Harvest season is upon us here in Iowa and that brings forth an incredible amount of inspired autumn road trips. NW-IA is home to some of the Hawkeye State’s most intact prairie landscapes and Team Goodvin took in as much as we could in a four day span. You may already know some places to go to for amazing fall traditions. Let’s look at some more to think about adding to your list.
We hit the Glacial Trail Scenic Byway which produces some stunning overlooks. If you ever wondered what Iowa looked like prior to Western American expansion, then I suggest you plan a trip to O’Brien County. The prairie is very much still alive here and the wind will remind you in all its open spaces. Which there is a lot of. And you need that in your life and you know it.
Think roadside America for a moment. Now think of all your favorite places you’ve visited on your epic road trips during your life. We’ve seen many in our adventures and the uniqueness of the Prairie Heritage Center near the town of Peterson is a must see in our state. I’m sure there’s never a bad time to visit this property, but I believe we know how to pick a very special weekend to enjoy this wild landscape. The weather was in the upper 70’s and the very tall prairie grass was in its iconic golden shade of color along with the crops in the area. The center had an incredible amount of info explaining the history of the area and early settlers. Hiking trails lead to discoveries that only this region can provide and an abundant amount of memories are gathered with them.
Off the beaten path is our specialty and it is in no short supply in O’Brien County. Authentic Iowa vistas with its remaining prairie can sweep you away for the entire day. My imagination took over as we wandered through these grasslands and rolling hills and I felt different here. I’m very proud of the agriculture in Iowa, the variety in the metro areas, and the comfort of small towns. This is very much different. The hiss of the breeze through the grass puts you in a trance that I have only felt here in this region of NW-IA. The sunshine gave the grass an oily reflection and the blue sky made the hills seem endless. The early morning rains gave the dry air an odor of the pure Iowa soil below our feet. Though we were 5 hours from our house in Iowa City, the entire experience gave me the welcoming feeling of being right at home.
The open range gave way to the town of Sanborn and the familiar October pumpkin patch as we drove in. The orange oasis of Solsma’s Punkin Patch lures you in with all its autumn traditions and gives you a pumpkin patch visit that supports the locals. Over 60 varieties of pumpkins, squash, and gourds can be purchased here along with a wide selection of locally produced goods and produce. Thick cut porterhouse steaks from the local locker are ready for your grill and some of the best Iowa popcorn permeates the entire room as you shop. Local jellies, honey, salsas, spices mixes, wines and crafts jump at every customer. But don’t leave until you get lost in the corn maze!
Mill Creek Park near Paullina is another trip all in itself. There’s a lot to see in O’Brien County but it has plenty of opportunities for folks to just stay put and relax the day, weekend, week, month or season away. Mill Creek Park has the cabins, beach, hiking trail, fishing holes, scenery, geese, and shade for that “Ahhhhhh” moment we all need. And look at that yoga pose from Gigi! Not pictured is Daddy’s yoga pose because there was none to be taken. I need a little more practice.
We gallivant hard and we play hard. Playgrounds are always fun but you have to appreciate the old school equipment that some towns still hold on to. The Paullina school has fortress-like playground that can draw in anyone passing by. City Park in the town of Sutherland is stocked with nostalgia and gave us one of my favorite pictures we’ve ever taken on The Iowa Gallivant. There’s nothing better than seeing your family on a big’ole teeter-totter with towering grain elevators in small town Iowa in the background. We make a lot of stops when we gallivant and local parks and playgrounds are a tradition for us wherever we go.
The amount of outdoor recreation available O’Brien County is bountiful and we haven’t even mentioned our time on the banks of the Little Sioux River that snakes its way through NW-IA. Do you believe in spirits? What if I told you of a fisherman that has never left his favorite spot even after his passing. You may want to be on the look-out for future blog on what we may have encountered by this historic waterway…….