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Feb 21, 2017 12:10PM

Camp cozy: Enjoy the outdoors inside a cabin


By Nicole Lauer
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Scott County Park, in Eldridge, offers two year-round Pine Grove Cabins for those looking to get away.
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The Pine Grove Cabins in Scott County Park, Eldridge, feature full kitchens with a dishwasher stocked with all the essentials.
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The Wapsi River Environmental Education Center's Kestrel Cabin, two miles northwest of Dixon, Iowa, complies with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act access guidelines, with a bathroom and shower, queen-size bed with twin-size bunks, and a fold-out queen-size sofa bed.
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The Wapsi River Environmental Education Center's Kestrel Cabin, two miles northwest of Dixon, Iowa, offers a full kitchen with dishes, cookware and a dishwasher.
Seeing the first day of spring roll around on the calendar may not mean much around these parts. That summer getaway and flip-flop weather might still feel a long way off. Families, friends and others looking to shake off the winter and get back outside should consider a visit to one of the local cabin in the area for relaxation, fun and a reconnection with nature.

For some, spring break plans might include traveling to sunny climes, but Dave Murcia, director of the Wapsi River Environmental Education Center, says many people find a welcome respite at the center's Kestrel Cabin all year long. Murcia says the cabin, owned by Scott County Conservation, is booked frequently, with at least half the weekends of every month booked year-round.

"This winter and going into the fall is our busier time; the bugs are gone, and the camp fire feels good," Murcia says.

Located two miles northwest of Dixon, the cabin on the bluffs overlooking the Wapsipinicon River offers everything you need for a comfortable getaway, no matter the season or weather. It complies with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act access guidelines, with a bathroom and shower, queen-size bed with twin-size bunks and a fold-out queen-size sofa bed.

Other amenities — including a full kitchen with dishes, cookware and a dishwasher; heating and central air, and wireless internet access — should make even those less experienced with the outdoors feel at home.

The rental fee is $70 per night, with a $50 refundable damage deposit due at check-in.

The guest book found inside the Kestrel cabin tells of guests who woke up in the cozy cabin Christmas morning, and those who enjoyed rainy retreats filled with peace and quiet.

"We regularly do get feedback from people on the guest book... regulars who come out, families who just want to get away, get away from technology, to spend quality time."

Murcia says some people book a cabin stay and register for programs offered at the Wapsi Center. Others come out to watch deer and wild birds. He says every season offers something different, from free snowshoe and cross-country skiing equipment in the winter, to the many beautiful spring flowers that bloom in the prairies, forest and bottomlands.

Murcia says springtime also offers opportunities for birding, hiking and paddling programs on the Wapsi River as early as April.

"It is nice; it isn't a heavily used park. It's more of a preserved environmental center, so the clientele/customers you see out here are having a peaceful outing, reconnecting and regrounding to nature," Murcia says.

Murcia say there is a dormitory and lodge at the site, but those staying at the cabin largely have the area to themselves to enjoy relaxing and the still of the night outside of the city.

Scott County Park, in Eldridge, also offers two year-round cabins for those looking to get away. Ranger Rick Rouse says the park's two Pine Grove Cabins, which sleep a maximum of six people each, are booked well in advance and are used by a wide range of people.

"A lot of times, it's families renting through the summer time, using them more as a camping cabin and using some of the other facilities in the park," he says. "We also have young married couples looking for a relatively inexpensive, quick getaway, just as a couples' way of getting out."

Billed as "luxury cabins," each 864-square-foot structure has two bedrooms, a full bathroom, living room and a fireplace. They also have large decks with a table and grill, and a picnic table and fire ring available.

With heating and air, internet access, a full kitchen with a dishwasher that's stocked with all the essentials, the cabins are much more than just bare-bones camping cabins. They rent for $130 per night, with a two-night minimum and a three-night minimum for holiday weekends. A cleaning deposit also is required, but will be returned if the cabin is left in good condition.

Rouse says guest feedback is always good to hear.

"Just that the cabins are beautiful, they are in a nice setting and they are fairly secluded the way they are set up," he says. "There's not a lot of commotion that going on around it."

In addition to the two cabins, Scott County Park also offers tent camping and shelters for rent. Rouse says summer is a popular time, with guests using the swimming pool, 18-hole golf course, bike and hiking trails. There also is a small lake for fishing.

Rouse says there are a few restrictions to using the cabin, including no pets and no smoking. Another stipulation that sometimes can trip people up, he says, is that access to the cabins is restricted to park hours, so in the summer, guests can come and go from the cabin from 6 a.m. to 10:30 p.m., but winter park hours shortens access to 7 a.m. until about 4 p.m. or sundown.

Another option for cabins in the region is the cabins at the Geneseo Campground, located four miles north of Interstate 80 at Exit 19. The campground offers RV, tent and cabin options — and even a yurt — April 1 through Oct. 31.

At this location, guests can meander from the campground on a short path to the Hennepin Canal recreational trail, which covers 72 miles for biking, hiking, fishing, or canoeing and kayaking. It also is just a short trip to Geneseo proper, which offers shopping and dining options.

The camping cabins sleep four, and rent for $60 daily or $360 weekly. Each cabin has a bunk bed and queen bed, window air conditioner and a table. There are a string of three side-by-side cabins near the RV portion of the campground, and a fourth cabin closer to the campground's playground, spray park and camp store.

The cabins are basic with no bathrooms, kitchens or other modern conveniences, which may please those looking for a happy medium between sleeping on the ground and a full amenity cabin that may feel more like a hotel.

The yurt, a round structure that sleeps eight, rents for $100 daily or $600 weekly. The yurt includes one queen, two full and two twin beds, and sits in the rear of the campground.

Options for cabins in the region are only expanding with the introduction of two new cabins at West Lake Park, west of I-280 off of US 61 in Davenport. Finishing construction for the two modular buildings that sleep eight each continued through winter and spring.

Scott County Conservation Board executive director Roger Kean says completion work included hooking up plumbing and electrical, paint and finish work, as well as parking lots and roadways for access to the sites.

Kean says some of that work, particularly the outdoor concrete work, was weather dependent, so pegging down an opening date was difficult. In the end, the 620-acre park that offers fishing, swimming, boating, camping, playground and picnicking fun also will offer a place for families and friends to rest their heads.

Each cabin there is expected to rent for $130 per night, with a two-night minimum.
Nicole Lauer is an occasional Radish contributor




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