Looking for a quiet, winter Northwoods experience but don’t have the time or money to journey out of state? Then travel to Iowa’s White Pine Hollow State Forest outside of Luxemburg to get a true taste of the state’s own version of the Northwoods.
Managed by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, this 944-acre forest is regarded as one of Iowa’s wildest places. Because of its highly unique natural features, such as old growth white pine trees, this state preserve has also garnered national attention by being named a National Natural Landmark.
Recently, on a snowy January day, I ventured into White Pine Hollow to see what I could discover. Entering the forest, I quickly learned there are no neatly groomed trails or trail markers. Just an abandoned road that leads 200 feet down to a tranquil stream. Here, pools of water have frozen into an emerald pathway that curves through the valley. Large mossy boulders give the drab winter scene a welcome splash of more green. Above the stream, white pine trees grow precariously from the rock bluff. Some of them appear to be over 100 feet tall. Wanting more adventure, I venture off the path and make my own way through the forest.
Deer tracks are traipsing through the freshly fallen snow. A downed log has a line of squirrel feet running to a hollow cavity in a tree. The crisp winter air smells like fresh evergreens. I hear nothing but the sound of wind blowing through the pines. For the first time in days, my mind is happy and at ease until my senses are stirred by the high pitched call of a bald eagle.
I notice several eagles perched high up in the pine tops. Their black bodies contrast with their snowy white heads and tails. The birds eventually take off, gliding through the valley and cutting through the wind with royal strength. I cup my ears to listen for any other bird calls in the valley.
The two pitched “cheeseburger” song of the black-capped chickadee makes me smile. The drumming of a woodpecker’s beak on a tree vibrates close by. Further down in the valley, a barred owl call echoes through the canyon walls. I look at my watch and realize that I’ve managed to pass several carefree hours in the park.
I regain my bearings and walk back up the hill. Feeling revitalized near the top of the knoll, I am all smiles knowing just how lucky I am to travel this winter wonderland of Iowa.