Homer's Travels: Hiking Iowa: Wabash Trace Nature Trail - Council Bluffs to Mineola ...Almost

Friday, February 12, 2010

Hiking Iowa: Wabash Trace Nature Trail - Council Bluffs to Mineola ...Almost

Thursday was another first for me as far as I can remember.  I set out to walk the Wabash Trace between Council Bluffs to Mineola, a 20 mile hike.  Since I managed to do over 20 miles on my last walk, I figured a 20 mile hike on the relatively flat Wabash Trace would be eminently doable.  Unfortunately I overestimated myself and for the first time that I can remember I did not meet a hiking goal.

The hike started off well.  I left from the same point where I had snowshoed a while back.  A mile or so up the trail I started to suspect that I'd missed something.  The trail seemed a lot tougher than I remembered or expected.  Out of curiosity I looked at the GPS elevation plot and, sure enough, the trace was going up in elevation.  The change was relatively small and I figured that it shouldn't be slowing me down so much.

The next thing I wondered about was the fact that I was hiking on snow.  I'd dismissed this as a problem as the snow was hard packed and, thanks to the thawing and freezing we've had lately, hard as ... well, ice.  I was sinking in no more than a half inch and, in most cases, not sinking in at all.  Walking on this hard snow surface couldn't be slowing me down, could it?

To psych myself I set some short term goals, namely, geocaches along the trace.  The first was about three or four miles from the trailhead, a good first goal.  I reached it and, after a brief search, found it (Wabash Autocache).  After the successful find I got a second wind so I headed for the next geocache that was another two or three miles farther ahead.  I reached it and, once again, found it (Farmerrick's Wabash #1).

At this point I looked at my watch (it was noon) and took inventory of my body (I was in major needed of damage control).  I decided the three miles to Mineola, and the six miles it would add to the round trip, were not realistic. I ate a snack bar and head back the way I came.

Though I didn't reach my intended target, I did see some interesting landscape along the way.  The trace passes through the loess hills and parts of the trail are flanked by tall, tree covered embankments twenty to forty foot tall.  It must be magnificent in the summer when the trees are leafed out.  I passed through the location of the town of Dumfries, a town that came into existence because of the railroad and faded away once the train had left, leaving only a plaque on a marker.  Near Dumfries is a small park where bikers gather.  The park is decked out with bike racks, picnic tables, and cheesy plastic tiki torches.  Judging from some of the team stickers, most of the bikers are adolescent boys (I'm especially impressed by Team Horny and Team Pound-It).

The sad thing was, I didn't notice some of the sights until after I was on the way back.  I guess I was plodding along looking at my feet and I was forgetting to look up at the beauty around me.

The six plus miles back to the trailhead and the car were shear hell.  I have rarely felt so whipped.  My legs were like noodles, my back was aching (something that happens when I'm on long hikes - even without a backpack), and more telling, my knees were aching.  I began to realize that the snow was not as stable a surface as I'd thought and the muscles and joint in my knees were working overtime to keep myself steady.  I decided that it was like walking on the beach.  Walking on the beach always seems harder than it should be and the snow covered trail felt similar.  I think it was the snow, and not the elevation change, that was kicking my butt.  The total hike was around 13.69 miles.  The elevation change was not really that impressive, 200 to 300 feet. There were times I asked myself why I was putting myself through this pain and torture.  All I can say is that I see the  beauty in the world around us when I'm hiking (and remember to look up) and the sense of achievement when I do reach my goal always lifts my spirits.  You can't win them all but there will always be next time.

I added a few more pictures to my 2009-2013 Wabash Trace Nature Trail Hike Google Photos album.


  1. I've had that happen sometimes. You're hiking alone and you just sorta zone out, stare at the trail, mosey along...

  2. GH: I'm usually better at looking around. I'm thinking the flu was already creeping up on me while I was on the trail.