An American bison and an American bald eagle grace the sandstone wall and chimney above the fireplace in the central main room of the Giant City Lodge at Giant City State Park in southern Illinois. I don't know if they are the same critters that were there when I visited for the first time as a kid in the 1950s, but that wall is just as I remember it from back then. The lodge was built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps, or the CCC, and was dedicated on Aug. 30, 1936. The CCC used local sandstone, white oak logs and other native building materials. The lodge's restaurant is best-known for its delicious fried chicken and fixings, listed on the menu as "Our Famous All-You-Can-Eat Family Style Chicken Dinner," which costs $11.99 for adults and $4.99 for children under 12. I enjoyed it with my parents in the '50s, and I have ordered and devoured it three times in the past 18 months. After each pig-out meal, I have tried to hike off a lot of the calories by trekking along the park's trails, which meander through hardwood forest and along sandstone bluffs.
T.E. Griggs is a writer, editor and photographer and a retired U.S. Marine.