Iowa State Capitol in Des Moines.

This past week the weather was sure interesting. Let’s see! We had light snow, wind, sunshine, rain and then a moment of just nothing, what I mean by that is that the time appeared to ironically be frozen in time, if that makes any sense? The streets went silent for quite some time, the presence of vehicles in the streets were completely absent, no one was walking on the sidewalks, our dog Oreo was going crazy since he had no squirrels to bark at from the living room window. Then the wind picked up again. Iowa weather is nuts! Our traveling plans solely rely on the weather, that way Abby and I (Clark) can determine and see what options we have when it comes to travel arrangements, driving conditions, alternate routes and so on. Some of the places that we wanted to go this weekend were hit by a snow storm. We mainly heard the rumors by word of mouth so I decided to make a couple of phone calls to reassure myself we could still go to those specific locations. Well… It appeared that the rumors were true and the snow accumulations reached 12 to 14 inches in Northern Iowa. To me that is a recipe for a long day (disaster).

I know for some of our friends the destination that Abby and I chose to go isn’t as exciting for them anymore as it is for us and mainly because we grew up in Colorado and not Iowa. That being said, we decided to go to the Iowa state capitol in Des Moines. Is it exciting for us? You bet it is! Why? Because we have never been there! Some of our friends mentioned that they used to go to the capitol every year when they were young on a school fieldtrip. Man! My school never did that back in Colorado. What’s up with that? We see the capitol every time we drive to Des Moines but we have never actually been inside of it. When it comes to anything regarding politics, normally I’d say sign me out! Nevertheless, we decided to go and what better day to be at the capitol other than on the weekend (Saturday to be specific). Why? Because we get the joy of avoiding big crowds rather than going throughout the week. How many of you have gone to your state capitol? If so, how cool is it? Does it have an awesome backstory? You can always leave a comment on the comment link below the page.

When we left Pella, (The Arteaga trio) Eyra was already fighting her nemesis (nap) I just thought to myself, Eyra better behave once we get there because BELIEVE ME! No nap means a long and frustrating day. Sure enough, 10 minutes before we arrived to our destination Eyra fell asleep. Anyway we arrived at the capitol and I have to say, the capitol was bigger than what I thought it was going to be. Yup! It’s HUGE!!! We parked literally less than a block away from the capitol and gosh was it freaking windy, it was so cold that it was disgusting! Got to love the Winter right? We walked into the capitol, the security guards/state patrol greeted us and we went right through the metal detectors. It was like a mini version of TSA but 100% nicer and faster.

Eyra! Where do I even begin! I don’t think Eyra has ever met a stranger before, she smiled and began to blow kisses to the security guards and state trooper, I thought to myself (maybe she is practicing how to get away from a citation when she gets older) HA!!!! Like that’s going to happen. The tour was scheduled to begin at 11:30am and of course we arrived 30 minutes earlier than anticipated so we decided to walk around the second floor and to see the capitol’s façade. This to me was one of the toughest photographic moments I have ever had. Why? First of all, the lighting coming from the capitol is extremely poor, even though there are a million chandeliers all over the place. I’m serious! The lighting is horrible. I played around with my shutter speed, F-stop and my settings and I couldn’t get a decent picture to turn the way I wanted. The background color of the capitol was too dark and then it changed unexpectedly because the capitol’s wall was covered in gold leaf, turning my photo into a yellow or bright shot! I hardly ever use filters but I didn’t see another way out of this one, I gave in and used 2 filters that I had with me, I changed them constantly since I couldn’t get the right shot, I can honestly say, this hobby of mine was kicking my butt and I do apologize for the poor pictures displayed in this blog. Today was not my day.

