Brushy Creek State Recreation Area – Southern Legs

Brushy Creek Google

Brushy Creek State Recreation Area is located in west central Iowa, just southeast of Ft Dodge.

In terms of state green spaces, it is relatively young. Like many places in Iowa, everything about it is man-made. It was once what it’s name suggests, a creek running through a canyon. Then in 1967 the Iowa DNR proposed damming it up and creating the lake. There was nearly 20 years of kickback before it was finally approved. Today Brushy Creek consists of the lake at the northern end of the park, and a large network of equestrian trails to the south. In fact, if you look at the larger trail map of the Lake Trail below, you can see where the original Brushy Creek wound through the canyon that filled up to create the lake.

Brushy FullIn total, they have about 45 miles of trails to walk. While I have completed my exploration of the park, I did not do it in one outing.

The focus of this post will be on the southern two trails that are both down and back style trails.

This was my third trip to the park, so I had an idea of what to expect. I had just completed the middle network only a couple of weeks prior to this trip and was anxious to finish my exploration.

I was also using this trip to prepare for my attempt at redemption with Yellow River State Forest. I was anticipating around 20 miles for this trip, which would give me the opportunity to test my legs as far as distance. When it comes to Yellow River’s elevation gain, that’s another story.

Brushy SE.JPGKnowing I had some miles to cover, I trimmed down my load and left the camera gear at home. All of the pictures are from my cell phone, and there is a noticeable difference in quality. Since I had such an ambitious day planned, I got a very early start. I arrived well before sunrise and parked in the Day Use parking area (Red Star) where both trails start from. I started with only my headlamp to see with, which could have helped with my mistake.

Now I had it built into my hiking plan to start with the SW section since that looked more appealing on the maps, leaving the SE section to be the one I bailed on early incase I found my legs were unprepared for a 20 miler.

Brushy splitTo help give better detail of the mistake, I pulled up my data and drew on the above screen shot. So the mistake came at the yellow circle where the trails divide. The trail map isn’t overly clear as to how this divide happens, and in the dark I missed the one iffy trail marking I found in the whole park…

IMG_4225As you can see from the pictures I took upon my return trip, when you are approaching from the treeline, there isn’t a sign that stands out to tell you which way to go. In the dark, I’m not sure I even noticed it.

IMG_4226If you approach it from the other directions, yeah, the signs stand out… So… I went the wrong way and started on the East Loop. Whoops.

Now the trail here was mostly an access road to the pastures for the farmer’s cows.


Brushy SEThis is actually what threw up the red flag as the West Loop Trail was supposed to have the river to my east, not a pasture. I figured it out, shrugged, and proceeded on. It was short-lived though as I ran into a creek where the only option was to splash on through it (Yellow Star). Now the creek wasn’t too bad, but I didn’t want to deal with wet feet on the onset of the hike. With what I had seen from the little bit I’d hiked so far, I wasn’t feeling like the rest was going to be much better and turned around.

That is one of the gambles of the rec areas. Since they need to be navigable for horses, many of the trails have fewer interesting features so things like wading through creeks aren’t normally worth the discomfort.

I didn’t like the idea of leaving miles behind, but figured I had plenty to go and returned to where I figured out my mistake. I looped around the sunflower field, headed down the gravel road, and picked up the West Loop to continue my hike.

Brushy SW.JPG

The West Loop began with an immediate descent down a rough road that appears to have been long abandoned (as a vehicle road). It was very apparent though, that this section receives far more traffic than the East Loop as it was well-worn.


This helped the trail have a really smooth flow. I found my pace to be pretty quick as I walked along the river. I picked out a route I wanted to traverse to cover as many of the trails within the network at the farthest point from the parking lot (Red Line). My favorite part was Maple Trail that started by the Blue Star. I’m a sucker for the long paths between rows of trees that form clear lines.


The Maple Trail did rejoin the West Loop where I followed it around the bend and to an open field. This was a nice little place to take a break as the sun was really starting to warm things up. By this point I had realized that I was way ahead of schedule, and not just because of ditching out early on the East Loop. I was making great time on the West Loop. I debated on whether I was going to stay on the loop for the return, or sneak down to Turkey Trail and weave through the other sections like I had planned. I ultimately chose to weave as that is the purpose of the exploration, to learn about as much as possible to share with you.

