NOTE: IN ORDER TO BETTER SEE PHOTOS IN THEIR FULL 1600 PX. RESOLUTION, VIEW THEM IN THE ALBUM FORMAT BY CLICKING ON THE LEAD PHOTO OR ANY PHOTO IN THE POST. This is especially true for landscape shots. Thanks to Mark for the idea of adding this alert so the photos can be seen at their best!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Hiking and Biking in Iowa

The more we travel, the more we realize how great our Wisconsin state parks system is. From the staffed gatehouse to the convenient dump station down to the meticulously labeled and perfectly laid out campsites. When we arrived at Pikes Peak state park in Iowa on Friday, it was nothing but confusion. We made reservations online ahead of time, but when we arrived there was a sign at the entrance saying first come first serve please self-register. So, we thought, this must be the non-reservable loop, keep driving until we find the other one. It was the only loop we soon discovered, so we came back, but there was no place to check in, and no site labeled camp host, no signs indicating whether the loop was one-way or two-way driving, no sign indicating anything! A woman noticed our confusion, came over and asked if she could help. I asked if she was the camp host and she said yes and directed us to our site after confirming we had reservations because the campground was full. We asked which road we should take in to our site and she said it didn't matter, go this way, but when we drove down the way she indicated it was the "wrong" way and we had to go back around in order to back in to our site. These are all small things, I know, but I just didn't realize how great we had it whenever we went to a Wisconsin state park! When we got to the site, I doubted we would fit, but we got in and set up.

The next morning we decided we'd start our day off with a bike ride down to the town of McGregor. The Great River Road was closed for construction just outside the park entrance road down to the town, but we figured that didn't mean closed to mountain bikes, right? The dirt was quite rutted, and it was an 8% grade so I pretty much rode the brakes the whole way down while trying to dodge bad spots. The fall color up here looks a bit dull, and folks have told us they've had a very dry summer, but it was still a pretty ride and there was no one but us and some turkey vultures on our ride.

When we got into town, we discovered they were having some sort of fall festival. Traffic was heavy and we decided it was probably better to ride on the street than on the crowded sidewalk, but I was pretty nervous zipping past motorcycles and wondering whether cars parked along the side wouldn't see us and open a door or pull out. The town has quite a few charming buildings from the 1800's that are in nice shape, including a former carriage makers. Wayne stopped to chat for a minute with the lady giving buggy rides.

It didn't take long for us to reach the Mississippi River and we were happy to discover a paved path we could get onto instead of the busy road. We weren't on it very long before it ran out though, and we crossed the road to investigate a National Wildlife Refuge sign. I ran across the road on foot and Wayne soon followed with both bikes. The visitors center was closed and there were no paths or access to anything due to the bluffs, so we turned around and went back through town to tackle that uphill ride. We didn't make it too far before having to hop off and push the bikes, and even then we were breathing pretty hard. After making lunch we drove over to Prairie du Chien in Wisconsin to check out the Cabela's and run some errands.

On Saturday we headed over to Effigy Mounds National Monument which was just a short drive north to the town of Marquette, Iowa. The rangers at the monument were very informative and in addition to information about the mounds we dug for details about area kayaking and good restaurants. The first section of the trail was pretty steep, and then there were a few switchbacks.

The woods were very pretty, but as those who've seen mounds before know, there really isn't much to see about the mounds themselves. The film was nice, and the museum in the visitor center was good also, and I'd recommend getting educated before heading out to any mound site. We just absorbed the peace of the woods and I thought about how different life was for the Native Americans than it is for us today. After our 3 mile round trip hike we went out to lunch at Fort Mulligan's Grill in Prairie du Chien on the Wisconsin side of the Mississippi which was one of the places the ranger recommended. The food was good but not great, but the prices were reasonable and our waitress was very sweet and helpful.


  1. I camped at Pikes Peak SP before I retired, and the best thing I can say about it is that it was cheap. :) (that was 6 or 7 years ago)

  2. That's the reason we decided to stay the whole week instead of moving! Won't be back again, but it's ok for a short trip. We're probably heading over to Wyalusing State Park in Wisconsin today for some hiking and to check out their campground.