Posts Tagged: Inspired Media

Get Outta Town: More Great Trails to Explore North of Decorah

By Lauren Kraus
Printed in the June 2008 edition of Inspire(d)

This is the second in a series of articles that serves as a tribute and tutorial of the amazing hiking, biking, and walking trails in the Driftless Area, a region in the Midwest lacking “glacial drift.” By escaping the glacier’s path in the most recent Ice Age, the Driftless Area was not flattened out like much of the Midwest. Thus, the trails and scenery are supreme.

The time is better than ever: the weather is inviting and the rugged Driftless Area landscape offers much more beyond the city limits of Decorah. I hope you got a chance to check out a couple, or all, of the tremendous trails accessible in Decorah that I highlighted in the May issue of Inspire(d). Isn’t this town packed with great get-away spots right out our backdoors?

This month my focus has moved north of Decorah a bit to thoroughly explored two phenomenal areas that I insist you take an afternoon, an evening or a Saturday to tromp around. You will leave tuckered out and energized all at once as these prime wilderness spots offer a variety of terrain and way more beauty than Iowa is stereotypically deemed to have. Enjoy.

Pine Bluff 4-H Camp:

This densely forested area chock full of Black Oak and Basswood, White Ash and Hackberry isn’t just for 4-H campers. An easy 15-minute drive from Decorah promises lush landscape, a very cool swinging bridge rebuilt in 1994 after a flood and a supposed magic tree. Although I never came across this “magic tree,” I was in awe of the mixed woodlands that the rolling trail traveled through. Next to the swinging bridge, my favorite part of the 115 acres is the thick groves of White Pines that will surely leave you feeling like a five year old on a playground. Bring a good book or a picnic lunch as friendly wooden benches line parts of the trail. To get to this little refuge, take a left of Hwy 9 on to Trout Run Road, a right on River Road and head toward the Oneota Country Club through Freeport.  After driving a little bit and crossing three bridges, you will see the entrance to Pine Bluff on the right side of the road.

www.cs.luther.edu/~winnco/pinebluff/index.html#

Coon Creek:

An amazing area of Iowa DNR land, Coon Creek could suck you in for days. I have entered the space from two different points and am sure there are several other ways to tap into this hiking haven. The Coon Creek winds through an incredible rolling plot of thick forest, compressed limestone and farm patches. A thin tire-track road treks back, over and deeply into this countryside providing virtually endless access to more natural wonder. Go see for yourself:

Southwest side- left on Trout Run Road, right on River Road heading toward Oneota Country Club through Freeport. Pass by Pine Bluff 4-H Camp and go right on 143rd. After crossing a bridge, take a left on Coon Creek Road. Beware of a black and white dog that likes to chase cars. Soon enough you’ll notice a small parking space on the left side of the road. If you miss this one, there is yet another parking area about a half mile up the road. Have fun.

Northern side- go north on Locust Road, take a right on Canoe Ridge Road or A38. Stay on Canoe Ridge and you’ll pass two white churches, Canoe German Methodist and Canoe Ridge Lutheran. After the second church, veer left on Lundy Bridge Road. Take this road for a bit and you’ll start heading down into a valley. Stay right on Lundy Bridge Road until you reach a rusty, one lane bridge. Cross the bridge and park. The trail begins on a small path above the bridge. And have fun… you’re outta town!

Lauren Kraus loves her family and friends, is stoked about the transition into warmer weather, and was most definitely a mountain goat in a previous life. This is evidenced by her need for climbing steep surfaces and maybe a correlation to her frequent cravings for chèvre. Goats don’t ride bicycles though.

Interview with Artist Kelly Ludeking

By Aryn Henning Nichols

Sculpture artist Kelly Ludeking loves metal. Pretty much all kinds of it. And while he originally started with bronze and aluminum, it was an iron pour that really pulled him in. For Kelly, pouring iron is about community. It’s about learning and teaching, and it was this aspect that really sealed his path and passion.

