In early July Renee and I took a 1 day ride around the Galena, Illinois area. Here is a rough idea of our route:
I created this route based on input from another motorcycle rider who hosts a group ride in that area every summer.
We started our ride by hauling the bike up to Chestnut Mountain Lodge so we could leave the truck and trailer there while we rode. They have plenty of parking space, especially in the off season.
The first leg of our trip took us down along the river behind the ski resort. This quickly turned into a small dirt road with several deep puddles.
We skirted the puddles and continued along this road for a few miles until we came to our turnaround. At the turnaround point there was a small dugout built into the side of the hill. I am not sure what it was, but it works as an interest point as well as a turnaround spot.
Our next stop was just outside of Galena at a small park called Horseshoe Mound. This is a neat place with hiking trails and a lookout that overlooks Galena and the surrounding areas. It’s a great uphill ride to the parking area and the views are outstanding.
After we left Horseshoe Mound, we rode through Galena and into Wisconsin towards New Diggins. On the way to New Diggins we watched a bald eagle grab a chipmunk off the road in front of us. On the other side of New Diggins we came upon a doe with 2 fawns. We really enjoyed all of the wildlife on this ride.
We continued on our way until we got to a small road that took us down along the East Fork of the Galena River. This is a small road that runs parallel to the river and a rail line.
The bridges and tunnels were a lot of fun, but we were getting hungry, so we hurried on to a place called Council Hill Station. This is an old train station that has been re-purposed as a bar/grill/dance hall/hangout/live music destination etc. When you go inside, you just walk to the coolers and help yourself to whatever beverage you want, then you go pay at the counter. The honor system just seems to work there. The building itself is filled with old pictures, memorabilia, and musical instruments.
When we got there, they were just starting up the grill so we had time to take a look around. There was a beautiful walk down to the river where we also found a separate building housing another bar and a collection of old chairs and couches for guests to sit and enjoy live music.
We got our food and sat down to eat and the owners came out to talk to us and another family. They were a very interesting and friendly couple. The husband, an incredible story teller, regaled us with some great stories about them and their lives, including one about his wife and the charter fishing boat she had owned while previously living in Alaska. They had purchased the historic train station and had thrown themselves into rehabbing it while still keeping the history alive. Their love of music seemed contagious and drew in live acts from all over. In fact, while we ate and talked, one of the other guests sat with a ukulele and played wonderfully as he chatted with us. The owners told us they owned a house in Galena that they sort of had an open door policy on. Anyone who needed a place to crash was welcome. It was a very enjoyable stopping point…and a great burger. As we were saying goodbye the wife insisted on a picture of us to post on their Facebook page.
It would have been fun to stay longer, and we would have loved to stay to hear some live music, but we had several more things to see so we hit the road. The next place we wanted to visit was a waterfall near Apple Canyon Lake. Although the only place to view it was from a fairly busy highway, it was worth it.
After the waterfall we followed the Apple River and crossed on this cool old wooden plank bridge.
Once we crossed this river, we made a loop through Schapville. We had read that a great stop was a little store in Schapville, so we stopped and tried to get a drink. The owner was less than friendly, and we couldn’t get anyone to wait on us so we left. Overall Schapville was underwhelming and if we were going to repeat this ride, we would skip it.
From Schapville we drove South toward Elizabeth and got some gas, then back North toward Galena. There was another waterfall we wanted to see near Lake Galena, so we headed in that direction.
On the way to the 2nd waterfall we also found a few oddities that we had heard about…the Giant Whiskey Barrel “house”and the Stonehenge replica. Unfortunately, the whiskey barrel appeared to have seen better days as it was partially covered in plastic, and the Stonehenge replica is barely visible up on a hill and is on private land so you can’t get very close.
We finally found the waterfall but when we got there we discovered it was on land that you needed a permit or pass of some sort to stop on, so we did a couple of low speed drive by’s to get some photos.
By this time it was getting late in the day. We still had to ride back to Chestnut, load up the bike, and drive back home so we looped back and finished our ride. After all, someone was waiting for us to get back, and she was very happy when we did. The kids may be out of the house, but the house is not empty.