Thursday, July 27, 2006

There’s been a whole lot of mowing going on!

July 27

A well-deserved day of rest and exploration awaited me this morning. There are about seven miles of trails and a visitors’ center/conservation education center here at FW Kent, and I intend to see it all while I’m here.

The trails are either crushed gravel or mowed grass. There is a low of mowed grass area throughout the park – and I’m told that it takes 100 hours to mow it all (on large ride-on mowers).

Spending time in Iowa City was not on my original itinerary – but an email from my Albuquerque friend, Larry Flinn, changed my plan. He wrote that he will be here visiting his son this weekend and if I’m here we can go out to dinner! What a pleasant surprise, so instead of going from Backbone to Lake Darling, I’m here instead for three days.

“In the end we will conserve only what we love, we will only love what we understand, and we will only understand what we are taught.”
-– Baba Dioum

My first hike was to the Conservation Center’s Ecosystem Trail; the actual education center won’t be open until the weekend. I strolled through the three important Iowa habitats: prairie, wetlands and woodlands. The wildflowers were abundant and colorful.

After lunch and a time to cool off from the morning hike, I headed off to find the trail that would take me around the park’s 27-acre lake. The trail features seven historical bridges that were moved from county roads to the park.

This historic 70-foot-long bowstring arch bridge is the oldest one in Kent Park – its exact age is not known, but it was likely constructed in the 1870s. This design is considered the first successful all-iron truss bridge developed in the U.S. in the 19th century. Squire Whipple, “one of the most famous engineers of his time,” patented the first bowstring arch truss in 1841. The bridge originally crossed a tributary of Old Man’s Creek southwest of Iowa City.