A trip to Trail of Tears State Park yesterday.
A long two hour drive south of St. Louis. I'd started in bright sunshine but by the time I passed through Ste. Genevieve County, a thin and uniform blanket of cloud cast a gloomy gray over the land. I continued on, hoping it would break, but it did not. So much for any striking photography, I thought to myself.
Nevermind. It was a pleasant drive, listening to audio Dr. Who stories, and as I exited off Interstate 55, I found a Diary Queen for a quick hamburger. Then onto Mo Route 177 and northeast to the park itself.
The Visitor's Center was closed, a fact relayed to me with typical Missouri courtesy by a young man at the top of the stairs I was about to ascend, so drove off up one of the park roads to a lookout area. Here was lovely view of the valley leading down to the Mississippi River and beyond over into Illinois.
Prettier it would have been with a clearer sky and less ground haze, yet in a way it was entirely appropriate for a visit to this park.
For the history behind this beautiful area is far from pretty. This land was campground for many of the 16,000 Cherokee forced from their lands by President Andrew Jackson's 1830 relocation order. Here they waited for the Mississippi River to clear of ice during the severe Missouri winter before moving on. Many lost their lives here, overall it is estimated that 4,000 died during this early example of ethnic cleansing.
Now the river carries tugboats and barges and this land is set aside for the enjoyment of descendents of the settlers whose arrival sealed the fate of the native populations.
Better that than a series of revolting oversized mansions ruining this lovely landscape. At least the Park acts a memorial and reminder of the darker aspects of American history.
I drove on, finding a pretty lake for boating and fishing. I had hoped to hike a little, but it was late and darkening, so I decided to head back and come back another day with more time and hopefully better weather.
As I drove back on Route 177, I noticed a wide area of fields. Pretty in one direction.
But turn my head the other way, and land was filled with a sprawling P&G factory complex.
Strikingly out of place it seemed in this relatively remote landscape, reminding me of similar sights I had seen in Canada of aluminum smelters in the forests of Quebec.
A huge leap in history and custom from the people who originally lived on this land yet providing much needed employment to those now residing here.