Walking Stick Adventures Interview
Camp Iowa: We’re talking today with Maria. She is the Owner at Walking Stick Adventures, down in Iowa. It’s kind of a unique place. It’s a 10-acre farm, and they have camping there, and all sorts of other activities. So, let’s dig in. How’s it going today, Maria?
Maria: Very good. Very good, thank you.
Camp Iowa: So, I’m really excited about what you guys have going down there. It’s always fun when we get to talk to someone who is operating a facility that’s a little bit different than, say, your standard State Park or County Park campgrounds. So, tell our listeners how you got started down there and kind of what you guys offer.
Maria: Well, I’ve worked in Iowa County for, you know, twenty years as a Naturalist, and we’ve always wanted to have our own farm. And now we have a place where we can plant things and grow things, and I can have kids come out for summer camps and school programs, and we can kind of play on the land, so to speak, and kind of develop it into a wildlife habitat, like I’ve always wanted to. And along with that comes trying to find ways to share that, because it’s really nice to be able to do this, but for me, it’s also a lot nicer to be able to share it with other people. And that’s where the kind of teepee came in. We wanted to make sure that people could come out here and use this area as a private get together site – a family camping site. And that’s one of the unique things about it; is that it’s private. Very private.
Camp Iowa: I love it. You know, we have a family cabin. It’s a log cabin on 80 acres, and you’re doing the very thing that I’ve thought about so many times. Every time I bring a different group of friends up there, from Minneapolis – the cabin is about just under two hours north of here – they’re always blown away with the experience. They can’t believe the sky actually looks like that at night.
Maria: Yeah, exactly.
Camp Iowa: They get to do a bunch of hiking. A lot of them get to drive four-wheelers for their first time. We go fishing. Sometimes we shoot clay pigeons and do all these things.
Camp Iowa: And I think that all the time, like: “I would love to do this on a more regular basis,” and that’s what you’re doing on there.
Maria: Right. Yeah, exactly. We have like kayaks and canoes. I have all my conservation education equipment. So, you know, if you bring a family out, they can learn how to kayak and canoe, but they also can collect pond bugs and catch butterflies with butterfly nets, and things like that. So, there’s lots of things to do that normally you wouldn’t see at a regular campground, just because of the nature of the work that I’m in. So, I have all that stuff; I might as well let people use it. Same thing with cooking supplies. You know, we’ve been camping and doing outdoor stuff for a long time, so we have Dutch ovens and I think we have three fire rings on our little farm. You can’t have enough fire rings.
Camp Iowa: Yeah, that is absolutely true.
Maria: So, you know, it’s just a perfect setup for people to come and they don’t really need to bring anything. They just need to bring their clothes, their food, and themselves. And I don’t know if you’ve ever gone car camping, but it’s a lot of work to get everything packed and ready, and then to unpack afterwards. You know? And this way, you can just bring the minimum and leave that to me.
Camp Iowa: I love that idea. And you’re right.
Maria: Yeah, it’s awesome.
Camp Iowa: Car camping is a lot of work.
Camp Iowa: Every time my wife and I go car camping, when we’re leaving the house, I’m always thinking: “It looks like we’re moving!” We have so many things in the car.
Maria: Right. And I know that’s why a lot of people get those big campers, but then that adds much more separation from you and the outdoors when you’re dragging a house with you. And so, the whole idea is that you can have this intimate experience in nature without having to, you know, pack everything and your kitchen sink as well and bring it with. Just come.
Camp Iowa: Sure.
Maria: And enjoy it, and then leave. And it’ll be a great experience that way.
Camp Iowa: So, how many sites do you guys have there?
Maria: We just have one. It’s private. It’s very simple. Just one site.
Camp Iowa: I absolutely love that. And then how many people can it accommodate?
