Grackle & Sun

Archive for the tag “trails”

Ste. Genevieve County Vol. 3: Hickory Canyons

This place.  This place was a total surprise.  I’ve traveled all over the world, seen some of the most moving and bold landscapes ever.  And while Missouri is beautiful, it’s not beautiful in the big, super raw, punch to the solar plexus way that, say, the Rockies are or southern Utah or coastal California.  It leans toward pastoral beauty in the farmlands and rugged old beauty in the Ozarks, river beauty along the Missouri or the Mississippi.  But Hickory Canyons was different.  Somehow.  This place was altering.

It is quiet—out of the way, off some gravel road.  The feeling here is the opposite of Pickle Springs.  There are no signs, no catchy names.  Just the ground, just the trees, the water and the rocks.   How good it felt here.  There is some ground that transports you when you cross its boundaries, takes to to another place, someplace otherworldly.  That was not this ground.  This place was very… real.  It caught me off guard and then guided me along the moss-lined path.  This is a place that loosens your skin of the tautness from city life, from jobs and money and stress, that stretches you.  This is a place that beckons your bones to sink into the soil and remember the sacredness of your humanity and your connection to what is under your feet.  You know what Hickory Canyons reminded me of?  A friend.  Not the kind that is only interested in you when they need your ear or your shoulder or your stuff but never remembers your birthday.  No, this place is the friend that makes you stew on a cold day, that calls bullshit when you need it called, that will laugh with you and get angry with you, and always sings to you on your birthday.  How’s that for some geological anthropomorphization?  It’s the best I can do, because the pictures don’t do it justice.  I would walk this trail every day if I could.

Lobelia cardinalis in the sun.

I’d love it if someone could ID this one. I’ve never seen a mushroom like it before.

And there you have it.  A wonderful weekend full of geological wonders, hiking goodness, land-bonding, friends, food, drink, celebration, knitting, campfires, banana boats, and laughter.  It’s good to get out and see the world.

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Ste. Genevieve County Vol. 2: Pickle Springs Natural Area

On Saturday, we went hiking through the amazing Pickle Springs Natural Area.    The state conservation website calls it a natural wonderland, and they are right.  It is absolutely fantastic—full of box canyons, glacial relict species of flora and fauna, waterfalls, and fantastic eroded formations of LaMotte sandstone.  It’s a super short hike at only 2 miles, but it makes up for it in changes in elevation and general marvelousness.

Courtesy of Google’s “My Tracks”. Awesome app.

And because there are so many gorgeous things to check out, knowing that it’s a short hike allows one to meander and pause without fear of running out of daylight.  This is special place.  It has that kind of feeling like how things did in the 1970s when I was a kid and traveling held such a magical fascination for me—everything was interesting and the challenging bits, although sometimes difficult or unsettling, were always pretty much safe.  Maybe it’s all the signs posted naming each attraction that makes it feel sort of like a woodland Disney World ride.  It’s not a bad thing at all.  Actually, it’s rather lovely—kinda mellowed by the touristyness of it, but still a magical treasure.  The forest is friendly and open, and the rocks are steady and protective.  This is the kind of place where you can go to be quiet and observant, to slow your breathing and just be.  Here is Pickle Springs in pictures.  Enjoy.

Just past the welcome sign.

The LaMotte sandstone that is so characteristic of this area has worn away to create very sandy soil. All of the paths here are either sand, stone, or beds of pine needles.

The Double Arch

Something’s hidey-hole in the knot of a tree.

Husband.

A very happy Ronin of the Woods.

Funky plants growing on the wet rocks.

Up to the top.

Our path carved of stone.

In the pine-scented air.

And we’ll end with a gratuitous funky mushroom shot.

There were a some signs and a few places that I didn’t take pictures of—like the Headwater Falls which had no water, and Piney Glade right toward the end.   This is a place that I’d like to return to in each season to see how it changes.  I have the feeling it becomes more of itself in the winter time when it’s quiet and not being visited by people who just tromp through the good parts.  And leave their cigarette butts.   We’ve been here twice, and both times I’ve been surprised by the amount of trash people leave behind in this little gem.  I don’t get it.  Why would you throw trash in the very place that you just came to visit for its natural beauty?   Part of that Disney feel I was talking about.   Argh.  I feel obligated to give back to the land that I enjoy so much by being a good steward of it.  For me, this includes packing out all the trash that I find.   The spirit of a place must be respected, especially when you’re gonna walk on it’s ground.  These bones are far older than we, and will be here far longer, too.  Someday maybe we will all care for this good earth.  Until then, I’ll travel with a trash bag.

