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An Iowa reprieve: Hiking with good friends, golfing alone

As I was “growing up” in Iowa (never did get too tall), my family spent many Sundays at The Ledges State Park, where I learned to love a winding hiking trail and picnics. Since then, hiking has been my favorite outdoor activity, even out-ranking skiing and golf. So, when my friends in Iowa suggested I take some book-tour time off and get in a few miles, I was all over it.

On any long road trip, you’re destined to gain some weight. Sitting in a car for 112 hours over five weeks and having less control over food preparation, it’s unavoidable. So, I was determined to get out of the car (in this case, the van) as much as possible to offset all those driving miles with walking miles.


My friend Diane knew just where to go. Together we hiked the Skunk River Conservation Trail, a long trail in Backbone State Park, and a winding hike, looping path in the McFarland County Park. We hiked with her good friends Marilyn and Tracy a couple of those days. (Photo, from the left: Marilyn, Tracy, Diane) We took sandwiches and fruit and picnicked along the way in Backbone and celebrated all our hikes with generous glasses of wine on each return to Diane’s home. (Yeah, so there goes the “offset.”)

One early morning, as well, I took a break from duty and pulled my golf clubs out of the van to play the nine-hole Riverbend golf course along the Skunk River in Story City. It set me back $25, which included the push cart. The course wends back and forth amongst the trees in the river’s bottomland, and many times I’ve visited there in the past the mostly flat track has been too flooded to play. But this time, it was in perfect condition, and I walked and played a respectable round in a little less than 75 minutes. (Photo left: the lovely clubhouse at Riverbend)


There’s something freeing about playing a round alone—or thinking you’re alone. I teed off on the first hole, thinking no one was around and watching. After a decently long, down-the-middle-of-the-fairway drive, I heard a cheer from the side. “That’ll work!” my anonymous fan shouted. I set off with a smile on my face and skip in my step.


Next: The Surf Ballroom and lovely Decorah


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