Iowa TopographyI found myself in southcentral Iowa several weekends ago.  It was not by accident or happenstance; it was deliberate.  My wife Melissa, and her friend Nancy had entered several hounds into a dog show in Iowa; as Melissa is not apt to drive much, I tend to drive to these shows, watch Melissa and Nancy in the show ring, and usually duck out at some point and find something not-dog-show-related.

I mostly think of Iowa as a place of bucolic farms – rolling hills of corn & soybeans, pig farms (and their associated smell, which, I have heard described as the smell of money), the 1989 movie Field of Dreams, and the Video Game Capital of the World.

The dog show was not on a pastoral setting, nor was it in Dubuque or Ottumwa.  We were in Des Moine.  We stayed in a suburb of Des Moine – Urbandale – which happens to be down the road from the Iowa Pork Producers Association in Clive, IA.

Pork and pigs seem to be an integral part of life in Iowa.  Restaurants, in particular, and aptly so, usually have an ample amount of menu-real-estate devoted to things-pork.  One of the restaurants we ate at, had a sort of gift shop entry way that was nearly all pig and pork themed chotchkies.
The first day of the dog show, Saturday, Melissa and Nancy showed straight away in the morning.  It was an early start to the day, but it meant that I could probably check out something in the region.

Des Moine is in Polk county, and as it turns out, there are a couple state parks in Polk county; Walnut Wood State Park and Big Creek State Park.

Melissa opted to stay back at the hotel with Nancy; Melissa’s sister, Sarah, and her oldest daughter were also along for the dog show, as well.  With Melissa staying at the hotel, Sarah, her daughter and the three dogs (and myself) headed out to Walnut Wood.

The park is located on the outer edge of metro Des Moine.  At 260 acres, it is a pleasantly sized piece of land to remain undeveloped in a metro area.  As its name suggestions, there are walnut trees; hundreds of them, actually.  The park, aside from providing a very close escape for residents of the greater Des Moine area, preserves North America’s largest stand of natural walnut trees.

All around, it was a great park.  I imagine it would be quite busy in the spring, summer and into the fall, but at the start of February, we had the entire park almost all to ourselves.

We walked around with the dogs, took photos (I have been having a blast, once again, using my Pentax ME 35mm), and eventually headed back to the hotel with three dirt covered, tired hounds.

<figcaption class="wp-caption-text">Walnut Wood State Park, West Des Moine, Iowa</figcaption></figure>