Brenton Arboretum

This outing ended up being pretty funny. I was looking to be outside in the quiet but the crusty coating on the snow made for some pretty loud snowshoeing. CRUNCH!!! CRUNCH!!! CRUNCH!!!! I couldn’t help but laugh. Wildlife out in the cold heard me coming and headed for cover. In order to hear birdsong I had to stop walking. I didn’t get the quiet I was looking for but I’ll find it once the snow’s gone. Hopefully soon!


The  Brenton Arboretum can be found in an unsuspecting location in between farm fields south of Dallas Center. With seven different grass trails and the gravel drive, there are lots of options for getting around the museum of trees.  It is also less than 3 miles from the Raccoon River Valley Trail via gravel roads.

The arboretum was created by the Brenton family using land purchased in 1853 for $1.25 an acre. Over 2,000 trees are included in the collection.  Each are labeled with its botanical name.  Maps of the park and the location of trees are listed on maps available in the kiosk just inside the park.  A playscape and pavilion provide great spots for spending time with the family out in nature.  Lots of events take place throughout the year.  For all the details check out the Brenton Arboretum website.  


Kuehn Conservation Area

While the Iron Giant patiently waits out winter in the garage, I’ve explored local trails on snow shoes. A recent outing was somewhere new for me, Kuehn Conservation Area. It’s located north of Earlham and is a popular spot for school field trips. The park has prairie and forest along with a nature center and places to tent camp.

I snowshoed around the prairie trail and a segment of forest that leads down to the Raccoon River. It was super quiet and I had the park to myself. Perfect!

The underestimated fallen leaf: food for the forest floor.

The underestimated fallen leaf: food for the forest floor.

Kuhen is part of the Iowa’s Makoke Trail. This is a series of birding locations in Central Iowa. I didn’t spot too many birds other than Blue Jays, Juncos, and Chickadees. On the northeast side of the park there is a blind available for birding. I plan on checking that out on my next visit.

“Bird” or “Owl” in the language of the Ioway

“Bird” or “Owl” in the language of the Ioway

Branches of the mighty Oak. Did you know Oak trees support over 500 species of insects (bird food)!!??! That’s mighty for sure!

Branches of the mighty Oak. Did you know Oak trees support over 500 species of insects (bird food)!!??! That’s mighty for sure!

The snow was pretty deep so I took it slow…just like my bike riding!

The snow was pretty deep so I took it slow…just like my bike riding!

There were so many tracks in the snow. Some of them unfamiliar.

Weasel tracks?

Weasel tracks?

Thank goodness for my snowshoes. They’ve helped me to get outside this winter and have been a fun remedy for cabin fever.

Check out this post by Des Moines Outdoor Fun to see what Kuehn Conservation Area looks like in the snow-free months.

Older is Cooler

During summer, I seek routes sprinkled with shade. But in a community dominated by urban growth, this is a challenge.  

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Fortunately, my routes take me through the shady parts of town.  Here are houses with character and a canopy of trees.  It's only a few short blocks of respite, but they are the prettiest and the coolest.  

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New may be hot but older is cooler.

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My Bike Trail Friend

With the Raccoon River Valley Trail less than a mile from my door it’s where I frequently ride.  

My preferred route is Waukee to Dallas Center.  I like how it’s away from the busy highway and has portions flanked by trees.  It nicely accommodates an hour of pedaling at my slow poke pace.  This route is also a favorite because it’s where I see my bike trail friend.

This unknown friend is my biking role model.  He is an older gentleman who rides a LOT.  He rides in the cold and the wind.  Sometimes with a friend, most of the time solo.  He rides without fancy gear, or concerns for speed, but always with a smile.  My friend is a great example of someone spreading the love of biking.

Our friendship is unique in that we don’t know each other.  We’ve never been introduced or had a conversation.  Our interactions last only seconds but are always a highlight.  Greetings are enthusiastic .  He usually points and says “Hello there!” while I wave like a nut and holler “Nice to see you!” 

Seeing my friend has been known to cheer me up or provide a sense of comradery.  He also motivates me.  Especially when I spot him returning from a ride on days I’ve chosen to abstain.

Maybe this year I will finally come across him having stopped along the trail.  If and when I do I’ll be sure to hit the brakes, introduce myself, and thank him for being an inspiration.   Until then, I will keep pedaling while hoping I’ll see my bike trail friend I have but don’t know.

Happy Riding!

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