Mount Pisgah, Winterset, and Des Moines all proved to be full of adventure on our travels through Iowa. We learned how to use divining rods, saw covered bridges, rode along a 13 story bridge and had a fun day at an amusement park. Oh yes, we also got stuck in the mud.
As we are traveling farther East on our 50 states in 50 weeks journey, I wanted to learn more about the history of the Mormons or Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. A quick Google search lead me to some resources where I could plan places to stop. Mount Pisgah, in Iowa, was one of the stops.
Going straight to Mt. Pisgah from Omaha, Nebraska was our plan. Unfortunately, we didn’t get the exact coordinates, or GPS took us the ‘most efficient’ way and the story begins.
GPS took us down a gravel road off of the highway. As we got closer to our destination, Mt Pisgah Park, we came to a fork in the road. I stopped. Evaluated the condition of the road and the perpendicular tractor marks across the road and was thinking it was probably a lot muddier than it looked. Colter and I talked it over. The rain had fallen consistently for two days. Then there was a sign saying the road was Class B, meaning there is little county maintenance, enter at your own risk. Don’t go down that road should have been screaming to both of us!
Colter was brave and thought we should give it a try. I didn’t argue and slowly pushed on the gas. Slow and steady was the plan and then I felt my back tires slipping. Turing the steering wheel to correct my front tires soon became necessary to keep us going straight. Colter told me to stop.
You will have to read the rest of the story here to see how we got out.
But, we got out! Hurray! In my mind, I called it a good old try to reach Mt. Pisgah and was ready to move onto the next town and next adventure. Colter and I both drove separately so we could flick the clay and mud off the tires and headed back in the direction we came to get to the next town and call it a night.
Then, I saw it. A brown historic road sign reading Mt Pisgah/Mormon Cemetary. We had come this far! I followed the signs. Colter passed me and led the way to our destination just in case there were any more questionable roads. Thankfully all the roads were safe and we made it! We were so tired we parked the RV right there at Mt Pisgah. Then a truck drove by, slowed down and stopped.
The older gentleman must have thought we were lost and needed help. I thought he was there to kick us out. I cooked some Mac and Cheese while Colter and Bob chatted. We scored a tour of the property for the next morning with a lesson in divining rods or witching rods.
Bob was so nice and very knowledgeable about the history of the Mormons there at Mt. Pisgah. Learning how to use the divining rods was pretty neat and made me feel like I was the one discovering each grave and each house. A feeling of gratitude and reverence can be felt. Those people sacrificed everything they had to have freedom of religion.
Mt Pisgah was a temporary settlement when the saints were driven out of Nauvoo on their journey west to Salt Lake City, Utah. There were thousands of pioneers that lived there. Bob even showed us a place on his property where the early Mormons had built two tabernacles and he counted in another spot almost 400 wagon widths where the handcarts and wagons would make a new trail next to the old one because the ruts were so deep in the Iowa clay.
I could vaguely picture everything Bob was telling us while looking out on the ground. If only there were virtual glasses I could put on to actually see how it was back in the day. The thought of living back then in the 1840’s sends me into a fantasy of my own.
With one bar of 4G phone service, our GPS wouldn’t even work so we whipped out the Atlas to get us to Des Moines. Using my brain and figuring out a paper map was exciting. I had to look for highway signs, pay attention to towns we were passing through to get us closer to our destination, and at this point, gas.
Winterset was the ticket.
Colter met a guy while they were both fueling up and asked him if there was a public library where he could go to get an internet connection. The guy told Colter where the library was and also gave him the scoop on everything we needed to see while we were there for half a day. The John Wayne Museum, and the covered bridges.
Everything was relatively close so we parked at the John Wayne Museum while Colter went to the library to work.
The museum was very interesting but I thought it was a little pricey for the number of artifacts that are actually there on the property. I was glad I didn’t have to pay for the kids. Ticket pricing includes a short film of his clips from different movies, entry into the one-room museum and entry into John Wayne’s childhood home. Did you know his dad was a pharmacist? Or that his real name isn’t John Wayne?
The girls and I walked to the library to meet up with Colter and to let the girls play for an hour or so. He finished up with some work before we went to go see one of the six covered bridges in Madison County, the covered bridge capital of the world. Now, this was a hidden gem to me. Google things to do in Iowa and covered bridges does not come up. Maybe it did but I skipped over it. So. Cool. If you are in Iowa, check out the covered bridges!
It was so cool in fact that I wanted to take some family pictures by the bridge. Big mistake, especially self-photographing with three tired little girls. We fancied up anyway and did our best! One of my favorite pictures is of just me and Colter. Another is one of us skipping through the bridge.
We stayed the rest of our Iowa week in the Adventureland Campground. Laundry, the pool, and the amusement park were all on our list. Along with some out of the park activities like the Science Center of Iowa and the High Trestle Pedestrian Bridge.
Our first day here we did laundry and lounged around at the pool. The water was a little cold but the girls hopped in and out playing while I tried to get caught up on some blog posts. It was a lazy day and by the time dinner rolled around we decided to try out the grill next door. Spectators is a great place to eat if you are in the area. I highly recommend it for a multi-American type food eatery. I had brisket, Colter got wings and the girls devoured the mac and cheese. Their staff was really friendly too.
The amusement park was on our agenda during the weekday but Colter decided he wanted to join in on the fun so we waited until Saturday to go. Blakely was dying in anticipation to go on rides. Every day was gauged by how many more days until we went into the park. The other bonus of going on Saturday was that Adventure Bay, the water park, would be open.
