The warmth before the snow: Lake Wapello State Park to Honey Creek State Park
Monday April 22, 2013, 35 miles (56 km) – Total so far: 368 miles (593 km)
Paris, Iowa has none of the cosmopolitan atmosphere of its European cousin. Instead, it is a small collection of dilapidated mobile homes with junk piled high in the yards. The locality stretches along the road for about a thousand feet or so. The properties make me think ‘meth labs’, but maybe I’m just being judgmental.
However, there are three vicious dogs who are taking property protection very seriously at three of the homes. The first dog gives chase with a snarl and angry barking. This has alerted the dog at the next home, who takes up the chase as I enter his territory. After I get past him, I get 15 seconds of reprieve before the third, smallest and most vicious dog comes to have a go. This one is a nasty piece of work. He/she is actually trying to bite me – jaws open, angling in for my heel. I kick this dog in the nose the first time. It only slows it down for a moment. The second and third time, I kick the dog’s nose as hard as I can. On the third kick, it finally backs off, then stops. Sheesh!
The dog chase comes about 30 minutes into the day. I’ve already been ‘accompanied’ by a barking dog at the start of the steep uphill out of the park, so my canine patience is exhausted after 4 dogs in 30 minutes.
The hills are long and gentle. The weather is quite acceptable – not freezing, wind out of the south at 15mph. The scenery is rural pastoral and pleasant on the eye. I’ve had two days of sun and no significant rain. I’m only planning a short day. But I’m just not into it today. I’m slow, and my sense of wonder lies subdued under my bad attitude. I can’t say why I feel so blah, but I think sub-consciously I am just pissed off that more bad weather is coming after nearly a week of crap weather in Illinois. Whatever the case, I’m feeling a bit surly today.
I stop in Moravia to pick up a sub sandwich and enough food to get me through a couple days. I down a chocolate milk and grab two soft drinks. Then I proceed to the turn-off to Honey Creek State Park where I’m going to wait out the bad weather.
It can sometimes feel apocalyptic to visit outdoor recreation areas off-season. When there is a large amount of infrastructure, including campgrounds that hold hundreds of sites, it can feel like you are the last person on earth when you are the only one there. Verne, Kermit and I ride around the park. It has fairly new concrete roadways, complete with bike lanes, and picnic shelters situated on the top of treed hills overlooking Lake Rathbun. It would be a beautiful place to come play in summer. Right now, it just looks and feels a little desolate.
There are actually a few RVs in the campground. The world hasn’t ended after all. Each RV has a large dualie pick-up truck parked up the front next to a large U.S. and/or Marine Corps flag stuck in the ground. The guys are all standing around with beers in hand. They look at me with a mix of curiosity and indignation, one man saying, “Why don’t you just get a car? It’d be faster.” I reply (remember I’m feeling surly today), “And that would be missing the ENTIRE point!”. For some reason, I don’t think they’ll be inviting me over for S’mores tonight.
I find a site that is somewhat close to the bathrooom and that should have a bit of wind protection. I want to be somewhat close to the bathroom because my plan for the crap weather tomorrow is to just hang out in the bathroom if it gets too cold. The bathrooms are heated here.
After getting the tent set up and eating half my sub sandwich, the crew and I head off on a few trails that follow the edge of the lake. We crunch through last year’s fallen leaves, crawl over the trees which have fallen over the path during winter, and enjoy the expansive views through the forest since there are no leaves yet on any of the trees or mid-story plants. We soak up the warmest weather on the trip so far, since we know it’s the end of the warm weather for a few days.
The rain sets in by 8 pm, sending my rowdy Marine Corps buddies away from their bonfire and into their trailers for the night. I fall asleep soon after.