The Other Pikes Peak


Pikes Peaks State Park was named after Zebulon Pike, and contains a 500 foot bluff, named Pikes Peak, overlooking where the Wisconsin and Mississippi rivers join. During his first expidition to the upper Mississippi, Pike had recommended this spot for the army to build a fort. The army chose to build a fort in what is now Prairie du Chien. I chose the location for our next camping trip.

The drive to Pikes Peak State Park took us about 5 hours due to construction and I didn’t go over 65 when I could. I find the RV hard to handle above 65 mph. The GPS froze up about a mile from my turn to the campground. It wasn’t until I was a mile and a half past my turn that I realized the display wasn’t changing. Luckily, I found a church parking lot to turn around in. One thing about these small roads, there is not a lot of room to attempt a three-point turn in an RV.

Prairie du Chien seems small, but across the Mississippi in Iowa, Marquette & McGregor are tiny.  I found it interesting that in McGregor there is an old church at the end of the main street.  As you drive through town it is the main focus until you reach the end of the street.  I am sure it was planned this way.  It is higher than most of the town and seems to preside over the town like a parent at the end of a dinner table.

Looking towards the church, which is at the end of the street.

Site 43 is nice, shaded and easy to pull into. This is the first time that the description listed the site as level and it actually was. It only has 30 amp electric as all the 50’s were reserved. Also no water so we needed to fill up at the dump station. Once again, we camped under an acorn tree. When the wind blows, we get a steady plunking sound as each acorn hits the roof. At first it was unnerving for Aria, but after a while she ignored the sounds.

Aria wanted to see what I was doing. It is fall, so leaves & acorns fall constantly.

We woke to a chilly morning.  The temperature dropped over night.  A nice hot cup of coffee was first on my list after taking Aria out for a walk.

Our campsite is near the trails along the ridges and river.  None of the trails are very long, nor difficult. Our first stop was Pikes Peak. In Iowa’s version, it is a high point overlooking the juncture of the Mississippi and Wisconsin rivimg_1135ers. From there our hike continued on to the only waterfall in the park.  Gayle brought up a good point, it seems like every state has a waterfall named Bridal Veil Falls. I will need to do a bit of
research on this.  That would make an interesting trip, visiting each Bridal Veil Falls in the North America.  

When our hike was done, we ventured into the town of McGregor to have lunch. We selected Riverview Restaurant & Bar. It was an eclectic mix of greasy spoon meets a Wisconsin supper club and a hunter’s lodge. Formica tables, hardwood chairs, plywood paneling with a couple stag head mounts on the wall completed the restraunt. Along one wall was an old wooden shuffle board game that probably was there when the building was erected. Many of the town buildings had signs indicating they dated back to the 1840’s. The food was good, but not spectacular. One thing to remember when coming to a small town: bring cash. Many places did not take a credit card, like this restaurant.

Gayle saw there was a sweet shop in town, so we sought it out. Not too hard when Main Street in not very long. Some streets were closed off and preparations were being made for a craft fair of some type being held on the weekend. On the side of one building was a painted sign for McGregor Bed & Bath. We headed off in search of soap. We rounded the corner to find our interpretation of the sign was not a shop.  It was good for a chuckle.img_1213

On our hike, we saw a poster for a farmers market in the town of Marquette. We headed over to see what might be found. We found jellies/jam to buy along with a pecan pie, cinnamon-swirl bread and an apple fritter loaf. I am beginning to notice a trend in our camping experience. We tend to come home with more food than we start with; and most of it is sweet. I wonder how many people collect jelly like we do.

I have redeemed myself in making a fire. The past two trips have been campfire failures.  Mostly due to wet wood or no fire starting tinder. Okay, I admit, while in town I bought one of those fire logs that are fake but burn for three hours. I had a choice between that and can of lighter fluid. Another thing small towns lack is the variety of items one can purchase. I think the Kwik Stop doubled as the town’s gas and grocery store. Although it was a great fire, and burned the damp wood, I could not cook my hotdogs over the fire. After turning the first two dogs black with some type of slimy soot, I read the packaging for the log which warned not to use on a cooking fire. Out came the gas grill to cook new hotdogs. Next time I will be better prepared and not leave my fire starting stuff at home.

The sun set and the temperature dropped like a rock in a pond. The fire provided a bit of heat. I looked at the forecasted low of 38 degrees. I sure didn’t envy those campers here in tents. We set the furnace to 67. This was our first night to use the furnace and we hoped it wouldn’t use up all the propane.

In the morning, I checked the propane gauge on the tank. It appeared to have used about 1/4 of our propane keeping the temperature at 67. Sounds like a lot of propane used, but I forgot to check the level before we turned on the furnace. It looked like we were in for a colder night so we decided to set the temp at 65. Gayle felt too cold so I bumped it to 66. In the morning I check the gauge again, and only a slight drop from when I looked the first time. The guage inside the RV still says the propane is full. I will need to have this checked.

Since I have been “retired”, Aria has found a way to let me know she wants me to get up. When I was working, she just waited for me to get dressed then we would head out for a walk. Now, she decides that if she wants me up, she will lick my cheek or ear until I get up. She does this even if Gayle is already up and reading a book.  Gayle doesn’t seem to mind.

For our next day of hiking, we drove to the far side of the park to a small parking area at the head of two trails. We hiked most of the day on a few connecting trails. It was a pleasant hike and we only ran into a couple people. Aria really enjoys our hikes and never seems to tire. I did carry her over a very muddy portion of the trail, as I did not want to deal with muddy paws in my car.

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The park has many effigy mounds created by an ancient people who lived here.  We saw many on our hikes.  Here is a picture of some of the older ones.img_1162  It appears the trees have decided to take root in a few of them.

After hiking we passed through McGregor and stopped at the arts/craft fair. The sleepy town transformed into one packed with people.  Cars were parked up and down Main Street and the few public lots were filled. We picked up a few things before heading back to the RV to start heating the stew we made before leaving on the trip.

The stew was great. The warmth and flavor hit the spot in our chilly RV. Later, as the sun set, we decided to turn the heat on and relax on the couch to watch a movie. No fire tonight as I had used all the wood in the previous fire.

Campers are friendly people. We have chatted with a few couples here as we walk around the campground. There have been people new to camping, like us and those who have been doing it for a long time. The common topics are where people are from, their families and what type of camper they have. Many times the conversations begin while we are walking Aria. Many campers have dogs but I haven’t seen many cats.

Pikes Peak State Park in McGregor, Iowa is a pleasant and inexpensive place to stay. The Iowa Department of Natural Resources does a good job maintaing their parks. The bathrooms were heated. Showers are available and very clean. Hot water was no issue. This may be a location that we return to often. As with many parks, weekends are usually full. Best to reserve online before you arrive.

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