More Cool Pics from Hill Country

What was your first clue?  When you can see six miles away?

Hello again from “Hill Country” – that part of Iowa that some liken to Norway.  On Thursday I took a wrong turn, never ended up biking on the intended trail, and camped miles away from the plan!  That just means there are too many fun things to do and being spontaneous is everything.

The course of this trip formed a loop… the first two days being in green.  Thursday is in brown.

Click to see full sized image…

Wednesday was spent trout fishing at Otter Creek (the current “splash picture” for the blog).  From there it was on to the favorite haunt – Decorah.  I did not do much visiting in town – just buzzed over to the city campground, coughed up $21, and slept like a baby.  The city-run Pulpit Rock Campground is $21, including electricity and sporadically available wi-fi.  The shower house is super clean – a nice hot shower seemed like a luxury!

Lean Buffalo Hot Dogs for Breakfast…

On Thursday morning, the intention was to go to Minnesota to visit a cave, then proceed to Calmar for a bike ride.   Things quickly changed.  Yielding to temptation, I headed over to the south side of Decorah, tempted by the recently stocked Trout Run stream.  Riding the bike from a different starting point (Walmart), I hit the lower end of the stream and grabbed two very nice trout:  one rainbow and one brook trout.  It was a good idea to leave at the point or the trout fishing would have been over for the trip had the possession limit been met.

The next step was to try and find scenic Bear Creek.  It never happened.  Once I had taken the wrong turn and was quite lost, I stopped the van and said something like “Take me where YOU want to go.  Let’s go have some fun!”… Okay, it’s not unlike a captain talking to his ship, right?

Lost, but all the while home, (the van is home, right?) I set out with the mentality that one is never lost if the scenery is right.  The sun and a full tank of gas is all you need.  The van and I followed the beautiful Upper Iowa River, discovered a wonderful creamery in Waukon, fished at the Yellow River Forest State Park, and saw a few other neat places.  We camped in the town of Garnavillo – ten miles east of Elkader

Dam over the Upper Iowa River northeast of Decorah


While following the winding river road through Allamakee County, I passed a trout stream and wildlife management area called Coon Creek.   It will someday be perfect for scenic, peaceful, primitive camping.

Small, shaded parking lot – Coon Creek WMA
Old Bridge (Upper Iowa River) visible from Coon Creek WMA
Limestone eaten away by Upper Iowa River… Visible from Coon Creek WMA

After following various gravel roads all over God’s green earth, I found Highway 76 and the town of Waukon.  (sounds like wok-on).  Who can pass up a small town creamery and ice cream shop?  I had a chocolate and mint shake… It tasted great on a warm late spring day.  Check out their webpage at  WW Homestead Dairy
Sign for WW Dairy Retail and Ice Cream Shop
Mural of “Anna” on the front of the creamery
With the chocolate shake out of the way, I was planning to cross the Mississippi to the small town of Prairie Du Chien, Wisconsin.  Distracted by a sign proclaiming it was only 4 miles to the beautiful Yellow River Forest, who could pass up hiking in the hills?  It was needed to burn off some ice cream calories.
View from Yellow River Forest.  And people think Iowa is flat?
 Isn’t this dragonfly pretty?  It seemed to almost pose for the photo.
A dragonfly seen from the hiking trail
From the hiking trails high above the stream, I ventured downhill, parked the van, and hiked into the “walk in” fishing area at Little Paint Creek in the Yellow River Forest.  The best fishing is about a mile upstream where no roads lead.  Unknown to me, they had stocked the stream minutes before.  Woo hoo!  I stopped after catching three fish.  No use getting greedy.  That means I’m carrying ten – the maximum possession limit. 
The fish were cleaned sitting on a bucket in the road… where cars drive by.  The cold water felt great on the feet.  The only motorist was kind and passed slowly.   I still got a wet butt out of it.
Yellow River campground and trout stream near Harper’s Ferry, Iowa
At this point the van was thirsty and so was I.  We stopped in Harper’s Ferry, Iowa to get some gas and I spotted this cool little bar and grill – the perfect place for an afternoon snack of clam strips and soda.

