Tag Archives: hiking

Learning About the “Turin Man” in Siouxland, rural Monona County

17 Jul

Ron Butler recounts the history of Turin Hill and the discovery of the Turin Man part of a group of people who lived in the area some 6,000 years earlier at the 45th Loess Hills Prairie Seminar at a Loess Hills Wildlife Area in rural Monona County near Turin, Iowa Saturday June 4, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Recently during the Loess Hills Prairie Seminar held early June in Siouxland I learned a little history involving the “Turin Man”, discovered in 1955 by a gravel pit operator in Turin, Iowa. The operator according to a brochure was a Asa Johnston who found a skull while removing wind blown silt known as loess, from which the Loess Hills received its name and which travels from the top of northwest Iowa down to the Missouri border in the south, mostly along the Missouri River.

A view from atop Turin Hill during an outing at the 45th Loess Hills Prairie Seminar at a Loess Hills Wildlife Area in rural Monona County near Turin, Iowa Saturday June 4, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Ron Butler recounts the history of Turin Hill and the discovery of the Turin Man part of a group of people who lived in the area some 6,000 years earlier at the 45th Loess Hills Prairie Seminar at a Loess Hills Wildlife Area in rural Monona County near Turin, Iowa Saturday June 4, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Johnston discovered a skull and skeletal remains during his excavation for soil ,and later three more skulls and bodies were also discovered in near proximity. It was determined that there was a family of four buried here, probably a nomadic people, and charcoal, indicating fire usage, was found next to the body of a child. It is believed the four people were a family unit buried together, living some 6,000 years ago traversing this area before the United States was in anyone’s dreams as a New World waiting to be “discovered”.

According to the brochure about the information surrounding the find of skeletal remains, the four individuals, two adults, two children, one male and one female, were buried within proximity of one another in what is called a Flex Burial. The Turin skeletons were assigned to the Middle Archaic period based on radiocarbon dating that places them somewhere in the 2770-589 B.C. period.

Found with the skeletons was red ocher sprinkled over the bodies along with Anculosa shell beads. The discovered folk are believed to be from the Late Paleo-Indian period. Soil strata indicates Thea hunters roamed this region during the last glacial period according to the information in the “Turin Man Discovery” brochure. It states that the pattern of oral health indicated by the skeletal remains the people consumed a diet of hunting and gathering.

Also found at the site in the gravel pit were rib bones of either a mastodon or mammoth, prehistoric horse legs bones and a leg bone of an archaic camel. These bones were discovered in another area of the gravel pit and were probably from an earlier era that the human remains.

Who knew or even thought about that Life in Siouxland extended so many eons ago. One can only imagine how different the area looked compared to farm fields one sees these days.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A view from Turin Hill and Ron Butler’s recounting of the history of Turin Hill and the discovery of the Turin Man part of a group of people who lived in the area some 6,000 years earlier at the 45th Loess Hills Prairie Seminar at a Loess Hills Wildlife Area in rural Monona County near Turin, Iowa Saturday June 4, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Gene Persinger, who lives in Turin, Iowa, attends the hike where Ron Butler recounts the history of Turin Hill and the discovery of the Turin Man part of a group of people who lived in the area some 6,000 years earlier at the 45th Loess Hills Prairie Seminar at a Loess Hills Wildlife Area in rural Monona County near Turin, Iowa Saturday June 4, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Hikers leave Turin Hill after hearing Ron Butler’s recounting of the history of Turin Hill and the discovery of the Turin Man part of a group of people who lived in the area some 6,000 years earlier at the 45th Loess Hills Prairie Seminar at a Loess Hills Wildlife Area in rural Monona County near Turin, Iowa Saturday June 4, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The 45th Loess Hills Prairie Seminar at a Loess Hills Wildlife Area in rural Monona County near Onawa, Iowa Saturday June 4, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Learning About the Loess Hills in Siouxland, Sylvan Runkel State Preserve, rural Monona County

3 Jul

Hikers head out from a group that Dr. Tom Rosburg of Drake University leads in the background where he talks about native plant life as he leads a group through an area of Loess Hills prairie, the Sylvan Runkel State Preserve during the 45th Loess Hills Prairie Seminar in rural Monona County near Onawa, Iowa Saturday June 4, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Recently there was an annual Loess Hills Prairie Seminar held in SIouxland in rural Monona County at the Sylvan Runkel State Preserve. Runkel was an author of a few books about midwestern wildflowers, including those found in the Loess Hills in western Iowa near the Nebraska border with the Missouri River. I had never previously walked the trail to this particular preserve although I had driven past it numerous times and had seen a sign for it. But I think it rivals the Loess Hills State Park Overlook near the state forest a little further south. And evidently it is a birder’s paradise when it comes to finding those feathered friends.

