Leaf Pictures – Northeast Iowa

Why did I pick Carrot Cake to give up for a year?

The second day of the camping trip with kitty Serena took me back to Decorah yet another time.  I love the people, the town, the many cultural events at Luther College. 

Someday I will call this area “home.”  This trip I was scouting various storage shed options and such as well as the usual fun.

Since Decorah (flagged with “A”) keeps coming up in trips and posts, I decided to show the readers a regional map of the Iowa / Minnesota / Wisconsin tri-state area.  You can see that Decorah is about 100 miles or so north of where Dad and I live in Cedar Rapids.

After posting the last update, it was off to the Trout Run Park along the south edge of Decorah.  The weather was cold and windy and the stream was very low and clear.  I could see trout in the water but they saw me, too.  Each time I would approach they would dart upstream.  Grrrrr…  On the upside, nobody else was fishing in that one mile segment of the stream so it would be possible to get the limit of five – sooner or later.
I had parked and ridden the bike to one of the remote portions of the Trout Run stream.  A bike trail and a trout stream in the same place… Is this heaven?    This time there was no hurry so it was desirable to hoof it and walk into the timber quite a ways.  There were bound to be fishing holes loaded with trout – it’s difficult to get back in there which limits the number of anglers.  It proved to be worth the walk.  The last three fish were very hungry and attacked the bait on impact.
After fishing, I asked the cashier at the local Fareway grocery store where Decorah’s best burger was to be found.  A priest who was grocery shopping directed me to Decorach’s finest hamburgers at T-Bock’s Sports Bar.  It’s a fun, family oriented place with great homemade grub and a “no hard liquor” environment that is perfect for families. 

T-Bock’s has the best darned potato salad I have ever eaten at a restaurant.  It was perfectly seasoned and not loaded with pickle relish (a turn off for me)  The waiter recommended a Wytoski burger, made with locally raised black angus beef and topped with a slice of ham, some sauerkraut, Swiss cheese, and thousand island dressing.  Basically, it’s like a reuben on top of a good hamburger.  The meal was incredibly delicious after fishing for a couple of hours in the cold wind.  The service was equally impressive.  I would love to take my Dad, sister, and brother-in-law here some day.

Still driving in circles…  Click to enlarge.
The rest of the afternoon was spent driving south to Marquette, Iowa and Prairie DuChien, Wisconsin.  Of course, since I was in Prairie, a stop at Pete’s Hamburgers was in order.  That was supper…probably the red meat quota for the next week. 
I didn’t get any pictures around the Marquette / Prairie DuChien area – the leaves just weren’t very colorful and the sun was setting – the wrong angle to illuminate the hillside.
South of Marquette is Pike’s Peak Park – one of the busiest campgrounds in Iowa during the fall.  Like a dummy, I figured it was possible to walk in and rent a spot.  NOT!  What was not already occupied was reserved for the weekend.  You know how it goes – the urban yuppies rent a spot for days in advance and don’t occupy it till the weekend.  No problem…  It was preferable to camp away from people.


Look at the map in the previous picture for the roads that form an “A” shape.  I continued south down the Great River Highway to a point near the Clayton County town of Garnavillo (the right “foot” of the “A”).  Just west of town is Sny Magill Wildlife Management Area.  They have an excellent trout stream as well as parking off the gravel road.  I don’t know that camping is permitted but it sure isn’t posted as forbidden.  It was an ideal place to park quietly on state land and primitive camp for the night.  (The top left arrow… I made this image to guide me back here next summer)

The temp was cold last night.  That made it necessary to use the Honda generator overnight to run the Koolatron (with the fish), keep the house batteries charged, and to run the electric space heater.  I operated the Mr. Heater Buddy propane heater till about midnight, then switched to the generator and electric heater for overnight.  Why this approach?  It seemed safer not to run the propane while asleep since the generator and space heater was an option.  Serena and I enjoyed 72 degrees till morning.  There was nobody around to hear the low drone of the generator.

Rollin’ in the dirt.. A very pasttime

This morning Serena and I visited Backbone State Park in search of some pretty leaves.  Backbone is the oldest state park in Iowa and was dedicated in 1919.  There are a number of miles of trails in the area, many of them constructed before the 1930s.  The CCC (Civilian Conservation Commission) built most of the permanent structures in the park.  The stream is stocked with trout and provides fishing fun for numerous folks.  It is the first park I ever trout fished in.  One of my fondest memories is Grandpa Harris driving his blue 1972 Chevy Impala through the park with the old Delco radio playing a new song – “Billy Don’t Be a Hero” from the year 1973.

