We don’t have the dough for a big vacation this summer, so we’re spending time doing what we love: exploring the Midwest.
We just got back from a long weekend in Galena, Illinois and Mineral Point, Wisconsin. Both towns are in the Driftless region of the Midwest, an area (primarily Wisconsin, though it also includes a bit of Illinois, Iowa, and Minnesota) that is known for its natural beauty and unique topography. The landscape is a result of it having been untouched by glaciers when they were last moving over much of the rest of the region. The material (silt, sand, gravel, boulders) that glaciers leave behind is called drift, so the region is driftless.
Despite having spent almost all of my life in the Midwest, I had never been to this particular corner of it and was overwhelmed by how beautiful it is. A rolling agrarian landscape dotted with farmhouses and cows and sheep. Ridges and river valleys. It reminded me of central England, and at times even of Iceland.
We started our adventure in Galena, a 19th century (former) port town that has been beautifully preserved. At one time the Galena surpassed Chicago in population and importance, but now the river that once brought steamboats and trade to Galena is reduced to a stream. The former glory of the city is evident everywhere, and in fact the town seems to be experiencing a bit of a new kind of glory. The charming curved main street that followed the form of the river has now been turned over to tourists, which means it is mostly fudge shops and places that sell flavored olive oil or hand-painted signs that say “Live, Laugh, Love” or something. Businesses seem to be booming judging from the lack of vacant storefronts on main street. I might not go to Galena for the shopping, but the beauty of its natural landscape and well-preserved architecture has me eager to return.