Tag Archives: decorah

Root River Trail, Pedal Pusher Cafe in Lanesboro, MN  Burdy’s Cafe nearby and Decorah, IA (Topping Goliath)

Peterson, MN

WE finally made it to southeast Minnesota to ride our bikes along the much-touted Root River Trail and it was as lovely (and easy to ride) as advertised– at least the 15 mile stretch from Lanesboro east through the tiny town of Whalan (with its famous pie shop) and the slightly less tiny town of Peterson, where we had excellent pie at Burdy’s Cafe, an unassuming little place with cheerful teenage girls as our servers. The trail was largely flat but not dull. It follows the wide,often fast moving river for the most part, through woods and fields, past picture perfect old farmsteads, tidy towns and wooded stone bluffs.  We also lucked out with the weather, low 70s, sun but cloud cover.

Lanesboro’s main drag was packed with people, cars and bikes but not awful. It’s lined with wellkept old brick storefronts. It’s not as well heeled as, say, Stockholm, Wisconsin or ticky tacky as, say, places I won’t mention.It has a nice local art gallery, a popular ice cream shop and the Pedal Pusher’s cafe, which has a hearty Minnesota vibe (the Norwegian meatballs were already sold out when we arrived at 6 pm). We picnicked for lunch in the city park, overlooking a little pond where people were fishing and families pitched tents. We particularly appreciated the public bathrooms there, at the library, with pay showers (who knew?), where we changed into our biking gear.

TOnight we are 45 miles south in Decorah, one of our favorite places in Iowa, staying at a pleasant and affordable Airbnb ($53) on a rural highway outside town. We stopped in town for ice cream and beer at Topping Goliath, an award winning local brewery. or so Dirck tells me.

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Filed under bike trails, biking, DESTINATIONS - Iowa, Minnesota

Canoe options in Iowa – for future reference

Good canoeing options offered today by the DM Register – for future reference:20140831-194829.jpg


The Iowa River meanders through the central and eastern parts of Iowa, protected by the Iowa River Greenbelt, an effort started in the 1980s to connect Iowans to this river with hundreds of adjacent acres of recreational and protected lands.

It means there are plenty of trees carpeting the deep river valley, where a rocky stream that isn’t much wider than 75 feet bustles through.

I recently checked out a segment, a short 6-mile trip from Steamboat Rock to Eldora.

“It has bluffs, a rocky bottom and a nice drop (or gradient). It’s a nice stretch of river,” said Sandra Morlan of Rock-n-Row Adventures in Eldora.

If you go

Here are other recommendations of paddling trips with good fall colors from Central Iowa Paddlers and Todd Robertson, the DNR’s River Programs Outreach Coordinator.

Red Rock Water Trail at Lake Red Rock: This 36-mile trail is a great back-up plan if stream levels are too low. The trail includes rocky cliffs and a sea cave at Elk Rock State Park and a paddle-in campsite at Hickory Ridge. Eagles’ nests and migratory birds make for great wildlife viewing and fall colors are in blaze, especially around Hickory Ridge. Use caution on windy days that create big waves on the lake. As the days get colder a wetsuit may be needed.

Middle/South Raccoon Water Trail near Adel and Redfield: The Middle Raccoon’s high bluffs and the South’s unspoiled, remote woods make these great rivers in Central Iowa for fall colors. They are also good fishing streams for catfish, smallmouth bass and walleye.

• Middle River Water Trail near Winterset: A nice trip is from Roseman Covered Bridge to Pammel State Park. The river is tight, usually only 50 feet wide, which makes for a nice tree-lined trip. The river may be swift in higher waters, but watch out for low water in fall. The covered bridges of Madison County are famous for love, of course, so bring a honey on this one.

