Homer's Travels: Hiking Iowa: Wabash Trace Nature Trail - Final Thoughts

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Hiking Iowa: Wabash Trace Nature Trail - Final Thoughts

I was reluctant to start the Wabash Trace.  I thought it would be long, straight, and monotonous.  It turns out that trails made from railroad traces are long, straight, and monotonous.  You can't really blame the trails.  Railroad planners don't take interestingness into account when they lay out traces and they want nice straight and flat runs.  It doesn't help when most of the countryside off of the trace are expanses of unchanging farmland.

Initially I enjoyed the Wabash.  It had new stuff.  Towns I'd never been to.  Bridges over varying sized of creeks, streams, and rivers.  Wildlife.  Flowers once spring arrived.  On the last couple of segments I marveled as I walked through twirling clouds of helicopter-like sycamore maple seeds.

But as I did more of the Wabash I realized that things were not changing (not including the changing of the seasons, of course).  I noticed this first with the pictures I was taking.  I was taking pictures of the same things, over and over again. Pictures of long straight trails.  Pictures of bridges.  (I also took a lot of pictures of flowers and old buildings but ... I like to take pictures of flowers and old buildings.)  I knew I'd reached a low when I took pictures of benches, though I have to say they were interesting benches.

After awhile the reason that I was hiking the Wabash changed.  It changed from the enjoyment of hiking new trails, seeing new things, and photographing nature's beauty to ... distance.  I needed distance to train for the Way of Saint James.  Once this became the reason I was completing the Wabash, it went from a pleasure to a chore.  A training routine.  A sad transformation.

My next two major hikes, the Steamboat Trace and the Cowboy Trail, will be similar in scenery to the Wabash though I'm hoping the part of the sand hills the Cowboy Trail runs through will be interesting.  I will also be doing both of the trails in one go instead of in segments like I did the Wabash.  I hope this will help.

I am worried the sense of wonder I experience while on the trail will be smothered by the monotony.  If this were to happen I think a part of me would die.


  1. So, what is the Way of St. James like? Is there a lot of scenic variety on that trail, unlike the Wabash?

  2. GH: The way doesn't follow a railroad trace so it varies quite a bit. The first day you cross the Pyrenees. Later there are long, flat, straight parts. Here is an elevation profile of the Way of St. James:


  3. I can't stand to walk in the same place for too long, which is really funny, since I'm now walking on treadmills. LOL. But I think it's good to mix up where you walk to keep that refreshing feeling you get when admiring the surroundings you're exploring. :)

  4. Miss McC: I'm going to try to mix it up this summer, despite Nebraska and Iowa being pretty much the same all over. I think if I look hard enough, I'll find some variation to keep things interesting.

    I walked a lot on the treadmill this winter. Helps to do it in front of a television.