Were still near Muscatine, but moved from Fairport State Recreation Area to Shady Creek, a campground run by the US Army Corps of Engineers just a couple of miles up the Mississippi. The Corps has 26 campgrounds along the Mississippi River and it only cost us $9 to stay here. One crazy rule at the Corps campgrounds is that you can’t just take a non-reserved spot by filling out a reservation card and putting it in a metal container, or “iron ranger” as Jim calls them, and then putting a reserved sign at your campsite. Instead, you have to register in person during a specific couple of hours each day. We were only second in line and it took 45 minutes to register. By the time we left, there was a big line behind us, but they were all talking about the local sights and didn’t seem to mind. Oh, the more relaxed life of the retiree.
We took a hike at Wild Den State Park which is just a few more miles up river. Our hike started at at the Pine Creek Grist Mill, built in 1848 by Benjamin Nye, one of the area’s first settlers. Attention post office folks: He also built the first post office in Muscatine County in 1838. The forest is full of oak, walnut and maple trees and has lots of underbrush. Jim, who was a forest ranger in Oregon for 20 years, said deciduous forests “creep him out.” We were trying to pin point why, and decided it’s the underbrush (you don’t have much of that in a pine forest and it’s easier to get off the path if you have to) and the moldy/musky smell from all that organic decay that makes the soil so great. The crazy cicadas sounding like a hundred electric high-tension wires buzzing at once don’t help either. Jim will either get used to it or be creeped out for a good many more hikes. I’m betting on the former.
Fact about Muscatine: The MIssissippi River near here was once so filled with mussel shells that the bottom of the river was like a cobblestone street. In the late 1880s, a German immigrant and button cutter names John Boepple thought the mussel shells made great shiny buttons, and by 1905, 1.5 billion buttons --- 40 percent of the world’s supply -- were manufactured out of Muscatine. The industry declined by the mid 1900s -- tourist literature says the mussel beds were over fished and people preferred “new, more durable materials” --- I’m thinking plastic buttons and metal zippers.
View of the Mississippi River from the back window of our rig.