Hernando, Florida to Sheboygan, Wisconsin, 1,360 Miles
Stop 6: Peru, Illinois, July 6th – July 9th
I never intended to stop in Peru, but the project I was supposed to be working on had been delayed so I had some time to kill, plus the drive directly from Springfield to Sheboygan is nearly 350 miles & I just didn’t feel like doing that all in one go. Peru was a nice halfway point with a big state park marked on the map, so I stopped for a few days & it turned out to be an incredibly beautiful area. The campground I stayed at had some interesting patrons: a large Mongolian family who rented a large chunk of the place for the whole summer & set up a legit yurt village for weekend visits. They must have worked hard setting it up, from little glimpses through open doors as I walked around the campground I could see that they were fully furnished with some really beautiful pieces. I think yurt living might be fun, I’d like to try that someday.
Getting to Peru on Day 19 was a 160-mile drive up from Springfield. I made a lunchtime stop in Washington, where I found not only one last Lincoln connection but also one to Father Jacques Marquette. Marquette was a 17th-century French Jesuit missionary whom I’ve been partial to ever since my time on Mackinac Island, where there’s a statue of him in the middle of town. He was quite a prolific traveler so I see references to him all over the Midwest.
On Day 20 I went to Starved Rock State Park, which is right on the Illinois River & has some incredible hiking along a cliff line with lots of waterfalls to visit. I started off my day by climbing the park’s namesake rock, where legend has it that people of the Illinois tribe starved in their efforts to escape a battle with the Ottawa. After a stop at the Visitor’s Center (where I found Father Marquette again) I headed out onto the red trail, which winds along the bottom of the cliff to several side canyons. Wildcat Canyon has the largest waterfall in the park after a good rain. In the afternoon I went for a tour of the Illinois & Michigan Canal on a boat pulled by a mule, which was something I didn’t even know I needed to cross off my to-do list. I never realized how important canals were in the transit systems of the past. The I&M runs 100 miles, all the way from Peru to Chicago. I also definitely snuck my dog into a movie that day. Looking to escape the heat, can’t leave her alone in the tent, certainly can’t leave her alone in the car, so I took her to see Ant-Man and the Wasp. She’s tiny & ancient & deaf so she just slept on my lap & nobody even knew she was there.
On Day 21 I went to a different section of Starved Rock for a hike out to more waterfalls in Tonti & LaSalle Canyons. It really is a beautiful park, I highly recommend it.
Next week: the end of the journey!