A summer morning in Central Iowa

On a recent morning I headed to Ledges State Park, just south of Boone. Ledges is my go-to state park for walking, hiking, picnicking, and snowshoeing. It’s a great state park – with upper-canyon hiking, a canyon drive (through several creeks), and lower-ledges hiking and picnic areas. And the best part is that it’s only about 20 minutes from my house in Ames.

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On this particular morning, I was greeted by the deafening buzz of what sounded like millions of 17-year cicadas. I was fascinated both by the live cicadas (flying through the air and landing on leaves and grasses) and the cicada shells (clinging to every tree). It was pretty weird.

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From Ledges I traveled south to Madrid to walk on a section of the spectacular High Trestle Trail. It was a cool morning and I expected to be overrun with bicyclists, but I had the trail and its namesake bridge pretty much to myself for more than a mile before a group of kids peddled by. Completed in 2011, the 25-mile High Trestle Trail runs from Ankeny to Woodward, and the half-mile, 13-story bridge is the highlight.

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That section of the trail is near Woodward, and I can’t be that close to Woodward and not go to Picket Fence Creamery. The folks at Picket Fence raise dairy cows and produce the freshest and most delicious dairy products in the world: milk, cream, ice cream, butter, cheese curds, etc. You can buy many of these products in grocery stories throughout Iowa, but for an awesome selection of flavored curds and ice cream – plus a chance to say hello to the cows (and calves, if you’re lucky like I was) – you should visit the farm at 14583 S Ave. The store is open Monday through Saturday 8 a.m.-8 p.m. and one “Sample Sunday” each month.

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