The reunion was to be in Rochelle in mid-July, but all the motels in the area were already fully booked months earlier. We thought about this situation a while, then decided to spend the weekend camping at Lowden State Park on the Rock River outside Oregon, Illinois. The park is less than a half-hour drive from Rochelle, and we intended to drive around a bit in the county anyway.
Lowden Park includes one of Lorado Taft‘s most famous concrete statues, the one that Taft named “The Eternal Indian” but which is commonly known as “Black Hawk”.
When we were planning this trip we talked about meeting friends for lunch on Sunday at what used to be Maxson’s Manor on the west side of the river, but by the time we got to Illinois those plans had changed. We all decided it would be easier to meet in Rochelle instead. Nevertheless, I thought we should drive over to the old restaurant and take in the view from that side of the river before we claimed our camp site.
Later we drove across to the park and visited the statue in person. Taft’s chosen medium was poured concrete, and over the 100 years of the statue’s existence the environment has taken a toll. If you look closely at the first picture you can see that part of the figure’s right arm has fallen away. Currently restoration work is in progress, and a small fence prevents visitors from getting too close to the statue. We walked around the statue for a while, but chose not to visit Ganymede Spring further down the cliff.
Our camp site was in a very pleasant oak woods, made even more pleasant by the fact that the events of “Oregon Trail Days” all took place in the larger camp ground on the other side of the road. Few campers and nearly no noise from the festival came into this smaller camp ground. Instead we were visited, annoyingly, by swarms of mosquitoes each evening and, much more pleasantly, by red-headed woodpeckers (Melanerpes erythrocephalus) and American robins (Turdus migratorius) throughout the days we were there. In the mornings we were serenaded noisily by mysterious birds who sang from the tops of the trees and hid among the leaves, only sometimes allowing us to see their silhouettes against the sky. We eventually decided that they must be orchard orioles (Icterus spurius).