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  • Writer's pictureJessica Stough

Adventuring Close to Home - The Paved Bike Trails

Updated: Aug 30, 2021

“Adventure isn’t hanging off a rope on the side of a mountain. Adventure is an attitude we must apply to the day to day obstacles of life.” - John Amat

Did you catch that foreshadowing in my last blog post? Go back and read it again if you didn’t - I promise it’s in there. With that, I suppose I should also mention that I did not go out and adventure that day like I had intended. A migraine started brewing and put me down on the couch for the rest of the day.

Although I did not go out and adventure, the fact is that there truly are many places to explore and adventure near home. If someone would have asked me that three years ago, prior to moving to the Des Moines area, I would have told them they were crazy. Adventuring? In the city? Insanity. Now, though, I understand that there are hidden gems for exploration dispersed throughout the city - some less than a mile from our house!

When someone told me earlier this year that I should start a travel blog, I thought they were kind of crazy (sorry, Emma - I’m calling you out). Zac and I go on vacation just a few times a year. The other forty-nine weeks each year, we hang out at home. I didn’t think there was any way I could possibly have enough content to share with people (or enough content that people would want to read) to make it worth my while.

I started thinking, though, about what we do when we are not on vacation. That was when I realized that there are small adventures close to home that I could write about. We bike, paddleboard, kayak, mountain bike - and I run on the paved trails, through the city, and on the single-track trails (but Zac will only run with me once in every few blue moons). I also wouldn’t be opposed to learning to skateboard and/or rollerblade, but I haven’t talked Zac into those new hobbies yet.

Really, adventuring, traveling, and wandering to get lost aren’t just about finding new places hundreds or thousands of miles away - each is also about the attitude we have and the way we live in our day-to-day lives.

As far as adventures at home go, who would have ever thought that Iowa has over 600 miles of paved bike trails to explore? I never expected that. Someone can hop onto a trail near their home in the Des Moines area and explore any (or all) of the nearby towns - all without straying from the trails!

The bike trails aren’t all just straight through the city, either. They wind through beautiful trees, twist along the river, and circle around a lot of the local lakes. If I’m feeling really adventure-y, I can just stay on trails that keep me a bit away from the city life. If I’m feeling more chill, I can ride straight to a winery or two, stop at a brewery, or head on over to the Des Moines Downtown Farmer’s Market in the summer.

Embarrassingly enough, I did not realize until this summer how intertwined all of the paved trails were. I should have because I had a physical map that showed the connecting trail, but apparently didn’t pay any attention to that last fall when I acquired the map. Earlier this year, I told Zac that I was going to figure out how to ride my bike to one of the local wineries, Jasper Winery.

The conversation went something like this:

Zac: You’re biking all the way there, and have no clue how far it is?

Me: *packs hydration pack with a Slammers Snack, and puts on sunscreen*

Me: I have no clue how far it is from here.

Zac: *clearly making fun of my snacks* You sure are prepared, though.

Me: ...

Me: *not letting his sarcasm get in my way* Obviously.

For all those wondering, it was about eight miles to the winery, and eight back. I survived the adventure, but was definitely glad I packed my snacks. I was also sure to purchase some padded biking shorts immediately after the ride (those that bike understand this).

Honestly, though, my favorite part about the bike trails is that they can truly make a person feel like they are completely outside of society. On some of the lesser traveled trails I’ve been on, there are long stretches where no houses or buildings are visible at all. It is just the bike, the biker, and the tree-covered trail. I can pop in my headphones and just soak in all of the beautiful sights along the ride, with the wind in my face the entire time. As far as sights go, I’ve seen deer, coyotes, raccoons, geese, rabbits, chipmunks, and more squirrels than I can count.

The trails are beautiful in spring and summer, but even better when the trees start to lose their leaves in the fall. There is nothing more beautiful than the Colorado mountains as the leaves start to drift off of the trees, so Des Moines can seem pretty pale in comparison. Even so, it is still pretty incredible. I’m definitely a fan of all things summer, but an even bigger fan of the fall.


I am not embarrassed to say that I know the first official day of fall this year is September 22nd. I will be celebrating in the most stereotypical ways - by drinking a lot of pumpkin spice lattes, wearing big cozy sweaters, and sitting by the fireplace. Then, I’ll be hopping on a plane to an even colder place that will feel more like fall, Alaska.

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