Homer's Travels: Forty Days In ...

Saturday, February 09, 2013

Forty Days In ...

The dog sledding weekend gave this week a good start.  It wasn't really a busy week but it did have a couple good hikes, a few good movies, and a nice lunch.

On Tuesday I went hiking in Hitchcock Nature Center (I've been here many times before).  This was my second hike using trekking poles.  It was also one of my messiest hikes.  We'd had four inches of snow the week before followed by temperatures in the 40s so the snow turned to slush and the dirt trails of Hitchcock Nature Center turned into mud.

I started my hike early enough that the ground was still frozen.  The first hill, a steep downhill, still had a few inches of snow.  What I didn't know until it was too late was the snow covered a smooth sheet of ice.  I landed firmly on my butt.  I was a bit more careful from that point on.  As I continued on my hike I kept to either the center line of the path which usually had a covering of grass (most of the trails were two track dirt roads) or the grass covered edges of the trail.  This served me well.  I connected several trails together as I wound my way through forest and prairie.  I climbed up to the Westridge trail where I paused to rest at a campsite that will probably be my first camping location in 2014.  The campsite has a nice sand pad for your tent and a fire ring surrounded by logs to sit on.  It's located near the high point of the ridge and offers an near 270° view of the surrounding landscape.

After resting I started down a rather steep connector trail heading for Wildwood trail.  The wide path was a solid sheet of mud.  Hitchcock Nature Center is located in the Loess Hills which are made up of glacier carried and wind blown silt deposits.  The fine soil, almost like flour, is very clay-like.  When it gets wet, the surface takes on a greasy consistency.   I slowly crept down this trail along the grass and dead leaf covered edge.  As I continued down this edge got thinner and steeper.  I stopped near the bottom to figure out where I should step next.  At least I thought I'd stopped.  Before I could do much my feet continued down the trail.  I flailed a bit trying to use my poles to stop my sliding before flopping down into the slimy mud on my butt.  The good thing was the mud softened the blow.  The bad was it was all over my pants and coat (that was wrapped around my waist).  My poles and hands were also covered in mud as I'd tried to catch my fall and the mud had squished through my fingers.

I stood up, slipped and slid onto a flatter part of the trail and tried, unsuccessfully, to wipe the mud off my hands onto the snow.  Looking back it was kind of funny.  I made it back to the car without another incident.  I thought about going into the visitor's center to clean up but I decided not to mess up their floor and bathroom.  Instead, I stripped off the muddy coat and covered my car seat with plastic so I wouldn't get mud on it.  The mud was pretty much dry by the time I got to the car so I just flaked off the dry mud on my hands and went home.  My clothes went straight into the washing machine.

On Thursday I woke up with aching arms, a result of the trekking pole work I'm sure, but nothing else.  I'd tweaked my back on a couple falls earlier in January (damn ice!) but the two falls on Tuesday didn't hurt my back.  I guess I'm learning how to properly take a fall.  Now I just have to learn how not to fall.  The aching in my arms didn't last long and I went for a quick and uneventful hike around Big Lake Park and Council Bluffs, IA.  The afternoon was spent at the Ruth Sokolof theater watching the Oscar Nominated short live-action and animated films.  I usually prefer the animation but this year the live-action shorts were better.

On Friday I went out to lunch with my Mom followed by the obligatory stop at Dairy Queen for ice cream.  A perfect finish to a rather nice week.


  1. That was the park we went to when I visited right? I seem to remember that excellent campsite overlooking the river...

    As for the hike, it sounds like fun. What's a little mud? :)

    1. GH: Yes. This is where we hiked when you visited and the campsite is where we stopped to rest. The river you remember was flood water - it has since receeded but the view is still incredible.

      The mud slowed me down a bit but it didn't do any harm.