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Wade on the Trail with his dog

LMQC’s intrepid outdoor blogging duo, Teri Stickler of Riverdale and her Samoyed companion, Kaia, hike to the Devil’s Punch Bowl in Wildcat Den State Park. Both recommend this lovely state park in any season.

By Teri Stickler and her Samoyed, Kaia

Kaia and Terry take in the wildflowers and cool temps during a break in the August weather at Wildcat Den State Park.

Since our last visit to Wildcat Den State Park, it’s been a wild weather swing from freezing temperatures in late winter to our August highs in the 90s! But this is truly a park worth visiting every season. It’s located just 10 miles northeast of Muscatine and a 40-minute drive from Davenport/Quad Cities. (Take Iowa Hwy 22 to Wildcat Den Road.)

When Kaia and I made our return trip, we remembered our late winter visit as a cold, icy day. Our hike was limited by our slip-sliding with each step. Yet what a difference six months can make!

This summer, we entered the trails under an azure sky, filled with puffy cumulus clouds and trails bordered with every hue of green foliage. Stately, 300-million-year-old sandstone bluffs defined our route, and we truly felt the strength and beauty of Mother Nature here at Wildcat Den.

We entered, as last time, at the lower picnic area and followed the Lower Picnic Area Trail along Pine Creek and past Steamboat Rock (can you say “Titanic?”), and on toward Punch Bowl Trail. I remember time spent here from Girl Scout Days, where we explored the canyon, scurried up and down rock formations (no rock climbing allowed!) and played the scavenger hunt trivia game named “The Wide Game.”

This time, Kaia and I walked slow enough to absorb the peacefulness and, for her mostly, the “scent signs” left by all who came through before us. The trail to the Devil’s Punch Bowl is dotted with one wooden walking bridge after another, crossing back-and-forth over a clear water stream — perfect for a winter dog on a hot summer day.

We found most of this trail to be a relatively easy level of difficulty. However, the official trail map, available free at each trailhead, identifies all the designated park trails as difficult. Let’s just say, from our point of view and for the most part, these trails are moderate in difficulty.

Starting at the lower picnic area, one can hike to and through the canyon and reach the spectacular Devil’s Punch Bowl (think mini-Mesa Verde) and then return using the same trail, thus avoiding any stairs. If, however, one gets to the Devil’s Punch Bowl and wishes to continue to the upper picnic area and shelter, get ready for a steep climb ascending scores of well-constructed steps to breathtaking views over the canyon. We did both. We hiked the canyon, climbed the stairs, stopped and took it all in, and returned in the direction from which we came.

Not wanting to leave the park just yet, we took our packed lunch, sandwich, apple, trail mix, dog food, and water, and headed to the 1877 Bridge and the 1848 Pine Creek Grist Mill. As one of only a few remaining mid-19th century mills left in the country, this working mill, restored to its original condition, now grinds corn again for the first time in over 75 years. Since the Grist Mill is open to the public Wednesday-Sunday, June-August, if ever you have the opportunity, visit and learn about its rich history.

Also nearby is Melpine School, which is open Saturday-Sunday, May-September, features a large picnic shelter, modern public restrooms, and the 1850s cabin, which is, at times, open for school groups.

In any season, Wildcat Den State Park is a favorite on our hiking list. We plan to hike here again, and experience fall with all its colors. Winter has its beauty as well with its blanket of snow — its soft and quiet peace is Kaia’s favorite time. There is no wrong time to visit. Come check it out!

Helpful Links:

 

Check out Teri and Kaia’s pictures from their most recent adventure …

 

By Teri Stickler and her Samoyed, Kaia

Kaia and Terry take in the wildflowers and cool temps during a break in the August weather at Wildcat Den State Park.

Since our last visit to Wildcat Den State Park, it’s been a wild weather swing from freezing temperatures in late winter to our August highs in the 90s! But this is truly a park worth visiting every season. It’s located just 10 miles northeast of Muscatine and a 40-minute drive from Davenport/Quad Cities. (Take Iowa Hwy 22 to Wildcat Den Road.)

When Kaia and I made our return trip, we remembered our late winter visit as a cold, icy day. Our hike was limited by our slip-sliding with each step. Yet what a difference six months can make!

This summer, we entered the trails under an azure sky, filled with puffy cumulus clouds and trails bordered with every hue of green foliage. Stately, 300-million-year-old sandstone bluffs defined our route, and we truly felt the strength and beauty of Mother Nature here at Wildcat Den.

We entered, as last time, at the lower picnic area and followed the Lower Picnic Area Trail along Pine Creek and past Steamboat Rock (can you say “Titanic?”), and on toward Punch Bowl Trail. I remember time spent here from Girl Scout Days, where we explored the canyon, scurried up and down rock formations (no rock climbing allowed!) and played the scavenger hunt trivia game named “The Wide Game.”

This time, Kaia and I walked slow enough to absorb the peacefulness and, for her mostly, the “scent signs” left by all who came through before us. The trail to the Devil’s Punch Bowl is dotted with one wooden walking bridge after another, crossing back-and-forth over a clear water stream — perfect for a winter dog on a hot summer day.

We found most of this trail to be a relatively easy level of difficulty. However, the official trail map, available free at each trailhead, identifies all the designated park trails as difficult. Let’s just say, from our point of view and for the most part, these trails are moderate in difficulty.

Starting at the lower picnic area, one can hike to and through the canyon and reach the spectacular Devil’s Punch Bowl (think mini-Mesa Verde) and then return using the same trail, thus avoiding any stairs. If, however, one gets to the Devil’s Punch Bowl and wishes to continue to the upper picnic area and shelter, get ready for a steep climb ascending scores of well-constructed steps to breathtaking views over the canyon. We did both. We hiked the canyon, climbed the stairs, stopped and took it all in, and returned in the direction from which we came.

Not wanting to leave the park just yet, we took our packed lunch, sandwich, apple, trail mix, dog food, and water, and headed to the 1877 Bridge and the 1848 Pine Creek Grist Mill. As one of only a few remaining mid-19th century mills left in the country, this working mill, restored to its original condition, now grinds corn again for the first time in over 75 years. Since the Grist Mill is open to the public Wednesday-Sunday, June-August, if ever you have the opportunity, visit and learn about its rich history.

Also nearby is Melpine School, which is open Saturday-Sunday, May-September, features a large picnic shelter, modern public restrooms, and the 1850s cabin, which is, at times, open for school groups.

In any season, Wildcat Den State Park is a favorite on our hiking list. We plan to hike here again, and experience fall with all its colors. Winter has its beauty as well with its blanket of snow — its soft and quiet peace is Kaia’s favorite time. There is no wrong time to visit. Come check it out!

Helpful Links:

 

Check out Teri and Kaia’s pictures from their most recent adventure …

 

Teri Stickler

Teri Stickler

Outdoor Blogger and Co-Adventurer

Meet Teri Stickler. Teri is a retired Quad-City teacher. She thoroughly enjoys the out-of-doors, sharing most of her adventures with her Samoyed companion, Kaia.