Much LAZIER than your average blogger  
  LZ's info | past | photos
1.19.2008 - 18 comments 

Continuing along our eastwardly path through Iowa along Interstate 80 (and on through) the Iowa state capital city of Des Moines, we veered off of the Interstate and on to highway 163 toward that wonderful little town of Pella, Iowa where you may (or may not) remember I did a post about several months ago.

Sometimes in life, you find places that you didn't even know you were looking for. This occasion was exactly one of those for Mrs. LZ and I. As you can see from the attached pictures, this was just a wonderfully beautiful and serene little place that was just a couple of miles off of the beaten path.

A tall, wooded ridge is the most prominent natural feature of this 175-acre park south of Mitchellville. Thomas Mitchell, a native of New Hampshire, built his cabin here along Camp Creek in 1844. His cabin site is no longer visible, but Polk County's first permanent English-speaking settler is still remembered by a park monument and the town of Mitchellville which bears his name.

I was really quite taken by this tree stump that they had turned into a piece of park art. As you can see from the picture, Mrs. LZ (while being shy) loved this giant acorn too. The park which seemed almost abandoned had all sorts of camping areas.

It offered a 49-unit campground, two picnic shelters, universally designed play area, fishing pond, and the 1-1/2 mile Devotie Trail. The park entrance is located on NE 108th Street just south of NE 46th Street between Altoona and Mitchellville.

Thomas Mitchell Park was named after Polk County’s earliest Anglo-American settler, Thomas Mitchell. In 1844, Mitchell obtained early access to the Iowa Territory from Captain Allen, commander of Fort Des Moines. In exchange, Mitchell built a bridge over Camp Creek which was often impassible to wagons traveling from Keokuk and Iowa City to Fort Des Moines. He also built the Apple Grove Inn, in what is today’s Thomas Mitchell Park. Thomas Mitchell was not only an innkeeper, but also a farmer, legislator, sheriff, and operator of a stop on the Underground Railroad.

I loved the little red bridge that took us from the park into a wooded path that was frankly like spending a day in the woods. We (as we usually do) had a picnic lunch packed just in case we found a place just like this one in order to stop and have a relaxing lunch while traveling along. You may notice that there was no one else around in this park. We virtually had this part of the park all to ourselves.

Often times, that is a more special stop than our stated destination. And although I can't say that was exactly the case with this particular day, this park was one of the most peaceful and frankly isolated ones we have been to in a long time. I could not help but think how lucky the folks in Des Moines and Mitchellville were to have such a wonderful little park like this one so close to them. If you ever happen to be close to Des Moines, Iowa may you please let me suggest you bring a picnic lunch?

I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.
~ John Muir