Brushy SWThat being said, I should have skipped Turkey Trail and stayed on the loop for a little bit longer. Around the Purple Star it looked like they were doing a lot of work, possibly changing up the trail system, so the area was really rough. Not only that, but the mosquitoes were horrible in this one area! They were barely noticeable everywhere else, but along Turkey they chewed me up like mad.

Once I got through Turkey and on to Cedar Trail, it was pretty smooth sailing back to the car. Once I got back on the gravel road at the end of the trailhead, I realised I could just walk down the road to entrance to the parking area rather than around the sunflower field and through the short wood.Brushy splitWith that I am considering my exploration of Brushy Creek State Recreation Area complete. This section hike totaled a little over 12 miles for the day, bringing the total miles hiked at Brushy to about 33 miles. Now I recognize that I skipped a good portion of the East Loop, and a few trails of the Middle Network, so maybe 35-40 for a full circuit. I will likely return in the future and see how far I can push in a single outing, because I like challenges like that.

IMG_4234I feel that these trails are very easy to navigate and aren’t overly demanding. As long as you can handle the miles, you can hike these trails. Be sure to bring your map to help you navigate the network portion of the loops, and it’s always a good idea to at least have some water and snacks as well. If you are an equestrian rider, these trails are very popular if you’re looking for some place new.

Don’t forget to hop on over and check out the video on YouTube.

I hope this trail report helped you find a new place to get out there and go for a walk!


Brushy Creek State Rec Area – Middle Network

Brushy Creek Google

Brushy Creek State Recreation Area is located in west central Iowa, just southeast of Ft Dodge.

In terms of state green spaces, it is relatively young. Like many places in Iowa, everything about it is man-made. It was once what it’s name suggests, a creek running through a canyon. Then in 1967 the Iowa DNR proposed damming it up and creating the lake. There was nearly 20 years of kickback before it was finally approved. Today Brushy Creek consists of the lake at the northern end of the park, and a large network of equestrian trails to the south. In fact, if you look at the larger trail map of the Lake Trail below, you can see where the original Brushy Creek wound through the canyon that filled up to create the lake.

Brushy FullIn total, they have about 45 miles of trails to walk. While I have completed my exploration of the park, I did not do it in one outing.

The focus of this post will be on the middle network of trails between the turquoise Lake Loop, and the southern “legs.”

This was my second trip to the park, so I had an idea of what to expect. The weather was pretty hot and humid in early August, so when there was a momentary drop in both I jumped on the chance to get outside.

The day was beautiful with clear skies, comfortable temps, and low winds.

I parked at the campgrounds and the first thing I noticed was  just how busy Brushy Creek is! When I hiked it the year before with Jessie, there was barely anyone else around.

Every camp site was full, and the majority of them had horse trailers. As I found during my hike, this is a pretty popular spot for equestrian traffic. The morning started out with almost no one else on the trails, but by 9 AM I started running into riders on a regular basis.CJP_5421

Brushy Creek Middle Marked up.jpg

As I mentioned, I parked at the entrance to the campground in the center of the map (Red Star). I opted to travel in a clockwise direction like usual, and the path I ended up following is the orange line. I knew it was going to be a good day when the first image I saw as I crossed the road to the first trailhead was the scene I used for my featured image. The bright morning sky, with the remnants of the fog rising from the creek was a real mood setter (here it is again).


Immediately I saw that this section of trail was going to be different than the Lake Loop. The Lake Loop is a graveled path where you spend most of your time walking in the open. This network is a hard-packed dirt trail, wandering through a thick wood.

Like most lake area trails, they are pretty flat and flow well over the rolling hills. Now personally, I’m not a big fan of spending a lot of time on an exposed trail, so I intentionally skipped out on Pond Trail. Recognizing on the map that it is an exposed trail, mostly for equestrian use, with a good portion of road walking, I wasn’t excited to try and work it into my loop. So I stuck to the trees.


I was definitely enjoying my hike in the woods, but I noticed that there was very little animal life to capture with my camera. As I exited the Clay Hill Trail and hit the southernmost portion of the Lake Loop I finally caught this fawn, who saw me well before I was able to get within range for a close up shot. Shortly after I was able to get her in frame, she bounded away into the tall grass. Aside from a toad and a couple bugs, that was the extent of the wildlife that trip.


