A lot of cool things happened this past week, and I want to catalog it here.
In the first post of this four-parter, I shared my experience with a quick surgical procedure which resulted in the removal of an evil nuisance.
This second part of awesomeness involves the great time I had in Iowa during a 5-day vacation.
My bad. Wrong photo.
Last Thursday, my wife, son, niece, and I set off to stay with and visit family in the northeastern corner of the Hawkeye State. In the past, during my nine-to-ten-hour jaunts from Kansas, nothingness seemed to stretch for hours. This time, however, I was blown away by how blind I’d become.
Sure, there were stretches of fields with little sprouts of corn poking through the dirt, and flatness and no signs of civilization, even an abundance of roadkill. But there were also copious woodlands and hills and wildflowers, all vibrant and colorful and peaceful and untainted.
Our schedule was clear for three days; we’d made no major plans in the hopes of seeing as many of our family members as we could. So, inspired by the glorious scenery, I hopped on my phone and researched natural attractions near our destination.
And I’m glad I did.
Decorah, IA – Dunnings’ Spring and Ice Cave
Dunnings’ Spring is conveniently nestled within stunning wooded hills within a mile of a brewery. After twisting down a narrow drive, we parked and climbed out of the car in a catatonic-like state. This greeted us:
I’d never known such an amazing thing existed only 20 minutes from the farmhouse where I grew up.
We traipsed around the site for about half an hour, stopping often beside the water to cool down as the day warmed up.
We also noticed a path near the parking lot. After visiting the Ice Cave (less than a half-mile down the same road), we returned to Dunnings’ Spring for a 30-minute hike. Some of it was treacherous. Most of it was uphill on the way in. But all of it was gorgeous and well worth the ensuing sweaty nutsack. It was also fun, especially when my son claimed he could navigate our return from the trail because he’d eaten a map. (Yes, that was his full logical explanation.)
Wild Berries, Brews, and Trout, Oh My!
We left Dunnings’ Spring and set off to find the local fish hatchery. Well, I’d gotten bad directions. (Damn you, Google Maps!) However, the bad directions sent us along the same path as another site I’d found on the web: Winneshiek Wildberry Winery.
I mean, what better way to quench your thirst after a nice hike, right?
And what a classy place. The landscape and atmosphere and flowery outside patio reeked of serenity and peace. Service was great, the wine samples were generous, and the wine itself was delicious and unique. We walked out with a decent buzz, far more wine than we can drink in the next month or two, souvenir wine glasses (the ones we’d sampled from), and a thirst for more alcohol.
After swinging by the Toppling Goliath Brewery (the one just down the road from Dunnings Spring) and trying out their Sampler, we headed to the fish hatchery. And though I often think they’re all the same, this one had some nice scenery as well:
McGregor, IA – Pike’s Peak
Since we had plenty of time on our hands the last day of our visit, my father and his fiancé suggested we all take a drive to Pike’s Peak State Park in McGregor, IA. Pike’s Peak is a large bluff which offers stunning views of the Mississippi River and the Wisconsin River. Picnic and camping areas, hiking and biking trails, a tiny waterfall (which wasn’t being fed at the moment, unfortunately)—
You know what? Fuck it. Let the pics speak for themselves.
Visiting the Past
After meandering through antique and art stores on the historical strip in McGregor, we had some ice cream at an old-timey dessert parlor and headed back to the homeland. Though we were sweaty and full, we weren’t done yet.
My wife had never seen the farm I’d grown up on, nor any of the other land and fields we’d worked. Neither had my son or niece. At least, not more than a glimpse. So I took them on a tour of all the old stomping grounds.
First, we went to the terraced field which had been a pain in the ass to pick rock on (I think it’d once been a landfill of sorts). A hog farm had been built on a portion of that field since my departure from the state in 1996, and my niece got to see—and smell—pigs for the first time.
Needless to say, we didn’t stay long. Pig shit will do that to you.
We headed toward the old farmhouse. Along the way, we passed the pond where I’d once had an allergic reaction to pesticides; a couple walking a dog on a gravel road; three deer munching in a field; a turkey farm; old car accident sites; old neighbors and new houses.
Then we got to the place I’d grown up. We spent a good thirty minutes walking the entire spot. I gushed and gabbed like a schoolgirl, relaying every memory from every building and room and pen and piece of land on the property. I even pointed out the apron (where shit and piss used to run off and pool from exterior hog pens) that’d almost claimed my life as a child.
I don’t think I shut up that entire time, and I’m still excited for having visited the place which shaped and molded me as a youngster.
I don’t care what anyone says, or what I’ve said in the past: Iowa is beautiful. I’m ashamed to have been so blind for so many years, but I feel I’ve redeemed myself now. This trip has inspired me to find natural beauty everywhere.
Even in Bumfukt, Kansas.
In addition to that, spending time and catching up with family made the trip ten times more memorable.
I should also mention I brought back something pretty fucking cool, which I’ll share in the next post (later today).
Stay tuned. There’s more randomosity (and exciting announcements) coming soon.