Monday, November 9, 2020

Fall Break Part 1

This fall break looked far different than last fall break! At the end of October last year, we spent a few days exploring northern New Mexico. In the middle of October this year, I had hopes to going to Michigan or another place with gorgeous fall colors. As it turns out, every place I had wanted to go was forecasted for snow. Coupled with the ongoing pandemic, we (and by we, I mean my husband, who refused to leave the state and didn't want part in a homeschool fall trip) chose to stay in Iowa. I was very disappointed, but we DID find fun in Iowa. The minis and I had a couple of adventure days and we spent most of a weekend exploring Decorah, Iowa.

On our first day of break, we spent our morning "taking care of business." We dropped off our ballots and snagged our I Voted stickers, we did doctor appointments, and got flu shots as a family. After the things we needed to do were done, we hiked around Easter Lake and treated ourselves to Eileen's cookies. Our break was truly off to a fantastic start.

Here's a tip: don't take a water dog near water unless you plan on letting him swim. He spent more time whining and fighting with us to go in the water than he got to spend wading in the water. If it hadn't been only 40 degrees I might have let him go further in and make both of us happier!

One kid just had to touch the water and went through bushes to get there. He came out with burs up and down his pant legs. It took us twenty minutes to pull all of them off so he could comfortably finish our hike. For the record, the bur incident happened within the first five minutes of our hike.

When we went to Duluth, MN over the summer, we hit several drive thrus since it was just me with three kids and a dog. Zeus quickly realized that food always came in the car when we started talking to "that box" (as the minis call it). I began placing a coffee order at a local coffee shop and I notice Zeus shoot up, start wagging his tail, and eagerly looking out the window. I had to order him a small cup of whipped cream for his enthusiasm.

Fall break other years looks different for homeschool fall break. You see, I mostly took this break for myself. To give myself a break. I had the minis school things all ready to go and lessons planned that they could mostly do themselves. This worked out beautifully because on our homeschool hits the road days, they were able to do their work in the car independently. Of course, I must always keep busy and decided homeschool fall break was the perfect time to do our The Miracle Worker unit in 6 days! More on that later, but it was such a powerful unit for all of us and the minis are now taking sign language lessons.

We got a bright and early start for our adventure in Decorah, Iowa. The drive was uneventful, minus having to wait for the construction lead car on country roads and road closures once we got into Decorah. Our first stop was Ice Cave and Dunning's Spring Park. These are located nearby each other, within easy walking distance. To give you an idea of how crowded this area gets--they have the road blocked off so people can walk between the two incredibly touristy spots. We had never been to Decorah and had no idea how popular of an outdoor recreational destination it was. We really didn't get to enjoy hiking because it was so full of people trying to get that perfect picture.

Harrison took my phone into the cave for pictures and these are what I ended up with! Elizabeth and Max didn't want to go into the cave because it was crowded.

Climbing the limestone cliffs was a highlight of our day. I was shocked to see our dog make his way easily to the top (no pictures because I was trying to not fall, as I held onto his leash).

Matt took the boys climbing in the waterfall. When I showed him the pictures, he said they felt as though they were much higher!

I just wanted one decent picture....this is what I got.

We walked the river trail back to our car. The trail was a bit less crowded, but also heavily used by mountain bikes so it seems we had to step off of the trail every few minutes. The minis took time to explain strata to their dad and do more climbing.

Due to how busy the park was, we had to park outside of Palisades Park. It wasn't far from the Ice Cave (it's along the same road, in fact) and we found this fun little area alongside the river.

We had hoped to sit on the patio and eat, drink, and chill at Toppling Goliath Brewering. We were sorely disappointed to learn their patio had closed for the season and we couldn't eat indoors with the dog (plus, we're not exactly comfortable eating indoors quite yet). We debated getting our food to go, but at nearly $20 a plate, we decided to save our money. Instead, we got beer to go, went through a Culver's drive thru, and took our deliciously bad food to Twin Falls Park. We ate by a peaceful stream and explored when we were done eating. All of it was perfect.

Their Cherry Fandango beer was sooo good! A little bit sweet, a little bit sour, and I wished I had gotten more!

Someone was jealous of our dinner.

We explored the historic downtown portion of Decorah a bit. 
The Porter House Museum is currently closed due to the Pandemic, but this is one place I would love to visit. The rock wall immediately caught my attention. 

We weren't sure what to do with the dwindling daylight hours. We decided we did not want to spend the night in the hotel and knew we would be making the 3+ hour drive home in the dark. I didn't want to go to one of crowded, touristy trails. Decorah features a beautiful, paved bike and walking path that I would have loved to have walked on, but it was PACKED with people. Everyone seemed great about social distancing and wearing masks (most businesses required it, from what we could tell), however it was still far too busy for my comfort level.

After a quick Google search, I determined we should go to Cold Water Spring State Preserve. This was the highlight of our day, but I'm not 100% sure we were actually supposed to be there! We hiked along the cold water spring, which comes from a cave system in the nearby limestone bluffs. Regardless if we were actually supposed to be hiking in this spot or not, we had a wonderful hike along the stream, saw fish jumping out of the water, saw hundreds of deer, and had the peaceful, quiet hike in the woods we'd been looking forward to all day long.

In my opinion, Decorah is way overrated. I'll take our hiking in Dubuque and McGregor, Iowa over Decorah any day. I know it's supposed to be "the spot" for outdoor activities, but I just can't get on board. We decided (or moreso, I decided) to drive home rather than spend the night since there was exactly zero things we wanted to do the next day in Decorah. We didn't get home until nearly midnight, so the kids and dog slept in the car after our day outdoors. I'm thrilled we got in one good hiking day before snow arrived.