The sun was burning strong over the prairie grasses during this short walk before I returned to the woods. If you attempt to string together the multiple sections of the park, this is the connector between the Lake Loop and the middle network.

From there I entered Preserve Trail and began heading back south. The point of note I’d like to chat about is a potential rest area that could be improved a slight bit (Yellow Star). At the first curve of the trail is a little bench, looking down to the creek. Now as it is, it is a good place to take a pause if need be. The bench is a little worn, but it is functional. Now what could be nice, is to drag in a picnic table, replace or clean up the bench, and clear up the view a bit by cutting down some of the foliage. Now that could create a desired picnic spot.

CJP_5408Not too far from that point I ran into a little guy climbing his silk. I made a valiant attempt at getting it nice and sharp without actually having a lens designed for that close up macro view point. It was a fun little break in the hike regardless.

The next point of note was a creek crossing along the Meadow Trail (Blue Star). Originally I had planned on following it north to the Lake Loop again, then road walking down to Big Rock Trail where I’d have to cross again. Honestly, I didn’t notice there was a creek before I set off. However, after I ran into it, it became clear that it was on the map. I just wasn’t looking for it.


You might have to look close, but that is a swarm of mosquitoes. Also, there aren’t really any stepping stones to help hikers across, so you’ll have to get your feet wet. I do like it when they place ways to cross streams to help keep your feet dry though (hint hint DNR…). In this case, since it was only going to be about 1.5 – 2 mile loop (Yellow Loop) and come back to this point, I chose to avoid the swarm and wet feet.

Continuing on the trail I found it to remain pretty consistent. The only portion of the network that I was unsure about as I planned my trip was the upcoming Bridge Trail. It looked as though you had to cross the road and then walk alongside it for a bit, which isn’t overly normal for a marked trail. Once I got to that point though, I realized that the trail actually went under the bridge, then you walked trail on the north edge of a fallow field, before taking a gravel drive south where you can re-enter the tree line.


If you want to stretch it out a bit more for mileage, you can continue along the road as it turns into Cemetery Trail, but it is an exposed trail that goes around the septic treatment pits.

The Bridge Trail that I stayed on terminates at a 4-way intersection of trails, a place where Bridge, Cemetery, and Creek trails all meet. I was originally going to take Cemetery at this point, but a pair of riders where heading down that direction and their horses where acting pretty skittish at sensing my presence. So as you can see on the map, I went straight and looped back around to cross over my previous path instead. After that it was a short walk up Creek Trail, then through the campground and back to the car.

Since I mentioned the connectors to the Lake Loop, I should comment that where Cemetery terminates into Day-Use Trail is where the connector for the southern trails is. With such a large trail network, one thing that is nice about Brushy Creek is that their trails are very well marked, with only one hiccup on the SW leg I’ll discuss in that upcoming trail report. So that being said, make sure to take a map with you just to verify you’re on the right path.


Overall, a really enjoyable little hike. The route I ended up finishing netted 8 miles and took a little under 3 hours. It is a fairly smooth trail that most anyone can tackle, with plenty of options so you can stay within your known limits. On the other side of that, with that extensive network, it also offers opportunity for those looking to really crush some miles to build a hefty hike for themselves. I know this hiker is looking to challenge himself with an attempt to hike all three sections in one day. I’ve estimated it should be roughly 34 – 40 miles for the entire attempt…

CJP_5397Make sure to check the DNR website if we’ve been having some wet weather since the trails are dirt. Last year the only available trail was the Lake Loop as the middle and southern sections were closed. I know Volga was pretty much taken out of commission for a while due to riders not adhering to the postings and riding anyway.

So check out the video on YouTube, stuff your pack with water, snacks, and your map, and enjoy your walk!



Madera Hammocks

CJP_6864So I took opportunity of the great weather today to get out for some snowshoeing down at Lake MacBride State Park. The lake was quite frozen and I used it to take a shortcut back to the car after I got the photos that I set out to capture. Besides, my camera battery was dead… 180-some shots and my favorites are the pano up top, and two close ups of the snow.



