Sunday, March 7, 2021

3 State Parks, Ice Cream, and a Playground

Yesterday was one of our big adventure days. Not only are we trying to visit all of the state parks in Iowa, but the weather was 100% on our side. We spent our day hiking in the nearly 70 degree sunshine. It felt glorious after a long few weeks of snow and brutally cold temperatures. Sure, things were muddy, but we had a blast!

Our first stop wasn't a State Park at all, but a gas station in Shelby, Iowa. We discovered a paved walking path next to the gas station that led to a wetland preserve area. It was a quick, 1/2 mile walk that was a good warm up for our first Park of the day: Lewis and Clark State Park. The visitor center is open by appointment only (we didn't make an appointment), so we peeked through the windows. We did a one mile nature trail while we were there as well.

This Park has been on our must-see list since last fall, when the youngest learned all about the Lewis and Clark expedition. She made a point to read all of the signs and markers throughout the park. The lake was once part of the Missouri River (where they explored, for those that don't remember U.S. History), but now it's filled with numerous lake homes, camps, and water slides.

A stop at The Cornstalk Cafe (inside of a gas station where we used the bathrooms) in Shelby led us to a paved trail. We walked a bit, kept the dog from chasing geese, and then got back on the interstate.

Running up and down the lookout tower and onto the docks was a favorite for several minutes.

After hiking a nature trail and driving through Lewis and Clark State Park, the minis declared it lunch time. That meant us driving an hour north for an ice cream lunch at Wells Blue Bunny Ice Cream Parlor! It was a great visit. Read about it here.

Someone was super sleepy after our lunch (we called it a puppy sugar crash). Luckily for him, we had a 40 minute drive into Sioux City, where our next state park awaited. Stone State Park was an amazing visit! This was our favorite place of the day, with it's gorgeous, quiet trail system through the woods. The icy pond was still as we walked around it, with the sun beating down on us. We still wanted to hit one more State Park before our drive home, so we only hiked two and a half miles. As we left, we all said we wish this state park wasn't three hours from home because we would be here all of the time! We will definitely be back.

The road was closed into the park, so the only way in is to hike it. There was a lookout area we would have loved to see, but didn't have the time (or will) to get to. I saw no mention of the main road being closed on any website, so that took us by surprise at first. However, that was likely the reason the park wasn't crowded at all.

Be prepared for hilly, rough terrain with elevation gains and descents.

Since we were in Sioux City and talking all about the Lewis and Clark expedition, we took the time to visit the Sergeant Floyd memorial overlooking the river. 

They look over, the dog has to be sure he's not missing out on anything.

Since we were "soooo close to Nebraska," the minis requested Runza for dinner. All three got chili and cinnamon rolls. In the car. You can only imagine how many times I said, "be careful not to spill!" during dinner in the car. It just so happened that the closest Runza was in Council Bluffs, where there was also a State Park about 17 minutes away. After bellies were filled, we surprised the kids with an after dark play session in Dreamland Playground in Lake Manawa State Park. They were thrilled! Even though we had to use our phone flashlights in order to see, it was worth it! 

We're always thrilled to find surprises in any corner in Iowa, but Sioux City and Stone State Park have us captivated. Although we have many parks to get to this year, I can guarantee we'll be back in the area next year to explore more! Lake Manawa was our least favorite. Although the minis LOVED the playground, judging by the amount of trash around the Park, I'm going to guess it's very busy and frequented by everyone in the cities surrounding Council Bluffs. More than anything, these all day day trips will help the dog get acclimated with the car and long road trips. I'm hopeful for those in the near future.