Next time, I’ll show you the fantastical Hickory Canyons.  I am excite!

Ste. Genevieve County Volume 1: Hawn State Park

This Way to Adventure!

Every September, we go camping in honor of our friend Hollie’s birthday.  You know Hollie as Kittyraja (from her awesome natural dyeing linked in my posts).  This year Hollie chose to go camping at Hawn State Park in Ste. Gen. County.  Many much fun was had.  What more can you ask for than beautiful nature, good food and drink, and fabulous friends and family to share it with?  Hollie chose well.

Some of the most beautiful and most unique places in the state of Missouri are in Ste. Genevieve County which borders the Mississippi River on one side and the beginnings of the Ozarks on the other.   It is an area full of fertile farmland, high wooded ridges, lush vineyards, and gorgeous rock formations—in particular, the Cambrian LaMotte Sandstone.   While we camped at Hawn, we did not hike any of the trails there this time.  Instead we went to nearby Pickle Springs Natural Area, which we’d been to only once before, and another area which was totally new to us called Hickory Canyons.  The links I’ve provided are short and give concise descriptions of the geological importance and the myriad of flora and fauna that are unique to each area.   They are worth a read so that you understand why these places are such amazing natural wonders.

Below is a pictorial account of the hiking we did at Hawn earlier this summer and some views of our lovely birthday celebratory weekend.   I also included a few shots of Ste. Genevieve, which is the oldest European settlement west of the Mississippi.  Enjoy.  :D

Pickle Creek (named after Mr. Pickle, not, you know, because it smells like pickles or anything).

Path through the pine-oak forest.

Many parts of this trail look down over steep ridges.

After a controlled burn.

Larger section—you can see the height to which the undergrowth and trees are burned.

Big rocks everywhere. Son is just under 5′ for scale.

Yes, he made it to the top.

View from the top of the trail.

Many gorgeous ferns along the creek, in the woods, and growing along and in the bluffs.

This hike was earlier in the summer, during the ridiculous heat and long drought. The wildflowers were few and far between and were a welcome bit of colour.

And the ones we did see were either purple or yellow. I always forget to take my Missouri wildflower guide book with me on these hikes. I’ve yet to identify these two.

We saw quite a few fallen trees. Not unusual in these areas, as it’s part of the conservation effort to leave them. What was strange was the number of them that came up with the rootball intact. We saw at least six like this, and this is not a small tree. That root mass is easily 8 or more feet across.

Many parts of Pickle Creek are lined with bluffs.

One more parting shot of the lovely Pickle Creek.

The weather was gorgeous for our camping weekend.

Beautiful sunset. We couldn’t see it for the forest, but the clouds overhead revealed it like a Maxfield Parrish painting.

And it just kept on going.

Until it was almost…

…gone.

And so we started a campfire, warmed ourselves against the autumn chill, ate good food, drank good metheglin, and talked into the night.

Old old Ste Gen.

See? For America, this is pretty old.

Quaint homes.

My favorite art shop in Ste. Genevieve: Only Child Originals. She sells handcrafted jewelry and garden art and lights and cool, cool things.

All the historic houses in Ste. Gen. are marked with the original owner and the date it was built.

Very few of the homes that I could see were used as residences. Most have been turned into shops, cafes, and restaurants.

A number of the old houses in Ste. Gen. are boarded up. I hope that someone can renovate this one before it falls down.  You can tell that back in the day, she was a beauty.

Some of the historic buildings, like this one, are better kept than others. You can tell that Ste. Genevieve has had a lot of ups and downs with the economy. The main attraction for the area right now is with all the wineries. I hope that the town is able to maintain its historic treasures. Much of what we saw was in need of a fair amount of repair and a good coat of paint. But the charm is all there. It’s a neat little town.

Next time I’ll show you the amazing (even if funnily named) Pickle Springs Natural Area.   I love camping and hiking adventures!

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