On Memorial Day weekend, the second LoHi Trek was held in Monona and Harrison counties. The LoHi, short for Loess Hills, is based on the concept of a walking route through the entire length of western Iowa's scenic and unique landform. In 2020, Monona County resident Kelly Madigan hiked more than 200 miles from South Dakota to Missouri, inspiring many others to pursue outdoor adventures in the Loess Hills. Read about Kelly's journey here and learn about last year's inaugural LoHi Trek here.
More than 50 people attended this year's event, nearly doubling 2021's attendance. In addition to walking, hikers learned about the landform and were encouraged to appreciate and enjoy the great parks, trails, and wildlife areas in the region.
Instead of packing up and moving each day, the hikers stayed at Little Sioux Scout Ranch and were shuttled to the starting and/or ending points within Loess Hills State Forest. On the first morning, hikers were shuttled to Jones Creek Pond, located within the Preparation Canyon Unit of Loess Hills State Forest.
From there, the hiked about four miles to the iconic Loess Hills Scenic Overlook, which was also included in the 2021 Trek. Loess Hills Country Corner of Pisgah provided lunch there.
Trekkers then went south from the Overlook and crossed into the Little Sioux Scout Ranch, where they ventured another four miles back to the main campsite.
Saturday's dinner was provided by Harrison County Cattleman's Association. Following dinner was a discussion about the history and future of the Little Sioux Scout Ranch. The Scout Ranch is well-known for the tragic 2008 tornado that killed four Scouts and injured many others. Doug Chafa with Iowa DNR, Kody Wohlers with Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation, and Steve Van Riper shared stories about the Scout Ranch and a vision for its future.
Sunday morning, participants were taken to the southern end of the popular Brent's Trail. This trail opened in 2019 and several miles were added in 2021, totaling 11 miles from its northern terminus at Murray Hill Scenic Overlook and the southern end of the Little Sioux Unit of Loess Hills State Forest. Lunch was provided by volunteers with the Northwest Iowa chapter of Sierra Club.
Brent's Trail was recently named the best hike in Iowa by Backpacker Magazine, and continues to gain notoriety for its challenging terrain among hikers across Iowa, the Midwest, and beyond. Sunday dinner at the Scout Ranch was catered by Ada J's Steakhouse of Ute, Iowa.
On Monday, Memorial Day, Trekkers shuttled south towards the Mondamin Unit of Loess Hills State Forest for the final 6-mile hike.
The 2022 Trek ended at Mullein Hill Farm, a vegetable, herb, and native plant farm near Mondamin. Lunch was provided by Livengoodies food truck, based in Onawa. At Mullein Hill, participants enjoyed some final comradery before heading back to their respective homes.
During the closing ceremony, Trekker Zach Hall shared a poem he wrote during the event, entitled "Remnant":
"I found it.
I know what exists in those hills.
A view that pulls my heart heavier than gravity,
and as the wind billowed, I was so moved.
Vast cavities of my carcass
are no longer hollow.
Yet, you could hear it,
as the air rushed over and my eyes watered.
I had a vision and its thirst was quenched by the morning dew and golden rays of grass on sunbathing hills.
A horizon’s message that spoke to all of us,
and we listened.
We are kept alive by our veins,
which are those loess hill ridgelines that we followed.
With foot steps softened by sedges, forbs, and our spirit.
Like an alter which should be praised upon,
to help keep Iowans connected.
Yet, we are all here together, working for memories,
and from memories of a land nearly lost to time.
It must be conserved for our next generation.
Our fight is there, to keep it sustained.
For all our hearts hold those views,
and those ridge-lines hold our future.
We know what exists in those hills."
- Zachary T. Hall
Golden Hills would like to thank everyone who helped make the second LoHi Trek a success, including: