Wapsipinicon State Park

Nine Eagles google map

Wapsipinicon State Park is located in eastern Iowa, just outside of Anamosa.

I spent a great morning with my wife and daughter on super nice day in June of 2017. The park actually sits on the border of Anamosa, separated by the Wapsipinicon River. On the northwest border of the park is the local golf course. So there is almost always someone nearby enjoying the trails with you.

Wapsi Trail Map parking

There are a ton places to park throughout the park. So if you just want to check out a specific feature, chances are high you’ll be able to park next to it.

Wapsi Trail Map route.jpg


Now we parked at the playground (orange star) where there would be restrooms accessible. As my standard, we hiked the park in a clockwise direction, heading to Hale Bridge (green star) which was relocated to park by the National Guard in 2006. It is a short paved walk from the road to the bridge that has been converted into a pedestrian bridge.

CJP_4118From there we began our actual dirt walking on the Prairie Trails (yellow), sticking close to the river.

For the most part the prairie trails are mowed grass. They are well maintained and easy to follow. My only criticism would be the junction where you need to turn westward back into the park (blue star). There could be a sign so you don’t accidentally continue down the river path like I did the first time I hiked the park.

As far as challenging, this is probably the closest this park comes with a decent climb up to the southern-most point. From there it descends to a 4-way intersection (pink star) where you could choose to take the other climb up to the overlook (purple star), or the better choice of heading west into the piney wood! (gray star)


Now this is the real highlight of this park. The best kind of woods walks are those that take you down a pine flanked trail. The colors, the sounds, the smells. All mind soothers. All of ours in Iowa are too short, and this follows suit. However, just slow your pace and it’ll feel longer. 🙂


Once we got to the end of the trail, we hooked west/southwest and followed the creek back toward Horse Thief Trail and the cave (black star). It is a shallow cave, but would have been more than sufficient to provide shelter to any horse thieves back in the day. Heh.


We quickly walked the road back to the car we drove up to the lodge by the overlook (purple star), and walked the short distance to check out the view. Mostly it is just a big hill that lets you see the park from edge to edge. Baby girl had a blast running around in the grass, picking the clover blossoms, so still a win.


Finally, we can’t leave off without discussing the playground. Super good playground. I know a certain 18 month old that thought it was the best place ever! If you want to enjoy those giggles, head on over to the Youtube video and see for yourself!

I hope you enjoy Wapsipinicon State Park as much as we did, and make sure to bring the little ones.

I’m terrible about updating… Good thing this is a hobby…ish

So first, yeah its been 6 months. My bad.

5c8c2f6669699.imageIn the meantime I’ve been making up for last year’s lack of hiking. Now that we’re into the fall shoulder season I’ve actually accomplished most of my goal hikes for the year. (For once.) A lot of the focus has been on western Iowa. Unfortunately, the flooding of the Missouri River that crushed Nebraska, also effected 4 of the parks I had on the list for this year. In fact, Wilson Island State Park was so damaged that it’s unknown when it will get to reopen.

As far as content, I’ve been been working on my backlog of parks where I have completed the trail reports, but hadn’t finished the videos yet. I posted updates on Instagram and Facebook for most of them once I got them done. I’ve only got a couple left, so I should be completely caught up soon. Here is the list of the new ones since March:

Mesa Verde National Park: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t5LglDT8Gbo&t=58s

Royal Gorge Bridge and Park: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dxlSV9ayu2M&t=58s

Cheyenne Mountain Zoo: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K0QF33oLOGY&t=60s

Pikes Peak Road Ascent: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QCdlKHcj5SY&t=434s

Palisades State Park: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mXJ48cqnr7o&t=2s

So what else have I been up to since editing videos can’t have taken up that much time? Well I’ve been pushing Chris Pettit Photo as much as I can. My primary focus currently has been real estate and drone photography, with a smattering of family portraits. I’ve been researching food and product photography as of late, since the craft just looks interesting. When I’m not wielding my camera in the professional realm, I’ve been out walking the dirt, capturing what I can.