• Upper Iowa River near Decorah: If you want to take a longer drive, it may be worth it. Although it’s not yet an official state trail, this National Wild and Scenic River is nothing short of a gem and has long topped the lists of paddlers statewide. The water is spring-fed and clear, and the rocky bottom leaves fun riffles to paddle through, all along breathtaking bluffs that rise up to 60 feet. Fall paddlers love this one, of course, because of the surrounding blanket of trees and forests and the selection of numerous outfitters to drop you off.


DNR maps and brochures of Iowa water trails:www.iowadnr.gov/Recreation/CanoeingKayaking/WaterTrails/WaterTrailMapsBrochures.aspx.

For nearby outfitters to rent canoes or kayaks, go towww.iowadnr.gov/Recreation/CanoeingKayaking/PaddlerResources.aspx.


Filed under Adventure travel, DESTINATIONS - Iowa

Trout Run Trail, Magpie, sugar Bowl ice cream,– Decorah

Dunn's Spring

Dunn’s Spring

Trout run trail, Decorah

Trout run trail, Decorah

Along trout run trail

Along trout run trail

We have been on a lot of bike trails in Iowa but Decorah’s new Trout Run Trail is the most consistently gorgeous. It is only an 11 mile loop but what an 11 miles.We rode along the rushing waters of the Upper Iowa, past high stone bluffs furry with trees, past picture postcard farmsteads, (the white farmhouse, red wood and stone barn, the black and white grazing cattle), through dazzling fields of tall corn and soybeans and almost psychedelic-green grass.  We stopped at the top of a high hill and looked out for miles across the rolling fields. Later we stopped at a large trout hatchery with pools full of jumping rainbow trout soon to be in Iowa steams.

For breakfast we got lucky at Magpie, a coffee house with excellent French toast and scrambled egg wraps and surprisingly swift service,  given the crowd that arrived. We also enjoyed Agora Arts,  a terrific crafts gallery; the Oneota Community Co-Op, Dunn’s Springs (the closest to Ithaca’s falls I’ve seen in Iowa), Seed Savers, and the Sugar Bowl ice cream shoppe (sitting on the second floor balcony watching the action on water street, the main drag).

sugarbowlphoto (90)

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Filed under bike trails, DESTINATIONS - Iowa

canoeing on the upper Iowa, fern hollow, rubiyat: Decorah Iowa!

image image

Fern hollow, Decorah

Fern hollow, Decorah

It is very dark and very quiet, except for the pulsing sound of crickets outside our screen windows in this charming back-to-basics, almost -off-the grid room of blond wood, ceramics, antiques and crafts. we are staying in the room for rent (via air b&b) of a family’s handmade wooden house deep in a wooded hollow (hence the name: fern hollow).

It always impresses me when I visit a place like this, that a family has made a place so uniquely theirs, making such a commitment to creating the life they want, living with the courage of their convictions. In this case, there is a strong sustainable living and ag vibe here (we peed in a toilet filled with sawdust. Reminded me of kitty litter — apparently to save on water…which is better than the option for the family staying deeper in the hollow in a restored 150-year old cabin built by the owners’ Norwegian ancestors. They have to walk in the dark to an outhouse). I feel a bit sheepish typing on this iPad but I won’t be able to post. No wifi, no cell phone calls. Which is refreshing. A ceramic bowl full of red and gold raspberries from the bount20140831-194829.jpgiful garden here was waiting for us in our room.

We had a nice easy float on the upper Iowa river on a spectacular day. It finally stopped raining so everything is very green and the sky was finally bright and blue with huge puffy white clouds above green but yellowing fields of tall corn. We hired a canoe for two hours at one of our usual spots – chimney rock. All good except for some obnoxious rowdy fellow canoeists – but hey it’s Labor Day weekend. Paddling past the high stone bluffs and grassy banks, we saw an eagle soaring high above us and blue egrets flapping and little goldfinches darting here and there. Lovely.

