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  • Writer's pictureJessica Stough

Adventuring Close to Home - Omaha, Prairie Rose, & Lake Anita Day Trip

“It is only in adventure that some people succeed in knowing themselves – in finding themselves.” – Andre Gide

Am I the only one that ever stops to think about how different things are today than they were one, five, ten, or whatever number of years ago? I think about it a lot – whether my thoughts stray to how my life personally has changed over the years or how things as a whole have changed.

Almost one year ago to the day, we were dealing with the transition of no longer having our first foster kiddo in the home with us. Five years ago, I was just starting my running journey. Ten years ago, Zac and I were about to buy our first house as I navigated my way through college and we just barely started our travel addictions.

One year ago today, we were still figuring out the post-pandemic life (honestly, I’d venture to say some of us still are). Five years ago, Sears and Toys “R” Us went bankrupt – years before anyone ever would’ve known what “COVID-19” was. Ten years ago, the world watched in fear as the Boston Marathon bombing unfolded in front of them. The government had one of their many shutdowns, and there were too many celebrity dramatics to count.

The point is – ten years ago, none of us could have ever seen where we were going to be today. No amount of planning or thought truly ensures that we are guaranteed to move in one direction or the other, whether that be us as individuals or the world. Looking back, for me, is the only way to truly take in everything that I am and have in life today. It also helps me appreciate how quickly things can change, and to take advantage of every moment I have.


Zac and I had the opportunity to do just that early this month with a short day trip to Nebraska. Since we’d been going, going, going for so long, we both decided we needed a reset and a short getaway together. For weeks, he told me that he had something planned, let me know that it was in Omaha, but wouldn’t give me any additional details.

As we made our way through Omaha to our destination, he watched me closely as I saw the signs for the Henry Doorly Zoo come then go. “Did you think we were going to the zoo?” he asked me. “I assumed that we weren’t since we’ve been before, but wasn’t entirely sure,” I replied, as I watched out the window to see where we were still headed.

Finally, we pulled up to the Kiewit Luminarium, a brand new science center that had just opened a few weeks before our trip. He admitted as we walked in that he wasn’t quite sure what to expect either because the website didn’t have much for details on it.

When we got in, we were blown away. Our internal nerds were giddy, hopping from exhibit to exhibit and taking everything in. The Luminarium was an amazing, well thought out science center with tons of interactive exhibits to navigate through. They had magic shows, places to make our own machines, and even chances to dissect animal parts (I definitely passed on that).

One of my favorite parts was an exhibit that had a pathway of gravel to walk through. Each individual would walk across the pathway. There was a digital scale that measured sound to tell us how quietly we were walking. I was able to walk quietly enough for one turn, but then when Zac tried it, it told him he was “TOO LOUD! TRY AGAIN!” I, of course, was having so much fun that I took no pictures of it.

The Science Center of Iowa is pretty cool, but the Luminarium was just different enough that it made it well worth the trip and kept us interested the entire time we were there. It was a fun enough place to go for just two adults, but would also (of course) be a really good time for kids.

After the Luminarium, we set out for lunch. We settled on a cute little pub called Wilson & Washburn. The food (and the beers) hit the spot, the staff was amazing, and the atmosphere was exactly what one would expect for a small hometown-ish pub. As we stuffed our faces, we decided what our next move was going to be for the rest of the day. Zac had, of course, planned for the Luminarium, but is a bit more of a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants type than me. With that, he shared that he hadn’t planned anything else because, “I figured we could decide on the rest of the day together.”

That was how we decided to start on the trek back home slowly, but to stop at a few Iowa State Parks along the way. Luckily for us, there were quite a few state parks we hadn’t yet visited on the drive home so it was just a matter of deciding which ones we wanted to check out.


Our first stop was Prairie Rose State Park, a cute state park nestled away seemingly in an area all of its own. Immediately upon driving into the park, we saw a few deer run across the road right in front of us and I knew we had made a decent choice. We drove around, checked out the park, then settled on a short hike (see the park map here – I believe the route we took was listed as ‘2’ on the map).

What we didn’t realize when we set out for the hike was that the entire trail was tilled up to create a fresh, muddy trail. There were no closure signs or notices besides the classic hiker sign to signify that it was a trail, so we didn’t think much of it as we started our walk. However, as we got further and further along the trail, we realized that there was no relief from the mud. We did our best to walk along the sides of the trail in the grass to keep from getting too muddy, but our shoes both suffered from the trek. I don’t know whether they plan to put gravel down later or do something different, but at the time of our visit, it was a wet, gross mess.

The highlight (or lowlight – depending on who is reading) of the trail was two other hikers who had been around the trail looking for mushrooms, but stumbled along a three-ish foot snake instead. Although I made a point not to get too close to the snake, it was interesting to watch from afar (and, of course, with Zac strategically standing in between me and the snake – hah!).

The aftermath of the trail (AFTER we had already gotten as much mud off as possible)

After we cleaned off our shoes the best we could, we made our way to the next state park – Lake Anita State Park. This seemed to be an excellent choice for campers, as there were a ton of people out already at the campsites around the lake. We again drove around to take in the state park before parking and checking out a trail.

Lake Anita had two main trails (see them on the map here), and we decided on taking a trip along part of the trail that went all the way around the lake. The weather was beautiful that day, and I even shared with Zac as we hiked that the short taste of summer we had that day had me itching for future summer activities.

Although it was just a short day trip to Omaha, I had an absolute blast. A day away was just what I needed. Road trips with Zac are some of my favorite things – maybe it is about the fact that we can crank the music, listen to a podcast, chat for hours, or sit in complete silence, and we are both happy with whatever option we decide. Perhaps, though, maybe it is because even mini road trips remind me of our vacations to Colorado.

The new countdown on my phone is, in fact, for our next trip to Colorado, and I cannot wait to make more memories in the mountains. Until then, though, I will soak up the start of the summer with biking, hiking, paddleboarding, running, and any other summer activities that sound good. I found another new (to me) quote last night that stated, ... looking around means embracing the process, including the ups and downs on the way. It means the same thing for life. If the goal is just to connect summits, you’ll probably grow to be indifferent about all the time you aren’t on top of a mountain.” (Megan and David Roche)

I’m going to make a point to continue to connect those summits, but also embrace the process, the ups and downs, the everyday. I challenge you to do the same. Whether you take some time for yourself out on the porch, go on a day trip to Omaha, or simply take a walk, just be sure to embrace the process and the day-to-day.

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