This year I’ve completed 8 new parks so far, and crossed over 100 miles already. Feels good to be back out there on a regular basis again. With winter creeping up I’ve only got a few more weeks left of weather I can trust in order to review new places. It’s challenging to sell a place once the leaves are gone and the snow blankets the ground. I’ve only got a couple goal hikes remaining for the year, so I should be able to visit them as long as the weather holds out. After that, it gets easier to get out since I can just go for a walk and not have to worry about capturing footage.

Now that being said… I have probably 10-15 parks worth of media to start working on. So with the weather getting chillier, it does help to sequester myself in the office and get back to editing and posting once I’m done with Chris Pettit Photo work. But like I said in the title, this is just a hobby, sort of. So I try to keep it out of the realm of “required work”… until someone starts paying me to review the outdoors. LOL

Anyhow, I hope you all had a fun spring and summer. Now get outside and enjoy the fall leaves while they last!


It’s time for an update on how 2019 it starting!

It’s started pretty darn well actually!

The new house is fulfilling everything I had hoped it would, mostly making sure momma is happy, and I’m already seeing that the new education district is having a positive effect on Odessa. No regrets!

I tried to get out this winter, but the literally killer vortex that showed up destroyed much of my winter hiking plans.

I got out a couple times so far, and both hikes were very enjoyable. While a good many people around me lament at how much they hate winter, I actually very much enjoy winter hiking. There is just something fun and special about the extra challenge of plodding through snow. The silence of the winter environment is just so inviting.

However, spring is finally showing its hand, and its time to prep for the miles I missed last year thanks to my dedication to work.  I traveled from Iowa to Florida, to New Hampshire, to Wisconsin, to Mississippi; all in a 6 month window. Needless say, I sacrificed a lot of family and trail time in 2018. That is to be rectified!

CP ScreenshotSo while those around me know I’m not hiding my desire to transition to carrying a camera full-time, photography is one of those businesses that you don’t just magically make happen.

On a photo note: I’M A LICENSED DRONE PILOT!!!!! Yarrrrrr!

So much excitement in that. I studied a lot for that test and am happy to finally have that one behind me.

Now my focus can be directed back to the trails and getting that footage published.

Speaking of publishing footage; I’ve dropped a few new videos since the last update.

I’ve been focusing on my backlog of videos, before I jump back into my trail reports. Since I’ve basically been trapped in the basement, I have been able to knock out:

Rocky Mountain National Park: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cfuhx_aPnr0&t=2s

Hanging Lake State Park: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WGnXX1iNHzs

Ouray Perimeter hike: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lgQY5lCVI2U

I hope to see you checking back throughout the year as I continue to explore the parks of the great state of Iowa.

Dolliver Memorial State Park

dolliver google mapDolliver Memorial State Park is located in west central Iowa, just southeast of Fort Dodge.

I ventured out that way in the spring of 2017, somewhat reluctantly to be honest. Mostly due to the drive time versus hike length. It was 5 hours round trip, for an estimated 5 to 6 mile hike. Fortunately Dolliver was a very pleasant surprise, well worth the drive.


When I first arrived to the park I was surprised that it appeared to sit in a canyon and reminded me of driving through some of my favorite northeast Iowa parks. I parked at the southern entrance (orange star) and hiked in a clockwise direction.

Dolliver Map post.jpg

I put my camcorder on the charger the night before, but it didn’t actually charge. However, I did just happen to purchase a GoPro shortly before the hike, so this park became it’s first test to help salvage the YouTube video.



Throughout the park the trails were well worn and easy to follow. The Copperas Trail is an interpretive trail with some high quality signage. That was my first indication that this park is well taken care of.

About halfway down this trail is where I found my first highlight (yellow star). There was an old moss covered stone stair heading up the bluff. The craftsmanship was very reminiscent of the style of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) that you find in our older parks.

