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



Pickle Springs…SWEET!

Back in May I talked Russ into getting up early on a Saturday morning and driving 90 miles to hike a 2 mile trail. He wasn’t thrilled, he hates getting up early & going that far to hike 2 miles…Really?! I’d heard great things about Pickle Springs Natural Area, my mind was made up. My daughter agreed to watch the dog for the day, no excuses.


My expectations for Pickle Springs were pretty high, based on comments and pictures from friends. My high expectations were blown away again and again that day! A hike that should have taken around 2 hours took us 5 hours! I’m a slow hiker, but there were so many things to explore and climb on and take pictures of! Massive boulders, canyons, bluffs, tall fragrant pine trees…a favorite of mine but not very common in Missouri. The only drawback…too many people. Although I can’t blame anyone for wanting to be there! This is definitely one of my top 3 trails…so far!! We are for sure going to hike this trail in the fall and winter.

IMG_20170521_120945827IMG_20170521_121943110IMG_20170521_121951210IMG_20170521_123246248 I’ll let the many pictures I took tell the rest, after all…a picture is worth a thousand words!

Oh, to have a better camera with a wide angle lens!
This picture was supposed to be like the one I took of Russ up here!


I see a dinosaur…do you?

Earlier I said the only drawback was too many people. I should have said disrespectful people. Nothing pisses me off more than finding trash along the trail, or so I thought. On a giant boulder, some nit wit thought being the one and only graffiti artist would be a good thing. NOT! Keep it on the bathroom stalls, please. And by the canyon, I found…eewwww…a pair of men’s underwear! And later, a couple different socks. How does one not know they lost A sock or their underwear?!! Ugggg IMG_20170521_124922824

This canyon area was beautiful. Pictures don’t do it justice. There was a small tunnel at one end of it and Russ managed to climb through. I hiked around to the other side and waited and waited, all kinds of disastrous thoughts running through my head! He made it, no problems.


The next set of pictures are from my favorite area. Pine trees everywhere!! It smelled so good! And the views were spectacular! IMG_20170521_131425646IMG_20170521_141610046IMG_20170521_141946450IMG_20170521_143336141IMG_20170521_150629737IMG_20170521_130334246IMG_20170521_131519285IMG_20170521_143737318

Sandstone Canyon Trail 

Finally, a day just right for Russ and I to get back out in the woods and explore! The weatherman said the high would be around 82°.  Not bad for Labor Day weekend! It was so hot this summer, too hot for hiking, especially after Russ had been working out in that heat. Then there was his hand issue, which is still a bit of a mystery but steroids and anti-inflammatory meds seem to be helping some. So we set out for Sandstone Canyon Trail at Don Robinson State Park in Cedar Hill, MO. The park opened in January 2017. Several friends have hiked it and said it’s great. The reviews on alltrails were good, mentioning the box canyon, caves, waterfalls, creeks…they sold me!

The first .50 mile was paved, with a wheelchair accessible trail going around it to cut down on the elevation. At the end of the paved trail is a nice pavilion with picnic tables. I don’t like walking on pavement but it was a pretty walk.


The first mile or so was just walking through the trees, nothing spectacular except for a huge funnel spiderweb. I tried and tried to get a picture of the whole thing where you could tell what it was, but it was just too tall.


Eventually we came to the beginning of the canyon area. The trail was really steep going down and I was really glad it wasn’t muddy! At the bottom was a creek and as I started to continue on to the right Russ spotted through the trees across the creek, what he thought might have been a broken up concrete bridge/road. He has to know what unnatural things are when we come across them so we left the trail, crossed the creek and explored. Russ decided that these huge slabs of concrete, some laying helter skelter on one side of the creek and in the creek, and others still standing going back over 100 feet to the canyon wall, must have been a dam. My pictures don’t tell the story very well as there was so much vegetation it was difficult to get good pictures. We have done a little research and can’t find any information about it. It’s a massive amount of concrete and we are as puzzled by what it really is, why it was built as we are by how in the heck did they get all of that concrete down there! So this thing is well over 100 feet long (if it were all still standing), about 2 feet thick and about 15 feet tall. That’s a lot of concrete!


