The Ottumwa Courier

May 28, 2012

A getaway right in our backyard

The Road Less Traveled

Courier editor

OTTUMWA — I will freely admit that “roughing it” is really not part of my DNA.

After all, my parents were RV dealers for more than 40 years, and during that time, “roughing it” really meant a black-and-white TV in the motorhome.

So, how in the world was I expected to “rough” it out at one of the cabins at the Pioneer Ridge Nature Center south of Ottumwa?

“You’re gonna love it,” said Kurt Baker, the director of the Wapello County Conservation Board.

And to my surprise, I’m now a convert.

After spending just one night there, I’m sure I could handle the wilds of Wapello County.

Yes, I know the cabins have central air and heat, as well as a kitchen, bath and bedrooms. So, while it’s not exactly roughing it, the fact is it’s a nice little getaway and not very far from home.

More importantly, it’s just one of the many backyard treasures we have in southern Iowa.

And like everyone else, I’m just as guilty about not taking advantage of the amenities and programs available to us all right here.

The cabins at Pioneer Ridge are just a small part of what the Wapello County Conservation Board offers.

Every month, the staff hosts programs for kids and adults — bird watching, fishing events, trail hikes, etc.

And Pioneer Ridge, of course, is not the only attraction operated by the Wapello County Conservation Board.

Heck, there’s the Eddyville Sand Dunes, Garrison Rock, Rock Bluff Park, Gray Eagle Wildlife, Cardinal Wildlife Area and the American Gothic House Center, just to name a few.

We all complain “there’s nothing to do.”

But it’s simply not true.

Even if you want to “escape” Wapello County, the surrounding counties have plenty of outdoor and recreation activities to partake in, and there are museums, historical sites and so much more.

During my overnight stay at Pioneer Ridge, I didn’t do anything exciting. I sat out on the porch and relaxed, captivated by the beauty of the woods, soaking in what turned out to be a great day and night.

No television, no phone calls, no interuptions.

And I was reminded that a life well lived means exploring the world around us, even if it’s in our own backyards.

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WCCB plans two June events

The Wapello County Conservation Board will host two events in June:

• On June 12, the Toddler Camp: Frog Stomp program, will be held at Pioneer Ridge Nature Center.

While there will not be any stomping of frogs, participants will be stomping around the ponds and wet areas of Pioneer Ridge in search of these fascinating critters.

They will learn what makes them good swimmers and jumpers. Children should  wear clothes that can get a little wet and dirty. This camp is for children ages 3 and 4 with an adult and begins at 10 a.m. The cost is $5 per child. Pre-registration is requested to ensure materials are available for all participants.

• At 9:30 a.m. June 30, join the WCCB for a relaxing summer day on the river. Bring the family out for a float from Cliffland Access to the Eldon Fairgrounds.

Participants will meet at the Eldon fairgrounds and carpool to Cliffland Access. Bring your own canoe or borrow ours. Pre-register to ensure canoes are available for all who need them. All ages are welcome. Anyone ages 16 and under must be accompanied by an adult.

The cost is $5 per person and $5 donation for the use of a canoe.

For more information about these programs or anything related to the WCCB, call 641-682-3091.