Prairie Rose State Park | Danish Windmill | December 2020
The first weekend of December brought another sunny day with mild temperatures. To make the most of the nice weather, we planned another weekend adventure featuring a moderate amount of driving, courthouses, hiking, and scenic spots. We drove into Iowa via I-80 and, after a brief stop for a letterbox, drove North of the interstate to Shelby County and the town of Harlan for – you guessed it, a courthouse. Maybe our courthouse collecting is a bit ridiculous, but we’re making good progress on Iowa and Nebraska, and today’s were just so festive. Harlan had little loud speakers around the courthouse playing Christmas music and the downtown had such cool buildings and charm.
From Harlan, we drove East a few miles and then South to our hike for the day at Prairie Rose State Park, which is actually a lake, and less prairie. There were very few cars in the park (maybe 3 total) this late in the season, but we were interested to note that there was one person with an RV in the campground. We normally stick our noses up at RV’ers but I guess there is something to be said if they’re still out enjoying life this late in the year – we haven’t been camping since our expedition through Northeast Nebraska in October.
We started off on the trail on the West end of the lake near the dam. We reflected on how nice it was to see ‘dead things’ and shades of brown through the prairie. It’s just something you don’t get with the ‘ever green’ Hawai’i.
The trail hugged the north side of the lake shore through prairie and woods. Parts of the lake were frozen and we took time to watch the Canada geese standing out on the ice. We also enjoyed the sound the ice made when we skipped rocks across it.
Eventually the trail reached the access road. We could have made a loop trail of our hike, but it would have involved a lot of road walking and walking through the campgrounds. So we opted to go back the way we came, albeit on slightly different trails. Along the way we saw a very large buck and an opossum.
Back at the car we then continued East to the small town of Elk Horn. This small community was once known as one of the largest concentrations of Danish-Americans in the states. So much so that in the 1970’s a Danish-American arranged for the purchase of a windmill from Denmark which was shipped to Iowa piece by piece.
Curtis and his family (being part Danish) had visited the windmill while he was in high school, and were able to tour it. We declined at this point due to concerns for COVID and having Charlotte with us though.
We continued South into Cass County and the town of Atlantic for our final stop for the day, our 22nd courthouse in Iowa. We then drove US-6 to Council Bluffs and I-80 back into Nebraska.