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Nordic Dancers and Effigy Mounds

June 29, 2013

Iowa – Saturday, June 22

I had stayed in a neighboring town last night since it was significantly less expensive than staying in Decorah. On my way back into town, I saw the Prairie Farmer Recreation Trail, and Tula and I got out for a couple miles of walking. The trail mostly went along farmland, which used to be prairie. Tula discovered prairie dogs are as tempting to chase as squirrels, and seemed a bit bewildered when one vanished into the ground instead of up a tree! (There’s a picture and her and the prairie dog below.) When we were done with that walk, I finished driving back into Decorah and did a little more walking in town and even popped into a few shops. I found some more lefse, and even a dish of rommegrot to put in the cooler for a little treat later. Then I found another pretty neighborhood to walk in, so I was up to 3 1/2 miles for the day.

My donation today was going to be mailed in to the Nordic Dancers – a group of students ages 8-18 who spend many years together learning dozens of traditional Norwegian dances, and they travel around and perform at different events. They’ve been to Norway, and they dance every summer at the annual Nordic Fest. I had exchanged several emails with one of their directors, and she welcomed the donation, and said it would probably be easiest to just mail it in. I had several questions and she answered all of them. The Nordic Dancers consist of a senior group and a junior group, and the dancers in each group dance together for 10 years. Auditions are held just once every 5 years for incoming 3rd graders (and this is an audition year); at which time the current junior group (now turning 13) will become the senior group, and a new junior group will be chosen. It’s quite a commitment to become one of the Nordic Dancers! There are often about 45 girls who audition for 16 spots, and rumor has it some families even try to time the births of their children to coincide with an audition year! They also have 20+ boys who audition for the 16 spots. It was interesting to hear about them, and to read about the group, and I was happy to make a donation to them – it helps preserve my heritage, and I’m always happy to help a dance group!

Since I’m a national park fan, my destination today was the Effigy Mounds National Monument, which was along the bluffs of the Mississippi River. There are about 200 mounds in the area, which is where Native Americans and some of their artifacts were buried 1000-2500 years ago. Many of the mounds are in shapes of birds or bears, and some are so big it was almost like they were meant to be seen from above. This is similar to the Hopewell Mounds that I visited in Ohio, where different layers of the mounds contained different things. I went into the visitor center and watched the video about the place, then Tula and I set out for a walk where we would see the small bear and large bear mounds, and a lot of round ones. We had to take a kind of steep switchback trail up to the top of the bluffs, and then we began to see the different mounds. Before the mounds were discovered, I’m sure if I had just been hiking out in the woods, I would never have known there was anything unusual about the ground – I would have just thought it was part of the rolling hills of the terrain. It’s a good thing I’m not an archeologist! The rangers keep the grass cut around the mounds, but they don’t take the lawn mowers onto them. These mounds were not very high, and the difference in grass height made it easy to see the shapes. The consensus is that the Native Americans respected the birds and bears, and that’s why the mounds were made in those shapes. I also had a beautiful view of the Mississippi River from the bluffs, and it was a really pretty hike. It was a hot muggy day, but we were in the shade of the woods, and Tula did well too.

It was beginning to cloud up again, and it started to rain as I made my way back to Decorah. I was hoping to walk on another bike trail on the outskirts of town, but thunder was rumbling and there was more lightening. When I stopped in Decorah for gas, the clouds burst and a torrential rainstorm started. It was raining so hard that I didn’t want to drive in it, and there was a family diner near the gas station, so I headed over there for a bite to eat. But I just had to sit in the car for a while because of the downpour. I finally made a dash for the door along with some other people, and had dinner (beer battered cod since I couldn’t get lutefisk!) while the storm raged. I’m glad Tula has never been bothered by storms. Once the storm moved on, I went back outside and resumed my drive west to Cresco. The further west I got the more clear it was, and since I couldn’t finish my walking on the bike path in Decorah, I stopped at another section of the Prairie Farmer Trail where Tula and I walked the last couple miles for the day. Then we got settled back into the same motel we had been in last night – just in time, because another storm came through. I was happy to be able to finish my walking between storms!

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