Shakedown Drive – Days 3-5

Day 3: Kentucky and Illinois

Watched the sun rise over Kentucky Lake and caught glimpses of a few nice birds, including an American White Pelican. Then drove around Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Areas for a short bit before heading up into Illinois

In Illinois I spent some time wandering through the Cache River area where there are a number of different federal and state parks.

I contemplated going off trail and walking through the cypress in preparation for Florida, but the 30° temperatures kept me out of the water. I did have blue skies, which was a nice change from the previous grey days.

Lots of big old trees in the area – the biggest bald cypress I saw was over a thousand years old and had a 43-ft circumference at the roots.

Then crossed over into Missouri, had a late lunch in Cape Girardeau, then camped next to train tracks at Trail of Tears State Park.

Day 4 – Missouri

Spent the morning at the Gateway Arch National Park (which just got national park status this year). Freezing rain alternated with snow for much of the morning.

After the arch I drive up to Clarence Cannon National Wildlife Refuge for some birding. Lots of Northern Harriers sweeping across the marshes.

Temperatures were dropping into the teens and it was a few hours past sunset when I got to the area where I wanted to spend the night, so I used up some points and stayed in a hotel. Showers are nice.

Day 5 – Iowa, Illinois, and home

In the morning went to Port Louisa National Wildlife Refuge, then to a city park in Muscatine before crossing the Mississippi back over into Illinois.

In the afternoon drove through Emiquon National Wildlife Refuge then stopped at Chautauqua NWR. The lake was largely frozen over, but in one of the open spots I did see four Greater White-fronted Geese – a new life bird for me. And some of the neighboring fields were full of Trumpeter Swans.

Then it was a very long drive back home.

Things I learned on the trip: I need to pack less stuff overall. I want to take out the car’s  rear seats and move the fridge to the back if possible. If tenting I want to arrive at the campsite before dark. I do not want to make the effort to visit a brewery in every state – too much extra planning required. I want to make the in-car sleep situation easier to manage.

18 days until I leave for Florida.

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