Hiking in Willow Lake Recreation Area | Logan, Harrison County, Iowa | January 2020
On Friday, January 15, we had a ‘blizzard’ blow through our area. It only gave us about an inch or 2 of snow, but it was quite blustery all day causing what snow we got to drift. The weekend however was absolutely beautiful in the mid-30’s, so we knew we had to take advantage of it. We approached this weekend without any plans or inklings of what we wanted to do, so we turned to our new courthouse hobby and found that the county seat of Harrison County, IA was not too far away.
We then turned to AllTrails to see what might be in the area. A quick look at the Curated Trails showed that there wasn’t much, but AllTrails has recently (or at least we’ve discovered it recently) provided a tool that allows users to view the trail recordings of others. Naturally, there are plenty of ‘non-exciting’ recordings of people walking their dog around the block, but we have found it useful in finding smaller recreation areas that don’t necessarily appear right away on Google Maps or tourism sites.
Through this we were able to find a small county lake and park around the vicinity of the courthouse (as well as several other trails in the Loess Hills that we ultimately saved for later).
We psyched Charlie up and traveled across the river and up I-29 to US-30, which we took East to the town of Logan, and the Harrison Co. Courthouse. We took our pictures, and Charlie sniffed around much to the consternation of local dogs. While the outside of the building was ascetically pleasing, apparently the inside is even more so, featuring a stained glass cupola and floor to ceiling tapestries of Harrison Co. history. We’ve never really thought of going into any of the buildings we’ve seen (not the least because of COVID restrictions and safety), but maybe that will change someday.
From Logan we continued East on US-30 a few miles to Woodbine, IA where we took county roads to Willow Creek Recreation Area. When we arrived there were several ice-fishers packing up and a bridal photo op, so honestly pretty crowded for a January weekend. We road walked the snow-covered park road to the trail information kiosk to look at the maps. The snow was drifted throughout with inconsistent depth, so Curtis went back to the car to grab a pair of snowshoes.
We headed out to the North, vaguely following the shoreline in a counter-clockwise direction as the trails went up on exposed prairie hills. We were mostly following the tracks of one other person who had ‘post-holed’ his way through the drifts, which made breaking the trail slightly easier. Since no one else was around, we let Charlie run free, alternating between jumping between footprints, stepping right behind (and on) Curtis’ snowshoes, and making her own path. She didn’t quite understand drifts though, and would often start breaking a trail with maybe an inch of snow, only to find herself in over her head (literally) a yard later. We both agree that winter is likely Charlotte’s favorite season.
For the most part I was able to either follow in Curtis’ footsteps or the footsteps of others, but at one point, we reached the crest of a hill where the drifting had reached a depth of close to two feet. Curtis went ahead and did his best to pack down the snow sinking maybe an inch or two, but Charlie and I both had quite the difficulty getting through…next time we’ll bring both pairs of snowshoes.
The trail looped back around the shore of the lake, passing by some cozy looking cabins before returning to the car. We considered driving on some country roads through the Loess Hills, but decided against it in case they weren’t plowed.
Altogether, our hike around Willow Lake was 2.7 miles long. If you’re interested, you can check out our trail recording here.