While I was looking for some nice winter shots to capture, they weren’t the actual intent of the hike.

CJP_6865The actual intent was to get some pictures of the new Madera Hammock I just got the other day. Now this one is Cheryl’s, the one I ordered for me is a pre-order and isn’t expected to ship until the end of February. Now this is my first hammock experience, but I have been researching them for a while now. Like a couple years “a while.” The construction seems to be pretty solid, and the cost wasn’t too bad. This was just a simple taste test for practice’s sake. I’ll have to post a review after I get more experience with it.


So far I’m starting to understand where the draw to hammocks comes from. Even though it was cold, it was quite nice to lay in it and just… chill. lol


Now the other reason I wanted to get out and take some product shots was to be able to announce that even though I don’t have any experience with hammocks, the company thought my passion for the outdoors was a good fit for their ambassador program.

So periodically I will post about their brand, offer discounts for their products, and provide reviews. In return, if you decide to purchase through the links I provide, like this one:

I get a small commission.


So if you are curious about hammocks and don’t want to drop hundreds of dollars on your first one, they are almost always running sales. I got Cheryl’s for about $50 with the tree straps.

As always, I hope you enjoy your walk!

New Intro and Outro Video

new-youtube-logoSo a quick post looking for feedback. I’ve spent the last several weeks working on improving my YouTube videos with adding an intro and outro. I’ve finally finished them and posted them on YouTube for review.

Brave I know. However, if you’re someone who watches my videos I would appreciate your input on ways to improve them. After all, if I add these to the beginning and end of every video, and they annoy you, you’re less likely to watch more videos right?

So please give me some honest criticism.

Thank you in advance!

Brushy Creek State Rec Area – Lake Loop

Brushy Creek Google

Brushy Creek State Recreation Area is located in west central Iowa, just southeast of Ft Dodge.

In terms of state green spaces, it is relatively young. Like many places in Iowa, everything about it is man-made. It was once what it’s name suggests, a creek running through a canyon. Then in 1967 the Iowa DNR proposed damming it up and creating the lake. There was nearly 20 years of kickback before it was finally approved. Today Brushy Creek consists of the lake at the northern end of the park, and a large network of equestrian trails to the south. In fact, if you look at the larger trail map of the Lake Trail below, you can see where the original Brushy Creek wound through the canyon that filled up to create the lake.

Brushy FullIn total, they have about 45 miles of trails to walk. While I have completed my exploration of the park, I did not do it in one outing.

The focus of this post will be on the turquoise-ish lake loop trail on the north end of the map.

My first trip there was an impromptu trip in August of 2016. The summer was waning and Jessie and I still hadn’t completed our annual “Kill Jessie Hike.”

IMG_2880We had planned on heading up north to Volga, but at the last minute Iowa happened and the weather forecast went from sunny, to severe thunderstorms.

I scoured the map, my database, and weather forecasts for a minimum of a 10 mile trail (’cause that’s the rule to try and kill Jessie), we could get to, hike, and get home before supper.

The storm front was moving swift and I found that by the time we would get to Brushy Creek, the storms would have already rolled through the area. So I called Jessie, and we agreed that it was the best option. So we prepped our gear and left before the sun came up.

Brushy Creek Lake.JPG

Due to the weather we both opted to leave the cameras at home as they aren’t weather sealed and we didn’t fully trust that our hike was going to stay dry. So photos are limited for this one.

We arrived just after sunrise and parked in the lot near the campground (red star). There wasn’t a whole lot of activity at the park that day, but a few fisherman were out on the lake throughout the hike. All of the other trails were closed due to a pretty wet summer, but the Lake Trail is gravel and was pretty much the only available trail in the state it felt like.

We set off from the parking lot and hiked in a clockwise direction. The trail is mostly open with little tree cover. It skirts either prairie or corn/bean fields along the outer edge of the lake the majority of the time. Now and then it would dip into the trees and give a brief escape from the wind and sun if they happen to be particularly harsh, which we did have some good winds during our trek.

IMG_2888The first note is marked with a green star. Here we found that there was an unmarked path that allowed us to bypass the campground. It was just a farmer’s access road for the most part, but by the amount of road apples, it was a common shortcut.

