I’ve got a secret. But it’s so great that I can’t help but tell everybody what it is. My secret: Sunderbruch Park.
Nestled in the gentle hills of farmland in west Davenport, this 50 acre park is a quiet woodland and prairie refuge. Miles of trails are shared by hikers, off-road cyclists, and horseback riders.
Early on Sunday mornings, I commune with this park. One particular spring Sunday, as I begin my ascent up the steep blacktop path, I congratulate myself on all the workouts I’ve been doing that allow me up this lengthy, curving slope without too much panting and puffing.
Nearing the top of the first stretch, I pass the “dinosaur fossils” on my right. These life-sized reproductions include signage explaining the presence of dinosaurs in prehistoric Iowa. One nice aspect of this park is the multiple signs along the way to help park patrons learn about and identify various butterflies, prairie plants, birds, and wildlife they may encounter here. The main paved path goes through beautiful wooded areas as well as some prairies, giving park visitors plenty of chances to spot those plants and critters.
As I continue along the path, mown areas open through the tall grass to the woods on either side, and I see evidence of both off-road bikes and horses. The 11 miles of off-road trails were developed and are maintained by the Friends of Off-Road Cycling. Trails are rated green, blue, and black diamond, based on degree of difficulty. One morning, I struck off onto a black diamond trail. I naively assumed that since the exit from the trail was a short distance from the start, that I’d just check it out and be back on my green trail in short order. About 40 minutes later, after fording gullies, climbing over logs, and being thankful for a stout walking stick, I made my grateful way back to my friendly, safe, and non-adventurous green trail. After making my way back to the parking lot I noted the main map marked my black trail at nearly a mile. Well then.
After passing through the big prairie, I make my way to the south terminus of the park, a challenging and steep series of switchbacks. On the way down, I glance into the trees, now bare, and look into deep ravines. While it may feel and look like a state park, Sunderbruch is actually a city park. The land was originally purchased in the 1970s, but the park itself was not created until the early 2000s. Originally known as Southwest Park, in 2006, it was renamed Sunderbruch, in honor of Dr. John Sunderbruch, a Davenport doctor, community leader, and lifelong west-ender.
Now on my way back, I feel my leg muscles grow taught as I begin my ascent up the switchbacks. Not having a protractor handy, I can’t truly tell how steep the angles of these hills are, but now the puffing and panting begins in earnest as I near the top of this very steep series of grades. Once there, I pause briefly to peel off my sweatshirt and knot it around my waist before striking out once more.
By now the sun has made its full appearance, warming me and the night crawlers who have foolishly chosen to inch onto the blacktop. I encounter dog walkers as I near the end of my trek.
Meeting dogs and their owners is pretty common on a Sunderbruch walk. I exchange a few words with a man walking a corgi and a German shepherd. “Doesn’t get much better than this,” the bearded man offers, to which I readily agree.
Forty minutes after I began, I finish my Sunderbruch hike feeling pleasantly tired. I can’t think of a nicer way to start a Sunday morning. So now you know my secret. But here’s the other secret: don’t trust your GPS to help you find the park. It will direct you to Rockingham Road, but the main entrance is on west Telegraph Road. Take Wisconsin Street south and go east on Telegraph, and you’ll be hiking in no time.