Showing Off Her Colors by Tom Yinger
It’s November now, with the election behind and a chill in the air in the early mornings.
The cool weather usually comes later in Illinois’ southern counties than it does in places like Batavia, where I grew up. But come it does, and with it the decorative work that nature does with our deciduous trees.
We see occasional color at different times of the year, the maples turn their white bottoms toward the sun to indicate they need rain, some of the trees begin to change color when there is a prolonged drought. We had a long drought this summer, and precious little rain since the end of September.
The greatest coloring has been taking place in the last few weeks. We’ve had a few frosts, and the reds, yellows and maroons have made their appearance. There are lots of places in Southern Illinois where you can enjoy the fall colors, particularly if you travel roads like US 51, Illinois 154, Illinois 127, Illinois 3, and Illinois 149. I drove 51 south of Carbondale, always a lovely ride, with the Shawnee Hills providing surprises around every curve, to Anna, and then west on Illinois 146 to Jonesboro. Jonesboro is the location of the southernmost of the Lincoln Douglas debates. I followed the roundabout in Jonesboro, turning away from the 1858 Senate election this time, to the 2010 Grapevine Trail. I drove Illinois 127 south out of Jonesboro toward Tamms. There are areas along this route where the tree cover is sometimes close to the road, and at other places, pulled back far enough so that it provides a good view for driver and passenger. I followed the highway south to Tamms turn right onto the Grapevine Trail. There are farms along the road, and there are sometimes farm equipment moving slowly along the highway, so caution is needed. This is a curvy road, so passing zones are few and far between.
As you complete your tour on the Grapevine Trail, you will be passing through McClure, a small town in Alexander County. It meets Illinois 3, our portion of the Great River Road, here in McClure. If you turn right, you will be passing some very pretty country, along what is called the American Bottom. This is the flood plain of the Mississippi River, and extends quite a distance to the East between McClure and Illinois 149. The bluffs are considerably closer to the road to the north, toward Chester, and the St. Louis suburbs.
If you plan to pay us a visit, there are several places you might choose to stay. There are bed and breakfasts throughout the area, if you click on this site, and look under accommodations, you should find a comfortable place to rest your weary heads.
If you happen to be traveling on Illinois 3, south of McClure toward where Illinois 146 turns west toward the bridge, the Bill Emerson Memorial bridge, after sunset is lit up in the most striking manner. The view is breathtaking!
I also recommend Giant City Lodge. There is a large building, constructed by the CCC during the Depression, and they feature an excellent family dinner on Sunday. There are also cabins, with all the modern conveniences available. I have friends in Central Illinois who regularly visit and always rent a cabin at Giant City.