Born in Decorah, Iowa, Kelly attended the local high school, and like many small town teens, was involved in essentially every extracurricular activity that he had any interest in. Mostly art-related things: band, drama, painting, sculpture, etc.

“It kind of amazed me to look back and see how much art I dabbled in to find my niche,” he says.

That niche was eventually found at the Minnesota College of Art and Design where he was studying metal work. Kelly and some friends were invited to an iron pour – their first – and they watched as nearly a dozen people worked together as a team to feed a fire, melt iron, and pour it into molds to make each person’s individual art works.

“It was more of a production,” Kelly says. “It was such an incredible event.”

After, Kelly and friends went back to their college, inspired. They wanted to build their own furnace. And with help from the school, they did. Amazingly, they hosted their very own iron pour later that year. That furnace lived on at the Minnesota College of Art and Design for several years until it was donated to a sculpture park. It’s still used today, and in fact, was recently done so by Kelly.

You see, this is what Kelly does. He is an artist. He’s only just relocated with his wife to Madison, Wisconsin, from the Twin Cities, and he’s already got a gallery showing lined up. He is doing it. He travels around the Midwest and nation to be a guest artist, speaker, or participant in iron pours and events. He was invited to three pours this spring alone, and even spoke at the National Conference on Cast Iron Art in Birmingham, Alabama. The goal was to help students realize there is “casting after college.”

“The conference helps teach the next generation,” says Kelly. “We want them to know that once they leave college, they can continue to cast. Through businesses and institutions, they can make a living at it.”

There are a lot of inventive ways to cast post-graduation, he says. One is to set up your own event, like the sixth annual Down on the Farm Iron Pour Kelly hosted on his family’s farm this past July. The whole thing started on a whim – after organizing more than a decade of pours elsewhere, Kelly was living in Decorah helping his family and decided to bring an event here.

“I figured I could show my family what I do and not have to leave the farm,” he says. “And this way I have control of things. My dad’s very cool about it, we can build a bigger furnace and I know there will be enough room for everyone. And from the sounds of it, it’s going to be quite a bit larger than it’s been in the past. It’s looking like 50 artists are coming.”

People of all experience levels will stay in rural Decorah out at the Ron Ludeking farm and cast and teach and learn from each other. They come here from a variety of locales –Kentucky, Minnesota, Wisconsin – for this “Down on the Farm” pour. Artists are beginning to look forward to the annual event, even recognizing the barn in the promo posters before they even know Kelly.

“I have a t-shirt with the barn on it and people say, ‘You’re that guy,’” Kelly says. “It’s growing. People are coming from all over to play at my farm. For some ‘weekend warrior’ kind of artists, this is their get-away. This is their time to make art.”

The entire four-day event is organized by Kelly’s company, Ironhead Sculptural Services, and is open to the public each day from noon until 7 pm. Visitors can come watch artists in the process of creating patterns and molds. Then on Saturday, June 27, at roughly 5 pm, Kelly and his crew of artists fired up the furnace and poured molten metal into the molds they’d been working on throughout the event.

After, DJ Efraim Santiago from White Bear Lake, Minnesota, fired up the tunes and mixed music for the annual iron pour party.

Kelly also taught classes at the farm June 24 through Decorah’s ArtHaus.

“I especially enjoy teaching kids, because they seem to be getting away from hands-on learning – tactile stuff. There’s so much virtual work,” he says. “Hands-on building is something so different from building on a computer. I think it’s just a good learning experience for them. And for the adults too.”
If things go as Kelly hopes, the entire Down on the Farm Iron Pour will really be one big learning process. Casting iron for fun and for an art didn’t start until the 60s, Kelly says, and a lot of the original “old dogs” are retiring from pouring and moving on.

“I want to learn as much as possible. It’s cool to be a part of something where the founders are actually still around,” Kelly says. “It hasn’t changed, why we do it. It’s the love of the metal. It’s really key to the process. If you can make iron beautiful and change the way people look at it – that it’s not machinery, it’s not something that’s cold and hard any more – if you can change somebody’s perception about it… that’s art. It’s pretty cool.”

