Young Lovers, Take a Hike!
Luther College Chips
February 12, 2009
Young love is natural. So if you are a young lover what’s better than to get out into the big, wide natural world? In other words, if you are in love, take a hike! After all, you could not have attended a college more accommodating to romantic strolls.
With Decorah’s Upper Midwest seasons, and nature’s way of changing before your very eyes, there’s always something new to see, and the outing always feels like just the right getaway.
Let’s start as close as Decorah gets to a beach (walks on which women, at least, regularly rank as a #1 romantic outing of choice): the banks of our own Upper Iowa. The little river has no steadily crashing waves, but the occasional roar of fast water and the soft burbling of the rest of the stream provide exactly the background you need to accompany the loud pitter-patter noise of your excited hearts.
The quickest river access is provided by the little loop of trail straight west of the Regents Center. On a more serious river walk, you could stroll down to where Riverview Drive ends at Mound Street just south of campus. From there, veer right onto the trail at the river edge of the Decorah Prairie, loop along the river to the dike, cross the West Decorah Bridge to the facing dike, follow that to the Dug Road recreational trail that goes out to the Decorah campground, cross the “campers-only” footbridge and take the roadside trail back to the bridge below campus. Every part of that route offers a slightly different perspective on the river.
In dry weather, try the sweet little trail that begins just across from the entrance to Dunning’s Spring and extends down along the river to Palisades Park. It’s dirt, small rocks, occasional tree roots, and goes so close to the bank edge you need to watch your step or you’ll get soaked, but it provides the most fetching river walk in town. The view is different going down than going back, but you can also cross over at the bridge below Palisades and return to College Drive on the recreational trail on the town side of the river.
Your next best choice is Dunning’s Spring itself—where hundreds of married alums go to re-visit the place where their happy relationships began. A hike up to the spring is a good short destination. The falls are loud enough to shut out the rest of the world and help you concentrate on you and your darling. If you want to watch the sunset or gaze up at the moon, take the steep climb to your right at the end of the parking lot to the overlook. If you don’t stop there, the walk gets easier, and takes you through some very pretty woods including a big grove of red pines with good views all along the way.
Equally fine for romantic overlooks: the gazebo below Phelps Park or the top of the steps at Pulpit Rock. If you are seeking a good end point for a ramble out from campus, these two destinations are as good as the Whippy Dip, but work in even the coldest weather, and with nowhere near the calories. Just watch your step and hold on to the rail if you try Pulpit Rock in snow and ice!
Better yet, walk past Pulpit Rock, across the footbridge at the campground and take a right out to Twin Springs Park: the most gorgeous little postage stamp of natural beauty in Decorah. Walk up along the energetic little stream scaring trout along the way to the twin springs themselves and then continue up the hill to the white pine grove at its crest. There’s a picnic table up there. The pines smell oh-so-romantic. And the sound of the wind in those trees is almost as good as rushing rivers, crashing waves, or the welcome pitch of your sweetheart’s voice.
Worried about watching your footing for those after-dark strolls with the person of your dreams? Try the trail that climbs the hill behind the college barn. It was engineered for elderly folks riding bikes, only they never do that, especially after dark. You’ll have the college woods all to yourselves, and a footpath smooth and solid enough to accommodate Bond’s Aston Martin on a tight, fast curve.
My own hoofing-it experience makes me a happy advocate of pursuing a wedding ring alongside your Luther B.A. And I advise that the best way to pursue it is on foot. The first time I asked my then-friend-later-girlfriend-now-wife Rachel out, it was for an autumn walk in the college woods. Thirty-four years later we’re still walking the same paths, only now it’s often with a child and a dog.
Even if a wedding is the last thing on your young mind, if you feel like getting somewhere with the one you love, my Valentine’s advice for 2009 is: take a hike!