The biggest treat on the trail for me were the points in which there were bridges that cut across some inlets (blue stars). The old trees that once grew in the canyon are still there, and the surface of the water was completely green with algae at a couple.

Eventually we did get rained on, but it was only briefly. After that shower passed, the sky opened up and we finally got some great blue skies for the rest of our hike. The trail didn’t claim Jessie, he walked away with some sore feet though.

The trail overall was pretty flat and we made good time. Given your confidence with the number of miles you can hike in one session, this trail would definitely be accessible to pretty much anyone. I found that throughout the park the trails are marked pretty well. I found that I never really had to reference the map, other than to just check on our progress.

One thing I found interesting was that the park is one of the designated grow sites for the prairie recovery program in Iowa (orange star). I actually knew nothing about this until I saw some signage and looked it up. From what I understand, they grow native species of prairie flowers and grasses, let them go to seed, and then distribute the seeds across the state to encourage more growth. A nice little surprise to unexpectedly come across.

After a little bit more hiking we came to an open area where it appeared that they may have discontinued trail maintenance on the outermost portion since it appeared to be very overgrown (purple star). We just crossed the road and took the campground trail back to the parking lot.

IMG_2873That is the down and dirty of the Lake Trail. I have found that Iowa lake trails tend to be pretty similar. Few overlooks or scenic views, but that doesn’t mean you should skip them. If you are a mileage muncher like me, most tend to give you around 10+ miles. Even though this hike wasn’t jam-packed with scenery, it does have those inlets that I really enjoyed. I’ve been kicking around the idea of getting out on the water in a kayak with my camera for a different perspective. This is one place that would be very interesting to check out from the water.


The trail ended up being 12.5 miles and took about 5 hours to finish. So be sure to take plenty of water and some snacks before you decide to tackle the whole loop.

Also, please check out the video over on YouTube as well!

I hope you enjoy your walk!

Another year may be down, but more adventure awaits!

Well I guess it is that time of year where I do a write up on the past year of getting my shoes dirty. I have to say 2017 was a pretty good year. Even though there were a good number of miles that my feet didn’t get to walk, I achieved a lot of the goals I set for myself.

2018 Mileage

Every year I set the goal to cover at least 100 miles of trails. For 2017 I went super ambitious and tried to include the remainder of the state parks I’ve researched, the hikes my wife and I like to do each year, and my return to Yellow River for redemption. In total I set myself on a collision course with 212 miles of ground pounding (2016’s 140 miles is the most I’ve ever done). As you can see from the screen shot of my spreadsheet… I didn’t make it. I did make my annual goal of 100 miles by 12.75 miles, so it’s still a win.

dsc03528If there was a negative to be found with this year’s hiking; it would have to have been not getting to do the winter icefall hike at Starved Rock, and the Halloween hike that my wife and I enjoy doing every year. This year looks to correct the icefalls at least… -46 with windchill last week.

Two of the best hiking achievements of the year were beating Yellow River, and finally experiencing the outdoorsman mecca of Colorado! It’s been six months since our family adventure and we still can’t stop thinking about it. Of course I did just finish posting about it a couple weeks ago, so there’s been a constant reminder.


Looking over the website, I think I have been improving on my ability to produce better trail reports and blog posts. I love the map addition! Some of my early posts were quite short with limited information. My more recent ones I feel give you, the readers, a better picture of what to expect. To everyone who has messaged me, I do appreciate all of the compliments you have given, I sincerely thank you. I hope to continue improving upon the resource I’m building here.

One way I have been improving the posts has been through my photography. I have been upgrading my gear to better capture what my eyes see in order to share it with you. I have several more upgrades I still want to get in order to make them even better, but for now I will continue to capture the best images I can. (In other words, they ain’t cheap!)

img_4606What started out as something to record my hiking journeys for memory’s sake, has turned into a real passion. I started with nothing more than a mid-level Sony Cyber-shot point-n-shoot camera. It got the job done, but the more I started to enjoy the craft of photo and video, the more I desired to upgrade.

