September 27, 2018 kicked off a four-day bicycling adventure in western Iowa. Two dozen intrepid bicyclists rode the inaugural Loess Hills Parks & Peaks Bicycle Tour. This ride was the first of its kind, traversing nearly the full length of the beautiful and unique Loess Hills landform from Stone State Park on the north side of Sioux City to Waubonsie State Park in the southwest corner of the state. Golden Hills RC&D coordinated the ride, which coincided with the second Loess Hills & Heritage Week.
Most participants met at Waubonsie State Park on September 26th and were shuttled to Stone State Park. The Northwest Iowa Group of the Sierra Club provided environmental education programs and dinner at the park Lodge. Doug Chafa with DNR led a group to the nearby Heendah Hills preserve. Riders then tent-camped at Stone State Park.
Thursday’s route wound through trails and city streets of Sioux City, the largest city in the Loess Hills, before leaving town on county roads to the southeast. Riders ate lunch at Runt’s in Smithland, then headed through Rodney before arriving at Thursday night’s campsite, the RT Reese Homestead in rural Monona County. Following dinner, Monona County Conservation’s naturalist, Andrea Porter, provided an educational program about the Loess Hills. Kelly Madigan with Hoop the Fair shared some hula-hooping tips with the group.
On Friday morning, the rain started. And it continued. All day. And most of the next three days. Despite the weather, most riders completed the Friday route, which passed by the historic Ingemann Danish Lutheran Church, the Loess Hills State Forest, and several county parks. At Murray Hill Scenic Overlook, Dave Poole recorded some great aerial drone footage. The route included the rural communities of Turin, Moorhead, Pisgah, Little Sioux, Mondamin, Missouri Valley, Loveland, and Honey Creek, before arriving at Pottawattamie County’s Hitchcock Nature Center. After dinner, riders enjoyed a Night Sky program by environmental educator Rene Stroud. Conservation staff generously agreed to let riders sleep on the floor of the Lodge—a much-appreciated, warm, dry space after biking 60 miles in the wet cold.
Saturday was a shorter ride but wet again. Cyclists ventured through Council Bluffs, then continued south into Mills County, passing through Pacific Junction and ending at Glenwood Lake Park. The Mills County Historical Museum opened for riders to sleep inside. Riders enjoyed pizza from Adriano’s Brick Oven and beer at Keg Creek Brewery. Several riders also enjoyed sweet treats from the Sugar Makery.
On Sunday, the few remaining riders rode through Bartlett, Tabor, and Thurman before ending at Waubonsie State Park. Waubonsie Station and Yeyas Scratch Kitchen, restaurants in Tabor, offered great food and a place to warm up. Despite the weather, riders explored the beautiful Loess Hills. They learned new facts and tasted great food. They can now say that they were first riders of the Loess Hills Parks & Peaks Bicycle Tour.