Homer's Travels: Preparation Not Prepared

Friday, March 08, 2013

Preparation Not Prepared

Today the weather was perfect for a hike.  There was a light breeze, much lighter than on Tuesday, and the temps were going to be in the upper 40s to low 50s.  I decided to go to a state park I haven't been too for a long time.  As a matter of fact I've only been there once back in 2010.  The park: Preparation Canyon.

I got in the car and just under an hour and a half later I rolled up to a padlocked gate.  Yeah, the park was closed.  No sign of explanation anywhere.  This was a bit disappointing since I'd visited the park's web page a few days earlier to print out a trail map and had seen nothing about the park being closed.

Not wanting this to be a total waste I headed to the nearby Loess Hills Overlook, a nice viewing platform in the Loess Hills State Forest.  From the observation platform you can take a short trail along a ridge line.  The  trail was muddy (Loess Hills mud is thick and sticky - the worst kind) so I walked along the edge on the grass.  The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) must be working on the trail as several evergreen trees along the trail had been cut and the trees were left on the trail.  I assume they will be returning to cut them up and remove them from the trail.  I stepped over or walked around several trees until I reached a fence.  I turned around and took a spur along a side ridge until I hit another fence. From there I returned to the observation platform.  All in all I walked a whopping 1.24 miles.  Not very satisfying.

The trail runs along the ridge.  (This is what it looks like in late summer.)
While I was walking this path along the ridge I remembered that Preparation Canyon has a "back" entrance to give campers easy access to the back country campsites.  After my little ridge walk I drove to the back entrance.  The back road, like many roads in the Loess Hills, is a dirt road.  Just as the trail I had been on was muddy, the dirt road I turned on was also muddy.  It didn't take long before my ol' Honda was sliding around.  I decided to turn around before I ended up in a ditch and headed home, my hiking itch unscratched.

UPDATE:  While I was drafting this post I sent an e-mail to the Iowa DNR and got a very quick response.  I could have parked outside the gate and hiked in (I actually considered this but I tend to respect locked gates).  He said the park us usually closed between Dec and Apr but that he would go up there soon to unlock the gate.  He apologized about not updating the web page and was nice enough to attach a new updated trail map (there are more trails now).  Looks like I'll have to go up there again ... when it's drier.

Updated Map of Preparation Canyon
{Click on it to see a bigger version}


  1. Bleck. I hate muddy trails. It doesn't make sense to lock up an entrance and then say "But you can still come in...sorta"

    Sounds like it will be awesome once they officially open for the spring/summertime

    1. Miss McC: I'm not fond of muddy trails either but sometimes they're all you've got. I was kind of floored when his email sad I should have walked around the locked gate.

      I think so too. It's a nice little park.

  2. Getting such a quick response? Niiiiiiice. :)

    1. GH: It was. He was very responsive and was genuinely interested in my opinion of the trails.