Vacation Snapshot: Hiking with my Dad

Trail in the Waterman Addition adjacent to the Prairie Heritage Center.

One of the things I did while on vacation in June was to go hiking a handful of times with my Dad. We're both avid hikers and we don't get to spend much time together these days, so it was a nice chance to get some exercise while spending time with one of my favorite guys. Besides our day hiking all over South Dakota, we spent a day hiking in O'Brien County and another morning walking the trail at his old job - he's retired now.

A gorgeous view of the Prairie surrounded by the hills.

Nestled in the rolling hills of Iowa, and covering numerous acres as far as the eye can see, lies the Waterman Prarie. It was acquired in bits and pieces by the O'Brien County Conservation and is now protected wildlife habitat. You can also hike in and amongst the land the comprises it. We started off our day by going to the Prairie Heritage Center, a jewel of the area and the home of the O'Brien County Conservation Board. The Waterman Prairie surrounds the Center, and you can take a trail that starts directly across the road from the Center. 

The Prairie is so named for Hannibal H. Waterman, who settled the area in 1856. As we walked through this particular area of the Prairie, we came across an old pioneer cemetery. This one is aptly named the Hannibal H. Waterman Cemetery, and was established in 1859, three years after he settled the area. Pioneer cemeteries are fewer in number than they used to be, but I've been fortunate to see a few. For fun, I recorded myself asking a few questions - to see if anything paranormal might be around - but I got no responses.

A view of the cemetery as you come upon it.

After checking out the few lone graves of the cemetery, we continued on the path. As we rounded a corner, we came upon a lovely pond. I consider ponds to be a treat for the eyes on any hiking trail.

Looking over at the Little Sioux River as it pokes through the tree cover.

As I've mentioned in previous posts about vacation, it was basically monsoon season in the Midwest during this time. This photo shows the Little Sioux River. It's so swollen that you can see it run up the road that leads to the bank on the other side. 

Blackeyed Susans.

One of my favorite things about the Prairie, and any prairie really, is the abundance of wildflowers. Different varieties grow at different times, making for an ever-changing feast for the eyes.

A stone marker at the trailhead across from the Center marks the Waterman Settlement.

After we left the Prairie adjacent to the Center, we drove several miles to a secluded spot in the Prairie - yes, it extends around the area for many miles. The purpose of this segment of hiking was to trek out to the lone gravesite of Old Dutch Fred. There's not a lot of information about Old Dutch Fred, or how he came about that nickname, but there is a book about him. 5/18/2020 Edit: I found this book entry about him.

It was gorgeous every direction that I looked, even though it was sprinkling rain at the time, and it was calm and peaceful.

The final resting place of Old Dutch Fred. We took a few photos, admired the view, and then headed back to the car as the rain just refused to let up at this point. 

A couple of days later, Dad and I drove over to where he used to work: Cherokee Mental Health Institute. Years ago, the person in charge of the Institute decided to create a full walking path around the property. It runs up along the rolling hills of the surrounding nature and extends about three miles in total.

A stunning view of the hills from the path.

A few pear trees along the path were full of nearly ripe fruit.

One of the old - and abandoned - buildings on the property. I would love to ghost hunt here sometime, as well as the cemetery deep within, as the whole place is reputed to be haunted, but it's not allowed. My Dad, in a very fatherly way, told me that the building is too dangerous to be inside anyway. After we finished our leisurely hike, we drove out to the family gravesites to tend to them. My Dad's parents helped raise me, so I tend to think of them and my Dad as my "parents".

It was a lovely time of the year to do some hiking and I really enjoyed it. Fresh air, breathtaking vistas, and time well-spent with my Dad made hiking with him a pleasure. It's hard in life, especially when we get older and don't live close to our parents, to spend time with family. We get busy with work, our lives, and our own families that long periods of time can separate us. That separation can lead to disconnects, so spending quality time with my Dad was exactly what we both needed to reconnect. It's important to make the time, and I'm glad we chose to visit my Dad on our vacation. 

Have a great weekend! Spend it with those you love.


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