This past weekend our friends, Ashley & Adam, invited us to go on an excursion to the Maquoketa Caves State Park. Over the years I’d heard glowing stories about Iowa’s most unusual park, but I’d never actually been there. With rugged bluffs, limestone formations, and six miles of hiking trails, there are caves that can be entered by crawling with flashlights and others that are lit and can be easily walked into standing upright. The caves put me to the mind of the Pirates of the Caribbean Ride at Disneyland, but with less mice in trousers and more bats.
Crossing the rocky bluffs, we couldn’t help but say again and again, “This totally doesn’t feel like Iowa.” Then we saw two angels and Saint Peter and knew we were in the right place. (Yes, that was a Field of Dreams joke. It was either that or something about corn, Radar O’Reilly & Ashton Kutcher. Apologies.)
The park was filled with families exploring the park and venturing into caves, many of which have creative names like Hernando’s Hideaway and The Dancehall, where Ashley put her dance background to use.
Sadly, I didn’t think about bringing along flashlights, but luckily I packed plenty of food for lunch. After stair climbing and spelunking, we were ready for a hearty lunch. Ashley & Adam brought along almond butter & agave sandwiches, baby carrots, and frozen blueberries.
Kale is my go-to leafy green for this kind of occasion, because it doesn’t wilt while waiting in the cooler. In fact, sitting in the dressing for a while just makes it softer and more flavorful. The filling nature of the pasta salad meant we could continue our adventures after lunch.
Where are your favorite places to hike? What are your favorite vegan lunch options for picnicking?
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