Once I got home I researched the park and found that Dolliver is actually our third state park after Backbone and Ledges. It was dedicated in 1925, but the interesting part of that is the park was basically formed on a hoax. In 1915 a young girl found a tablet on the grounds that was written in Latin. It stated that explorers from France laid claim to the area in 1750, with a reference to Father Louis Hennepin. Due to the fact it could change Iowa’s history, the tablet brought in researchers. It was quickly found to be fake due to the poorly written Latin, and the fact that Father Hennepin died in 1706. Soon after two local boys confessed to the hoax, saying they planted the tablet in 1913 as a prank. However, the hoax brought in Edgar Harlan as a researcher, and he fell in love with the area and helped put everything in place to preserve the area as our third state park. Some fun history for you.

Shortly after that the CCC arrived and from 1933-1935 they helped build a lot of the infrastructure of the park.

The Copperas Trail followed the bluff until it met up with the Central Trail that runs a big loop around the center of the park. You step down into a valley before climbing to the next bluff to continue on. The Central Trail is where I met most of the curious inhabitants of the park. The majority played shy, but I got some shots of a couple.

Cheryl loves her bridges, so I always look out for some good ones to show her. The best bridge in the park was right before Central turned into the Boneyard Trail. You approach it from above, and the scene immediately jumped out as something I wanted to capture. I need to return and capture it again in various seasons (and with my upgraded experience).


What I didn’t know at the time, was this was going to be the beginning of the best part of my hike.

dsc_2904As I rounded the top of Boneyard Trail, I saw a canyon that I wasn’t expecting to see (green star). It really intrigued me and I found my way down into it. I spent a lot of time farting around and exploring. The colors were great with a mix of orange rock covered in bold green moss. The creek running through it just added to the vibe.

When I was researching for the CCC connection I found that there was quite a lot of significance to this canyon. It is called Boneyard Hollow because they found a large quantity of bison bones throughout. It is believed that ancient Native Americans would either stampede herds of bison over the edge, or they were herded into the canyon from the nearby river where they were slaughtered and processed.

dsc_2924Eventually I had to move on and leave the canyon behind. As soon as you leave the canyon you come to the River Trail. The trail is super short at barely a half mile. Mostly it just gives you a break from the road walk down to Indian Trail.

The entrance to Indian Trail was a little further than I realized, leaving me to wonder if it was still maintained, or had gone the way of neglect that you sometimes find of trails that aren’t part of the main segment. Eventually the trail-head jumped out at me in the middle of a nice day use area (blue star). There was a nice little playground space with a picnic area, and it looked as though they may have been preparing to add more. The Indian Trail actually started here on a bridge that crossed the stream heading to the Des Moines River. While on the bridge you get a nice view of the little dam they have there.


Here is where the fun “stopped.” If you notice in the picture, the left side of it is the beginning of a bluff. That is the direction you are walking to get to Indian Trail… this bluff required switchbacks… and benches… several. Tired. Good view though.


Up on top of the bluff I came across a couple frog saturated ponds, before descending back down to the car. That is one thing about Dolliver, there was no lack of water.


Overall, Dolliver was a highly enjoyable hike that I can’t wait to visit again. It is one of those nice hidden gems that doesn’t get talked about enough. If you are looking to head out that way, my only recommendation is to know your fitness level. The climbs can be steep, but they aren’t mountains by any means. Most of them are just punchy little climbs, followed by some flat walking.

One thing you have to do is the Boneyard Trail. Just be prepared to have wet feet on a heavy rain year if you decide to venture off-trail any.

dsc_2834Given the elevation changes, and that it is 5 to 6 miles, I would also suggest to bring a snack along in case you get a little hungry. At a casual meander, it should take you around 3 hours to hike the full length of the park. As always, make sure to bring water and a map of some sort to at least know where you are. It is a series of canyons, which typically means reduced cell service if you are planning on using that.

I hope you find yourself enjoying Dolliver as much as I did!

Now get out there, and go for a walk!

