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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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McIntosh Woods State Park

McIntosh Google MapMcIntosh Woods State Park is located on the shores of Clear Lake in north central Iowa.

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 Beed’s Lake State Parks. 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.

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Clear LakeMcIntosh Woods is a state park on the northwest shores of Clear Lake outside of… Clear Lake, Iowa. There is another state park on the southeast shore of Clear Lake, you guessed it, Clear Lake State Park. Enough Clear Lakes yet?

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 2.5 hour drive. So it’s 5 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.

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Now as I’ve eluded to, McIntosh Woods can be quick. The red is the route Jessie and I took in a clockwise manner. In total we logged 1.83 miles. The elevation was pretty much flat, but that doesn’t mean this park was without character. From the parking lot (P on the map), it’s a few dozen yards to the beach. They have a sign that warns of zebra muscles, so make sure to wear your shoes if you decide to go for a dip. Now one thing that was very apparent, this is a very popular fishing lake. There were boats and birds everywhere.

JPA_0263After we’d had our fill of the sand, we turned around and headed northwest. The trails were well defined and easy to follow. The first surprise we came across was an observation blind built by a local Eagle Scout. Scouting is one thing I wish I never quit back in the day, so I appreciate the work done by those that achieve their Eagle.

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The blind overlooked a pond with plenty of vegetation and such to provide for some nice scenery to accentuate the scene. On this day the only activity we had were a couple of mallard ducks bathing.

The next stop on the trek was at the northwestern edge of the park where the two yurts are located. Now these yurts still have my interest sparked. Ever since that hike I’ve kept them in the back of my mind as a  place to take my wife and toddler. I’ve never stayed in a yurt and I’m kind of curious. Iowa DNR, needs to start reading my stuff and hook me up! 😉

Now, I’ll be honest and say that at this point the mosquitoes were wrecking us. They decided it was time to appear. That is one risk with parks near water in Iowa. We pushed on harder at this point. Once we got a little further into the eastern portion of the trail they did lessen in their veracity.  Now one thing we were bummed about is that we never did find the goats that were supposed be hanging out at the park. There was/is an issue with an invasive plant that the goats targeted. So the state rented the goats to attack the invasive vegetation. Unfortunately, the weather must have been risky to allow them to roam on the day we visited.

McIntosh Google SateliteThe last thing to touch on is the eastern border. On the eastern edge of the park is the Iowa Regular Baptist Camp. Now I have to admit, it looks like they have some pretty cool stuff over there. We peeked across the no trespassing signs trying to figure out what they were, then headed back to the car.

All in all it was a nice little hike to add on to the day.

As far as challenge, there wasn’t really one. I think anyone can hike this trail. It is by far short enough to not challenge anyone to the extent that they would need food and water. After all, it is only 1.83 miles. The biggest challenge with this park is keeping the bugs away.

DSC_4958If the goats are still there and out munching on the invasive grass, all the better!

I hope you get out and enjoy your hike!

Pilot Knob State Park

Pilot Knob google map

Pilot Knob State Park is located in north central Iowa near Forest City, the home of Winnebago.

The park is a nice little hike that I checked out during the fall of 2016 with my hiking buddy Jessie. The video has been out over on YouTube for a while now, but 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.

When we got back home he gave me the photos to use, but the foggy haze was thick and I only had Lightroom 5 at the time. Lightroom 6 had come out with this amazing new function called Dehaze that actually eliminated most of the fog to bring out what is hidden behind it. It is great! Like I said, I only had Lightroom 5, not 6. I didn’t upgrade until last fall, which is why there is such a delay.

Now on with the hike!Pilot Knob Trail Map

So Pilot Knob was part of a three park tour that included McIntosh Woods State Park and Beed’s Lake State Park. It is one of the oldest parks in the state, having been dedicated in 1923, and much of the construction was completed by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in the 1930’s.

DSC_0735Knowing we had three parks to hike, we got there early and parked on the western edge (orange star). Here it appears is a popular place for ice skating as they had a good number of benches around the pond and a warming house where the trail started.

Thanks to Lightroom’s Dehaze feature, it really cut through the fog in the pictures, but here’s one I didn’t use Dehaze on that really helps to show how thick it was.DSC_0741

JPA_0035On this particular hike we took a counter-clockwise route that sent off on Fork Trail. All of the trails we walked were well-worn and pretty easy to follow. We wandered through the mist as Jessie practiced with his new gear.

It was a pretty flat walk as we rounded Dead Man’s Lake, which was more like a small pond.

This first portion passed quickly and we crossed the road to take Three Bridges Trail that runs the southern border of the park. This is where the look of fall really started to show it self.

We both were very much enjoying the hike so far. About half-way down this we came across a little bench that was facing a pasture (red star). It looks like it is a memorial bench, and the brush was cleared out up to the fence line so someone could sit and check out the trees, or possibly watch horses or cows grazing on the other side.

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Moving along the trail we came across an old amphitheater (green star) that I didn’t know about. I wish there was some kind of history marker I could find about it, because it was kinda neat. You could tell it was built long ago, probably during the CCC days.JPA_0112JPA_0105

We speculated about different aspects of the amphitheater before moving on to the wildlife management portion of the park. Our journey down this trail was short-lived however, as it was pretty nasty and chewed up with all of the wet weather we had been having. So we turned back (purple star) to rejoin the main trails of the park with the East-West Trail. This one honestly wasn’t much better, so we pushed through quickly.

JPA_0171After the push through the rougher trail, we took a break at the campground. The campground was pretty nice, and bathrooms were pretty good for a state park. Everything is next to the small lake inside the park and offers some nice recreation space. There is also a pretty good little playground for the younger kids as well.

JPA_0213The main focal point of the park is just a short walk to the south of the campground. You’ll sneak along Plum Alley Trail for a tiny bit before jumping on Tower Trail which ends at a small parking lot. From the parking you’ll head up to the high point of the park where you’ll find the Pilot Knob Tower (blue star). The park website references that this was a landmark to assist travelers heading west.

JPA_0190One thing is for certain, I wish we had clear skies for the view! It was quite nice as it was, but some bright blue skies would have helped the fall colors really pop. We took some time getting pictures and enjoying the view before we got moving along on our way back to the car.JPA_0189

We retraced our way back to the campground and followed the Plum Alley Trail along the north side of the lake back to the car. The fog had started to lift at this point as we prepared to head on toward our next stop.JPA_0225

In total, the route we took was a little over 6 miles. We chose to stay off of Equestrian Trail, and we turned back on McGrady Trail in the WMA section. So we could easily have stretched it out a few more miles if we wanted to. All in all, a good little hike. One I’ll have to return to with the wife and kid(s), hopefully on a bright sunny day.JPA_0237

As for my recommendations; make sure to bring a map as there are a good number of junctions to navigate (their map link is dead currently. Best bet is to “save as” the above map. I’ll contact and update if the link gets fixed). With all those junctions, you could make this hike as long or as short as you’d like. So bring water and snacks accordingly. The whole park has very little elevation gain, so that combined with the network aspect, means pretty much anyone should be able to spend some time on the trails there. Oh, and don’t forget something to capture the view from the top of the tower.

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So thank you to Jessie from providing me with the pictures to edit and post. I hope this report convinces you that you should visit Pilot Knob State Park in the near future!

Now go enjoy your walk!

 

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 mapmyfitness.com 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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!