I decided to take a few shots before the actual tour, especially since there wasn’t anyone around. Eyra however, she was beginning to show how tired she was by throwing a few tantrums here and there and screaming on occasion. Since the capitol is huge, wide and the sealing is so high that even a whisper turns into a loud echo. Imagine what it sounded like with a screaming child but Eyra refused to sleep on my arms or Abby’s (She was awake the whole visit). When 11:30am arrived we went back downstairs to the main floor and met with the rest of the party and our tour guide, I want to say there were probably 15 of us in total. We began by going to the second floor where I had just practiced taking a few shots. Our tour guide explained to us the importance of the capitol’s glass floor which by the way, it was pretty cool but you sure wouldn’t want that puppy to break or else you are f**ked! She mentioned that at some point the glass floor was replaced by actual tile floor but since the capitol is literally an oven during the summer despite the capitol being made mostly out of granite and marble, one of the governor’s agreed to change the floor and bring back the original glass floor to improve air flow and heat reduction. I didn’t quite understand the concept on how that would help but I went with it!

An awesome scale replica of the USS Iowa is on display at the Capitol along with the original bell that once belonged to the mighty battleship. It played a key role during WWII and also the Korean War. Despite being completely remodeled and updated it was decommissioned after 70 years of service due to an accident that killed 25 sailors. One of the guest in our party asked why the ship was updated only to be decommissioned 5 years later despite an accident. The response was sure unexpected. The tour guide responded by saying that every ship, plane, tank or piece of equipment belonging to the United States military must be battle ready at all times in case of an unprecedented conflict. It makes sense to me but I bet that wasn’t cheap to update. The USS Iowa was also FDR’s battleship of choice when he traveled by sea because it was the only ship in the navy at the time that obtained an elevator as well as a bathtub that FDR could use as polio treatment. The USS Iowa currently resides in Los Angeles, California as a museum. But what I thought was a cool and a touching way to appreciate the people of Iowa was that, the battleship Iowa was made to defend freedom against the oppressor and American ideals but the battleship’s toughness and design can only truly be appreciated by the residents of those who live under the name given to the ship. Can you guess who those people may be? Ding, ding!!! You guessed right! The residents of Iowa of course. If an Iowan finds him or herself at the USS Iowa museum in California and show their Iowa license, the admission is free of charge. Pretty neat isn’t? I can’t prove that statement right but you bet I will for sure try, we’ll see if the myth is true. Also Eyra made another friend and this time she won the heart of her victim by giving her lots of hugs.

We proceeded to the chamber of the house of representatives which apparently burned down or I should say, it burned but saved from burning completely to the ground in 1904. A man working behind the house chamber forgot to blow off his candle and as you can imagine the rest is history. The stairways to get to the chambers are extremely narrow but AMAZING and very unique. Eyra sure enjoyed the stairs. The now restore house of representatives looks pretty sweet but I must say; The senate’s chamber is even more majestic. Both the chambers of the house of representatives and the senate where a spit image of each other but since the chamber of the house of representatives burned, it had to be updated and as you can imagine, the façade completely changed. Abby and I had to alternate through chambers since our kiddo was not cooperating one bit. Eyra and I walked around the 3rd floor while Abby was inside the chamber of the house of representatives. Then Abby and Eyra hung out while I went inside the senate chamber. It’s understandable, no kid wants to just sit and listen to a random person talk about the capitol!

Once we were done with the senate chamber we were told that we were going up to the capitol’s dome also known as the hall of whispers but unfortunately Eyra was not allowed to be there because the age requirement to be at the hall of whispers is 6. Eyra and another kid weren’t allowed there so I figured that we could conclude our trip and head home. Abby however said otherwise. Abby took one for the team and said that she would hung out with Eyra on the main floor. I of course agreed and thanked her. Our group went up 90+ stairs to get to the dome and boy was it cool. The hall of whispers got its name because even the slightest whisper can be heard at a high tone as if the whisper was no whisper at all. I got to see Abby chasing after Eyra from the dome while my ladies were on the second floor, that was funny to see. I can see why they don’t allow toddlers up here.

After my group and I concluded our business in the dome we went back to the 3rd floor and we were told by the tour guide that the capitol library was closed during the weekend but if we ever had the chance to come back during the week, stopping at the library is a must as it is considered one of the most beautiful libraries in the nation. I’ve seen a few pictures of the library and yes! It looks as if the library was taken from the movie Beauty and the Beast! With spiral stair cases, gold leaf covered walls and multiple floors covered with books. I would like to go back with Abby for sure during the week and say that we’ve been there. Cough…cough!! Man I feel sick already! I might have to call in on Monday! Haha.

