Spring Break, Part II: NE Iowa

After leaving Des Moines on Saturday, we headed up to my hometown of Waverly, Iowa. Waverly is about 6 1/2 hours northeast of Kansas City, so I was glad that we broke up the drive by staying at my sister’s house in Des Moines the night before, (so we only had 2 1/2 hours to drive in the morning). Iowa, like everywhere else in the country, has been seeing unseasonably warm temperatures. When I went home on Spring Break last year, I still had to wear boots and my winter coat. Last year Andrew and I went to St. Louis for part of break to celebrate our one-year anniversary and we got stuck in a snowstorm. It’s quite amazing how different it has been this year. Iowa had unseasonably nice weather, and I even wore shorts one day–something absolutely unheard of for the beginning of March.
The first night in Waverly, we went to the Pizza Ranch. I worked at the Pizza Ranch for two years during high school, and my parents loved it, because I brought home free food every night. For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of visiting this awesome establishment, Pizza Ranch is a pizza+fried chicken buffet. So, basically it’s your midwestern American dream. Ever since I met Andrew, I told him about Pizza Ranch, and he always made fun of me for it, insinuating it was a place for hillbillies to gather and swap stories about corn, cattle, and cousins over greasy food. So, of COURSE we made him go.
After supper Andrew and I went to a Celtic music concert in Cedar Falls for St. Patrick’s Day. My high school English teacher, Doug Nichols, and his wife are in a Celtic band, Banish Misfortune. Mr. Nichols has sort of adopted me, and he’s become Uncle Doug. I always try to stop by and see him, his wife, and their corgi whenever I’m in town.

On Sunday we decided it would be a nice day to go to Decorah and picnic. Decorah is a small, Norwegian town in extreme northeastern Iowa, about 15 miles from Minnesota and around 40 miles from Wisconsin. Decorah has been a fun day-trip spot for my family since I was a little kid. The Iowa Trout Fish Hatchery, Ice Caves, Twin Springs (artesian wells,) and Dunning Springs waterfall area all located there. (To see pictures of the aforementioned in season, click here: My Trip to Decorah in Summer 2011). We went to the fish hatchery to begin. Across the street from the fish hatchery is a nest of eagles. (You can read more about it in the above link). We looked at all the trout, which ranged in size from an inch to 24″. It’s always fun to walk up on a still pond, throw some fish food in, and watch the water churn with the swarms of fish. There’s a waterfall emanating from a limestone bluff that fuels the trout hatchery with cold, natural spring water.

Andrew © Holly Hildreth 2012

Andrew with the natural spring. He was like a little kid, and I had to keep telling him not to climb on things and to be careful, haha!

Parents  © Holly Hildreth 2012

My parents in front of the waterfall. My dad is in a sling, because he just had surgery on his shoulder. He was driving to work on the highway this past December when a car failed to stop at an intersecting road and t-boned his work van. He had a torn rotor cuff among other muscle injuries and it chipped off a piece of his shoulder.

Us  © Holly Hildreth 2012

Andrew and I at the fish hatchery. It was windy and hot--80-some degrees. A record for Iowa!

After the fish hatchery we went to the Ice Cave. As kids, we explored the Ice Caves caverns, but I hadn’t been in probably 15 years. The Ice Cave is named such as it has ice on the walls year-round. To our disappointment, it seems parts of the Ice Cave have collapsed. We weren’t able to go much past the initial opening of the cave. I know Andrew was disappointed, because we were talking it up and his outdoorsy Eagle-Scout instincts took over and he was ready to do some spelunking.

Next we went to Dunning’s Spring, which is my favorite part of Decorah. However, the once raging waterfall had been reduced to a trickle and most of the area was brown. We couldn’t believe our eyes. In the 22 years I had been coming to Decorah, I had never seen the waterfall this dry. I didn’t take any pictures, as I was so disappointed. I also felt bad, as we were raving this up to Andrew as well. By this time, I’m pretty sure he was thinking that we Iowans are easily amused and think the littlest things are great. Here’s a picture of Dunning’s Spring in its prime when we visited this summer:

Dunnings spring  © Holly Hildreth 2012

Finally we stopped at Twin Springs Park to see the artesian wells. These too had dried up. There was only a little bit of a stream flowing. We had a picnic in the park and relaxed. I of course had to take pictures, even though the springs were definitely not in their prime.

Twin Springs Part © Holly Hildreth 2012

Twin Springs Part © Holly Hildreth 2012

Twin Springs Park © Holly Hildreth 2012

Twin Springs Park © Holly Hildreth 2012

Twin Springs Park © Holly Hildreth 2012

Twin Springs Park © Holly Hildreth 2012

My mom took a photo of Andrew and I in front of the stream, and I was VERY proud of her for not cutting our heads off.

