Last month we went camping in Iowa. It’s hard to believe, but Iowa has some cool stuff going on! I never really think of Iowa as a vacation destination because it’s…well, Iowa. But I am a big dummy for writing it off.
We took off on a Friday afternoon and drive about two hours to Dubuque, where we stopped for dinner and to ride the scenic Fenelon Place Elevator. I had never heard of the elevator until a Pinterest search. Pinterest has featured a large role in a few of our vacations and alerted us to some interesting things to see and do. The Fenelon Place Elevator is a funicular railway (fancy way of saying a steep vertical rail) and it carries a cable car up and down a hill on the edge of the Mississippi. For $3 each, we got round trip tickets and we had the cable car to ourselves. It was a cheap thrill in the best sort of way, and made me a little nervous to watch the cable drag us up the hill.
The view of Dubuque:
From there, we ate at Crust for dinner, which was delicious. They served little pieces of fried bread as a (free) appetizer. Yum.
After some arguing about directions, which I’m sure shaved a few years off our marriage, we made it to our final destination, Maquoketa Caves State Park. Here is a picture of the wrong way dirt road we ended up on:
The park is home to a system of trails that link up a network of caves. The caves vary in climbing difficulty. We stuck to mostly easy climbing, but even that resulted in muddy hands and knees. I’ve never valued my iPhone flashlight more, either. It’s a good idea to bring clothes you don’t mind getting dirty, solid hiking shoes, a flashlight/phone with a light, and to layer your clothes. The caves were very cool temperature-wise but the rest of the hiking was hot.
The caves were awesome. It was fairly busy on Saturday as quite a few families came to the park. The park itself is free to visitors, which was great. We took about three or four hours to do most of the trails and caves.
We camped overnight on Friday for $13/night. Apparently Iowa doesn’t require state park stickers like Wisconsin does (Wisconsin’s sticker is $25 annually and you need it to get into most state parks). The camp ground was small but clean. I’m not a fan of sites that are super close to each other, and there were, which led to overhearing a drunken fight between brosephs at around midnight. Ugh.
Saturday evening found us in the town of Maquoketa. We randomly stopped at Goodwill because I had finished my book and wanted another to read. Kris spotted a hardcover copy of And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini, which was a small miracle. I had the book at home checked out from the library, but they only let you keep it for two weeks when it’s a new/popular book. So we snapped it up for a buck vs. paying $17 on Amazon. Goodwill for the win.
After shopping, we ate dinner at the Decker Hotel in their downstairs bar and made sure to watch American Pharoah win the triple crown.
All in all, a nice, low-key getaway with some interesting sights.