I met my ladies on the main stairs between the 2nd and 3rd floors and Abby mentioned that Eyra was fascinated with the stairs as she went up and down the stairs 11 times, Abby didn’t mind since she was getting her steps in as well as her flights of stairs on her Fitbit. Way to go mama!!

As we were living the capitol Eyra instantly fell asleep, her battle with her nemesis (nap) reached an end and Eyra was defeated for the good of a peaceful and quiet ride home (only momentarily) All that running around wore our Eyra down but only to recharge her long lasting battery. As we drove to the nearest exit I noticed the weirdest statue right outside the capitol and I told Abby “look the statue is flashing us” Abby responded no she is not, why would you say that? Sure enough we parked by the erected statue and BOOM! The statue was sure a memorable one. I am sure there is an explanation why this specific statue was made the way it is but I promise you, I am betting that the sculptor didn’t have some weird fetish!

So far every place we have been has been great, the people that we’ve met have been really friendly and since its Winter the places that we have gone were mainly empty which is nice but there are still plenty of places to see. The capitol was a great experience for us and we enjoyed it very much. Until next time.

To be continued.

John Wayne Birthplace Museum & Winterset Bridges.


As our year begins to unfold, more exciting places emerge and come to mind. This weekend Abby and I (Clark) had to decide where to go and explore. We had originally planned to go to the Iowa capital which is in Des Moines but I’ll be honest, I forgot that the women’s march was happening on that day, I know! I’m a terrible citizen. I wouldn’t have known about it if it wasn’t for a friend at work (Brent) that reminded me about it. Sure, it would have been a great experience for us to show our support, love and affection in favor of the women’s march; however, there is always that one individual who takes things too far (either side or party), it doesn’t matter what type of march or protest that person is taking a part of. With the responsibility of a child now, we decided it was best if we didn’t go near the capital since Des Moines was expecting 10,000 people during the march. Abby and I decided to sit this one out. To all the women out there, we respect and support you.

So where did we go? John Wayne Birthplace Museum in Winterset, Iowa. It’s not a National Monument or a National Park but might as well be one. It doesn’t get more American than this! As T.E. Lawrence once said “big things have small beginnings” and this quote proved to be true with the story of Marion Robert Morrison who was later known by the name of John Wayne. Winterset is a nice little town with a rich history and full of surprises.

As we entered the museum, we were greeted by 3 friendly volunteers and my eyes instantly had to adjust to the massive collection of John Wayne memorabilia. The walls, bathrooms, TV’s, literally everything and everywhere I fixed my eyes upon, John Wayne was certainly there. The entrance to the museum also happens to be the gift shop, Eyra had to try on a John Wayne cavalry replica hat from the movie Horse Soldiers I have to say, she looked pretty bad ass! Eyra is a natural baby movie star.

The fee of $15 dollars seemed a bit high specially since the museum was pretty small. Abby and I read the entire plaques on display and we were done reading and looking at the memorabilia within 30 minutes. There was also a 15-minute film featured at the museum that was presented by John Wayne’s daughter (narrator, not physically). We decided not go in and see the film since we learned our lesson with Eyra at the Herbert Hoover National Historic Site last weekend. Eyra loves to run around, which is completely normal for a toddler and with people in the theater we decided to skip it. We’ll give it another shot in a few years (film). One of the things I loved to see was that John Wayne was not ashamed of his roots nor where he came from. There was a letter written by John Wayne that was sent to the Winterset clerk and on that letter, John Wayne wanted a copy of his birth certificate and he clearly stated on his letter “I would like to obtain a copy of my birth record. I was born in Winterset, Iowa”.

The outside of the museum was super cool, all of the movies that John Wayne ever filmed were engraved in granite (movie titles) and placed all along the sidewalk. That was a super rad and touching way to show the world the many films made by John Wayne and what better place to show the engraved movie titles than on the two sidewalks outside of the museum. I am not a western type of guy nor I ever will be, but let me tell you, this guy loved what he did and boy was he good at it! If you have seen some of his flicks, you for sure know that on every film he made, John Wayne showed his love for country, from the Alamo to the Sands of Iwo-Jima. All I have to say is that, Chuck Norris doesn’t have shit on John Wayne and I love the Norris.

