Monday, September 13, 2021

10 State Parks In One Day

Yes, it's true. We did do TEN state parks in one day...but it's not as intense as it sounds! All of these parks were near or along Big Spirit Lake and Lake Okoboji in Northwest Iowa. Nearly half of these parks were drive thrus for us, or quick get out, walk around, snap a picture, and onto the next one (I'll dive more into this later). We opted to not bring our river tubes (for floating) or the kayak because it would have taken quite a bit of time to blow up and take down after each use. Instead, we went old school with swimming suits, lake beaches, and quick dips in the water.

This is one area of the state where I have not spent a great deal of time. I can't say I loved it, especially after spending a week in Northern Minnesota's pristine boundary waters area. Northeast Iowa is still my favorite area, but I was surprised by the NW's hills. Another big surprise: the trees are already changing colors! The last several years have had a late fall. We noticed when we were in Northern Minnesota the trees were already a light green and turning yellow quickly. We noticed the same thing this weekend in Northern Iowa. 

Anways, back to our day.

We didn't get a late start, but it did take us three and a half hours to get into Spirit Lake, Iowa from Des Moines. By that time the minis were ready for lunch. So, we placed a to go order for Burgers and Company and ate a picnic at our first park of the day: Elinor Bedell State Park. This park was beautifully kept and well manicured. The playground looked new and the trails were paved. It was a hot one, so the minis were sure they were melting, but we quickly ate and enjoyed the park.

I had my family walk not even a quarter of a mile to view the gravesite of Elinor and Berkley Bedell. You would have thought I was torturing them.

Mini-Wakan was our next park. This park right on the Iowa-Minnesota border. I was super excited for this park (I still don't know why), so I was a bit disappointed to see there was very little parking and a simple fishing dock and pier. All of the parking spots were taken up by a large gathering at the park shelter, which was the case at several of the parks we visited. I would have gotten out to walk around and explore a bit more, but the shelter was overcrowded, the grounds overrun by tents of the same party, so we simply drove through the lot, snapped a picture of the dock, and moved on.

Apparently it was wedding weekend in Northwest Iowa. Half of the parks we visited had large gatherings, spilling out of the shelters. We were unable to locate the beach at one of the parks because of a huge reception that was happening at the lodge. The good news is that all of the parks have very beautful and well kept shelters and lodges if you're looking to rent one.

We did a quick drive through Marble Beach as well. This would have been an excellent spot to put our kayak in the water, but we didn't bring it, so we looked at everyone jet skiing and the minis inquired why they don't have one of those. 

I decided a stop for ice cream was in order since everyone was "melting." This perked the family up and we continued on the journey to find a good swimming beach at one of the parks.

Templar looked cool, but the water on the shore here was very dirty and smelled. Again, this would have been a great spot to have a picnic and put the kayak in.

Finally, at Pikes Point we were able to swim (or do cartwheels if you're Elizabeth)! We played in the water for a while, but there were bees ALL around the park. We're not sure why, but they were in the sand, covering the picnic tables, swarming our vehicle in the parking lot. We didn't see a hive around, but I imagine there was one somehwere nearby. 

We listened to the football game while traveling between parks.

Gull Point was another park we were disappointed we didn't bring the kayak. Of course, when thinking about all of the work that would have gone into blowing it up and deflating it each time, I was over the disappointment and enjoyed the lake views.

 Emerson Bay has a good size beach area, picnic areas, and green spaces. While crowded, the park had plenty of space to spread out. This park would have been one to hit earlier in the day when the minis were melting because as soon as the sun wasn't high in the sky, the temps cooled drastically.

A quick stop in Arnolds Park. I'm glad we came during the off season because I imagine this place to be crazy crowded. When I say off season, I mean the town shuts down the day after Labor Day.

Pillsbury Point was interesting. It's in Arnolds Park residence's backyards with stones that look like mini headstone marking the path to walk. I felt like I was trespassing in backyards, so we didn't walk far. Instead, we went to the Abbie Gardner cabin and walked around.

Lower Gar was beautiful, but mostly just picnic tables and a short, paved trail next to the water. There was no direct water access at this park and was in a residential area.

Our last park of the day was definitely our favorite. This is the kind of state park we love. We hiked down into a canyon area next to a creek. Unfortunately, we couldn't do the entire trail because the sun was setting and the canyon floor was dark. We enjoyed deer watching as we walked.

When I looked back at my pictures, it took me a few minutes too long to find my two youngest minis because they blended in perfectly!

Look at those changing leaves!