Dr. Tom Rosburg, center back, of Drake University talks about native plant life as he leads a group through an area of Loess Hills prairie at the Sylvan Runkel State Preserve during the 45th Loess Hills Prairie Seminar in rural Monona County near Onawa, Iowa Saturday June 4, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Dr. Tom Rosburg, left, of Drake University talks about native plant life as he leads a group through an area of Loess Hills prairie at the Sylvan Runkel State Preserve during the 45th Loess Hills Prairie Seminar in rural Monona County near Onawa, Iowa Saturday June 4, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

This hike was lead by a professor from Drake University, Dr. Tom Rosburg, an expert in the native plants that exist in the Loess Hills, who did his Ph.D thesis about the plants native to the area. But I will admit, my feeble brain had a hard time keeping up with the scientific and horticultural names for these plants, although I had seen a number of them on hikes through various places in the Loess Hills which I previously had hiked. Rosburg has also written a few books about plant life. This area had recently had a fire prevention and restorative burn done to it so the plants were not at a stage the professor seemed to have liked for examining and talking about the various species and how to recognize them. But he and many in the entourage recognized a great deal of them. Some of those I believe were also students who were taking copious notes and were learning from the best.

Dr. Tom Rosburg, left, of Drake University talks about native plant life as he leads a group through an area of Loess Hills prairie at the Sylvan Runkel State Preserve during the 45th Loess Hills Prairie Seminar in rural Monona County near Onawa, Iowa Saturday June 4, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Dr. Tom Rosburg, left, of Drake University talks about native plant life as he leads a group through an area of Loess Hills prairie at the Sylvan Runkel State Preserve during the 45th Loess Hills Prairie Seminar in rural Monona County near Onawa, Iowa Saturday June 4, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Dr. Tom Rosburg, right, of Drake University talks about native plant life as he leads a group through an area of Loess Hills prairie at the Sylvan Runkel State Preserve during the 45th Loess Hills Prairie Seminar in rural Monona County near Onawa, Iowa Saturday June 4, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Remains of a recent fire burn appears Dr. Tom Rosburg of Drake University talks about native plant life as he leads a group through an area of Loess Hills prairie at the Sylvan Runkel State Preserve during the 45th Loess Hills Prairie Seminar in rural Monona County near Onawa, Iowa Saturday June 4, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I did find it fascinating and somewhat exhausting that every few steps taken a native Loess Hills plant was found and the group would stop as Dr. Rosburg explained the species, some of which are only found in this location, while others are spread throughout the Loess Hills. This all has to do with the plants’ own evolution and the kind of soil located within this particular state preserve. He explained that when doing his thesis he plotted out thousands of small areas and tracked the progress of the plants within each plot to better understand conditions and the strengths and weaknesses of each. Quite an undertaking.

Dr. Tom Rosburg of Drake University talks about native plant life as he leads a group through an area of Loess Hills prairie at the Sylvan Runkel State Preserve during the 45th Loess Hills Prairie Seminar in rural Monona County near Onawa, Iowa Saturday June 4, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Dr. Tom Rosburg of Drake University talks about native plant life as he leads a group through an area of Loess Hills prairie at the Sylvan Runkel State Preserve during the 45th Loess Hills Prairie Seminar in rural Monona County near Onawa, Iowa Saturday June 4, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Dr. Tom Rosburg of Drake University talks about native plant life as he leads a group through an area of Loess Hills prairie at the Sylvan Runkel State Preserve during the 45th Loess Hills Prairie Seminar in rural Monona County near Onawa, Iowa Saturday June 4, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Dr. Tom Rosburg of Drake University talks about native plant life as he leads a group through an area of Loess Hills prairie at the Sylvan Runkel State Preserve during the 45th Loess Hills Prairie Seminar in rural Monona County near Onawa, Iowa Saturday June 4, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