Since the museum is operating under Winter hours, John Wayne’s house was actually closed but Abby and I got vouchers to return during the Spring at no additional cost and got a second chance and opportunity to visit the museum again. I want to thank the volunteers who made this possible, I am not sure if they can even do this (vouchers) but hey! They did. I am grateful and yes! We will see you again during the Spring, $15 dollars well spent.

Since our visit to the John Wayne Birthplace Museum was so short we concluded that we were going to see yet another attraction that can only be found in Winterset. Have you guys ever read or watch the movie Bridges of Madison County? Yup! That movie was filmed in the many bridges that Winterset has to offer. What makes these bridges so cool? First of all, the bridges are covered wooden bridges and second of all, these bridges are not very common nationally unless you go to New England or Virginia. In Winterset there are a total of six covered bridges, all within a few miles from each other and they are pretty cool. We only went to one bridge; we originally had planned on going to two bridges but one of them was closed for unknown reasons. It was raining and the roads to get to the bridges are dirt roads, I thought that was cool since I don’t mind driving on dirt roads but it sure gets super muddy and slippery. Yeah!!! That’s a grown man’s playground but I didn’t have the tires nor the equipment with me just in case things went South as I do with my old cruiser. That being said, I drove like a pansy to our destination.

We went to Cedar Bridge, we drove on the bridge twice and decided to pull over and have lunch by it, yeah we had lunch in the car since the kiosk by Cedar Bridge was soaked and muddy. I turned the ignition off and got Eyra out of her car seat and began to munch on our lunch. Eyra discovered the sunroof of our car and was thrilled, she kept saying WOW and NO!! That’s because rain drops kept falling on her cheek or forehead, it was pretty entertaining.

On our way back home we decided to take the back roads to Pella and we saw some interesting towns and people but mostly small farming communities; however, I have no idea where this place was or is but I will have to do my research for sure. We came to a complete stop at a red light somewhere (again no idea where I was) and noticed that there was a VW shop, if you don’t know us, Abby and I love VW’s and noticed that the shop or store or hoarder had three VW buses, a Rabbit a Karmann Ghia and other modern VW cars. I wanted to take a picture but everything happened to fast but I will find that place. Will the VW bus be an early Christmas present? I doubt it but now curiosity is killing me. Do they sell the cars? Fix them? Crush them? I may never know! What is it?

Our trip was a success despite the weather being foggy and rainy and as the Winter continues to progress here in the Midwest some places that are on our list are momentarily out of reach, but we will continue to make responsible efforts to maintain a steady influx of weekend blog posts. What is going to be our next destination? Unknown.

To be continued…


Herbert Hoover National Historic Site.

This week Clark, Eyra and I (Abby) decided to go to the Herbert Hoover National Historic Site for Clark’s b-day. This site is located in West Branch, Iowa and is roughly an hour and a half from Pella. We started our morning off right with eggs on toast and steaming mugs of yummy coffee. We then packed all of our winter gear and our picnic lunch and began our journey!

We first arrived at the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum. Now, I don’t know about you, but going into this, I didn’t know much about Hoover expect for the fact that he was the president during the Great Depression. I also knew that he caught a lot of flak during his presidency because almost all the citizens blamed him for the economic situation. Boy, was I about to get schooled!

We entered the lobby of the building and were warmly greeted by a volunteer and a uniformed guard (or as Clark put it, a Hoover Disciple). We paid our admission (which was pretty reasonable at $10 per adult and Eyra was free) and were told that a short movie about Hoover’s life would be playing in a few minutes.

When the movie was about to start the uniformed officer came and let us know so we wouldn’t miss it. The small theatre was quaint and the seats were comfortable. We were lucky that we were the only people there because Eyra would not sit still through the 20-minute movie. Over those 20 minutes I learned more about Hoover than I have in my whole life.

