Sunday, November 15, 2015

Ingawanis Woodlands

Loaded up and truckin'
Saturday afternoon was about celebrating a big turn of events for the cycling, running, and hiking communities here. It was a day about celebrating the awarding of the REAP grant that will allow for the purchase of the property known to us as Ingawanis Woodlands as a Bremer County Park. Well, it used to be known as the "South Side of The Camp", or simply as 'The South Side". A little back story here, as far as I know about it.....

Years ago there were two camps for Scouts. The camps were divided by Quarter Section Creek, with the Boy Scouts on the North and the Girl Scouts on the South side. After the Girl Scouts abandoned the South side, the Boy Scouts set up a COPE course on one of the prominent hills that could be accessed by a service road running straight back into the camp from a gravel road. There also was a service road that nearly circumnavigated the West side of the Camp's South side and was a big dividing line at one time between what I used to call the "Inner Loop" and the "Outer Loop" of Ingawanis' South Side. Back in the early 2000's, the Boy Scouts instigated a mountain biking program, and talks about opening up the Camp lands to mountain biking were started. I first rode out at Ingawanis in 2002/03 and have been out there about every year since then to partake of the ever evolving situation out there. 

Anyway, recently the Boy Scouts needed money, so selling off the South Side, which was little used by the troops, was considered. The end of riding at Ingawanis was a very real possibility, as encroaching development from Waverly, a town nearby, was threatening to take the South side and put high dollar houses out there. Trust me.....I totally get why someone would want to live out there, but it would have been the end of a resource for the public that is rare in this State- that being a tract of heavily wooded, hilly land surrounded on two sides by water. Not only that, but it is a haven for all sorts of wildlife and plant life unique to the area. 

Making final adjustments to ride.
Anyway, the land was scooped up by the Iowa Heritage Foundation in hopes that Bremer County could somehow or another pull together grant money to buy the land. That it did, with a bit of shortfall, but now it seems fairly certain that this tract of land will remain in the public realm and not be divided  up into parcels for private homeowners. Yay! 

So, a pig was roasted, goodies were made, and we all converged upon Ingawanis Woodlands, (which is what the South Side is called these days), to celebrate by riding, running, hiking, and visiting with one another. The good news was shared, and we all had a great time. 

Now specifically, it was planned by Leif, Andy, and myself that we would meet up out there with a couple of others and ride the trail, then eat and hang out. These days the Sun sets early, so we wanted to get a move on before 5:00pm, and we hit the small grassy lot where the trail head is by 4:45pm ready to roll. The other two we were to meet weren't there, and with limited Sun, I wasn't of a mind to dilly-dally, or we'd get caught out with having to mount our lights. Normally this wouldn't have been a big deal, but I was the only one that had been there before in our group! So, without further adieu, we hit the trail in my usual clockwise manner. (I guess most folks roll the loop counter-clockwise. I just don't think it flows well that way.)

What it's all about. Leif looks out over the Cedar River
So, with three fat bikes we took off. I was a bit apprehensive about how I would do, since I had a splitting headache and in a silly move, I brought my Blackborrow DS in "high range" to these trails which feature some climbs and challenges. Not only that, but my two riding partners were young enough to be my kids and Leif has a monstrous motor. Oh well!

As it turned out, I did just fine, cleaning every climb okay, but sending my old heart rate skyrocketing. I probably should really wear a monitor, but...... Anyway, Leif would have dropped me like a bad habit had he known where he was going, but we stuck together. 

We met strings of four to five bikers coming the other way about half way through the big loop, and it was shocking, really, for me to see so many folks enjoying the trails out there. Usually I would see one other person out there on a super rare occasion, but now with the land deal being finalized, it seems the public is finally catching on to this little gem of wooded land laced with some really nice trails. Once we got around to the lodge proper, where the festivities were taking place, we saw a lot full of cars and a lot of people eating, drinking, setting off on runs, and hikes, which was just amazing. 

It has been a long time since the days when the mountain biking community was allowed into the South Side, when the trails were confusing, and shorter! I specifically remember the time we were there riding the new Salsa Cycles Mamasita, which hardly anyone else had ever seen before, in the snow. We didn't even know really where we were going, but I remember Salsa Cycles' Mike Reimer saying at the time that he thought the place could end up being "really good". He turned out to be prophetic. It is really good out there now, but it almost was all lost.  

Thank God it will be open to the public so hikers, walkers, runners, and cyclists can all see what a resource it is, and how rare this sort of open space is in Iowa.

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