Swimming Deer Trail

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!! IMG_20171029_111447689

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. IMG_20171029_113200590

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! IMG_20171029_115732497IMG_20171029_121639134

Too pretty not to include!
There’s a beautiful home tucked into the trees across the river
Russ was not happy posing for this picture so close to edge!

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!

Tree tunnel
Russ being a tree!
At some point there had been a fire through here. Many charred trees and still some yellow fire line tape.
The trail almost disappeared

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. IMG_20171029_195541IMG_20171029_132655700IMG_20171029_133053456

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! IMG_20171029_132846875IMG_20171029_144228221IMG_20171029_144303329



Mooner’s Hollow Trail & A Surprise From My Daughter

There are so many great places in Missouri to hike, Russ and I often have a hard time deciding where to go next. The same goes for my daughter Kelsey and son in law Eric. Russ and I had narrowed down our picks to a couple different parks a couple hours South of home. We’d decide on the fly Sunday morning. Kelsey called Saturday asking for suggestions and I told her about a few of our possible trails and a couple in Illinois. We’re almost to our destination, Mooners Hollow Trail in Bonne Terre Missouri, when Kelsey calls to ask where we are going and to tell me they are going to Mooners Hollow! Like mother, like daughter! The trail is a 3 mile loop and we agree that Russ and I will start at the trailhead and Kelsey, Eric and their friends Moriah and Ethan will start at the end and we’ll meet in the middle. This is the first time Kelsey and I will knowingly be hiking the same trail at the same time, even though we’re not hiking together! IMG_20171008_110701651IMG_20171008_112451380IMG_20171008_113701283IMG_20171008_122116092IMG_20171008_123631469

We finally met up with them almost 2 miles in! Kelsey tells me she left me a gift further on down the trail, I just have to find it! It’s off trail, on the right, under a big rock that looks like a turtle head, across from an area of white stones in the stream! Oh, and I won’t be able to see the turtle face coming from my direction! My head is on a swivel trying to look back up the trail for a rock turtle and white stones! That girl!! I find a big turtle rock…on the left. Finally, white stones! To my right is a huge long cliff like area, but darn if I see a turtle anywhere! And it’s a climb getting up to it. But I found my gift and it melted my heart!! I wanted to take it with me but it was not possible. One of these days we’ll get our timing right and hike a whole trail together!