As pretty as this area is and even with all the childhood memories, this is one of my least favorite places to fish.  Though it’s a wonderful park, it is best suited for the older fishermen (and women) as well as the very young.  There is even handicapped parking near some of the holes.  Much of this access was added in recent years.  The ease of access brings so much pressure that it’s hard to enjoy one’s self.  I prefer the “walk-in” fisheries – streams that are much more difficult to access and less fished as a result.  Nonetheless, Backbone has a lot of fond memories and as you will see in the upcoming pictures, it is a beautiful and tranquil place.

I let the kitty play as long as she liked at Backbone.  The crisp air seemed to energize us both.  The first picture was taken in an area known as the “auditorium”.  It is a pavilion located high on a hill.  The auditorium contains a number of seats that look like pews.  I imagine it would be excellent for weddings, religious ceremonies, etc.   The picture below is the van sitting in the parking lot of the auditorium.

A pavilion area called “The Auditorium”


From an observation point at the north entrance


Maquoketa River as seen from Backbone State Park
We’re back in Cedar Rapids now.  Serena was pretty tuckered out after the excitement.  She was a great little travel companion for this trip.  A person wonders what goes through an animal’s mind but I know she had a good time.  I might have to take her out again on another camping trek.  Exploring the outdoors is a mutual interest.
Thanks for stopping by.  Enjoy the weather this fall!
Brad aka “Van Trekker”

About VanTrekker

I am a former vandweller in Eastern Iowa who, for several years (off and on), lived in a 2007 Chevy cargo van. I still travel around Iowa with my tortoise shell cat, Jennifer Stefanie. Our favorite place to explore is the Country Heritage Community, the four far northeastern counties of Iowa (Clayton, Winneshiek, Allamakee, and Fayette). Ride along as we fish in pristine trout streams, enjoy fine home cooked camping meals, and meet new people. It's all possible on a shoestring budget. Happy travels always! --- Brad, the "Van Trekker"
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9 Responses to Leaf Pictures – Northeast Iowa

  1. tinycamper says:

    Beautiful country, beautiful photos! But where’s the photo of kitty? 🙂

    • Brad says:

      Hi, I went back and stuck a picture of Serena in there. We’re parked at Dad’s right now. I think I’ll put her in the van and she can sleep out tonight. She really likes it in here. Serena is one of those jealous types and is happiest when she can have my company all to herself.

  2. Anonymous says:

    love it Brad! so enjoy your posts, so well written and love the pics and food. and the kitty too. that pic of the park is gorgeous! i’m there!
    Aunt Meg

    • Brad says:

      Hi Aunt Meg, glad you enjoy the posts. It’s fun even to reread what I wrote a year and a half ago. The first blog entries had some bad editing problems.. I’ve been going back and fixing them.

      There’s been a new development in the work thing – a new post is coming soon about that. Take care and thanks for the comment. 🙂

  3. Gacknoops says:

    Fall is the best time to take pictures in Iowa. I really love the picture with the river. Awesome.

  4. Dazar Gaidin says:

    You get some really gorgeous shots 🙂

  5. Don says:

    Just found you blog via cheaprvliving. I’m looking forward to going through some of your archives.

    I was born in Monticello, IA and my grandfather was mayor of Cedar Rapids back in the 1930’s. It’s a wonderful area and you have some great photos of it.

  6. Don says:

    Found your blog via cheaprvliving forum. Nice work! You do a great job talking about the area.

    I was born in Monticello, IA but left when I went into the army. Have only been back for visits but it sure can be beautiful. (Also HOT, HUMID & BUGGY! – We didn’t have a/c when I was a kid.)

  7. Brad says:

    Thanks for the note, Don! Monticello is close by – I keep driving past it! There are some really pretty places in and around the area. One of these days I will have to camp there and take some pics. It’s such a beautiful town and here I forgot all about it when driving to Dubuque, Dyersville, etc. I used to live and work in Anamosa… Used to drive to “Monti” just to visit the Fareway store.