Recently, I’ve adopted a six-pound Morkie (Maltese/Yorkie mix) dog. His bark is extremely bigger then his bite and he looks a bit like an Ewok when his hair is longer. He can’t bear to leave my side (literally) and so I decided to test his mighty endurance and embark on a hike in my backyard. Well, not exactly in my backyard, but pretty close to it. Just a few miles from my hometown is The Jacob Krumm Nature Preserve – located between the Lynnville and Grinnell, Iowa exit off of I-80. It’s a 5.25 mile trek around an acreage with a well maintained trail, ponds and timber. It may seem to be a short trek but it possibly could be a daunting task for my little dog. After excitedly deciding to conquer the quest, I fill my daypack with my journal, iPad for pictures, two water bottles (including a bowl for Charlie), Gorp for a snack and miscellaneous items to complete the 15 pounds I will carry on my back, I slip on my hiking shoes (my hiking boots have been dislocated somewhere amidst my moving several times this past year), and grab a leash for Charlie.
The drive is short and Charlie is piqued with enthusiasm just to be riding in the car. I parked at the first small lake named Ahrens Access. The trail is shaped in a crazy eight figure. The first loop – West Trail Loop – surrounds the largest of the four ponds which includes a shelter house for picnics and tent camping The second part – East Loop – is made up of three ponds, an observatory and a shelter that can be reserved for gatherings. There is also room for tent camping in this area. Both loops of the trail showcase bridges, streams and stone benches for resting that have been donated by the Krumm family.
As we start our trek around the lake we meet up with a group boy scouts. Charlie immediately tries to attack a few of them. I can only smile apologetically and say, “He’s very protective of me.” We quickly move on as I pray we don’t encounter anybody else. And it seems we are alone on for the rest of our time here. We stop several times so that I could take notes of what was going on around us in my journal my niece Lisa gave me for Christmas. The perfect gift for me and my travels. The birds were singing, the frogs croaking, the air was calming. I kept thinking that if I’m going to write about this I better write down everything so I don’t forget. And I do at first, but then my thoughts begin to wander regarding other, more pressing issues in my life. Not only did I come here for physical exercise, I also needed to mentally process a few things.
As Charlie and I came to the fork in the trail where the map starts the second loop of the trail, we decide to move to the next section instead of continuing back to the large pond. It seems the East Trail is a bit longer being 3.5 miles. This is not the easiest mileage to trek and no matter how you attack it, the first part is all uphill. Pushing up the hill I have to keep telling myself not to look up and just keep putting one foot in front of the other. Charlie is panting by now but he’s eager to stay by my side. By the time we reach the top of the hill, my thighs and buttocks are burning. We stop at one of the many benches strategically placed along the trail. We came to appreciate these benches!. We sit still and listen to the usual nature filled white noise. I couldn’t help but survey the trees which have not yet produced their leaves. Their buds just peeking out to test the elements. Spring is well on its way… I gaze at the view that is before me and realize that Iowa is more than just hills and trees. It is a gift from God with its own qualities of beauty. Charlie, on the other hand, has been staring at tall prairie grass and my shoes for the past hour so I pick him up to for a view.
We move on around many bends and smaller hills. I can hear a Cardinal singing a tune and stopped to search for him. His red feathers stand out against the grey branches. He stops singing while I’m frantically trying to grab my iPad and focus on him. Damn, he flies away before I even get the camera app turned on. Moving along I look over the to my left at a pond, there is a farm in the background. We walk across the damn and my surroundings remind of one of my trips to Pennsylvania. I wondered what it would be like to live in a place with this as my backyard. It’s breathtaking to see how beautiful and tranquil Iowa can be when you move away from the bustle of the people filled towns. The pond is filled with frogs chirping and the fish jumping every so often finding food on top the water. Or maybe they are just playing. Charlie is contemplating jumping in after the frogs but holds back as he watches to see if I would approve.
Next, we encounter a smaller pond where the frogs are literally lined up along the bank. As we walk past, they jump in one by one as if they are dominos falling to their demise. We have upset their home of solitude. At this point, I can’t believe Charlie has kept up this long but he seems to be ready to go further. We had a few miles left to go.
We pass the observatory deck but decided not to climb up it. Instead, we are fixated on a two yellow labs running across the field. They joyfully played while their owner strolled along side. I couldn’t help but feel they had come here for the same reason.
Nearing the end we came across the campground that was full of young boycotts earning their badges. They seemed prepared for their weekend of education. Charlie had become tired as he started to lag behind me instead of in front of me and feeling this must have been quite a venture for him, I carried him the last quarter of a mile. (I’m a sucker for when it comes to spoiling Charlie.)
At the end, we had to take one last look at the park. There are now a few more visitors, including an older gentleman in a canoe. I became envious as I love to canoe down the Upper Iowa river in northeast Iowa. So, we do not have mountains or oceans. We have hills, trees and wildlife. It’s a perfect break on a weekend with family, a trek with the dog or just for some alone time. Jacob Krumm Nature Preserve is ideal for picnics, fishing, bird watching and trail hiking. Open year round during daylight hours it also offers winter activities such as cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. Whatever it offers, we left there full of ticks (don’t forget your Deet) and a bit wore out.
Driving back to Newton, I can’t help but feel eager to find the another trail for the next weekend quest. I may have to find a Iowa trail for every weekend this summer. Charlie lays down in my lap for a nap. Slumber calls…he performed great!
Until next time…