We waited in the pre-dawn chill for the balloons to wake from their seeming slumber in the field.
It was as if they’d drawn in a deep breath of the July day and thought to themselves: Yes, this is how it’s meant to be.
We waited to send them off with a wave into the rising sun.
They lifted into the sky, exhaling with fiery roars across the horizon.
Awhile more we sat, contemplating the treeline, scanning the blue for colorful dots that would become larger, sailing toward us and looming above us, carried on the wind.
Our heads tilted to the Iowa skies; we smiled again and again.
We survived our first mini road trip as parents, schlepping all of Emmett’s gear to Council Bluffs. Joe’s best friend was in town with his baby boy, London (the baby for for whom I made this quilt) and Joe’s parents hosted a cookout. It was a gorgeous weekend to hang out and eat kabobs.
Speaking of quilts: The ladies in the fam went on a little Omaha adventure to catch a quilt exhibition at the Florence Mill, a historic building from early Mormon settlements in the area.
These quilts were like nothing I’d ever seen before – art tapestries that had a kind of metaphysical feel.
The show by Shea Wilkinson was titled “The Serpent in the Story.”
The quilt designs looked alternately like something you’d see on a slide under a microscope, or like a nebula captured by a telescope.
She machine-quilts freehand.
I thought the quilts displayed up against the old mill wood was a neat contrast.
This was one of my favorites:
Even though I’ve been going to Council Bluffs for years now to visit Joe’s family, I haven’t gotten very far on my bucket list of places to see in the area. I still want to check out the Union Pacific Museum and Squirrel Cage Jail (both walkable from Joe’s parents’ house) and I just read in Midwest Living about the Fontenelle Forest. Hopefully we can go on a little family hike there this fall!
Iowa isn’t exactly known as the adventure vacation destination of America, but my friend Brad just launched Argo Adventures, a company that could help change that. We might not have mountains, but there are plenty of ways to enjoy the outdoors. (Remember this post of him ice climbing on a silo?)
I’d love to try one of these expeditions sometime! The canoe trips sound like they could actually be my speed.
It’s also cool to hear that Adam Holt, another friend, worked on the logo design. So much talent and creativity in Des Moines.
Three cheers for this mild Iowa winter!
(Although a little snow on the trail could have looked lovely and this would be an excellent place to snowshoe/cross-country ski.) We headed south of Des Moines on Saturday to explore the Clanton Creek Natural Resource Area and get a little hiking in. We tried to do this hike about three years ago, but were thwarted when our car died on the side of the highway. I’m glad we finally made it!
We parked at the East Trail Head and followed the out-and-back main trail for a total of about eight miles. It felt much longer on the way out (isn’t that always the case?) but made for a good total distance. There’s also a two-mile loop you can access from the east side, but if you’re driving down from Des Moines I feel like you’d want to go the distance, right? The West Trail Head is very close to the 6-acre pond, if you’re into fishing. Here’s a map, although it doesn’t have miles marked and I have no idea what the purple dots represent. There are a few hike-in campsites, which I find exciting. I get super cranky-pants at campsites where we wind up next to teenagers whose idea of spending QT in nature is throwing beer cans into the fire. We will return for an overnight adventure, perhaps when the Madison County Winery tasting room is open!
The main trail makes for a hilly hike, past prairie grasses, through the forest and under some pine trees. It’s easy to follow, although we did not see any mile markers along the East-West route, and there are no maps at either trailhead. The trail crosses the creek in two or three places.
We thought we'd see a map at the west trail head. No such luck!
The creatively named 6-acre pond
Sky blue sky.
A winter walk.
I would love to see a Boy Scout Troop take on this trail and outfit it with some maps, better mile markers and perhaps a trash bin at the parking areas, because we did see a small amount of litter around there.
Wilbur was loving the nature smells.
It’s hard to believe that next week is February. This felt like a lucky November afternoon instead of late January! P.S. Did you know you can rent snowshoes at Active Endeavors? Last I checked, they were about $12 or so for the day.
Stevo (Joe’s dad) turned the big 6-0 this week! To celebrate, Joe and his sisters and their families planned a cabin camping getaway to Lacey-Keosauqua State Park in southeastern Iowa.
And in the divvying up of camping weekend cooking duties, the cake fell (pun not quite intended) to us. We would be birthday-ing on Saturday night, but driving down Friday after work and we wanted our cake to be fresh. So instead of making a dutch oven cake (because we don’t have an outdoor dutch oven), we googled around and found a recipe for a chocolate crock pot cake. Baking dilemma, solved, right? I now introduce you to the ugliest cake on the planet:
I should re-create it this summer to win a ribbon at the state fair. It tasted OK (it actually got burnt on one side, but I was able to cut that part away) but might be better suited for some lame birthday year, like 37.
Aside from my cakewreck (well, and a second crock-pot breakfast strata fail), the rest of the weekend was great. The park rents out delightful little cabins that come with two futons, a range, microwave, table, sink and bathroom.
They’re all in a nice little cluster, close to the beach! Just a few hundred yards from the cabins there’s a sweet whitewashed beach house (boat house?) that was in the midst of a renovation. There’s a little stone balcony that overlooks the beach, and stone staircase that trails down to the sand. Stevo and I both said it would be a lovely place for an outdoor wedding. I could just see the bride and groom canoeing away and the wedding party all hiking around and setting up a picnic feast at the cabins. You’d really have to keep your fingers crossed for weather as perfect as ours was! Mid-October and we were all lounging around in the sand and wading into the water.
We also took a big (looong) family hike on another trail that meandered alongside the Des Moines River.
Can’t you just hear the crunch-swish-swish-crunch of all of the leaves?