Des Moines Outdoors

Des Moines Outdoors - a photo of a pond at Yellow Banks Park
Yellow Banks Park

Des Moines Outdoors: Heartland Hiking

Living in the city doesn’t mean you can’t get your shoes muddy every now and then. The Des Moines has an abundance of parks and trails to hit this spring. We’ve already mentioned some popular trails around town; let’s take a look at three often overlooked but worthwhile parks and conservation areas with hiking trails along the edges of Des Moines.

  • Fort Des Moines Park – 1.9 miles

Fort Des Moines Park lies on the southernmost part of Polk County, about three miles southeast of the Des Moines International Airport. The park’s loop trail guides visitors around a fishing pond and through native Iowa prairie, making this hidden gem a must-see in summer months. The 1.9 mile-long trail can be modified to be about 1 mile if desired–check posted trail maps at the park for details.

  • Brown’s Woods – 3.2 miles

Brown’s Woods is a quick drive west of the airport, and has shorter loops for those who might not have the time for a 3 mile hike. Sloping hillsides lead the way through some of the most heavily-forested areas managed by Polk County Conservation.

  • Yellow Banks Park – 3.1 miles

Yellow Banks Park is about a 15-minute drive from downtown Des Moines, but you would never guess by the amount of wildlife and quiet sounds. The park’s trail cuts around two ponds, grassy and forested hillsides, and has recreation areas for baseball, camping, and fishing.

Hiking Essentials

These paths might be close to Des Moines, but you should still prepare before embarking on a hike, especially on a new trail. Be sure to stay hydrated before heading out for your adventure, and bring plenty of water with you to drink during and after your hike. Putting sunscreen on before leaving the house is always a good idea, even on cloudy days, and wearing a hat to protect your face from the sun can also prevent surprise sunburns. It’s always helpful to review trail routes before you get to the park or hiking area just in case you lose cell service and need to exit on a whim.

Above all, remember to have fun and soak up the sights and sounds of nature as you head to the great Des Moines Outdoors!

Is Dance a Sport?

Image free to use through CCL.

Many have the assumption that all dance requires is the ability to be graceful, to stand on your toes with ease, to leap through the air and land without making a sound, the ability to make everything look effortless. There is this misconception that dance isn’t a sport. That is simply an easy art form. While it is an art form, it can also be a sport. When compared to football, many think it looks easy. Research shows that dancers have as much strength as football players or even possibly more.

“Kinesiologist Dr. Jill McNitt-Gray has observed many dancers throughout the years and has noticed that they can move their feet up to fifteen miles per hour and turn over one hundred times per minute.”

(Dachowski, Kylie).

Many athletes of different sports engage in dance and Pilates classes to strengthen their own muscles and increase flexibility. Dance is officially recognized as a sport by the Olympic Committee, yet we fail to see it year after year as an event.

What makes something a sport?

  • Athletic activity
  • Competitive
  • Judges or referees
  • Social participation
  • Formal rules
  • Exists through organizations

It meets all the requirements of being a sport. It is competitive, physically engaging, and requires skill, and determination. Many associate dancing with being such a feminine sport, limiting its exposure to social circles. This often happens in America, the thought of a little girl doing ballet is cute. But the thought of many, when a boy says he wants to dance, is repulsive. We only have society to blame for these stereotypes. The truth is dance is meant for anyone, and in other countries being a male dancer is highly praised and rewarded.

Dance is not only a physical sport but a mental one. Students often remember hours’ worth of choreography, terminology, and corrections. No other sport can also be as mentally detrimental to young athletes. Dancers often spend upwards of 15-25 hours a week alone staring at themselves in the mirror. This can have serious side effects such as eating disorders, body dysmorphia, and perfectionism.

Nonetheless, all that time dancers spend in front of the mirror only makes them stronger. “Dancers tended to have more aerobic capacity, higher muscular endurance because of their ability to jump very high, a higher endurance for spending longer periods of time working their muscles, higher flexibility, and better agility. Therefore, dancers are right up their ability-wise with football and baseball players, but much less attention,” (Dachowski, Kylie). It is time our world recognizes that dance is a sport. Made for any gender, race, age, and ethnicity. It is never too late to join the sport.

Blog Citations: Dachowski, Kylie, et al. “SIOWFA15: Science in Our World: Certainty and Controversy.” SiOWfa15 Science in Our World Certainty and Controversy, 17 Sept. 2015,

Drake University – D1 Athletics

Drake University (Des Moines, IA), is Division 1 in all its sixteen sports (nine women’s teams, seven men’s). Its mascot is the Bulldog, so called because a beloved coach brought his two pet Bulldogs to games. They play in a variety of different conferences including the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC), Pioneer Football League (PFL), Summit League, and the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC).

Continue reading “Drake University – D1 Athletics”

Thrilling True Crime Podcasts For Your Morning Hikes In Des Moines

Go outside and get enthralled by these true crime tales! Beat that Covid-19 Cabin Fever!

Are you someone that loves to listen to true crime podcasts while enjoying your daily commute, weekend hikes, or while you’re doing chores? I am the same way. I find myself completely captivated the minute I turn on my favorite podcasts like Crime Junkie or My Favorite Murder. I decided to make a quick list of  local true crime stories and best hiking spots so you don’t have to!

Missing Midwest: Hosted by Liz martin, listeners get transported to the Midwest. The Iowa native dedicates her podcast to stories of those who have gone missing. For stories about Des Moines disappearances check out episodes:

  • Missing John David Gosch – A 12 year old boy set out on his daily newspaper route, but no papers got delivered. When unusual men and a set of cars appeared, it looked like Johnny got taken, but the police see it differently. What actually happened to Johnny Gosch?
  • Missing: Eugene Wade Martin – The 2nd disappearance in Des Moines area. Many believe this is in connection to the disappearance of Johnny Gosch. Many witnesses spotted Gene talking to a man right before he vanished decades ago. What happened to Gene Martin?
  • Missing: Marc James Warren Allen – Marc went to go to a friend’s house to watch a movie, he never arrived. Is there a connection with all three missing Des Moines boys? Or did something else happen that fateful night. Find out now!

Missing in the Metro: Hosts Ross Peterson, Heather Burnside, and Sergeant Paul Parizek dive into unsolved murders in Des Moines, Iowa. Enjoy this 10 episode journey!

According to Kathleen Check, a psychotherapist in Chicago says “True crime provides a particular kind of escapism during the pandemic. Tuning in and following the specifics of a crime also creates a sense of being able to see inside the mind of a criminal, which create the mindset of: If I know how criminals operate, I can protect myself.” Have fun escaping and becoming a true crime expert while enjoying some of the great trials of Des Moines!

Go visit these classic Des Moines destinations:

  1. Sycamore Trail – This gorgeous 6+ mile trail is perfect for admiring rich wildlife and vegetation!
  2. Kruidenier Trail around Gray’s Lake – This beautifully landscaped trail leads you right into downtown Des Moines! There are so many fun activities to enjoy.  
  3. Mark C. Ackelson Trail – This old trail used to be a coal mine that operated well into the 50’s! Consider this cool and long trial if you enjoy history.
  4. Neal Smith Trail From Center Street Dam – This is a 26 – mile multipurpose trail that extends from Des Moines to Big Creek State Park.  
  5. Bill Riley Train – This short trail is an immersive and tranquil experience.

Check out All Trails for the rest of the top 20 trails of Des Moines!

Please enjoy this curated Des Moines inspired list while taking a break from being indoors! Enjoy that fresh air! If you liked this post please feel free to share with your friends!

– Maria Schmitz