Dinner in Decorah at rubiyat was excellent. Such a pretty town full of beautiful old homes, a very well kept downtown with brick storefronts almost all filled with small independent businesses, some mom and pop types that have been here for years, plus good galleries, a food co-op, a diverse smattering of restaurants including my favorite name for a soft serve ice cream stand : the whippy dip!
Now if you will excuse me, I have to leaf through a photo book about tree houses that I found on our book shelves.

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Filed under DESTINATIONS - Iowa

When next in NE Iowa – Dotzy’s Cafe and Saloon


Dotzy’s floor was made from 275,000 pennies.

Next time I’m in one of my favorite areas of Iowa – the northeast near Decorah and the Upper Iowa River – I must remember to stop in at Dotzy’s Cafe and Saloon in Elgin for a meal. Heard about it from the Iowa Farm Bureau’s “Family Living” (which my husband edits) – looks like it has a great “Cowboy Burger” with cheddar cheese, bbq sauce and crispy onion rings. The place was opened about a year ago by Danielle Dotzenrod, a former Elgin local who returned to town after moving away as a teenager to become a model, actress and single. She’s still in the biz – (see photo below) somehow hosting two shows for the Tennis Channel while also minding the cafe/saloon in Iowa.

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Touring Iowa’s beautiful barns

The NYTimes travel section had a good story with great photos last week of barn touring in northeast Iowa around Decorah, one of my favorite Iowa cities. Here’s some tips on how/where to do it:

– The annual Iowa Barn Foundation All-State Barn Tour is scheduled this year for Sept. 22 and 23. (see: iowabarnfoundation.org)

– There’s also a barn tour in the Johnson county-Iowa City area on June 23 and 24.

– Stone-Haus Farm, a 165-year-old Norwegian farmstead in northeast iowa near Waukon, will soon be available for vacation rentals. (stonehausfarm.com) Photos below!

StoneHaus Farm

The NYTimes travel section had a good story with great photos last week of barn touring in northeast Iowa around Decorah, one of my favorite Iowa cities. Here’s some tips on how/where to do it:

– The annual Iowa Barn Foundation All-State Barn Tour is scheduled this year for Sept. 22 and 23. (see: iowabarnfoundation.org)

– There’s also a barn tour in the Johnson county-Iowa City area on June 23 and 24.

– Stone-Haus Farm, a 165-year-old Norwegian farmstead in northeast iowa near Waukon, will soon be available for vacation rentals. (stonehausfarm.com)

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Filed under Agritourism, DESTINATIONS - Iowa, Iowa City

Canoeing on the Upper Iowa River

Just back from northeast Iowa where my daughter, a friend and her teen-age son, rented a small cabin and two canoes at Chimney Rock Campgrounds near Cresco and Bluffton, Ia.  We requested a two-hour canoe ride but it was a lot less – largely I think because the river was so full and the current fast. We barely had to paddle – just steer every once in a while to keep from banging into a low-hanging tree along the shore. We stopped at a sandbar/rock-bar and body-surfed a patch of the river, allowing ourselves to get caught up and swept by the current which was fun albeit a tad scary since we had to land and stand against the same said current but no problems – two of us were/are lifeguards (I’m a little rusty but my friends 17-year-old son is a newbie.) The water was refreshing, not too cold. Paddling past the high stone bluffs rimmed with lush green trees was lovely.

Decorah is definitely in the running for Iowa’s pretty small-town college town – full of Queen Anne homes and interesting shops and restaurants along Water Street (the main street – not “Main Street” one street to the west). It was quiet on a Sunday night – except inside Mabe’s Pizza where half the town seemed to be eating – big families, little families, young kids, older folks. Nothing fancy but decent pizza with an interesting thin crust that bordered on a cracker in parts (and the 17-year-old teen in our group ate a cheeseburger served with a dollop of peanut butter. Sounds disgusting but he said it wasn’t bad. My daughter and I had the minipizzas and two drinks – $14 for dinner. not bad.

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Filed under Adventure travel, DESTINATIONS - Iowa