His life had a rather tragic beginning. He was born in West Branch, IA in August of 1874. He was the middle child and had an older brother and a younger sister. When he was 6 years old his father (Jessie Hoover, a blacksmith) died of a heart attack while sick with pneumonia. Only 3 years later, his mother also passed away, leaving him an orphan at the young age of 9. At this point he was sent on a train, with coins sewed into his pockets, all the way to Oregon to live with his Aunt and Uncle. The museum had quite a few artifacts of his childhood including an old rocking chair that his mother used as well as portraits of his whole family.

After graduating high school, Hoover went to Stanford University and studied Mining Engineering. WOO WOO, go engineers! If you couldn’t tell, I am an engineer. This is when Hoover’s life really got interesting! He met his soon to be wife, Lou while attending geology classes at Stanford (she was the only female geology major in the entire school! How badass is that!?!?). After getting his degree he began to look for work. He saw an advertisement for a mining job in Australia that was seeking an engineer at least 35 years of age, with a lifetime of experience. That reminds me of modern life, you graduate with honors from college, yet industries and companies want you to have 10 years minimum of working experience. I mean seriously? Anyway, Hoover was only 21 at the time, but he bought himself a top hat, a fancy tweed suit, and grew out a handlebar mustache and applied. Amazingly enough, he got the job and moved to Australia. Despite his young age, he made quite a name for himself in Australia, earning the nickname “Chief”.

After the job was done in Australia, he got offered a job in China, but there was one order of business that needed to be taken care of. He headed back to California and proposed to Lou! They were married right before they left for China! The museum has awesome displays of artifacts and pictures that were taken on both jobs! China soon became a conflict zone, but Lou was not deterred. Every morning he said she would sweep the bullet shells off the porch. By the time they left China, Lou had mastered the art of shooting guns and had also learned nearly 8 languages.

Next, they were off to England and coordinated the evacuation of 120,000 US citizens when WWI broke out. Once back in the United States, he decided it was important to help aid the Belgians whose country had been destroyed from German attacks. During this effort, he was able to raise millions of dollars of aid and when the US entered the war, President Wilson asked Hoover to head the U.S. Food Administration. Through the exhibit, they had flour sacks that had been used and decorated before being sent for Belgian aid. They also had examples of some “breads” that people were expected to eat that were made out of weeds, clay and even MANURE. Can you imagine eating MANURE bread?! Disgusting!

Heading up the Food Administration made Hoover a household name. He believed that conserving food would win the war! He introduced a food saving initiative called “Meatless Mondays” and “Wheatless Wednesdays”. Through these programs people began to call the act of being conservative with resources “to Hooverize!”.

Once the War was over, Hoover became secretary of commerce under President Coolidge. Due to his efforts, many industries were stream lined due to the adoption of standardized hardware and tools. His favor among the American people reached an all-time high when he led the relief efforts after the Mississippi River flood in 1927. He was so well loved, and was a shoe-in for the next presidency.

The museum had amazing displays of all the different industries that were affected by the standardization of tools and hardware. This led the cost of goods to decrease so the average family could enjoy modern technologies like radio, gas stoves, toasters, and automobiles. It also had a very interesting display on the construction of the Hoover Dam during Hoover’s presidency.

The displays then began to show the downturn of the economy through pictures and news articles of what is now known as the Great Depression. Millions of people were out of work. Hoover worked tirelessly on creating jobs from public works projects and through funding from business owners. It was through this search for creating jobs that the Hoover Dam Project (once called the Boulder Dam Project) was kicked off. Despite Hoover creating many, many jobs, he was still the scapegoat in this economic bust and he was unable to be re-elected.

Despite having political differences, FDR asked Hoover to be the chair of an international relief effort to help out the people of Belgium, Finland, and Poland. During the Truman administration, Hoover served as the coordinator of Food Supply for World Famine.

Unfortunately, in 1944 Bert’s wife Lou passed away at the age of 70. Hoover continued to be involved in politics but never ran for office again. During the last years of his life he lived at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York. The museum has a beautiful re-creation of the hotel suite including a portrait of his late wife hung over his desk, a card table, and a statue of a Tommyknocker (a mythical creature known by miners). It was in the re-created room that our own little Eyra thought she’d go sit on the couch, and BOOM! she ran right into the glass barricade! It was hilarious and adorable to see her look of confusion that she couldn’t walk into that room! So props to the museum on keeping their glass extra clean!

