By Katie Schulz and Emily Wagaman, 2017 EE Interns
A few weeks before I started my summer internship at Hitchcock Nature Center, I was speaking with a friend about the Loess Hills. She was wondering what the trails were like at the county park, and I explained that they were beautifully diverse. As the mother of a young child, she was excited to hear that there were trails designed for all skill levels, from the accessible Boardwalk trail to the steep ridgebacks on the Westridge trail. In addition, Hitchcock Nature Center represents a diversity of ecosystems present in Iowa, from the rich remnant prairies to the lush forests. I was proud to inform her that Hitchcock Nature Center defies the stereotype of Iowa parks, with its rugged landscape and unique ecosystem. She was very intrigued, and mentioned that she would like to take her son to the park, as she was looking for a different hiking experience. This made me realize how special Hitchcock truly is, as people are able to glimpse a variety of Iowa’s natural landscapes in a thirteen acre area.
One of the most exciting things about Hitchcock Nature Center is how it can provide a chance to experience nature for people of all skill levels and ages. Trails range in difficulty from our easy ad accessible boardwalk all the way to difficult for our visitors who love a challenge. The trails intersect with each other to provide a mixed experience of levels, for example, one can take the “Chute” trail, which is labeled as difficult, but then the trail merges with intermediate and easy trails to provide a break. Personally, I would encourage hikers to stop every once in a while and take in the nature around them. The remnant prairies are extremely beautiful and relaxing, and help to reduce stress that many people experience in their day-to-day work lives. The Loess Hills Lodge would also be a good place to take a break and as it provides an educational opportunity to learn about the creation of the loess hills and its inhabitants.
Another thing that surprised my friend was the level of diversity and species richness that existed within the hills. On one hike alone, I saw a snapping turtle, a short-tailed shrew, and heard a myriad of bird calls. In addition, the remnant prairies contain very interesting plant-life, like large-beardtongue flower, big bluestem grass, and the echinacea cone flower. All of these things together make Hitchcock Nature Center a very special and exciting place to hike and explore, which explains why so many people visit the park from out of the state and even the country!
Click here to check out a Video of our adventures!