A Day in Decorah

My friend Lisa and I have one of those friendships where no matter how long it may have been since our last visit, we just pick up where we left off. That’s what happened today.

I finally got to see her new hometown in the bluffs of Iowa. Decorah is in an area called the driftless area. The reason it is called this is because, for some reason, the glaciers that carved out the Great Lakes and flattened so much land in the Midwest didn’t happen in this area of Iowa. The Upper Iowa River beautifully curves throughout the city.

Our day started by a quick visit to see her gardening spot from this past summer. The plot was much larger than I had imagined. There was even a carrot left to be harvested, and some dill still growing.

We then went on a hike along a newly redone trail to the top of Pulpit Rock. To get to the top lookout point, we had to ascend stairs carved into the rock by workers who were part of the Works Progress Administration (WPA).

What one can see at the top was well worth the hike up the hill and climbing the stairs.

Once we made it back down into the valley, I got a quick tour of Luther College campus. The quad area was very inviting. I wish I could have seen it at a time when students could be on it in hammocks they can check out to use. Fun fact: Their soccer team is one of the top teams in the nation in their division—Go Coach!

It was off to see Lisa’s house next. What a fantastic house! The original woodwork, hardwood floors, tile roof, and brick facade would make anyone step back and say, “Wow!” She and her husband have given some TLC to the 100-year-old home and it shows. It instantly feels “homey”, where one just wants to hang out because it is so welcoming.

Next up was Dunning’s Springs. The waterfall was running low, but still beautiful. We walked up the steps to the top. Up there one can see where the water is flowing from the “rocks.” It looks like the water is coming out of the side of the rocks from nowhere. Another fun fact (I hope I get this right): The inside of the rock formation, and others in the area, are so cold on the inside, one can go by crevices in the rocks in the summer and feel a blast of cold air, is if going by an air conditioner; sounds cool and hope to experience it someday.

After a quick stop for lunch, we walked to the downtown area. Sadly, in so many smaller towns and cities across the country, their downtowns aren’t fairing well. That is not the case for Decorah. I would say the Downtown is thriving right now. There is such a nice mix of retail, restaurants, a beautiful hotel, and housing above the stores. Everything is within a short walk from quite a few neighborhoods, with fabulous old homes, which, along with the college students, I’m sure helps keep the downtown going.

We walked the whole length one way, then crossed over to the other side to walk back. Along the way we stopped, with me helping the local economy, in what I would call an art consignment store, followed by stops in a kitchen store, the Dragonfly independent bookstore, and a Co-op food store.

Finally, we also took a stroll through the Vesterheim: The National Norwegian-American Museum & Heritage Center. It was actually quite fascinating to see artifacts and read the history of the journey of some of the people who emigrated from Norway. Our last stop was the Museum’s gift shop. I needed a souvenir as evidence of my visit. Of course, if you know me, I also found cookbook I just couldn’t live without.

Our day ended with a most delicious dinner back at Lisa’s. The ravioli, mixed vegetables, and bread, followed by a chocolate mousse, hit the spot, and was just the thing to top off the visit. It was so sad as the time to leave approached and good-byes needed to be said.

Thank you Lisa for a fun relaxing day. As always, it was good to see you and your family. Our visit together was just what my soul needed at this time in the middle of a pandemic.

Until next time, be safe and be well!

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