A bar with my name on it!
Meet Louie, the mascot.
Missfitz Bar and Grill was a fun place!  They had one of those little slot machine looking video games that lets you win tickets.  I put in $5 and won $9 worth of food and beverage coupons.  Louie, the mascot moose, gave the place a classy look.  They decorate him in different ways throughout the year. 

Later in the afternoon, I decided to camp at a new place instead of the usual Buck Creek near the small town of Garnavillo.  An offer was made one could not refuse! 

Buck Creek has always been a blast but I was wanting to stay somewhere else – a place with a cell phone signal, TV stations, and possibly wi-fi. 

Noticing an IGA grocery store, I spoke with Bob, the owner, and asked if it is okay to park by the town park.

Bob kindly offered to let me camp in his parking lot and, if I am in town again, he said I am welcome to stay there any time!  There was even free wi-fi in the neighborhood.  What a fun way to end the trip!

By Friday morning it was time to return.  The weather was horrible.  A line of severe thunderstorms with strong winds, hail, and heavy rain hit the area just before departing.  These mammatocumulus clouds on the front edge of the storm show the violent atmospheric turbulence.
Near Garnavillo, Iowa at 8:00 AM
The storm let me know it was time to come home.  It was a fun, relaxing trip but it’s nice to return and visit Dad and the cats.  But part of my heart is in the hills.  It’s only a matter of time until I go back… and maybe for good!
Even though the trip went much differently than intended, it was cool to find new places to camp, trails to hike, and places to fish.  Adventure doesn’t have a schedule!
Take care and thanks for riding along.
Bradford the 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"
Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to More Cool Pics from Hill Country

  1. tinycamper says:

    Brad, it’s such a joy to share your journey via your blog. Thanks for the beautiful photos and account of your trip.

    • Brad says:

      Thanks for the kind words! One sad note… Decorah, Waukon, Elkader, etc… are currently being flooded! Remember the storm clouds? We had storm after storm since Thursday and many of the river places I passed by were evacuated, including the lovely campground near the Turkey River as well as the Upper Iowa. yikes!

  2. Pleinguy says:

    Sounds like you had a nice trip. Man you’re good at landing those trout. I like your reports on van trekking. I’m full-timing in my little motorhome now and having a blast. Will be leaving Florida at the end of June and heading northward.

    • Brad says:

      I am so glad you are enjoying full timing! It only gets better every day! Enjoy the time of your life! It’s storming here and there’s nothing more peaceful to sleep through (when you can)

  3. Gabe Varga says:

    Hi. I have a “Trekie” question for you. I was trying to get into the entire Star Trek thing, and I’m wondering which was your favorite series. I watched a few of the original episodes, which I just learnend is refered to as “TOS.” But I just couldn’t get into that, so I skipped over to TNG (The New Generation) I just started season two and I’m finding that I’m really enjoying it. A few years ago I watched “Enterprise,” which I was hooked on, but find that the “Trekie” community tends to poo poo that series. Anyway, just wondering where you stand on all this.


    • Brad says:

      Hi Gabe! I still love TOS even though it’s pretty old now. TNG and its more modern look really trip my trigger though. I never got into the Deep Space Nine thing or Enterprise. What is the favorite? I sure like the newest two movies! I think they are taking Star Trek in a bold new direction! (Though the TOS crew is still my the all time favorite)

  4. BRAD be careful , don’t sell your fish

    Man arrested for selling catfish on Craigslist
    Updated 5:07 am, Friday, June 28, 2013

    ALLEGAN, Mich. (AP) — Authorities say a Grand Rapids man has been arrested for selling catfish online to undercover wildlife officers.

    The Grand Rapids Press and the Sentinel-Standard of Ionia report the man is accused of selling 14 catfish taken from the Kalamazoo River in Allegan County via the Craigslist website. The man’s name wasn’t released pending an arraignment in July.

    The state Department of Natural Resources says it got a tip about the ad. Officers made contact with the man and purchased the catfish from him Tuesday.

    The sale of the fish in this case is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 90 days behind bars and a fine between $250 and $1,000.

    • Brad says:

      People will do anything to make a buck! I won’t sell the trout I catch… Rather, I eat them or give them to a friend. The penalties are severe in Iowa… I have seen people get slapped harder for wildlife offenses than selling drugs.

  5. Cool Pics says:

    great tour and nice pics.