Russ would have been happy to go home then! But the hike kept getting better and better. Several creek crossings, not much water…piece of cake. In places we were right next to the canyon wall. The closer to the canyon walls we were, the trail was mostly sand. That was nice to walk on! Most of the time the trail was along the rim of the canyon. It was beautiful but again so much vegetation my pictures were terrible. We saw several places that would have been awesome waterfalls had it not been so dry. IMG_20170902_130047581IMG_20170902_130114333_HDRIMG_20170902_131851965IMG_20170902_135057717

Then…The Canyon! This one is huge and beautiful and I can get some good pictures! I spot a trail down at the bottom and tell Russ we need to figure out how to get down there. Not far away there was a side trail going down to the bottom of the canyon! Oh boy!


It was even better than I thought it would be! And bigger! I’ll just let the pictures tell this part of the story.IMG_20170902_135915429IMG_20170902_140009171IMG_20170902_140158109IMG_20170902_140229776IMG_20170902_140238993IMG_20170902_140833631IMG_20170902_141029216IMG_20170902_141057000IMG_20170902_141145677_HDRIMG_20170902_140615308

Back on the trail there was an old crumbled down cabin, slowly sliding into a creek. IMG_20170902_142003259

By the time we climbed out of the canyon, we’d been out in the woods over 3 hours and had only gone a little over 2 miles! We tend to take a long time when we explore, we still had 2 more miles to go but Russ’s back was done. We took a shortcut trail and came across a nifty natural stone bridge. Met a couple & they told us about a few other good hiking places. And I found a funky woodpecker tree. Shortcuts are good things! img_20170902_145004932.jpgIMG_20170902_145234012_HDRIMG_20170903_195110_236IMG_20170902_151432153

I’m still amazed by the beauty I keep finding in my own state…Missouri! I can’t wait to go back and see what we missed. I’m definitely going back in the winter. My friend Scott sent me these pictures today from his hike in January. The temperature was 8°…yikes! I don’t think I’m that crazy, but I love winter hiking! .facebook_1504658289165.facebook_1504658250889

A Hike Doesn’t Get Much Better Than This

The temperature was supposed to be around 80° for the high last Saturday. Russ and I were going hiking, no matter what! We hadn’t been out in several weeks. It was too hot and he’s still having problems with his hand. Crystal even decided to go with us! Yay! Saturday morning rolls around…Russ doesn’t feel well and my favorite person in the world is at my house for the weekend, my 8 yr old grandson Sean. His mom and step dad hike a lot and take him sometimes but it’s not really his thing. I was afraid there would be no hiking for me until Sean asked if he could go too. You betcha! So I got to hike with 2 of my favorite people and my heart was so full, I didn’t want the day to end!


I wanted to do a trail that was close to home, not too long and not to challenging since Crystal is just getting started hiking. A few weeks ago, our friend Scott and his adorable dog Cooper took her on the Lewis and Clark Trail. They go so fast, it about killed her legs! That’s a tough trail and long. So we went to Matson Hill Trail. It’s a little over 3 miles and rated easy, but it’s not easy! On the easier side of moderate, but not easy, especially when the creeks are running, which they weren’t. Sean had evidently been there more than once because he was our guide! He was pointing out land marks and such. It was so fun to listen to him sound so grown up!


Most of the time Sean and Crystal were way out in front of me. My ankle and foot were really hurting so I was going extra slow. That turned out to be a good thing. Sean and Crystal hiked together and talked non-stop! Sean told Crystal jokes, stories about his pets, talked about books, all kinds of stuff making her laugh! My heart just melted listening to them!





We were beat…hot, sweaty, dirty and tired. But it was a great day! A day I’ll treasure!