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Fall Magic in Mayne's Grove
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Fall Magic in Mayne's Grove

I was determined to get in one more hike while on vacation in late October, despite the fact it was cold and windy and most of the pretty leaves were on the ground.  I settled on Mayne’s Grove in Franklin County--only a 45 minute drive from home, and only a handful of miles from my hometown of Hampton, so if I ended up cutting the hike short, I could always visit some old haunts.  Lo and behold, within twenty minutes of arrival, the sun came out and the day turned beautiful, as if to prove a point.  The trails meander for miles among the oaks, maples and pines, up and down hills, past ravines and over gullies.  I ended up on the White Trail, which traverses the outer boundaries of the nearly 280 acre park and provides some great views of not only the groves, but also Mayne’s Creek twisting along, and the surrounding farmland beyond.  There’s even a bench or two to sit and enjoy these humble vistas.  It was at one of these benches that I also spotted a white-tailed doe bounding up a gully away from me when I started rustling through the leaves again.

Despite the fact it felt like I was the only one in the park much of the time, it was a popular place that day.  The trails are also open to horseback riding, and I met a group of a dozen riders in the far corners, as well as a pair near the beginning of the trail who had braved the cooler weather earlier in the day.  After over two hours hiking, the benches near the lake were calling to me.  Once rested, I picked up the trail around the lake, stopping to climb the observation tower.  There weren’t many birds to be seen that day, presumably hunkering down from the wind, but the tower gives you information on what ones you may spot if you stay and watch a while.  

The lakeshore held considerably more activity, from families out enjoying the brisk fall day, to a potluck reunion at the lodge that’s available to rent for events, to a horse-drawn wagon ready to give someone a lift.  I couldn’t tell you how good the fishing is, but there is a boat ramp and a very nice dock with built in benches and lowered railings for wheelchair access and youth fishing.  Ice fishing and cross-country skiing are also available for those who are fond of winter outdoor activities.  

I had last visited Mayne’s Grove when it first opened: the lodge had yet to be built, the windbreak demonstration area was newly planted, and the only open trail cut through the prairie grassland area.  It’s so much more now, and well-taken care of--obviously the pride of the Franklin County park system.  I can’t wait to get back in a warmer season to explore more.

Photo: Suzanne Armstrong 2014

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  1. Travel Iowa Team
    Travel Iowa Team
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