Sunday, March 14, 2021

Stephens State Forest

Last weekend, it was Stone State Park that surprised us and we instantly fell in love. This week, it was Stephens State Forest in Lucas, Iowa. An easy hour drive from the metro, we arrived early Saturday morning and had the trails to ourselves! There are multiple units within the State Forest, but we chose the Lucas Unit. Based on reviews and hiking notes (from previous hikers), this unit had plenty of parking and was easy to get to. Both are true.

We parked near camping spots 1 - 4, next to the pond. We started on the trail, which quickly gained elevation. It was quite the workout! We loved the trails, although none of them in this area connect easily. We wound up walking on a DNR road for a bit because we couldn't find where the trail crossed the creek. It wasn't a big deal, but only the trailheads are clearly marked. The Lucas Unit only has 5 miles of trails, so maybe the other units with miles upon miles of trails have better markers. 

This forest will be gorgeous, although likely very buggy, in a few weeks as spring gets underway. I have to imagine it would be pretty in the fall too. From reviews, people in Iowa who are training for hiking in mountains come to Stephens State Forest for the elevation gains and I believe it!

We saw these huge paw prints in the ground and no human prints next to them. Eeekk! Likely coyote or some kind of forest animal. It was eerily quiet in the forest and we saw quite a few little furry animals torn to bits all throughout our hike. We made sure to speak loudly and play music as we continued with the hike!

After we were done with the trail, we walked alongside the pond. The dog happily took a dip even though the water was freezing cold! He didn't mind one bit. 

This one has bad car anxiety. Not sickness, anxiet. He cries almost the entire time we're in the car, but he LOVES going places. Poor guy. The minis try to help him feel better with extra pets and reassurance. What didn't help? Wrapping him in a towel and taking pictures.