*One of the most memorable family Gallivants we’ve ever had was to O’Brien County a few autumns ago. There was just something about the trip that impacted us in a very united way. And now we’re back for another memorable round of this prairie filled area! Our visit was sponsored by the O’Brien County Economic Development Corporation. Some of the meals, goods, and services were complimentary. The views expressed in this blog post are of our own. Now, let’s Gallivant!
Every county in Iowa has their own unique features when it come to scenery and geography. I’ve been to all 99 counties and I can say that with all genuine honesty. Yes, much of the state looks “the same” from outside your windows on our major interstates. Then there’s the handful of counties that have a one and only landscape to them. To me, O’Brien County is one of those regions that holds a certain beauty that I can’t compare to other counties in the area or throughout the entire state. There’s something about this place that lures me in. It’s no secret that one of my favorite interior rivers of Iowa is the Little Sioux. I’ve explored many of it’s communities, valleys, and muddy banks throughout my travels. But it’s here in O’Brien County where it captures me like no other place along its path.
Always and forever….Burned Bridge Access. Where the Little Sioux valley opens with plush timber, hilly horizons, and a native prairie that seems to hypnotize me whenever I arrive. For my entire life, I’ll always claimed that not one single patch of prairie is like another. I’ve looked over different beachfronts, mountain ranges, lakes, deserts vistas, wetlands, farmland, and snowy days in several areas of the country. All unique and with their own beauty, but multiple times I’ve caught myself seeing glimpses of their terrains and comparing them to others. I don’t know what it is about prairies, plains, and grasslands, but my mind never leaves the moment I’m in when I’m among the tall grass and breezes that seem to always pass by. Call it what you want. Zen, religious experience, spiritual, finding the lord, being one with nature, energy, and good vibes. I just call the mental phenomenon O’Brien County and that’s where my mind takes care of the rest.
Mill Creek State Park in Paullina is a very nice outlet for recreation and camping whether you’re bringing a tent, RV/camper, or wanting the comfort of a cabin. Mill Creek is also close to town and Paullina’s restaurants, bars, grocery store and historic movie theatre. How does a day of swimming, fishing, laps around the lake’s walking path, and followed by a dinner and a movie before retiring to your campsite sound? Sounds like an O’Brien County specialty if you ask me! Let’s take a walk down Main Street-Paullina to stay a little more active…..
36 miles of the Glacial Trail Scenic Byway loops through O’Brien, Clay, Cherokee, and Buena Vista counties. It’s a beautiful way to see Western Iowa and you’ll want to make time for a stop at the Prairie Heritage Center near the town of Peterson. A great place for another hike, natural history, overlooks, or a useful break from the heat of the day if you’re traveling in the summer. I highly recommend stopping here to get a glimpse of Iowa before western expansion.
The random interpretive centers you encounter on road trips are some of the most interesting pitstops you can make. Local conservation boards put many resources into places like this and all for the public that will stop by from time to time. Yes, they appreciate donations and when we purchase items from the giftshops. But they love to see the enjoyment on all our faces even more. They’re proud of these preserved areas and every time we visit they get more momentum for keeping these lands relevant and beautiful long into the future. Does anyone else have that craving for antioxidants right now or is it just me?
It’s not all corn and soybeans in Iowa and Getting’s Garden has the farmland to prove it! We hear the phrases of eat local, buy local, and shop small all the time. Well, there’s not too many places where you can hit all those nails on the head better than right here at this strawberry farm.
We picked oodles of strawberries and it was a great way to spend our morning in the O’Brien County countryside near Sanborn. Plenty of sunshine, cute farm animals, and choices from the giftshop to keep us busy while we were here. Getting’s Garden focuses on just how much fun the entire family can have here. It also helps the little ones appreciate the work they have to put in while they’re here because those strawberries aren’t going to pick themselves! Get out to Sanborn and spend some time harvesting some notorious flavors of O’Brien County! Now, let’s go see how Sutherland is doing….
School Is In Session
Many of Iowa’s small-towns and rural schools started shuttering in large numbers over the decades. Some of them getting reclaimed by nature or meeting the wrecking ball. However, there’s communities that have done an incredible job of repurposing these schools and the town of Sutherland has kept a coupe of them going in an amazing way. Maybe I should say, Willoway…..
The Willoway Complex was one of the most interesting and enlightening places of lodging we had on the T-Bone Trail. Most of the building is used for the independent senior living residents that were so kind and welcoming to us when we showed up. Then there’s the guest rooms for anyone who happens to be in town whether you’re visiting friends and loved ones at Willoway, or traveling like us.
Willoway surprised us many times as we took our tour. We were there to stay in the guestroom and it was nice to be able to be a part of the community at the same time. It had a whole new spectrum of welcoming we’ve never received before arriving in Sutherland. Seeing how great the facility was for the residents made me feel so grateful to be there. I love this concept and I hope to see more like them in the future. And you know what was the best part of our stay here?
Nellie Kammerer is a resident of Willoway and she greeted us while we were touring the building. She welcomed us into her apartment and we started visiting right off the bat. A few minutes went by and we started talking about where we were from and how many times I’ve been to NW-Iowa. I mentioned that some of my family members were from the little town of Early that’s about an hour south of Sutherland. Nellie put her hands on my shoulders and said she was from Early as well and asked me their names. Turned out that Nellie was best friends with my late grandparents. She started telling me about the bridge club, golf course, and trips they all were a part of and we instinctively hugged each other. For many years I have wanted to embrace my grandparents just one more time. Getting a hug from Nellie in her beautiful kitchen was just what I needed and I couldn’t hold in my emotions. I have O’Brien County and the T-Bone Trail to thank for all of this. Let’s get a tissue and see another repurposed school in Sutherland…..
We have met another internationally known business here in small-town Western Iowa. Bogenreif Studios is a jaw dropping trek through an old elementary school turned into a glass making paradise. Around every corner was supreme talent on display and I couldn’t believe what I was seeing the entire time.
Wow! Unreal is the correct word for this entire building. Bogenreif Studios floored me in so many ways. I can see why they’ve become superstars in this field and there’s nothing better than seeing it during our travels in O’Brien County. So many look to huge metro areas for the arts and the studios that house them. It’s only natural to gravitate to those cities as they have so many options. Keep an eye out on communities like Sutherland and others their size. They’re home to artistic masters of their own.
Let’s Eat Steak
Sometimes you need just one more. In O’Brien County you can have Just One More all the time at the Primghar Golf and Country Club! It’s time for another steak for this Iowa Beef loving family in Western Iowa on the T-Bone Trail!
Get me off the fairway and into the clubhouse for Just One More! We’re getting all sorts of juicy cuts of steak during the entire T-Bone Trail and this Sirloin was a delicious team member to have on this promotion. I had a bite of mushrooms and onion with every cut I made into my Sirloin. The course was in full view from our table and we really enjoyed visiting with everyone working at Just One More. It was a perfect Sunday evening and chatting with the locals is what I enjoy as much as the meals when I’m on the road. Yes, this always makes the steak even that much better. You better click here and see the video of our charbroiled Sirloin at Just One More in Primghar!
O’Brien County provided more if it’s beauty to us and I’m not just talking about the scenery. Our past Gallivant made a huge impact on me and then it all happened again when we returned. The prairie that I cherish was still there and I saw it in a completely different season this time. Paullina looked like it was thriving and Primghar’s cooking kept us entertained into the evening. You may have thought those Sanborn strawberries would have been the sweetest part of the trip, but Nellie took that award home very easily. Thank you so much O’Brien County! Sutherland really knows how to keep the day fulfilled in an “old school” kind of way.
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