A section of the Cedar Valley Trail near Evansdale, Iowa. Photo by Molly Bertch.
If there's one thing that really makes me appreciate Arizona trails even more than I already do, it's Iowa trails. Not that the trails there aren't beautiful or well-maintained, because many are. It's the mosquitoes. Unless you drench yourself with repellant, you'd better be moving faster than an amble. Bike riding and even slow jogging can keep the critters at bay. But stop for a rest or to take a glug from your water bottle and you're toast. Itchy toast.
In July, I accompanied my daughter and grand-dogs on part of the Cedar Valley Nature Trail near Evansdale, Iowa. That stretch has an asphalt surface under a canopy of deciduous trees and lined with black raspberry bushes and other thick vegetation. Wildlife abounds, and I leaped over the remains of a skunk, just like in Arizona.
But it's been a wet year in Iowa, and lots of standing water in the cornfields and pastures below the raised trail provides a mosquito nursery haven. Cattle graze in the pastures, but I guess they're not as tasty as humans.
FYI: only female mosquitoes take a blood meal, which they need before laying their eggs on water. They also are crepuscular creatures, meaning they're most active at dawn and dusk. However, they're not limited to those times to feed.
An article in Smithsonian magazine suggests why 20 percent of people are "especially delicious" to mosquitoes. Blood type, especially Type O, seems to be a factor. Being heavier, taller, an adult, a beer drinker, wearing darker clothing, exercising (sweat) and probably just genetics also contribute to your tastiness aspect. I'm not tall, heavy, or a beer drinker, but my blood is Type O, I'm an alleged adult and I do exercise, usually wearing light-colored clothing when outside. However, I've had severe reactions to mosquito bites since I was a tiny child. My husband says if there's a mosquito in Arizona - even in non-monsoon season - it will find me.
Fortunately, my mosquito bites don't last as long as they used to. Unfortunately, gnats seem to have taken control of my allergic reactions. I no longer go to our favorite swimming holes in early summer when gnats swarm. There just isn't a strong enough anti-itch cream in the world.
For those fortunate people who aren't bothered by biting insects, or those too tough to care, go ahead on those green Iowa trails or to Arizona's swimming holes whenever you want.
The Cedar Valley Trail actually extends 52 miles from Evansdale to Cedar Rapids, and is a Trails from Rails project built on the Waterloo Cedar Falls and Northern (WCF&N) Railroad line. It's the same concept as Rails to Trails in Arizona, which includes Prescott Valley's Iron King connecting to Prescott's Peavine trails.
I've bicycled several miles of the Cedar Valley Trail on a wide paved part through Waterloo itself, and around George Wyth State Park. I definitely recommend these well-used and well-maintained paths.