But as a visual person, I was more interested in the landscape and what I was seeing and what I thought would offer some excellent sunset and possibly fall foliage later this year more intriguing. So I drifted away from the group which then gave me a “mass” for scale to incorporate into the landscape of this particular state preserve. A colorful sky with some clouds some evening will offer up some impressive imagery I believe. Now it’s trying to figure out which of those evenings that will happen.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Dr. Tom Rosburg of Drake University leads a group as he talks about native plant life as he leads a group through an area of Loess Hills prairie at the Sylvan Runkel State Preserve during the 45th Loess Hills Prairie Seminar in rural Monona County near Onawa, Iowa Saturday June 4, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Dr. Tom Rosburg of Drake University leads a group as he talks about native plant life as he leads a group through an area of Loess Hills prairie at the Sylvan Runkel State Preserve during the 45th Loess Hills Prairie Seminar in rural Monona County near Onawa, Iowa Saturday June 4, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

History in Siouxland, South Jordan Cemetery, rural Monona County

21 Jun

A visit to the South Jordan Cemetery during the 45th Loess Hills Prairie Seminar at a Loess Hills Wildlife Area in rural Monona County near Turin, Iowa Saturday June 4, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Recently I attended a Loess Hills Prairie Seminar in Siouxland which is going on 40 plus years. But because of previous work commitments in past years, I have never attended one. It is fascinating the wealth of information learned during this outing. The downside is that I couldn’t be in more than one place at a time and so while able to photograph different seminar events, learning about various subjects was limited because of that pesky timeline/time warp continuum thingy.

One of the outings focused on a cemetery I have previously driven past while cruising some of the backroads in Siouxland but had never stopped. The South Jordan Cemetery is an early Negro burial site located in rural Monona County. It was recently placed on the National Register of Historic places in 2021. A long time coming. And just as recently signage about the cemetery was put up. But without attending the hike and talk the information I have found is limited to what is available online.

Recent signage posts the way to the South Jordan Cemetery during the 45th Loess Hills Prairie Seminar at a Loess Hills Wildlife Area in rural Monona County near Turin, Iowa Saturday June 4, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Off of a country gravel road the South Jordan Cemetery was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2021 and was visited during the 45th Loess Hills Prairie Seminar at a Loess Hills Wildlife Area in rural Monona County near Turin, Iowa Saturday June 4, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A gravestone at the South Jordan Cemetery during the 45th Loess Hills Prairie Seminar at a Loess Hills Wildlife Area in rural Monona County near Turin, Iowa Saturday June 4, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

According to a Wikipedia account African Americans may have made their way to western Iowa using the Underground Railroad. Iowa became a state in 1846 but some believe the Underground Railroad theory is not correct because settlement in this part of the state took place after the Civil War. Of the known 20 or so burials, all but a couple are believed to be African American. Some if not all of the headstones were a bit hard to read, yet, they are there celebrating the lives of people who lived in the area prior to those of us now passing through.

I am still awed by the fact that places my feet have traversed others passed through decades if not a century or two prior. That timeline/continuum of life thingy stands the eons and knowledge that came before and will follow later is there. It’s just figuring out how to access it.

Jerry Mennenga
Sioux City, Iowa

A visit to the South Jordan Cemetery during the 45th Loess Hills Prairie Seminar at a Loess Hills Wildlife Area in rural Monona County near Turin, Iowa Saturday June 4, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Backcountry gravel roads to the South Jordan Cemetery during the 45th Loess Hills Prairie Seminar at a Loess Hills Wildlife Area in rural Monona County near Turin, Iowa Saturday June 4, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A visit to the South Jordan Cemetery during the 45th Loess Hills Prairie Seminar at a Loess Hills Wildlife Area in rural Monona County near Turin, Iowa Saturday June 4, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A visit to the South Jordan Cemetery during the 45th Loess Hills Prairie Seminar at a Loess Hills Wildlife Area in rural Monona County near Turin, Iowa Saturday June 4, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

An aged gravestone marker at the South Jordan Cemetery during the 45th Loess Hills Prairie Seminar at a Loess Hills Wildlife Area in rural Monona County near Turin, Iowa Saturday June 4, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

One last Communion with Fall near Siouxland, Hitchcock Nature Center

4 Nov

I’ve only visited Hitchcock Nature Center in Pottawattamie County just south of Siouxland once before. But it’s a very nice park of just over 1,200 acres situated in the Loess Hills of western Iowa.