We found some kids rides, Colter and the older two girls did the bumper cars. After about five kids rides we were right by the Rocket Launch. The ride shoots you really fast into the air and then falls straight down. This is one of Colter’s favorites. I told him to go stand in line while I took the kids on another ride. Then I thought, “Why don’t I just go with him? It is a lot more fun to ride with a partner.”
When the kids’ ride was over, I took Saylor to the bathroom and set the girls up nicely on the bench. They had water, granola bars and fruit snacks. I went to jump in line with Colter. We put Blakely in charge of Saylor and told them to stay there on the benches. We could see them the whole time even while we were on the ride. They did great and we got to have a little date.
I wasn’t nervous until I got in the seat and started lowering my harness. This is the point of no return. No turning back now. Then we launched. As we shot higher and higher into the sky my adrenaline was going. My butt came off the seat as we reached the top and started on our way down. I heard a scream come out of my mouth. We waved at the girls as they watched their parents have a good time and finally settle back on the ground.
It was early afternoon and the sun was beating down on us. A plane ride for the kids, lunch (PB &J), and then off to the water park to coold down.
The waterpark was a lot of fun. Colter took Blakey and Tessa on the racing slides with mats and then Blakley got brave and wanted to do the speed slides. I was pretty darn proud of her for wanting to do it. After she and Colter did the red, white and blue speed slide, Tessa wanted to try. Colter took both of them up again but they actually checked Tessa’s height and she was unable to go. I was so nervous for her and was grateful she didn’t end up going. It would have scared her to death.
We stayed until the water park closed and then got ready to finish the night out with rides. Saylor fell asleep minutes after we put her in the double stroller.
Out of the water park and on the way to the main section of the park we came to the Dragon. Do not go on the dragon. It is a bad mix of an old roller coaster and fast ride. Jiggles your brain to pieces. Tessa was able to go on this ride and none of us liked it. We told dad all about it when we got off.
Adventureland has a newer ride called the Green Monster. It looked like a lot of fun and I thought Colter would really like it. I thought I would like it but was nervous to go because of some vertigo I experienced on the dragon. The same thing happened to me last year when I went on Cannibal at Lagoon in Utah. During the ride, I felt like I might pass out.
Well, we arrived at the entrance gate of the Green Monster and all of a sudden, Blakely wants to go with dad. Uh, ok. The measuring stick said she was tall enough. She was brave!
While Colter and Blakely waited for the ride of their lives, Saylor had woken up. Now it is no fun waiting on a bench with a grumpy toddler so I took her and Tessa to find some more kiddie rides. I rode on most of the rides we found because Saylor could go if I accompanied her.
When we got back to Colter and Blakely, they had just finished their ride. Blakely’s eyes were red. Uh, oh. I asked her how the ride was. I was relieved when she said it was scary but fun. A ride like that could scare her for life! The ride photo is priceless and captures her terror.
After their Green Monster ride, Colter said Blakely could choose one more ride because she was so brave. We hit The Underground and the Ferris Wheel. Our whole family could all ride on each of these rides and was a fun way to end the night.
One of my favorite things about the day was people watching and seeing the joy on my girls’ faces!
Our experience here in Iowa was a lot different than other science museums we have been to. We skipped the kiddie stuff and did more science shows, crafts, and woodworking.
The place was like a ghost town. It was the perfect time to go. The first day of school! There were no school groups and only a few other little kids.
We sewed finger puppets and decorated them. Saylor had a rainbow puppet, Blakely and Tessa both made a human finger puppet and then I helped them quickly make a mermaid. It was fun for me to be creative with my girls and work right beside them.
A science show had the girls on the edge of their seats while the scientist made bubbles, and had volunteers help him blow things up. He even had all of the adults entertained. Both Blakely and Tessa liked helping with the experiments.
One thing Blakely really wanted to do was work with wood. She wanted to nail, saw, drill and create. Her house was so stinkin’ cute! Tessa’s giraffe was a little square but we had fun anyway.
Colter was at the public library working while we were having all of this fun. The fun didn’t stop when we went to pick him up and we ran around the library, waiting for him to finish.
Dinner was Applebees thanks to a tip from a mom at the Science Museum. Kids eat free all week because it is their back to school special. Yay for free food.
High Trestle Pedestrian Bridge
The High Trestle Pedestrian Bridge is an experience you must have if you are around Des Moines. Especially at night. The middle section of the bridge lights up. The bridge spans 1/2 mile across the Des Moines River and is 13 stories high. This trail is used by runners and bicycles, not motor vehicles are allowed. We chose to ride our bikes. Tessa and Saylor rode on our Dolittle seats that are attached to our bike and Blakely peddled her own bike.
Our entry point to the path was in Madrid, we rode to Woodward and then back to the bridge when it was dark. This ended up being about six miles for us. Bring bike lights or flashlights because there is hardly any light along the path when it gets dark.
Coming back from Woodward to the bridge we saw fireflies, which was the coolest thing I think I have ever seen. I felt like I was in a fairy tale. Riding along with my prince charming and three little girls in the dark with magic sparkles lighting up our path.
When we arrived at the bridge the full moon and the blue archway was a spectacular sight. We dismounted our bikes, took pictures and took some time to watch the spiders on the railing make their web. Then it was time to go.
Besides getting stuck, Iowa had some really great experiences for us. Spiritual and physical. Iowa will always be Blakely’s first big roller coaster ride and a place where we learned more about the journey of religious freedom and expansion out west.