In the last room of the exhibit, it showed Hoover doing something that he truly loved. Fishing in his home state of Iowa. During his retirement, he did this often to enjoy his time.

After the conclusion of the museum exhibit, we then walked to the final resting place of President Hoover and his wife Lou. The path was smooth and curvy and we could tell the grave-site was created with love. There are bushes arranged in such a way that both Herbert and Lou’s graves are facing an unobstructed view of the very cottage where little Bertie was born. According to the volunteer, it was always Hoovers dream to be born and buried within view of each other, “from cradle to grave”. After taking in the beauty from the top of the hill where this great president and his amazing wife were buried, we began to follow the walking path to his birthplace.

On the way to his childhood home, you can visit the Friends Meeting House, where Herbert and his family went every 1st and 4th day of the week to worship in silence. Growing up in the Quaker religion is what made Hoover into a great humanitarian, always thinking about how he could help others.

Herbert Hoovers birthplace is a small 2 room cottage. What we would probably consider the living room had the beds that I imagine Theodore and Herbert slept on as well as a sewing machine. The other room, which appeared to be the “master bedroom” had a bed for Jessie and Hulda and a small baby bed for Herbert’s little sister Mary. In typical fashion at the time, the kitchen was a separate room out back. You could see an old clothes line and a small garden. There was also an outhouse in the backyard, that of course, Clark tried to open! He was excited to use an outhouse from the 1800’s! Unfortunately, it was closed and Clark didn’t get the joy of using the outhouse.

Next we were able to look at the re-creation of the Jessie Hoovers blacksmith shop where he worked until his death. The surrounding homes were beautiful and the area is perfect for taking a stroll through time. To a time where life was simpler! Being able to explore this time in history made me very grateful for the time that I get to spend with my own family.

On our walk back to the car we stopped to look at the statue of Isis (the Egyptian goddess of life, fertility and motherhood) which was given to Hoover by the citizens of Belgium for his efforts to relieve the famine. Quite an interesting statue and in some ways confusing and bizarre. Overall, we had a wonderful time exploring this site and learning so much more about a president who is known for such a small and unfortunate era in history. I learned that he did so, so much to help his fellow Americans, and also to help people he didn’t even know! What an inspiration! I hope we are able to instill in Eyra, this desire to help those in need, whether they be our neighbor, or children on the other side of the world!!

Stay tuned next week while we explore Iowa’s state capital!

To be continued…

Effigy Mounds

Abby, Eyra and I (Clark) kicked off our journey of visiting as many National Parks, monuments and small towns around the U.S. by visiting the amazing National Monument known as Effigy Mounds in Northeast Iowa. Effigy Mounds in a sacred Native American burial site that contains numerous animal shaped mounds. To many of us the mounds will only look like hills or random bumps coming out of the ground, but that random bump has a secret of its own and once the mound is analyzed and you give your map a second look, your mind will begin to pick up the pieces and eventually give the mound its shape. Some of the mounds are in a shape of a bear, bird, lynx, bison and more. Those mounds are the final resting place of Native Americans, a sacred monument that will take your breath away.

First of all, Abby and I really wanted to visit Effigy Mounds National Monument since we have heard so many positive things about the park by many friends. That being said, I became more curious of the park and bought a book about the U.S. National Parks & Monuments and the images of Effigy Mounds shown on my book looked incredible. Soon after, both Abby and I decided to pull the trigger and concluded that Effigy Mounds was going to be the first park to visit and to kick off our yearlong National Park, monuments and small towns adventure. Secondly, we had to take advantage of the weather, since the weather was going to cooperate with us by getting a blistering hot day of 12 degrees in January, which in Northeast Iowa during the Winter is pretty rare and not to mention that we were the first ones to arrive at the park that morning.