Then one night Cheryl and I were lying in bed in a hotel room outside Starved Rock… waiting for Titan and Odessa to finish getting ready for bed so we could icefall hike the next day (dirty minds…). We had been married for just under a year, and we had recently just decided to try for my first child. We hadn’t told anyone, so our conversations were in hushed tones and secret code around the kids. However, that was the night that we made the choice to invest in a nice mid-level DSLR camera to capture the future life of our little CJ. I have since increased my inventory from the simple Sony point-n-shoot, to a Nikon with 2 lens, to uh.. a lot more…



On the topic of upgrades, see the PC on the left with the glowing colors and 3 monitors? Yep, that is the Edi’nator! The one on the right is the 9 year old darling that is still a strong PC when it comes to most functions. However, it finally hit a point where it was starting to lag on photo edits, and video was just too frustrating. So Edi’nator was built to edit the heck out of some Iowa Hiker media. Which means I can finally get back to making videos. The first video it edited was CJ’s second birthday video. Not even a slight hiccup.

I’ve loved every minute I’ve spent developing better and better content (literally everything in those pictures is to deliver better photos and videos to you). So much so that I’ve decided to put a concentrated effort into building a landscape photography presence. One reason for the decrease in my online presence over the past several months has been because I have been putting most of my focus on setting myself up to move into a professional photography capacity in 2018! dun dun dunnnnn!

Now I’m not quitting my job and risking it all, I like my job, and it affords me plenty of opportunity to get outdoors as it is. This is more of a long term, slow developing… (pun intended), retirement plan. I haven’t launched an official photography website yet, I’m waiting until I feel it looks right. So far I’m just not satisfied. I acknowledge it’s the perfectionist in me that I regularly attempt to suppress because he holds me back. Although he did reward me with a Summa Cum Laude on a BS in Psych thanks to a 4.0. (Slavedriver ID…) Regardless, I’m excited. As far as honing my skill, besides shooting everything I can when I hike for repetition’s sake; when you have such an adorable subject that knows when the camera is on her such as I have, it makes practicing easy!


So 2017, work promotion, 100 miles, MOUNTAINS!!!!!!, snowshoeing, new gear, professional photography, an amazing wife and a heart stealing 2 year-old.

I’m not sure I would have noticed if it could have been better. I hope your 2018 is going to be filled with happiness and dirt. So far my rough itinerary is up to 204 miles… 😉

The next upgrade; this logo my best man made for me. I really like the idea behind the design, but I feel it needs more umph… and Notre Dame… lol not really, but it’d be cool for a game day t-shirt. My wife actually had one made for me before we were married where the t-shirt is navy and Iowa is gold. She’s the best.


May 2018 be dirty and awesome for us all!

Pikes Peak and Garden of the Gods, CO

DSC_4898The Colorado Adventure: Day 7 (The End)

(Cheryl was very happy for her new Jeep, so she had to have a couple gratuitous Jeep shots 😉 .)

Thanks to shifting around the schedule we were able to free up an entire day. Once we got to the hotel we snagged a bunch of tourist pamphlets to see what there was to do around town. There were a lot of attractions around town, but eventually we came to the conclusion that we were just trying to find a way to spend more money. After a week of being on the road, we were ready to head home. We had two attractions left on this adventure that we still needed to complete. So we prepared ourselves to get some sleep, hit our two stops in the morning, and be on the road by the afternoon.

If you’re new to this string, keep reading. If you’ve read about our adventure before, skip to the next picture.

Less Junk More JourneyColorado TripI must give credit where it is due. While the majority of the trip were places we knew about, the specific itinerary ideas were thanks to a YouTube channel called Less Junk, More Journey. The channel is a regular vlog about a family traveling around the country full-time in their RV. I used locations from their videos that really interested Cheryl and I, and formed a route that covered most of the state of Colorado. The route’s intention was to give us a taste of what every area had to offer so that we would know what we wanted more of. We consulted the kids to get their input and set our plans in motion.


Stop number 9: the other Pikes Peak. You know, the one that stole our Pikes Peak’s thunder… Pikes Peak has its own road that takes you all of the way to the summit. The “toll” to start the climb is not the cheapest fee out there, so be prepared for that. To be honest, by the time we were half way up, the fee was already gone from my mind. Pikes Peak is the tallest mountain on the front range at 14,115 ft., and best of all you get to drive to the top! You can also take a train from Manitou Springs, or hike to the summit if you wish. Cheryl and I have already agreed that next time we are going to hike it, starting with the Manitou Incline! A straight up challenge where you gain 2,000 ft of elevation in 1 mile, then you have to hike another 12,000 ft to the summit! (Not really, since you already start well above sea level, but it sounds good. Really it’s only another 3,500 ft or so.)

