Sunday, July 30, 2006

Another delightful Iowa State Park

Sunday, July 30

“Use the talents you possess; the woods would be very silent if no birds sang there except those that sang best.”
– Henry Van Dyke

After four days at FW Kent County Park – with its abundant huge trees and serenading birds – I reluctantly left and headed south. One thing I was looking forward to was exploring the towns of Kalona and Fairfield. What I didn’t think about was that the shops and cafes in the Amish town of Kalona would be closed for Sunday morning. I had to settle for driving slowly down a few of the streets to enjoy the old homes.

I also drove around Fairfield. It is the center for Transcendental Meditation: the Maharishi University of Management and Maharishi Vedic City are located there. This town also has picturesque old two-, three- and four-story homes.

After driving through the small town of Keosauqua – founded in 1839 making it one of the oldest communities in Iowa – before crossing the Des Moines River and entering the tree-lined road for Lacey-Keosauqua State Park, I knew this was going to be another delightful park. With 1,653 acres of hills, bluffs and valleys, it truly lives up to the brochure’s claim of being one of the most picturesque state parks. It is one of 46 parks that offer modern camping facilities.

I wasted no time – even with the heat and humidity – heading out for a hike. It was going to be just a short one (I didn’t even take water), but each step down the road and through the wooded path kept me moving forward.

Next thing I knew I was standing along the Des Moines River at the historic Ely Mormon Crossing. From the late 1840s through the 1860s, an exodus of more than 70,000 Mormons passed by here on the way to their “New Zion” in Utah. Starting from Nauvoo, Illinois, in February 1846, the first group of at least 13,000 Mormons crossed into Iowa right here.

In all, I hiked about three miles, including a portion that was spooky. The trail was well used, but not well marked. After about an hour, I thought I would be at the connecting trail that would take me back to the campground, but it was nowhere in sight.

I’m not as brave as some of you think. I was hiking through trees so tall and thick that sunlight barely came through. Occasionally I got close enough to get a glance of the river. When the river was not in sight, I realized how easily people could get confused and lost in the woods. And, what critters could be lurking nearby? Oh, my! Should I turn around and go back? Or go further in hopes of connecting with the campground trail?

Just as I was about to turn around and go back, I came to a connecting trail that said “to the park road.” I took this trail, which turned out to be quite long before I came to the road. But once there, there was no indication whether I should go to the right or to the left! As huge as this park is, the road could be going a bunch of places. I took a calculated guess and went left. I stopped a car that came along and they verified that I was headed in the right direction. What a relief. Jeremiah looked so good and was so cool inside.

Courage does not always roar.
Sometimes it is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying:
“I will try again tomorrow.”