Aryn Henning Nichols thinks molten metal is pretty darn neat. She hopes lots of people visit Kelly’s cool pour.

Down on the Farm Iron Pour: Stay tuned at www.krlmetals.com for details on this annual event
According to Kelly: “Completely open to ALL skill levels”
Ron Ludeking Farm, 1421 200th Street, Decorah
To get more information or to be involved, contact Kelly at:
651-280-5744
kelly@ironheadsculptural.com
www.kellyludeking.com

Miles of Trekking at Lake Meyer

By Lauren Kraus

Hello, Summer! As each day begins and every heavy rain passes, the trees and vegetation bring a bright green glow to Northeast Iowa. That fresh glow has been buried in snow for too long and now is the time to get out and play. The late sunsets, colorful flowers, and green leaves are intoxicating – you just can’t help but feel happy in the presence of summer! For me, this constant beckoning to be outside means tromping around in the woods and exploring area trails. I am excited to keep surveying the region’s greatness and continue the trail series featured in Inspire(d) last spring, summer, and fall. We checked out some pretty prime spots, and if you need a refresher, see the complete series of trails articles in the main “read” section. Whatever your mode – hike, bike, run, or walk – make sure you take advantage of the fantastic natural setting that is the Driftless region.

Know of Lake Meyer? No, no, not to be mistaken with Michael Myers, the fictional character from the “Halloween” slasher series. Winneshiek’s Meyer is much better and not scary. (Although, summer is definitely a great time to stay up late and watch horror movies or tell ghost stories.) Lake Meyer is a hidden gem that sits on 33 acres of rolling, rugged woodlands nestled just three miles southwest of Calmar off Highway 24. It’s not the land of 10,000 lakes here in Iowa, so a body of water surrounded with great hiking trails like Lake Meyer is unique and not to be missed. Home of the Winneshiek County Conservation Board, Lake Meyer Park not only has beautiful trails with a few rustic bridges (including a hidden draw bridge) to enjoy, but boasts a campground and nature center that is open for outdoor education and regular events such as the Women’s Canoe Workshop that happened this June.

In the mood for bluegill, largemouth bass, or channel catfish? Lake Meyer also has great fishing. So get out the picnic basket, pull out those fishing poles and brush off the old Eureka tent, ‘cause Lake Meyer Park has it all. For more information and specific event dates, check out www.winneshiekcounty.org/winncon.

Itching for a new trail to check out or need a reminder of the sweet, sweet tromping grounds in Decorah? You asked for it. The folks of Decorah Human Powered Trails (DHPT) as well as several volunteers kept their momentum going – even after the flood damage last June – to build virtually one mile of new trail in the Dunnings Spring Park above Ice Cave Road. Deke Gosen of Decorah’s Oneota River Cycles expressed his excitement about the success in making this new trail a great loop with little elevation differential and a better entrance off Ice Cave Road. This is open to all types of bikers, runners, and hikers with varied skill level. To access this new trail, called “Mother’s Day,” head east on Ice Cave Road and keep a lookout for a trailhead on the north side (your left) of the road. You will notice a small, brown Decorah Parks and Rec. sign with a little hiker on it well after the entrance to Dunning’s Spring but before the Ice Cave. This is the older trail. Keep going about 100 yards and look for another trailhead. It is clearly tracked out, but not marked with a sign. Note the most recent, updated map included for a visual. Head up and enjoy the lush, thick forest!

If you love the trails in Decorah and are looking for opportunity to have a little organized fun on them, the DHPT hosts a variety of events each summer, competitive and non-competitive.

For information, dates, and contacts check out bikedecorah.com. Get outside! Summer is in full swing and now is the time to take advantage of the awesome landscape of Winneshiek County. Soak in that sun and fresh air and check back in August for more fantastic locales to explore.

Lauren Kraus loves sleeping under the stars, enjoys eating food cooked over a fire in the woods and gets antsy when inside for an extended period of time. Does this surprise you? Unfortunately, she did not find one morel mushroom this season. She has a lot to learn.

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