Monday, April 12, 2021

4 Central Iowa State Parks


No rain, but it was windy! - Pilot Knob State Park, look out tower

Yes, that's right. FOUR State Parks in one day! Each week we seem to find "our new favorite" park and this weekend was no different. We had quite the experiences at each park. We left late Saturday morning, just as the rain settled in Des Moines. Our day was cloudy, but as soon as we left the metro, we were treated to a dry day of adventuring. 

The first stop we made wasn't a park, but a bathroom. The minis decided they were hungry, so we got lunch and then took "the back way" (also known as highways) to McIntosh Woods State Park. The signs along the highway kept us entertained!

McIntosh Woods State Park sits on the other side of Clear Lake in Venture, Iowa. I was expecting a bit more from this park, but it wound up being fine. There were very little hiking trails here and they weren't well marked either. However, the minis were thrilled to come across the yurts (that are available to stay in), a dock that rocked, and a hallowed tree. The hallow tree provided a nice place to play for awhile. The minis were intrigued by the tree's shapes and "windows" throughout. They spent more time than I cared rocking the dock back and forth trying to get someone to fall in the pond. It's the little things, I guess (eye roll). 

Harrison - "Look at this huge piece of bark! Ummm, there's a bug on it. I'm done."

Elizabeth - "Mom! The tree has a nose!" Indeed it did.

We drove through Clear Lake and then into Mason City. We made a stop at Cabin Coffee for some extra fuel and then walked around downtown Mason City. We made a stop at Music Man Square, where the minis requested to come back to see, we did an art tour throughout a gorgeous neighborhood, and saw the Andrew Lloyd Wright hotel and house. We hadn't planned on stopping in MC, but this wound up being one of our favorite things from the day! The minis were taken with the sculptures throughout the city and loved walking through the old neighborhood. This week, we'll be studying The Music Man and we'll go back to Music Man Square!

A wonderful, sugary treat for the afternoon. I was exhausted for some reason and could not wake up, despite my usual cup of coffee earlier that morning (at home).

A sidewalk game in front of their art museum, which was this gorgeous old house!

They were fighting and I told them I wanted a crying photo. I expected it to back fire with a, "sttoooooppp mom!" and then I'd get one with them crying and complaining. Instead they started laughing and played right into it. 

Our second state park for the day was Pilot Knob (about 50 minutes away from Mason City). Pilot Knob features the second highest point in Iowa and amazing hiking trails! I had only planned on hiking the small loop around the bog, but we wound up hiking 2 miles. The trails are well marked and connect easily. The best part about this park is that were practically had it to ourselves! With the exception of running into five people, it was just us and nature (and a lot of birds).

Since we spent a lot of time learning about lichens, bacterias, plant reproduction, etc. the minis attempted to identify EVERY single moss and fungi we came across. They also used the direction of plant and moss growth to determine which way was north (and south, east, and west). They learned all kinds of fun stuff this year and are using it in their every day life. I could not be more thrilled about that!

This dog finds water wherever we go! There were a few times throughout the day that we were walking across bridges and he acted like he wanted to jump down at the water.

I left my phone with the youngest so I could use a pit toilet (I have a fear of my phone falling out into a pit toilet and there's no way in hell I'd go in after it!). I came out to find her talking selfies.

Our third stop was at Rice Lake State Park. This park is 10 minutes away from Pilot Knob and was a quick, get out, look around, snap a picture, and get back on the road kind of stop. There are no hiking trails here. Just a lake, fishing, and golfing. One thing caught our eye about the golf course though: the driving range was right next to the road, with people driving the balls towards the road (since the road curves). We wondered how many golf balls had wound up in windshields!

Our fourth park of the day took us to Algona, Iowa. I didn't have a lot of hopes for this park; I assumed it would be an in and out park since we didn't arrive until 7 p.m., but it wound up being our favorite from the day! There isn't a lot of trail here, but it is a beautiful hike along a creek bed. We got to see a dozen deer up close, as they attempted to cross the trail (both behind us and in front of us) to get to a farm (likely for horse feed). The trail was wonderful. . .once we found it. The trail was not well marked, but we managed.

The official poop-picker-upper.

If you've ever wondered what it feels like to be 

Playing at the park was our last hoorah for the day before we had a quiet 2+ hour drive back home in the dark. We were exhausted from a busy day, despite not hitting the 6 miles I was hoping to hike that day. We only have 20some parks left to visit! Unfortunately, most of them are all over two hours away from us, so it looks like we'll have quite a bit of travel time coming up.