IMG_4062The road was full of switch backs as you travel higher into the clouds. Along the way they have several little shops and plenty of overlook spots. They do recommend taking your time to try to ease into the elevation gain, and many of these stops were designed to help facilitate that. Also, make sure to be drinking plenty of water, even if you aren’t feeling thirsty. However, we (well I) decided that we should power up to the summit and use the stops on the way down as a way to help keep the brakes cool. There was a solid understanding that if anyone was feeling the effects of the altitude that they needed to say something. We had already had that happen during our Rocky Mountain National Park visit, so I wasn’t worried that someone wouldn’t speak up.

For the most part everyone was fine on the way up. There is a stop about halfway up where they check your brakes on the way down. We did take a little stop there to use the restroom and stretch our legs since it does take a while to get to the summit. Here is where we first started to notice the thinner air and that the clouds were hanging pretty low. Our fingers were crossed that by the time we made the summit they might dissipate, unfortunately that wasn’t going to happen.

It was interesting driving in the clouds. It was like driving in a super dense fog, that was relatively dry. It was chilly up on the summit for certain, and the view, well there wasn’t one that day. However, I was on top of a mountain, and that was all that mattered.

After being at the summit for a little while, the altitude finally started to get to me. There is a gift shop and eatery on the summit, so I went inside. The train was currently on the summit, so the shop was packed! It cleared out quickly once the train announced it was leaving though. The kids wanted to have a couple of novelty doughnuts before we started back down, and I’m pretty sure the littlest one got more than the big kids did.


The trip down went quicker than I thought it would. I ran the Jeep in manual and used the brakes as sparingly as I could. They didn’t have the brake station active since the temps were still chilly, but we still stopped at a couple of places to make sure they stayed cool, as well as to get some pictures and use the bathrooms. The sun eventually came up and started to burn off the lower cloud cover, allowing for some scenic views, but the peak remained covered.

While we didn’t get the epic peak view we were looking for, we know that next time we will be in the area for several days and can watch the weather to hopefully catch a better day to make the summit. They do have live stream cameras on the peak so a person could wait and keep checking in until the peak looks clear.

We were feeling hungry by the time we made it off the mountain. Since our 10th and final stop, Garden of the Gods, was only a few minutes away and had a cafe, we headed straight there.


CJP_5142Garden of the Gods is a grouping of red rock that sits basically on the border of Colorado Springs and Manitou Springs. Many of the outcroppings have earned nicknames from their shapes, like Kissing Camels. There are several parts to the park, but in the center is the main section with a paved walkway. It’s a good-sized loop, that has most of the more scenic rocks. The rest of the trails in the park have gravel walkways.

After we got a bite to eat, we headed out to take a look around. I was super surprised to find parking a real challenge. Everywhere we looked the small little lots were full. Eventually we were able to find a place to park and get out for a walk in the rocks. It was actually challenging to try to get photographs without other visitors in them. Rock climbing is active in the park, so many tourists take this as fair play to just scramble around and hang out on the smaller ones. We did see a good number of legit climbers scattered throughout the larger climbs though.

The formations were quite neat, and I do wonder if there are points in a day where one could capture the images without people in them. The rocks just stick out of the ground in a such a way that it almost feels unnatural to be honest. I’d like to go back after a fresh snow and see what kind of clean images I could get. In all, it was a pretty neat place.

I wish we had more time to explore Garden of the Gods. First, we didn’t realize just how big it was, and weather was starting to move in pretty fast. There was lightning on the horizon, so having the knowledge that we’d be back, we chose to cut it short for safety.


We departed from the park and jumped on the road toward Denver to meet up with a friend of Cheryl’s for dinner. From there we said a sad goodbye to Colorado, and began our drive back to Iowa. We will forever be fond of Colorado, and if for some reason we just had to move there I don’t think we’d be too sad, but for now Iowa is home.