On Monday, we went to Cedar Rapids to visit my oldest sister, who just moved there recently to accept a new full-time meteorologist position at CBS affiliate station. It was Jen’s birthday, so we went out to eat and hung out at her apartment for a while.

Tuesday was a relaxing day. We futzed around the house, I got a haircut and ran errands, and we both packed and prepared for our voyage to Chicago on Wednesday morning.

I apologize for the length of this blog. Normally I like to keep it short and sweet and bombard you with photos. The next blog post will follow that pattern. Stay tuned for Part III: Chicago.

All Images © Holly Hildreth 2012 | http://www.hhildrethphoto.wordpress.com

Georgia Vacation – Part One: Atlanta

I’m finally back from Georgia! We had a great vacation. We saw and did so much that it seems like we were there longer than a week. To get from Iowa to Atlanta was about 16 hours of driving. We broke the trip up, (which was a good thing, because there were 7 of us in a van that could comfortably fit 6). We stayed in Mt. Vernon, IL the first night. I drove us from Waverly to the hotel, which is about 7 1/2 hours. I’m used to that amount of driving since the trip from Warrensburg, MO to back home in Iowa is about 6 1/2 hours, so it wasn’t too bad. The next morning we drove from IL to Atlanta. I’ve always liked the South and thought it to be pretty country. I hadn’t been south of Missouri in about 7 years, so it was nice to see the area again. We got to our hotel in Alpharetta, Georgia, and hung out for the rest of the night. The following morning we headed into Atlanta. We got the City Pass, which is a bundle package rate for many attractions in the area. We started out at the Georgia Aquarium.

The Georgia Aquarium is only about 6 years old. It’s located in Olympic Park, next to the Coke Factory. It’s the largest aquarium in the World, and it’s a must-see for those vacationing in the area.

Entrance into the Georgia Aquarium © Holly Hildreth 2011

Entrance into the Georgia Aquarium

Inside the front entry © Holly Hildreth 2011

Inside the front entry

My sister, Jen, touching a stingray © Holly Hildreth 2011

My sister, Jen, touching a stingray

© Holly Hildreth 2011

Tide Pool area where you could touch the animals © Holly Hildreth 2011

Tide Pool area where you could touch the animals

Conan Dolphin © Holly Hildreth 2011

Conan Dolphin

The Family waiting for our behind-the-scenes tour

The Family waiting for our behind-the-scenes tour

The World's largest indoor aquarium. This is behind the scenes. We're above the aquarium looking down. The tank itself about a football field in size

The World's largest indoor aquarium. This is behind the scenes. (We're above the aquarium looking down). The tank itself about a football field in size.

Jellyfish © Holly Hildreth 2011

The Family

The Family

The World's Largest indoor aquarium © Holly Hildreth 2011

The World's Largest indoor aquarium

Whale Shark. This is the largest fish in the world, and the Georgia Aquarium is the only place to have one in captivity. Very little is known on the species, so having four of these fish is quite the feet. © Holly Hildreth 2011

Whale Shark. This is the largest fish in the world, and the Georgia Aquarium is the only place to keep them in captivity. Very little is known on the species, so having four of these fish is quite the feet.

Georgia Aquarium © Holly Hildreth 2011

The family in downtown Atlanta

The family in downtown Atlanta

After spending the morning at the Aquarium, we grabbed some lunch and headed over to the Coca-Cola Factory.

Waiting in line at the Coke Factory © Holly Hildreth 2011

Waiting in line at the Coke Factory

In line at the Coke Factory--it was HOT!! © Holly Hildreth 2011

In line at the Coke Factory--it was HOT!!

The entrance into the World of Coca-Cola © Holly Hildreth 2011

The entrance into the World of Coca-Cola

Olympic Torches at the Coke Factory  © Holly Hildreth 2011

Olympic Torches at the Coke Factory

A machine bottling and packaging bottles of Coke © Holly Hildreth 2011

A machine bottling and packaging bottles of Coke

Us Girls before the 4-D movie at Coke World © Holly Hildreth 2011

Us Girls before the 4-D movie at Coke World

Gift Shop © Holly Hildreth 2011

Gift Shop

After the tour of the factory, we headed back to our hotel. It was still very hot outside, so we took a dip in the outdoor pool and then played some cards.

Up Next: Georgia Vacation – Part II

Also, if you would like to see ALL the photos from our vacation, feel free to check out my Flickr. I only posted a few pictures in my blog, but I have about 160 proofs you can see if you watch the slideshow: CLICK HERE