A view of the surrounding countryside from a tower at the lodge atHitchcock Nature Center in Pottawatamie County near Honey Creek, Iowa, Tuesday, Oct. 16 2018. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

The lodge and lookout tower sits on a hill for excellent views at the Hitchcock Nature Center in Pottawatamie COunty near Honey Creek, Iowa, Tuesday, Oct. 16 2018. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

It has a number of trails and a lodge that sits atop a hill and looks out over the surrounding area. There is also a watch tower at the lodge we allows birders to track the various migration periods when the birds are heading either north or south, depending on the season. The one aspect of the park I like is the elevated board walk which allows some accessibility to those with wheelchairs or walkers to “get into the woods” for a quarter mile or so with stops along the way and picnic tables for those who pack a lunch or want to stay a bit and enjoy the quietude and nature.

Part of an elevated board walk trail at the Hitchcock Nature Center in Pottawatamie County near Honey Creek, Iowa, Tuesday, Oct. 16 2018. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

An elevated nature trail at the Hitchcock Nature Center in Pottawatamie County near Honey Creek, Iowa, Tuesday, Oct. 16 2018. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

It’s just a nice way to spend part of a day putting aside the daily rush of events and happenings and imagining what the area must have looked like to explorers and first settlers when the prairie grass still covered a large portion of land before farming began. And it’s nice to know they are concerned enough citizens who have the foresight to set aside parcels of land for others to enjoy and for future generations as well as themselves. A place to reset one’s thoughts and take a pause in life.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A valley and farmsteads below a hilltop at the Hitchcock Nature Center in Pottawatamie County near Honey Creek, Iowa, Tuesday, Oct. 16 2018. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Sunshine after a number of days of rainy fall weather made leaves almost sparkle at the Hitchcock Nature Center in Pottawatamie County near Honey Creek, Iowa, Tuesday, Oct. 16 2018. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

A view from an elevated board walk trail at the Hitchcock Nature Center in Pottawatamie County near Honey Creek, Iowa, Tuesday, Oct. 16 2018. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Revisiting a state preserve in Siouxland, Gitchie Monitou

7 Sep

This summer I revisited a state preserve in the northern most reaches of Siouxland, Gitchie Monitou. I hadn’t been there for a while and when I returned it was kind of sad because of so much more graffiti on the walls of a former shelter. Plus paint cans dumped around the area. And it wasn’t very good graffiti at that.

Graffiti is sprawled around a former shelter building at Gitchie Manitou State Preserve in Lyon County near Granite, Iowa Thursday Aug. 3, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

It was a good day to be out, with parts of this summer being very hot and humid, so I though the trip up and a hike would be nice. And the hiking and other aspects of the day and visit were good. Plus I hadn’t seen the preserve during this time of year when it was more green. My last visit was very early in the spring before foliage started leafing out after winter.

Large mansions on the outskirts of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, overlook Gitchie Manitou State Preserve in Lyon County near Granite, Iowa Thursday Aug. 3, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I just find it sad that some folk can’t leave a place as it is for others to follow to enjoy it. I am sure these people have their own residences they could deface with paint or let others deface their residences so those in nature could be spared. But then, I might be a little too old fashioned.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Shorts Hikes in Siouxland, Stone State Park

25 Jan

I like getting out in the winter time to enjoy the outdoors. Some days the wind though increases that chill factor and makes even a well-intentioned hike or walk a non-starter or an abbreviated attempt. I took to the trails of Stone State Park recently and lasted about 30 minutes before the wind and cold forced me to make a retreat.

I like hiking in the winter months because the surrounding areas are open and easier to see more of and explore if one desires. But on cold days, even that look of sunshine can’t hide the fact that its cold.

Snow and the normal winter chill is fine by me, but when the temps dip into single digits and the wind brings it down even further to zero or possibly that minus range, then thoughts of coffee and a comfy chair and book begin to take shape.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Starting the New Year off on the right foot in Siouxland, Stone State Park

5 Jan

The Friends of Stone State Park co-hosted a 1st Day Hike Jan. 1 with the local park ranger Kevin Pape who explained that this event was not only happening state-wide, but nationally as well as parks across the country were trying to entire people outside and introducing them to their local state park in their particular area. It was an easy hike that approximately 30-35 people took advantage of with the temperature hovering around single digits to the teens.

