Eagle Watching, 2009.

Each year for the past 3 years, we have gone to see the eagles.

This year was not much different, but we decided on Saturday — in a test of true grit — to confine ourselves in the truck with the children for 4 straight hours. This, we thought, would be a good test of how things will go when we head to Yellowstone this summer.

And as it turned out, it wasn’t so bad.

The day dawned dreary, unlike last year when it was bright and sunny. We went, as usual, to that area of the Great River Road around Alton and Godfrey. We have a lot of luck viewing eagles up there, particularly at the migratory bird refuge just west of the Alton bridge. Normally, we would plan to stop for pie and coffee in Alton; this year, I made a pie the night before to enjoy when we returned home, and we took a Thermos of hot chocolate and a bag of marshmallows with us. Ethan enjoyed it so much he had a hot chocolate mustache, and Laurel is enough of a ‘tween’ that she was bored after the first few minutes in the parking lot watching the birds…

hot chocolate mustache Laurel Reading

…but I think she was just pretending.

Knowing Ethan has a ‘thing’ for different modes of transport, we headed up to Brussels and took the free ferry across the Illinois River…

Brussels Ferry over the Illinois River Brussels Ferry over the Illinois River 2

We drove around the countryside a little, drove through Brussels and up near Winfield only to find the Winfield ferry inexplicably closed.  We turned back and headed to the tiny hamlet of Golden Eagle, where we crossed the Mississippi on the Golden Eagle ferry.

In Line for the Golden Eagle Ferry over the Mississippi Mississippi River from the Ferry

After disembarking from the Golden Eagle ferry, we rolled up on a railroad crossing occupied by a train hauling car after car of coal. Ethan was thrilled — I know this because his leg was kickingkickingkickingkicking like it does anytime he’s enthusiastic about something but forced by restraints to remain seated.

The train finally ended so we could proceed, and we ended up in St. Charles, marveling at the monstrosity that is ‘New Town.’  We hastened away as quickly as possible, returning home for lunch followed by pie and coffee. As we pulled into the driveway, the kids noted with excitement the snow flurries that had descended upon us.

I always have a good time watching the eagles.  There’s just something about them that captures the imagination — and I can’t wait to go again next year.