Day 111, Trail of Tears State Park, Missouri

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I want to write about this park that means so much to me , but it’s hard to put into words . So I’ll start with the picture above and slowly work my way into it .

That’s Dan at the fence , on the edge of our campsite on the muddy Mississippi . He’s watching the train go by , just like he and his brothers used to do in Maxwell . He told the kids they got in trouble for it , but wouldn’t give anymore details. We’ll ask Grandma Helen for her version as soon as we see her .

We’re on the Missouri side , although you can easily get confused by all the parks with similar names . We had been here in 1998, but I was still convinced , and had 2 maps to prove it , that we were on the wrong shore . Luckily, Dan was driving and he was right !

When we visited in 1998, we were so excited to discover the campground right on the Mississippi , and not overcrowded. It’s a little off the
beaten path . We felt the same this time. There were 30 sites, and only 2 reserved . We got the utilities hooked up , the bikes off , and went out to explore .

This was one of our favorite spots in 1998, and I couldn’t wait to show the kids . The first stop was a grave in honor of Nancy Bushyhead Walker Hildebrand . No thanks to president Andrew Jackson, she was one of the more than 16,000 Cherokees forced to leave their land by foot in the winter of 1838-1839. On foot . In the winter . With hardly any clothing or food . Over 4,000 Cherokees died on the march , and Hildebrand was believed to have died within the park and is buried close to the marker .

Part of the reason for this trip is for the kids to learn US history firsthand . To see how incredible our country is . To recognize what it took for us to become independent. To learn that being an American means you have choices, unlike in many other countries .

Building on the injustices that Martin Luther King preached about for one last time in Memphis , we hoped that seeing the Trail of Tears would teach them what other oppressed people had to endure . Mission accomplished .

And as on any other day , we don’t go overboard on the learning . Hopping back on our bikes , we started the first of many climbs . The road is a roller coaster . So steep on a few hills that 3 of us occasionally had to walk and would be screaming at the others if we made it a foot past their stopping point . Yes , slightly competitive .

The visitor center was closed , so we didn’t know how far it was to the bluff overlook . The park is 3400 acres , and it felt like we were riding forever . We had been here in the fall before and the trees were in their full glory . This time it felt like an alien wasteland. Dan was the same though “I think it’s around the next corner .”

The view was worth the ride . High on a bluff over the river with views in all directions . Eljza took a picture of us and couldn’t stop giggling and wouldn’t say why . I realized why later – I left my helmet on and looked like a total dork ! Very funny .

The ride back took less than half the time there , confirming that we’d done more uphill in the 12 mile round trip . It was a blast ! Had to be careful to not to get going too fast .

So why am I so sentimental about this park ? The history ? That there but by the grace of God and marriage to a white man , my ancestor would have been part of the tragedy ? Or is it the sun , great ribs over a fire and the spectacular Mississippi flowing by ? Or the trains and barges going by day and night ?

Probably all of the above and more. Dan and I were really looking forward to revisiting one of our favorite parks , and expectations were high . We also know that we will never be back . So many spots out west we will be able to drive back to , but there’s no way we’ll drive this crazy far again ! Fly maybe , drive , no way ! So it’s been a very special time and I will carry it in my heart and memory as a highlight of this adventure .

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About sallyljacobson

I live in paradise again, Bend Oregon, after a 19 month RV trip around North America with our 2 teenagers and 2 dogs. It was the adventure of a lifetime, and now I'm on to my next one - selling real estate to those lucky enough to move to Bend. The trip blog is www.gojacobsons.com and my current blog is sallysbendblog.com. Follow along, I'd love to be in touch with you!

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