A week goes by so quickly. I may have to move to monthly camping trip updates if I ever want to post enough of the other fun ideas that are rattling around in my camping starved brain.
Last week, we explored the trip west along I-70 starting in Montgomery City Mo and finishing in Arrow Rock. Today, we will look at a park just north and west, as well as surrounding fun day trips.
Van Meter State Park ( https://mostateparks.com/park/van-meter-state-park )
Van Meter is an old homestead both of the Van Meter family of pioneers and the ancient mound builders. Today, it is a State park with a small wooded campground. There are electric hook-ups and primitive sites. Water is available in season and shower facilities are available.
Central to the park is its mound structure–largely eroded over time, faint remnants of an old fort and burial mounds remain. Often tourists aren’t allowed to walk on top of mounds but in this case, you can. It is a great place to sit and meditate and allow in the thoughts of those who preceded you there. There is a small interpretive museum on the grounds that will help you understand what you are seeing. There are mounds all over the Midwest and each has its own “feel” and uniqueness. We have been to hundreds of mound sites and it always gives me pause; thinking of all that we do not know that was so important to others whose stories have vanished over time.
Besides the mound trail there is a boardwalk trail on the little fishing lake. Both are well maintained and enjoyable. The Van Meter Family cemetery has been, twice, seriously vandalized (Why must people do that???) but the park crew does its best to repair and keep it tidy for visitors.
Day trips from Van Meter range about 45 minutes. My favorite is Marshall Mo where one can learn about Jim the Wonder Dog. Jim was a Llewellyn Setter who lived during the time of the Great Depression. Jim and his owner had a form of communication between them that allowed Jim to understand things like: Go find the girl in the red dress, go sit under the Hickory tree or go find the car with a certain plate. Jim was also purported to pick the sex of unborn babies and the winner of the Kentucky Derby. Just how he was able to do all this, I will let the reader ponder but what I will say, is that if you have ever had a special pet then you understand animals are far wiser and more connected to us and the universe than most people believe.
Jim’s home town of Marshall has a museum in his honor, a town square with a county building on the National Historic Register and an antique/gift mall where I found a surprising cache of enamalware in the rare olive color I use. It’s right on the square though. There is a tasty Mexican restaurant whose name is also lost to my memory but the ask the folks in town, they’ll be happy to direct you.
Further along the road (and this can also be a day trip from another park in the MO system) is the pretty river town of Lexington. Lexington has beautiful old homes and if you are there in the Fall be sure to check and see if you are in time for the homes tour. https://mostateparks.com/park/battle-lexington-state-historic-site
Missouri claims to have had the most civil war battles of any State in the Union. The battles were mostly small, but numerous. Lexington saw a larger 3 day battle and you can learn about it by touring Oliver Anderson’s home at The Battle of Lexington State Historic Site. Now, I love this site because it contains the trifecta of regional charm: A stately brick home, a rich & gristly history and a beautiful setting on top of the bluffs above the river. Oh, and did I mention it is haunted?!
Make sure to tour the home and ask the docents lots of questions about its time as a battlefield hospital. They will show you the bullet holes in the wall and you will walk around in non-electrified daylight. It doesn’t take much to hear the echoes of cries and gunfire.
Wandering around downtown Lexington, you’ll find antique shops and the courthouse column that still bears the devastation of a cannon ball.
Last on my list of day trips from Van Meter is a restaurant: The Dancing Bear Cafe. This trip is a stretch because it’s all the way over in Corder (about 45-50 miles) but there aren’t any really good camping spots close to Corder and Dancing Bear is a hidden Missouri restaurant gem. It was once a chicken hatchery and it has all the charm with the terrific food one savors after many days camping. Make your reservation for an early dinner and enjoy. http://www.thedancingbearcafe.info/
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