Woke up this morning expecting frost. Weather has been cooling down here in Iowa at a rapid rate these past few days. It was chilly, though no visible frost was around.
Graduating from Iowa State University, one would have hoped every student explores the local parks, trails and adventure spots. Somehow, during my four exciting, collegiate years at ISU, I never hiked, only drove, inside Ledges State Park south of Boone, Iowa.
Am in Ames again for two days and on today’s docket was to accomplish just that. Hike in Ledges. Used ‘Hiking Iowa Guide Book by Elizabeth Corcoran Hill‘ as a reference and laced up my hiking boots around 8:10 this morning.
The prairie inside the park is breathtaking. If you haven’t ever experienced an Iowa Tallgrass prairie, you should. Enjoy the colors of Big and Little Blue Stem enveloping Black Eyed Susan’s. The grass was wet, the sun just coming over the trees hadn’t quite dried away last nights dew. The wind was soft, a slight breeze, cool, reminding us that Fall is here. Goldfinches, the Iowa state bird, were chirping, flying, diving, in and out of the grass, totally at peace.
I was hiking fast, trying to get my body to warm up. Entered into the woods and was startled by deer jumping up. You could tell they weren’t terrified, as they made a few leaps and bounds only to stop, look back and wag their small white tails.
I kept on, hiking down the hill side and down to the river. After a gazing around a bit, enjoying the spectacular serenity of land at peace, I made my way back up the, acorn-covered, dirt trail in the woods and re-entered the prairie. The prairie path is mowed, kept short so humans don’t get lost!
My curiosity was still on a high. I’d only been hiking for 1.5 hours. When I came upon another trail leading into the woods I turned that way. “Why not?” Shortly after meandering through shrubs, my attention was caught by movement. Ahead, 25 yards away, a mountain lion got up, made a few leaps over down trees and disappeared behind brush. Goosebumps ran over my body. I blinked. “Did I just see a mountain lion in Iowa?” Yes, yes I did. And it was big!
Curosity fired. “Follow it and get a closer view at this beautiful animal.” I took 10 steps. Rationality fired. “Hailee, mountain lions are not to be bothered, you are only armed with a small pocket knife, if it’s hungry, you will lose the battle, leave it be.”
Rationality won. I backed up slowly and got out of the woods. My heartrate was at its’ max. Adrenaline pumping. “Did I really just see that? Is there really mountain lion’s in Iowa? Is anyone ever going to believe me?”
It wasn’t far back to my car. Pulled out the hiking book and called Ledges State Park’s office. Left a message “Hi, my name is Hailee. I’m a hiker that was just in Ledges and am not sure if you track mountain lion sightings but I just saw one. Spotted in the woods, just past the picnic area, across the footbridge and on the first trail into the woods, 50 yards in. If you need more details, feel free to call me.”
They did, two hours later and he asked “how sure are you it was a mountain lion?” My response “100%”
Hike more. See cool things. Experience this wild-wonderful-world we live in!