Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Day Trip Through Iowa

We've done some pretty spectacular day trips through Iowa over the years (Loess Hills and Maquoketa Caves are two of my faves). Since we took a big family trip in March and have quite a few travel plans next year, we really weren't looking to do anything big travel-wise for Memorial Day weekend, but I also couldn't pass up a three day weekend to knock off a few musts off the Want To See List. All winter long I saw the Iowa Waterfall Tour and Lover's Leap Bridge posted across Facebook because how else do Iowan's get through winter other than dreaming about summer?

Our only goal for the day was to walk across Lover's Leap Bridge in Columbus Junction, Ia (just over two hours from Des Moines), while everything after that was a 'let's drive and see where we end up' kind of thing. Before leaving Des Moines, we fueled up on brunch at Felix and Oscar's. Most people think of Chicago style pizza at the mention of F&O's, but no Chicago style pizza was on our minds Sunday morning as we poured over our delicious eggs, casseroles, pastries, fruits, and pancakes. This brunch spread had been mentioned to me before by several friends, but this was our first time trying it. While the food was excellent, the most surprising thing to me was that at 9:30 a.m. this place wasn't packed full of people! It really was one of the best places to go with kids.

Brunch kept us fueled for a good portion of the day, which was a good thing because we wound up doing much more than anticipated! Our two hour drive to the swinging rope bridge was uneventful. We kept ourselves busy with the typical books, toys, and our trusty Road Trip Playlist.

A cat looking lazily out the window as we loaded up the car for our day trip adventure.

This is the second time we've rented a Hyundai Sante Fe. The minis had plenty of room in the back seat and plenty of storage in the back to store our extra clothes for the day, swimming gear, towels, hiking gear, and coolers.

Lover's Leap Swinging Bridge was cool, fun, and interesting. The bridge is in between two parking lots and next to someone's house. Literally, the start of the bridge is at the edge of their driveway. It's the oddest set up, but the minis had a blast running across the swinging bridge trying not to lose their balance. Other than the bridge, there's not much else to do. I was expecting there to be a park or a slide or something else to do, but the bridge is it. Regardless, it was REALLY fun to do!

 My mom found this tee at Walmart (crazy right??!!?). I *might* have had it on all weekend...

Elizabeth didn't want to do the bridge again (she preferred to people watch, as it was a crowded day at the bridge), so the boys and I went across. The middle mini ran back the second time...

So, how did we decide where to go next? Simple. We've had a list of things we want to do in Iowa and we brought it with us. Our top options included the American Gothic House, a visit to Pella, or the Iowa Waterfall Tour. We chose to do a few stops on the Iowa Waterfall Tour since we were only about an hour and a half away from a stop. 

It was a cool 100 degree day and waterfalls sounded better than dry southern Iowa. I loved taking in the Iowa countrysides as we drove.

Our first stop on the Waterfall Tour was Macbride Falls in Lake McBride. This was a very fun recreational area that was quite crowded on this hot day. Now, this waterfall seems like nothing when you've slid down a waterfall before, but nonetheless, it's an Iowa waterfall and we got to cool off a bit by dipping our toes in the water.

Getting to Macbride Falls requires a short walk/hike across the split lake.

From Lake Macbride, we made our way through Solon, Ia to get to Backbone State Park. As we drove through town we spotted one of the Freedom Rocks and had to stop. It was a happy surprise to stop at this memorial. One of our favorite parts of driving through small town Iowa on Memorial Day weekend was seeing all of the small town cemeteries decked out with flags and flowers.

Our next stop was Backbone State Park spillway. Other websites says to access the trail for the best view is to take the West Lake Trail, however, the trail is covered in poison ivy. So that was a hard pass from us. We chose to take in the scenery from the boat ramp parking lot and the beach area across the lake. Also within Backbone State Park is a natural spring (props to Hubs who caught that one). It is at the opposite end of the park and there's not direct route through the park (you have to go out and around to get there between the beach and spillway area to the hiking trails, cave, and spring).

This state park has been on my list for quite some time. Unfortunately, because of the heat, we didn't get to do any of the hiking trails, but our drive through the park was beautiful. I have hopes to come back in the fall for some gorgeous views.

 Balanced rock

This spring was gorgeous! Of course, it didn't remain natural for long as it met up with a run off stream.

The cave would have been the best place to spend the entire day: cool, damp, and so much fun to explore!

We spent our evening in the lake swimming and building sand castles on the beach.

Our busy day left us hungry. We grabbed a Casey's cheese pizza to eat on the way home (a three hour long drive from Backbone State Park), before the minis crashed in the car. We stopped on a dirt road as we snacked on our pizza to take in the last bit of sunset over the countryside.

Such an amazing day exploring!

Finally home, taking turns curling up under blankets, and taking turns in the showers. We were a sticky mess.

At some point, I'd love to finish the waterfall tour. The most shocking thing of the day was the swinging bridge. It's literally just a swinging bridge and not much else around, but it was REALLY fun. At the end of the day, it's all the middle mini was talking about. The oldest loved the beach and the youngest mini loved the cave. I simply love Iowa and days like this one.