Area residents pose for a photograph before setting off on a 1st Day Hike at Stone State Park in Sioux City, Iowa Sunday, Jan. 1, 2017. A concerted effort by parks nationwide to get people out into nature in their area and introduce them to local parks and what is available. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Area residents pose for a photograph before setting off on a 1st Day Hike at Stone State Park in Sioux City, Iowa Sunday, Jan. 1, 2017. A concerted effort by parks nationwide to get people out into nature in their area and introduce them to local parks and what is available. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Keepsakes for area residents who came out out for a 1st Day Hike at Stone State Park in Sioux City, Iowa Sunday, Jan. 1, 2017. A concerted effort by parks nationwide to get people out into nature in their area and introduce them to local parks and what is available. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Keepsakes for area residents who came out out for a 1st Day Hike at Stone State Park in Sioux City, Iowa Sunday, Jan. 1, 2017. A concerted effort by parks nationwide to get people out into nature in their area and introduce them to local parks and what is available. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Dressed appropriately and moving, the temperature was not much of a concern. Park Ranger Pape also talked about the history of Stone State Park as we traversed a small section of it. Originally land owned by a Daniel Talbot, an early settler of the Sioux City area. Talbot purchased a lot of land but during the late 1890’s with bank failings, eventually lost the land to Thomas Stone, a local banker that personally guaranteed a loan to Talbot and later foreclosed on the land as Talbot was not able to pay. Ranger Pape explains that Stone’s children later donated the land Stone obtained to the City of Sioux City which then created a park area. Later on the city ceded the park to the State of Iowa and Stone State Park was created.

Some of the stone structures in areas of the park were formerly built by the city to house a local zoo. While trying to find more cursory information about the Civilian Conservation Corp that purportedly did work in Stone State Park in the 30’s I could only find reference to other state parks through the state’s Dept. of Natural Resources website.

Besides the historical footnote mentioned above, Stone State Park currently offers a lot of opportunity to get away from urban living even though it is situated on the outskirts of Sioux City. City sounds drift away, except for occasional traffic driving through.

Having hiked through several parts of the park over the years, it is a place to forget about current events and enjoy the moment and whatever nature provides that day. On a good day with good weather, one can see a variety of birds, deer and other creatures. Once while out with some Loess Hills Audubon people doing a December bird count I even saw a coyote on a hillside early that morning.

It’s good to unplug and tune into nature, maybe next year there will be enough people for two sets of hikes on a first day.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

 

Summer begins in Siouxland, Five Ridge Prairie

2 Jun

While summer has not officially started according to the official date, June 1 felt like a nice summer day in Siouxland to me. Temperatures in the 70’s, a breeze, blue sky and a place to explore. While heading back to Sioux City after a day spent out photographing, I stopped off at the Five Ridge Prairie reserve to show it to a friend. Added to the Iowa State Preserve system in 1986, this preserve has over 900 acres of land that includes loess hills bluffs to which the public can hike. I have been there before and done some walking, but need to go back and enjoy the summer outdoors. In this case, not hiking about on a fine day is less not more.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Summer is a chance to explore places like the Five Ridges Prairie Reserve off of Hwy 12 in rural Plymouth County, Iowa Wednesday, June 1, 2016.  (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Summer is a chance to explore places like the Five Ridges Prairie Reserve off of Hwy 12 in rural Plymouth County, Iowa Wednesday, June 1, 2016. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Siouxland’s geocaching adventure at the Dorothy Pecaut Nature Center, Sioux City

24 Nov

Resource naturalist Jim Henning of the Dorothy Pecaut Nature Center presented a geocaching program recently as a way to get children interested in the outdoors through the use of hi-tech gear. Henning said so many kids these days have their face in front of a screen, weather it is a monitor, TV or smart phone, that he hopes if he can pique their curiosity he can get them outside experiencing nature as well as utilizing 21st century technology.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

 

A walk in Siouxland’s nature, Stone State Park

6 Oct

The other day I was to meet some students of mine for a weekend class and take a walk through a local state park. I have hiked the park many times and it always fascinates me depending on the time of year, rain, snow or shine, one might find the same or similar areas in the park, but they always look different. Plus, it is just nice to get outside and enjoy the fresh air, get the blood flowing, and look for photos.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

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