Jakway Forest: Terrific Birding Conditions, Mediocre Skiing

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We drove up to Jakway Forest in Buchanan County (one county north of our own) on Saturday.  We hoped to get some skiing in before our “balmy” sub-zero temperatures get downright sinister as predicted for Sunday evening through Tuesday morning.  Ever had an urge to visit the Northwest Territories but couldn’t quite afford the trip?  You’re in luck!  Visit the Upper Midwest on Monday and experience the pure, heart-stopping cold only people such as Will Steger, Tenzing Norgay, and Edmund Hillary could love.  I, however, will be locking myself away indoors by my wood-burning stove (along with four children under the age of twelve–school’s been cancelled!), trying to knit (I’m sure), sipping tea, and remembering how delightful that 0’F felt last Saturday.

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The ski loop through oak and hickory forest at Jakway is very short and too narrow/steep in a few spots to actually ski.  The forest is said to be 200 acres but I’m guessing the loop only passes through about ten, unfortunately, because the landscape is beautiful.  An old, defunct quarry circa the 1940’s is contained within the forest.  A quarry pit now serves as a secluded forest pond for wildlife.  The ranger stocks several bird feeders next to the pond’s edge.  A large, well-constructed, picturesque bird blind sits just behind the feeders, overlooking the pond.  We did not expect to stumble upon this quaint birding spot, but were quite glad to do so as it made up for the mediocre (at best) skiing.  The kids have been in a bird blind before but none as well-constructed as Jakway’s.  We spotted the usual feeder visitors through the blind windows, including Black-capped Chickadees, Goldfinches, Slate-colored Juncos, Blue Jays, Cardinals, Downy & Hairy Woodpeckers, White-breasted Nuthatches.  We counted ourselves lucky to also spot two White-throated Sparrows–the tan-striped, vanilla-on-brown form–which we haven’t seen at our own feeders yet this year.  There is a campground at Jakway and several buildings on the Historic Register.  I think we’ll pay another visit in the late spring to camp and hike and bird.  I highly recommend a trip to this hidden Iowa gem if you’re ever in the area…but definitely wait until spring/summer/fall, anytime really after this coming Tuesday, unless you have a hankering to experience the Arctic Circle!  Happy {Ski} Trails!

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8 thoughts on “Jakway Forest: Terrific Birding Conditions, Mediocre Skiing

    • It was most definitely a memory-making little trip! I am starting to think this polar snap of cold weather is going to make us much more open to winter excursions this year…0 degrees seems warm now!

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  1. I love all your family’s adventures and how much nature you guys are able to experience. And you and miss J are the cutest little pair ever!! Muah!

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  2. I adore the pic of Merritt in his new Christmas present! It looks like that gift was a winner, and it couldn’t have come at a better time what with this cold weather! Great post Ruby! Love from Mom

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    • Merritt AND Coralee love that cap! Coralee uses it during the day while he is away at school–Merritt told her she could, he thinks everyone should own that cap. I love that photograph, too; the lighting in the bird blind was beautiful. Thanks for reading!

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