Umm… Hello Again…

Okay then, it’s 2019 already. For those of you who might still be around on the blog and following on YouTube, I am still around. Everyone following along on Facebook and Instagram, you have seen that I have had A LOT going on this year.

dsc_2572I was able to get out for some good snowshoeing early last year, then a couple more hikes in the spring. Unfortunately, that’s where my dirt walking ended.

east coast tripsIn April I got the opportunity to take on some new responsibilities at work that required me to travel a good amount. I spent a little over 2 weeks in Florida during April, then a week in New Hampshire in May. June I got to stay home, but had a lot of tasks that ate up most of the month. In July I spent a little over a week in Wisconsin, then August sent me to Mississippi for 11 days.

Record rainfall pretty much wiped out any days off that I wanted to spend on the trails.

Not only that, but starting in April we began the process of building a new home in Urbana (about 20 minutes north of Cedar Rapids). We moved in with the father-in-law in June, sold the house in July, and monitored the build processes on a regular basis. I have to give a huge thank you to Scott Lown of Building Concepts for building us a great home for my family in a short amount of time. He broke ground in August, and we moved in the last day of November. If you’re looking for a great quality builder in the Center Point- Urbana area, I couldn’t recommend him more!

Now that we are finally moved in, the holidays are over, and I finished setting up the basement to be a solid work space; I can finally get back to focusing on getting content out again. The backlog isn’t huge, so I should be able to buckle down and get some editing done and get caught up. I guess a positive with not getting out hiking is that the backlog didn’t increase during the editing hiatus. The newest thing I set up is a video recording area where I plan on doing some various discussions on how I plan for things, as well as some gear reviews. Although I’m undecided on the gear reviews. I don’t have the funds to always have the latest items released, or the high-end ones for that manner. So we’ll see where that leads.

As usual I put together a rough plan of hikes that is quite ambitious. After all, I have to try to make up for my immensely lackluster 2018. I’m really hoping for some good snow soon so I can start out the year with some quality snowshoeing again, rather than just some cold, concrete-like, frozen ground walking.

In closing, for all of you that have stuck around; thank you! Here’s to more fresh air in 2019!


Red Haw State Park

Red Haw google mapRed Haw State Park is located in south central Iowa, down by Chariton.

I visited the park with my wife and daughter in early October of 2017. We had originally planned for a multi-park tour, but weather started to move in by the time we got to our second park, and we didn’t want to risk CJ out in it.

DSC_5096Since it was going to be a longer day, we left the house when it was still dark. This allowed CJ a little more time in her PJ’s as she continued sleeping during the drive out. This also ended up allowing her a little more bink time than we normally let her have. Typically it’s only allowed for naps and bedtime, but since she had little choice but to tag along we caved to her smiles.

CJP_5759Now as for the park itself, the day started out a bit chilly, but beautiful. Nice bright sky, and I was out with the wife and baby. It was gonna be a good hike.

Red Haw trail map route.jpgWe parked at one of the shelters on the northern portion of the park (Red Star). There was a small beach with a lily pad filled inlet next to it. We had to walk around the inlet toward the north before we found the official trailhead.

For the most part the trail was a mowed grassy path, not my favorite as I prefer dirt, but it appeared well maintained. There were a good number of paint markings at the beginning and at the end of the trail, suggesting there was a 5k, as well as a middle school and high school cross country race held there. So Red Haw must be a pretty busy place for the locals.

The trail is a 4 mile loop around the lake. We stuck to the trails running along the shoreline for the duration of the hike. The east shore is where most of the interesting things we found were. First off, I got to introduce my wife to a locust tree. Now I will admit, that while I was familiar with the tree, I had only recently learned what kind of tree it was. Locust trees are hard to miss, they are covered in long, sharp thorns that will rip you up if you aren’t paying attention.


The other thing I got to show her is what we always called spider balls. Not actually sure how much truth there is to it, but I was always told that they have magical powers to scare away spiders. lol. Basically a moth ball for spiders.


We eventually made it to the center of the park where we took a quick bio break at the handy bathrooms (Blue Star). This is the best view of the lake being that it is the most elevated point overlooking the lake. From there it was a quick walk to the westernmost point in the park where the campgrounds are (Green Star). This was also the busiest part of the park with a good number of trailers and boat launches.