Abby, Eyra, and I were greeted by the park ranger who asked if we were planning to hike up to the mounds? I replied, well yes of course! I explained that we drove 3 ½ hours just to get there. The park ranger said “Wow! you guys are brave, because its super cold outside!” and I felt that she (park ranger) gave us a look of “you can’t be serious”. I can see where the park ranger’s confusion may have been since we walked in to the visitor center practically wearing summer clothes. I don’t know what threw her off, maybe the flip flops or the muscle shirt because I’m super buff! Haha, I kid. No, Eyra was not wearing summer clothes, she was bundled up pretty good. I just smiled and asked for a map followed by a series of questions, mainly where the bathroom was because, boy!!! Sitting in a car for 3 ½ hours will sure do it for you.

The park is pet friendly but the pooches must be leashed at all times and you don’t have to pay a cent for the services offered. The admission, the museum, the trails, the park’s cinema, all of it is free of charge and donations are always welcome. I gathered our gear and began prepping for a cold and sunny hike. Once the park ranger saw us getting dressed and turning Eyra into a human burrito covered in her snow gear, I’m pretty sure the park ranger was beginning to have a change of heart by turning her lack of faith into a believer. I’m glad the park rangers care and worry for its visitors, I approached her and I thanked her for the information and the park ranger added by saying, “Be careful and stay warm but before you guys go, let me tell you what other areas of the park you can also see”. Change of heart? Fo sho!!!

Turns out that there is no maintenance at the park during the Winter and yes, WARNING “the trails are super icy and slippery”. Just ask Abby’s butt and my knee, we both had a close encounter with the ice as we both ate it. Eyra however, she enjoyed the ride on my back and kept saying “wow”. The beginning of the trail starts out from the visitor center and you can instantly see 3 small, circular mounds right in front of Bluegill Pond. I honestly couldn’t quite see them as there was snow covering the mounds. As we proceeded to Eagle Rock, the trail starts out to be semi-steep, which I am sure during the Spring or Summer the trail is a breeze (simple) but boy!!! Let me tell you, it was so icy that I was considering aborting the hike, especially since I had our daughter on my back. It took us about 30 minutes to get to Eagle Rock which is 0.8 miles. It shouldn’t have taken us that long but as the saying goes, slowly but surely. Eagle Rock is a key section because you get to see an amazing scenic view of the South side of Effigy Mounds and the killer view of the Mississippi River, in addition to being close to a pretty big compound mound. That mound has a plaque that explains how the mounds were created and provides a brief explanation on what artifacts were within the mound and what its purpose was.

Fire Point is one rad section as it gives you a sick view of the Mississippi River in addition to a clear view of Iowa’s neighboring state of Wisconsin which is just on the opposite side of the Mississippi. I’m pretty sure we hiked the trail backwards because we started to hike from what it appeared to be the end of Little Bear Mound Group trail and instead took Fire Point first since the trail splits into two trails. There are 19 circular compound mounds and a linear mound shaped as a bear, that’s when Abby and I realized that we should have come during the Spring or Summer because we couldn’t quite see the mounds with detail as they were all covered in thick frozen snow. Despite being so cold and snowy we had a great time admiring the amount of detailed work that the Native Americans had done for their loved ones and what better way to release the deceased soul back into nature. My respect for the Native American culture grows stronger every day and admire them for continuing to thrive and maintaining their beliefs, culture, bravery, sacred rituals and the willingness to share their knowledge and history to the developing world that pushed them away.

Unfortunately, our hike didn’t last as long as we would have liked since the presence of the wind was beginning to show on our faces and with a toddler on board, we didn’t want to risk it. We have limits now! For people that know me, I’ve always had facial hair since my sophomore year in high school, we are talking 14 years looking like sasquatch. Man I’m getting old! I decided to shave since I wanted to try something new and what better time to shave than at the beginning of the year. A fresh year, something new, what can go wrong? Nope! That was a terrible idea. My face was brutally cold and I never knew how well insulated my face was until after my beard was gone. I tell you! The days of wanting to look younger again are way over.  Never again!

Effigy Mounds has earned a special place in our hearts and can say with certainty that we will be returning to the National Monument when its warmer to enjoy and see the mounds from a different perspective and next time we will plan to see the majority if not all of the mounds. Effigy mounds we say to you, until next time! Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum, you are next.

To be continued…