XO-LP // Laura Palmer


Love Letters to a New Year.

IA All Day

Dear 30, 

I know the shout out to the trout was a fairly good vacay summary, but in reality, it was a snapshot of just how many miles we traveled across my great state. I plotted out some of the major stops we made along the way, but many of these stream trips were off the paved roads and tough to find on the google maps. HBF tells me we went nearly 1,000 miles. ALL IN IOWA. Get ready for a long summary of a great vacation. Oh and get ready to learn. 

The adventure actually started with a trip to Starbucks. (I know. But we had a gift card. And they really do make the best iced coffee. Whew. Feels good to say it. I'm done making excuses, I just like the iced coffee a lot.) We headed north to Lake Okoboji for our first trip, ever, to Iowa's natural lakes. Side notes: Spirit Lake is the largest glacier made lake in our state. West Okoboji is the deepest natural lake in all of Iowa (over 130 ft! yowza). East Okoboji Lake, our destination, is 16 miles long and you guessed it, the longest one in the state.

With HBF at the wheel, still on a high from figuring out that secret trunk compartments of the Hyundai neatly hold all of his fishing gear, rather than on-ramping I35, we following the Raccoon River with a first stop (at this point all the iced coffee is gone and one disc of This American Life is completed) in Coon Rapids. Liz, did you know Coon Rapids has a sculpture park? In addition to at least two sculpture parks, Iowa also has more golf courses, per capita, than any other state. 

After sort of catching a fish in Sac City (this is in Iowa, not the capital of CA), and getting my Instagram photo liked by Filson (high five), the rest of the drive to Okoboji seemed speedy. We made good use of the Bridges Bay waterslide as the only people over 4'9" in the pool, found the best bucket of beer deal this side of the Mississippi and cruised the lake with our favorite friends outta Iowa City. The stars and stripes combo was quite the popular look at the lake, mostly on the 19 year old boys pumping gas for boats, but as you'll recall, I wore it too. (Arguably better. Just sayin). 

After a sunburn-free (for me, HBF was not so lucky) visit to the Northern lakes, we popped in the last of our This American Life episodes (Global Warming. Whoa. It was an interesting one) and cruised West on Hwy 9 toward Elkader. We passed farm after farm, which is not surprising considering there are approximately 97,000 farms in Iowa (old data, this learning moment is from 1998). According to the Sportsman's Atlas, one of the westernmost trout streams in our fair state is just outside St. Ansgar. Driving down the gravel road that lead us to a stream I had to pause to let a fawn cross the road. NATURE. The day ended at Schera's with perfect view of the river as we enjoyed traditional Algerian dishes (Chermoula. WOW.) and the company of DSM friends. (Note: the photos below show the "The Super Fun Spot" - false advertising. It was closed.)

From Elkader to Decorah to Bluffton in search of the infamous Tammy and her tubes. This all sounds creepy when said like that, but trust me, it's legit. Tammy, if you are reading this we didn't have the most stellar customer service experience, but floating the Upper Iowa River (my first river tubing adventure ever) proved to be my most favorite part of the trip.

The rest of the trip was spent in the heart of the trout fishing streams of Iowa with beautiful views, "no service" cell phone zones and tiny general store stops along the way. Special thanks to Kathy at the Stone Hearth Inn for recommending the prime rib (aw man it was good), to the Hotel Winnesheik for giving me my best night of sleep on the whole trip, the kid who opened the Courtyard bar on a Sunday night (not specifically for us, but for a singer/songwriter, but we were there), and finally the sweet woman working at the Seed Savers Farm (a place I would have stayed for hours had it not been for the gnats. seriously. the gnats.)

The tour-de-IA was a pretty huge success. I saw parts of my 56,272 square mile state I'd never seen before.  I spent more time fishing than I ever had before.
Over 1,000 miles, 2 trout (caught by me, 14+ caught by HBF), and 5 streams later, we're home, already planning our next trip. Next we camp. Or kayak. Or see a roadside attraction. The list has lots of opportunities for adventures. 


--Thank you to my IOWA fact sources: Enchanted Learning,  Publications Iowa and 50States.--