There was a quick road walk across a bridge before the brief return back to the car. Overall we really enjoyed our hike at Red Haw State Park. It wasn’t very challenging, which was fine by me with baby girl on my back.


At 4 miles of flat trail, this hike should be accessible to almost anyone. Even though there are very few offshoot trails, I would recommend carrying a map with you to at least track your progress. It is always a good idea to consider water and snacks as well. I can’t determine your level of fitness, only you will know what you need in that department.


If you’re looking for a short hike in south central Iowa, Red Haw State Park might just be up your alley. It isn’t overly challenging, and should be accessible to almost anyone.

As always, don’t forget to pop over to YouTube and check out the video! You won’t be sad, there’s a lot of baby girl cuteness, I promise.

So I hope you get out there, and enjoy your walk.

Beed’s Lake State Park

Beeds Google Map

Beed’s Lake State Park is located in north central Iowa, just outside of Hampton.

The park is a short little hike that I checked out during the fall of 2016 with my hiking buddy Jessie. It was a three part tour that included Pilot Knob and McIntosh Woods State Park. I’m just now getting to the trail report do to an editing issue. Jessie had just purchased a camera and was taking it on his first hike. Well, he wanted to make sure it had a full battery and ended up leaving it on the charger. I just happen to have the same camera, but only one battery (which I’ve since purchased a second one…). Since I had my camcorder, I decided to let him use my battery so he could use his new camera, and I would just stick to the video.

So after we got home, he gave me the photos to use. Long story short, I had to upgrade my software to help edit the photos before I was able to post them. Don’t forget to pop on over to YouTube and watch the video, and now on with the trail report.


Beed’s Lake is a small little lake in north central Iowa that has a simple 2 mile loop circling it.

Now one issue I have with trying to explore as many state park trails as I can get to, are the parks that only have 1-2 miles of trails. For instance, this one only has about 2 miles of trails, but it is a 2 hour drive. So it’s 4 hours of driving for an hour (or less) of hiking. So to help accomplish this, I’ve come up with what I call hiking tours. I sector off the state and find ways to have a goal hike of a moderate length, then find the short ones near by that I can combine into a “tour” that can be achieved in a single day. This one started with an early drive to the target of Pilot Knob, then had stops at McIntosh Woods and Beed’s Lake on the drive home. It works quite well for justifying the drive to the shorties.

Beeds Map.JPG

We opted to park on the north side of the lake where there is a small little picnic and parking area. This is another one of those state parks where you have to walk in people’s back yards as part of the trail. The houses on this lake are a bit closer than other I’ve experienced though. I could easily look inside their homes from the trail. It always makes me feel a little weird, but I’m getting more used to it.

For the most part the north and east shores were pretty generic if I’m honest. Nothing really stood out as a must see. As we rounded the the southeast corner we came across the dam (red star). We played with our lenses to see if we could capture something, but the overcast day provided some lackluster lighting.



We continued on after crossing the stream and found ourselves in the main area of the park. There are a good number of camping locations and a lodge (blue star) that is available for rent. As we wandered past the lodge we came across a National Guard function. I’m going to guess that it was a pre-enlistment activity for some area high school students that are waiting to graduate before leaving for basic training.


The lodge was pretty nice looking from the outside. We tried to sneak a peek inside, but didn’t get much of a view. From here the trail leads you across a narrow path through the lake (purple star). It was quite neat to walk along the trail here. I feel the best image of the day was captured here by my friend Jessie.


A short report, for a short hike.

As for difficulty and challenge; this is a park that is as easy as they come. There is only a minimal amount of elevation change in the 20 feet you have to descend and climb at the dam. Outside of that it is completely flat. With a 2 mile distance, this should be achievable by almost anyone able to walk.

Even though I am a stickler about making sure you bring your trail maps, this is one that I’m pretty sure you can forgo that particular safety feature.


The trails were very well maintained, and the fishing activity seemed to be high. So if you fancy a short a hike or a new place to try your luck at fishing, Beed’s Lake is a pretty nice place to visit.

Now get out there and enjoy your walk!