Maria: Our teepee can sleep six, and we also have a couple other tents that we can put up if we have a few more. We didn’t really want to have large groups. You know, small extended families is kind of our target audience, and that’s all we really wanted to do here. We have rustic restrooms facilities, so you know, you have to think about some of those kinds of things when you have other people come in. And we don’t have bathrooms and shower facilities, you know, with regular. We have water access, but it’s, you know, through a couple spigots, and that’s it. So, when you have a lot of people, you have to think about that, and we didn’t really want to go there.
Camp Iowa: Sure. No, it says on the site here that you guys have a pond with a small swimming beach. Is that right?
Maria: Yes, that’s correct.
Camp Iowa: And are there fish there? People can go fishing as well?
Maria: Yes, we have bass (Unclear 6:15.8), catfish. We have some crappie in there. Some bullheads in there. We have a little bit of everything in there.
Camp Iowa: Yeah. Yeah.
Maria: And yeah, there’s some nice bass in there.
Camp Iowa: That sounds like a lot of fun. Catfish. Did you guys stock catfish?
Maria: Yeah, we stocked. Yeah, everything in there is stocked.
Camp Iowa: It is.
Maria: Yeah, we had a fish kill the first few weeks we’re here, and we basically cleaned it out. The pond was – we had experienced a draught. The pond was very, very low. We lowered it even more, because the only thing that was growing in the pond was bullheads, and they were stunted. And so, we cleaned everything out as best we could and basically started over. The next year, we had really good rain filled up the pond, so we started stocking the pond with some of the, you know, fish from other lakes and ponds around here is basically what we did. And the catfish are in there because we had overpopulation of bluegill and a lot of little bullheads, and so the catfish were supposed to help with that. Basically, we added another predator for the bottom pond and hopefully that’s working out there.
Camp Iowa: Yeah, hard to tell, I suppose.
Maria: Yeah. Well, I think it’s getting better. It’s just taking time.
Camp Iowa: So, if I were to come there for the weekend and kind of wanted to venture out maybe on a Saturday afternoon a bit, what other attractions are in the area that might be worth checking out?
Maria: Oh, we’re actually in a really good location. We’re only five miles off of I-80. And within a 30-minute drive, you can go to the Tanger Outlet mall, which is a huge mall ten minutes away. There are several countryside wineries. Probably the best one we have is Fireside Winery, and they have music on Friday nights all summer long. (Unclear 8:40.5) Colonies is a 30-minute drive away. Iowa City Cedar Rapids is 45 minutes away easy. So, there’s lots of things to do. You know, there’s baseball games, and there’s Farmer’s Markets, and all that kind of stuff that comes with the cities, but yeah, we’re very well located as far going and seeing other things.
Camp Iowa: Excellent. And the teepee sleeps six adults, and it looks like it is $95 a night.
Camp Iowa: So, split six ways, that’s a nice, cheap weekend.
Maria: Yes. Yeah, and it includes all the equipment and everything that we have here. So, yeah.
Camp Iowa: So, you just have to bring maybe a cooler of food and some sleeping bags, and that’s it.
Maria: That’s right.
Camp Iowa: That sounds like a blast.
Maria: And what I do is I will, when people contact me, send them a list of things that we have so that they know what we have in case they aren’t really quite sure. You know, some people have never used a Dutch oven before, and so, you know, they want to cook in a different way. So, it kind of helps for them to know what we have so they can prepare their food appropriately.
Camp Iowa: All right. Well, thanks for taking some time out of your morning, Maria, to talk to us about Walking Stick Adventures, down there in Iowa.
Camp Iowa: It sounds like a lot of fun.
Maria: It is! It is. I like doing it anyway.
Camp Iowa: All right.
Maria: All right, thank you for calling. I appreciate that.
Camp Iowa: Absolutely. Take care.
Maria: All right, thank you, bye.
From the website:
At Walking Stick Adventures, we provide ecology/biology based outdoor activities for students, family and adult groups. Our programs are hands-on and definitely experiential. We LOVE to help people go WILD!
Walking Stick Adventures uses local natural areas open to the public such as our city parks, the Amana Colonies public and private areas and Countyand State Conservation Board areas. We are blessed with two riverways, large tracts of forests and wetlands, all waiting to be explored.