Swimming Deer Trail is a 3.5 mile loop trail in St. Francois State Park in St. Francois County MO. This park is gorgeous. Our previous hike was in this park, Mooners Hollow Trail. We did Swimming Deer on October 29. It was in the 40’s and the fall colors had finally kicked in. Bright blue skies…perfect hiking weather!!
The trail follows The Big River up along a bluff part of the way, though we were able to get down to the river at one point. The water was pretty low there.
Our first discovery was a cave. Yep, I went in! I couldn’t go very far because I was on my hands and knees, holding my phone videoing! It turned to left, the opening got a little smaller and I couldn’t see anymore so I stopped. If I would have had my flashlight, which was in my pack outside the cave, I would have gone as far as I could. Russ was kinda freaking out since he couldn’t see me! All I found were some mosquitoes and a bunch of rocks under my knees…bruises!
I’m always amazed by rock steps. Are they natural, man made, how long have they been there? This set of steps looked natural to me or at least made by hands many many years ago. Either way, up we went to the top of the bluffs overlooking the river for some spectacular views. When we got to the top, we met a couple of younger guys and an older gentleman and the older man just stood there looking down those steps like he might cry. The poor guy was beat. I told him that once he gets down that’s the last really hard descent and he had less than a mile to go. That lit up his face! I know how he felt, I’d rather go up than down, well my knees and ankle would!
Eventually we turned away from the river. It was a fall color explosion! The leaves just rained down on us constantly. Sensory overload, in a great way. The sound of the leaves falling, of our feet pushing through a carpet of freshly fallen leaves…no crunchy leaves yet. And the smell was something I wish I could bottle and bring home. It wasn’t that damp earthy decay smell one would expect. The ground was too dry from lack of rain for that. It was something I’ll probably never experience again…It was that wonderful!
There’s an old cabin/shack off the trail. From a distance it looks pretty cool. Up close, it’s full of graffiti 😠. No clue what it was used for, why it’s there. Supposidly there’s an old logging mill off the trail, maybe it’s part of that.
And now for what has become my favorite things to look for and photograph….funky trees. I drive Russ crazy taking pictures of trees! Sometimes I take a dozen (or more) of one tree trying to get the best shot. Not always easy to do with a camera phone. We came across this amazing old cedar tree. I thought it was dead since it was hollow at the bottom but way way up at the top the branches were full of green needles! I was doubly amazed by that tree.
I also look for burls in trees. I never noticed them before I started hiking. I just thought burl wood came from some exotic type of tree that didn’t grow in boring ole Missouri! Oops! While I know next to nothing about burls, I now know they grow on Missouri trees. I found 2 on this hike. One on a skinny tall tree. The burl was bigger than a basketball. The tree trunk was maybe 3″ in diameter! The other one was on what was left of a long dead tree and what was left of the burl was massive!