Utah-like slot which is noticeably cooler on otherwise humid June days. A favorite spot for fishing and hiking, we were enamored by the novelty of this rugged canyon.
|Hiking Apple River Canyon State Park|
|A perfect spot for fishing or a picnic|
Read. Plan. Get Out There!