Day 236 – Loess Hills Scenic Byway

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Well, I considered driving an extra 155 miles to Hamburg, IA last night so I could start off my day exploring Waubonsie State Park while it was slightly cool.  I’m so glad I didn’t do that for two reasons.


Original Pony Express Home Station

First, as mentioned yesterday, I found the only Original Pony Express Home Station which operated as a museum, and I thought while quirky, it was pretty neat.  A variety of items were included in the displays, some relating to the Pony Express and some items donated by local families that appeared to have nothing to do with the 1860’s mail carriers like a rock collection and wrench collection (weird).

Maps display the Pony Express route and exhibits included old riding gloves with a trigger finger and bunk beds where the riders used to sleep.  The pony rider which was generally skinny and under the age of eighteen had to take an oath promising not to use profane language, not to fight, and to represent the Pony Express in a mannerly fashion.  The Mochilla had four mail compartments; three which carried long distance mail and one that carried way mail (mail picked up along the way).

The Marysville rider would arrive from St. Joe, MO after a 12 hour ride where a rested rider would take over on a fresh mount and carry the mail to the next stop like a relay team. The Marysville rider would stay at the Barrett Hotel for the next nine to ten days waiting for the eastbound mail from Sacramento.  Due to the telegraph, the Pony Express went out of business after 18 months in operation and several thousand lost dollars.

To compare travel times in the 1860’s, the Pony Express took eight to ten days to travel from St. Joe to San Francisco, the Overland Stage took three to four weeks to travel from St. Louis to San Francisco, the Steamship took four months to reach San Francisco from New York, and the Transcontinental Railroad took 83 hours and 39 minutes from New York to San Francisco.

Hollenberg Pony Express Station

After visiting this Pony Express location, I visited the Hollenberg Pony Express Station not more than ten miles up the road.  The Hollenbergs, German emigrants, sold food and other supplies, lodging, and draft animals to passing travelers.  Settlers, freighters, soldiers, stagecoach passengers, and Pony Express riders stopped here.  Over time, the Hollenberg’s business catering to passer bys dwindled and they turned to farming for a living.  Petey liked visiting this site.  No one was around so he could explore without a leash.


The second reason why I am glad I didn’t go to Iowa last night is that it seemed like every bridge and road was closed…detour…detour…detour!  At the
time, I wasn’t thinking how lucky I was to skip all that in the dark, I was IRRITATED!!!!  I think I spent fifty miles on the wrong side of the Missouri River in Nebraska before I could cross a bridge to Council Bluffs, IA which was well above the beginning point of my scenic drive.  To add fuel to the fire, I got behind a handful of slow 18 wheelers that generally blow right by me and countless blue hairs crawling and weaving in and out of the northbound lane.

Once I finally got to a destination I relaxed and despite the fifty miles on the wrong side of the river, I only missed one attraction.  I just couldn’t understand why two bridges within thirty miles would be closed, but then it dawned on me that there had been recent floods in Iowa.  Once I crossed the third bridge, I saw houses, barns, and grain silos half way underwater…very sad.

Hitchcock Nature Area

My first stop in Iowa was at Hitchcock Nature Area where nature trails criss-cross through dense forests of oak, hickory, and red cedar.  We took a short walk along the ridge for a view of the Missouri River and then ducked into thick vegetation knocking down spider webs along the way.

Next we followed the railroad tracks past flooded farmland to DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge which was closed.  I presume due to flooding as the water in some places was near the main highway’s edge. We continued through the rolling hills and corn fields to a dirt road that took us to Preparation Canyon State Park. I had planned on camping here for the night, but really wanted to take advantage of modern facilities; in other words – take a shower.  This was definitely not the place.  I really felt like I was out in the middle of nowhere, though it was nice to have the roads and basically the park to myself.  Petey got to explore without a leash for the second time today!

Loess Hill Forest Overlook

A geocache was hidden just down the dirt road at the Loess Hill Forest Overlook so we made a brief stop here to take in the view of the tree covered hills.

Stone State Park

Standing on the wood deck, I spotted a rabbit on the path and reached for my camera which spooked it.  As it darted down the trail, Petey took off after it.  Petey had no chance.  While it was the fastest I’ve seen him move in weeks, and I was glad to see him feeling better, he gave up after ten yards.  I think his arthritis has kicked in.  Surprisingly, I had cell service here, so I looked to see if Stone State Park near Sioux City provided modern conveniences.  It did, so the park became my final destination for the evening. Of course somehow my cell service was non-existent in this park only a few miles from a major city.  Go figure!

As usual, I have failed to mention the handful of deer including a mom and spotted fawn as well as turkey that I’ve seen in the last week.  It seems I’ve begun taking them for granted.  I’ll have to work on appreciating them like I did at the beginning of my travels.  I also need to work on appreciating hardwood
forests too.  I think I like the dry and cool climate as well as the scenery of the mountains so much that I’m antsy to head west again.  ETB

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Beth Bankhead

Former public finance professional turned award winning travel blogger and photographer sharing the earth's beauty one word and image at a time.

2 thoughts on “Day 236 – Loess Hills Scenic Byway

  1. Glad Petey didn’t catch the rabbit!
    I’m laughing because as you know I fall into the “blue hair” category when I’m driving. 🙂
    xos M

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