“No-Regrets 2020” – All Boys Camping Trip to Iowa

What is No-Regrets
A mancation, a tradition, where bunch of close friends hunker down for a weekend of adventure, each year, every year. Key ingredients: Road trip, stirring adventure, nature and a new destination to satiate our wanderlust.

All No-Regrets Trips
Rafting/Adventure Road-Trip from Chicago to Ohiopyle, Ohio (No-Regrets 2018)
Adventure Road-Trip from Chicago to Rocky Mountains, Colorado (No-Regrets 2019)
Camping Getaway from Chicago to Iowa (No-Regrets 2020)
Rafting/Adventure road-trip from Chicago to Niagara, Wisconsin (No-Regrets 2021)
Rafting/Adventure road-trip from Chicago to New River Gorge, West Virginia (No-Regrets 2022)

Why camping at Iowa, or why a trip in 2020 at all?

We had to find a low-risk, near-by destination to keep our yearly tradition gong, even during peak of You-Know-What, so we decided to have a one night camping trip in our neighborhood state of Iowa – 3 hours of a drive meant it was somewhat of a road-trip and the thrilling adventure part was ticked off when we hiked in a hundred degrees, yes hundred!

Our Trip from Naperville

July 25 – 26, 2020
Road Trip
Naperville to Solon, IA.
200 miles, took around 3 hours.
Sandy Beach Campground
GPS link
$10 for one day.


Day 1 – The Beginning

On a scorching hot summer day, we left in our beasts – Explorer and Durango R/T.

100 Degrees Hike at Squaw Creek Trail
The first stop was a short hike in Iowa before we were to hit our campsite at Sandy Beach, IA. We set our GPS here and went for Squaw Creek Trail.

It was scary and enthralling at the same time, to be out of Illinois first time after the pandemic hit.

Pit stop on our way to Iowa.

We reached Squaw Creek Trail in Iowa at around 1 PM. The heat index was 103 and it felt like a furnace outside but the spirits were high (pun intended) so we still went ahead with the original plan of ‘easy’ 2.5 mile hike on the Squaw Creek Trail.

The views from the parking lot were encouraging.


And the shade on the trail-head offered some reprieve from the punishing sun.


#MildlyInteresting – There were directions for horses too.


#Awkward – you don’t see these every day the middle of the woods.

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After about a mile and a half, we reached open fields, where the views were beguiling but the sun was back-breaking.


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There was a small stream swarming with butterflies.


A short clip to capture the moments offered by the ‘butterfly stream’

And, that’s where things started to turn south. We lost our way and went into some private area accidentally. More importantly, we lost the shade as well and were left to the mercy of the scorching sun.


Other friends in our posse started to get edgy.

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And just like that, an innocuous 2.5 mile trek became a 4 mile endurance walk. The perspiration systems were working overtime and it felt like all the pores in the body were leaking at max capacity.

The GPS didn’t help much. This being a local trail, wasn’t mapped accurately.

Towards the last stretch, we were like zombies, wandering aimlessly in the middle of the main road..

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After more than 2 hours of grueling hike under 100 degrees, we finally made it!

A mixed feeling of accomplishment and NEVER AGAIN, as we finally reached the parking spot.


Although it seems counterintuitive considering the dehydration logic, Summer Shandy was a real life-saver many-a-times in this trip.

Sandy Beach Campground

After quenching our thirsts, we sped away to reach the eponymous Sandy Beach Campground near the Coralville Lake.

The campsites were large and offered plenty of shade, felicitously.

We got the campfire and tents setup while we had the daylight.


And the grilling festivities began..

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and just like that, the luminous moon-light took over the reigns from the angry daystar and unending conversations took stronghold.


At mid-night, we sneaked out of the camp and went for a half-mile stroll to the nearby Sandy beach. With not a soul in sight and the orb of night as the guiding light, we marched along, abandoning the worries of the raging pandemic temporarily.

Day 2 – The Return

The morning sun seemed eager to fry us from the get-go.


The fear of the raging sun made us wrap up quickly, not before we had breakfast accentuated by lovely tea (which took forever because of an issue in the gas burner) and a quick session of frisbee.

Lake McBride State Park

The thought of doing one more hike was appalling and cringeworthy to most of us but embodying the true No-Regrets spirit, we reached a consensus to do a small hike at the spillway in Lake McBride State Park, which is Iowa’s largest State Park. The idea was to visit the small waterfall jettisoned between Iowa River and Lake McBride. The state park offers a number of other amenities, including Fishing, Boating, Swimming and the like.

We set our GPS here.

The hike to the spillway went through a long causeway.

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An eagle was on the prowl nearby.

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There was a small hill adjoining the spillway.
#MildlyInteresting – a 127.50$ fine!

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The views from the hill were a pleasure to the eyes. There is a boat rental place here which was emanating all these boats.

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The people kept on coming.

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The spillway was expansive and seeing so many people using it was refreshing and petrifying in the world of Covid-19 so we stayed away from the spillway and went back from the adjoining hill. Another day when the pandemic is behind us, we hoped to get on the ground with our kids.

Here is another detailed write-up on the spillway, very informational. You can check out the 1.5 mile hike here, it was closed when we went.

The causeway in all its entirety!


We had a river otter accompanying us while walking back..

And just like that, it was time to say adios to Iowa.

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So Long..

We were glad to get our “NO REGRETS” tradition going. Next year would be more adventurous and exciting, hopefully without the pandemic-that-shall-not-be-named.

Update: 8/14:
After more than 2 weeks of isolation, we declared our trip successful and felt a sense of relief and accomplishment that we were able to get something out of the wretched 2020 🙂

Please share your thoughts on this post or your own ‘No Regrets’ Trip ideas in the comments section.

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