Girl on Fire: Mother nature can be so breathtaking

[As seen in Creston News Advertiser October 15, 2015]

The sunlight was warm on my face as I trudged up a steep incline, little clouds of dust forming around my Nikes with each step. The dirt and grass were dappled with light until I reached an opening in the trees at the top of the hill.

Through the opening I saw a hill rolling downward, a small lake with kayakers creating sparking ripples and a tall, craggy hill made of loess and blanketed with emerald trees.

This past weekend, I went on one of the most amazing camping trips I’ve ever been on.

My friend Eric Skalberg and I went to Pony Creek Park, a campground just outside of Glenwood. The park is surrounded by the Loess Hills, giant mountain-like hills made of loess soil.

Loess is a sediment deposit formed by wind-blown silt, and is described as rich, dust-like soil. It stands usually in steep or vertical faces. The giant loess deposit in the Midwest was formed by glaciers grinding rock into “glacier flour.” The “glacier flour” then turned into mud as glaciers retreated because of warming temperatures. The deposited muddy sedimentary happened to be at the Missouri River Valley, and all the dried silty sedimentary was blown away by the wind and redeposited across a broad expanse of land.

On the drive west, I discovered loess deposits are uncommon across the globe, but the Loess Hills are even rarer than that.

The Loess Hills run about 200 miles along the Missouri River between Nebraska, Missouri and Iowa. The hills are expansive compared to other deposits in the United States and Europe and share their uniqueness with one other spot on the globe: the Loess Plateau in China.

The thing is, you can do as much research as you want, you can Google how long trips will take down whichever scenic road you choose, but until you are actually there, in person, trekking those roads, you don’t understand just how beautiful the scenery is, or just how breathtaking Mother Nature can be.

That was the first time I’ve ever really had the opportunity to sit and look at the natural bluff formations. It is something I enjoy about Iowa: being able to just walk outside and immediately there’s an expanse of woods, or a golden field, or a green shining hill.

This isn’t something you get to experience in cities like Chicago or New York City. It’s unique to a part of the United States with a lower population, an ever-changing menu of weather options and never-ending opportunities to experience beauty.

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