Wednesday, April 28, 2021

2 State Parks And A Lot of Ticks

After years of hiking, after all the places we've hiked, last weekend was the first time we've encountered ticks. Leave it to Shimek State Forest to give us that "wonderful" experience. Our adventure Saturday didn't disappoint, giving us many first experiences. We hiked at Shimek State Forest, learned history at the Battle of Athens Historical Site (read about that here), and hiked at Lacey Keosauqua State Park. 

We started the day celebrating our pup's first birthday, then beginning the trek (it's a three hour drive from the metro) to Shimek State Forest. The dog with car anxiety was NOT impressed with the drive. We had to switch places halfway through the drive. I sat next to him, whispering words of encouragement in his ears, while his nose touched the oldest mini up in the front seat. There's never a dull moment with us!

Truth be told, we got a bit lost finding the trail we wanted. We first went to the wrong forest unit and had to drive around a town to get to the correct unit. Of course, it took twice as long due to road closures. So, by the time we got out of the car, we just wanted out. It was only about halfway through the trail that I realized this trail SUCKS.

We did the 4.1 mile long Shimek Forest Trail. The trail started off fine, but quickly turned into a mess. The trails aren't well marked (so it's easy to get off course). Luckily, we had good cell reception, so we were able to track where to go via GPS. While the trail(s) seemed to be maintained, they're only partly maintained. There's a lot of thorny vine overgrowth that killed my legs. There were a lot of hidden sticks under leaves. It was one of those where we'd step on a stick, thinking it was a small twig, only to have half of a branch rise up and knock us in the legs. Our legs all took a beating. The trail was partly shaded, but other than a small creek, there's a lot of stagnat water to watch out for (especially if you have pets who are driven towards any kind of water). 

The dog pulled the oldest into a lake along the trail. The oldest was NOT pleased about it. There was a minor meltdown to deal with and the dog who didn't understand why he couldn't go swimming.

We learned after our visit that this place almost became a National Forest due to these unique grove of pine trees. This is the only place in Iowa to have them.

It wasn't until near the end of the trail (the last half mile, I would say), that I notice a tick fall from a tree. We failed to put on bug spray because we hadn't needed it quite yet. I remember thinking, "oh shit." Oh shit was right. As we piled into the car, got drinks of water, and settled into drive to our next stop, the middle mini announced, "mom, I have a spider on me. It's small and it's not dying." Yep, we had tiny ticks crawling all over us. We even shook ourselves off before getting into the car. 

We changed clothes, shook ourselves off again, but we still found ticks crawling around the car every once in awhile. I was NOT amused. But we kept on with our day. After the Battle of Athens Historic Site, we took in the sunset at Lacey Keosauqua State Park by hiking 2 miles of the River Trail. This park was gorgeous! I almost wish we had skipped the forest and spent our days at the Historic site and Lacey Keosauqua. We could have easily done the entire River Trail at that Park!

We took a drive through the park because it was beautiful! The gate house was a neat feature (and has it's own trail, that also connects to longer trails). This Park also has cabins and a nice camping area that are on the other side of the park.

The coolest natural bridge area. This looks to be a small waterfall when there's water in the creek, but the creek was dry.

A stop at Sonic was needed to make it through the last few hours of the day because the real "fun" happened when we returned home. Since we knew there were ticks in the car with us, we took every precaution we could. We bagged EVERYTHING in the car, we took our clothes off in the breezeway (and bagged them), and showered right away. Then we thoroughly checked each child (and ourselves) out for ticks. When everyone was cleared (only Hubs had one on him and we found a couple of dead ticks on the dog the next morning), we began the tedious job of cleaning out all of the clothes, items from the car, back packs, etc. We tumble dried anything we could first, then washed everything in hot water, then another run through the dryer. Whatever we couldn't get to that night, we bagged and left outdoors overnight. Miraculously we found none! But between late Saturday night and Sunday afternoon, I did a dozen loads of laundry. 

It wasn't the greatest end to an adventure day, but it was still a great day! And we got practice in how to deal with ticks, just in case. Of course, now we're dealing with minis who see a speck of dust and screech, "is that a tick??!!?" So that's what Saturday taught us.