Category Archives: Hiking

Owensville wedding

Over the weekend Louie and I went to a friend’s wedding in Owensville, Missouri. Neither of us had ever been to the area before, and though it was only about 1 1/2 hours drive away, we decided to make a weekend of it and stay for two nights.

We drove down Friday early evening and checked into the Owensville Motor Inn. We were both hungry and tired, so I checked Trip Advisor for where to eat…there was a nearby Mexican Restaurant that was the Number 3 recommendation in the area. For reference, Number 1 was the White Mule Winery where the wedding was going to be held, Number 2 was something called a Meat Market that wasn’t open late anyway, and Number 4 was McDonald’s.

Number 2 it was! Though we’d had Taco Thursday the night before after my quartet concert (which was awesome, btw, great crowd, had so much fun playing, I love those women and quartet is the highlight of my week!) it had been at Mission which is a “classier” and more “trendy” Mexican. Dos Primos in Owensville was a little more “traditional”. It didn’t disappoint. We enjoyed some beergaritas, fish tacos, and had a nice relaxing evening.

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(picture from the concert…not sure what I was doing…)

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That’s a beergarita.

Anyway, Saturday morning we got up and hit up the McDonald’s for breakfast and then headed to the Canaan Conservation Area for some light hiking. The weather was beautiful, if not a little warmer than we’d want, and we had a few hours to wander around.

Wander we did indeed, as the map wasn’t as easy to follow as we thought, and after an hour or so we ended up in a completely different place than we thought we were! Luckily we talked to a man in a truck and learned that we were totally wrong. We had time though, so we didn’t beg him for a  ride back to the car, ha! On our hike back through the area we thought we’d already covered but actually hadn’t, we were still lost more than we liked (I decided the map wasn’t very good, refusing to take credit for being THAT terrible at navigation) but we came across two very old cemeteries, which was pretty neat. They were both old German cemeteries and many of the deaths were around 1880. I’d think that would be on the map too, but I guess not. We didn’t dawdle too much since we wanted to make sure to get back to clean up for the wedding! There might have been a point where we weren’t sure if we were completely lost or headed in the right direction, but we eventually found our way and found where we’d left the car!

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It must have been turtle season.

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You can kind of see the cemetery here. I guess there probably used to be churches nearby since each one was labeled with a church name.

Then we got McDonald’s again..(snack and coffee, which this time was pretty terrible) and cleaned up, then wedding time. The friends getting married were some people I’d only met once who Louie used to work with. They are really nice people though, and we were thrilled for them!

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Not the best picture, but you get the idea of the reception area. I didn’t take too many pictures, but it was fun. The ceremony was outside and the weather was still quite nice. The cocktail hour and dinner were right nearby and there was plenty of local wine (people knock Missouri wines but I enjoy the Norton varietal) and various (less local) beers. They also had a bowl of buckeyes…(peanut butter with chocolate)

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And popcorn, and then dinner was beef, chicken, broccoli, green beans, potatoes, salad, and rolls. I had some meat since it was a special occasion (I have weird rules in my head about these things, don’t ask me to explain). The beef was good, I don’t care if I ever eat chicken again in my life! Dessert was of course cake, and then there was dancing.

(Am I really that much taller than everybody else? Were those women super short? These are important questions.)

I was exhausted by the end, and then unfortunately I had to get up early-ish the next morning to drive home and then play two Winter Opera rehearsals…so I didn’t make it a late night. But it was a nice weekend away!

Even though we were gone only about 40 hours it was good to have a change of scenery. I do love traveling and get antsy when things get too routine and close to home. Luckily the next few months have lots of opportunities for adventure…I suppose that’s why I enjoy and thrive on the freelance life while others want a more regular career. I like the diversity and while I love planning and organization, I love the opportunity for change and not knowing what is going to happen next. Of course, I also over plan and then get stressed when things don’t go according to plan, or more precisely, I sometimes stop myself BEFORE I plan too much, trying to be more spontaneous, and then often regret not planning as much as I should have. Basically I want really organized adventure where I’m completely on schedule. Smile

Feeling at home in Arches National Park

Next up: Arches National Park!

Previous posts:

And so it begins…to Aspen

Bear Necessities

Leaving Aspen…Good Riddance

Moving Along

No Such Thing as a Dead Horse

Day 9 of our trip, according to the itinerary. We finished up looking at Canyonlands National Park and Dead Horse State Park and hit the road back towards Moab. It’s about 30 minutes to Moab, which is right near Arches National Park. We decided to make a quick coffee/gelato stop in Moab first before heading back into the wilderness. We also wanted to check email and things like that. In this day and age, it’s hard to go 3 weeks without responding to people, so at least every couple of days we needed to check in! And honestly, after a few straight days of only talking to each other, it’s nice to look at other stuff Smile We had an “incident” later where we’d asked a restaurant if they had wi-fi and the woman said, somewhat self-righteously, “no, we don’t, you’ll just have to talk to each other.” Haha, right? Except get over yourself, we’d been doing nothing but talking to each other for 3 days, and you work in a deserted tourist area where maybe people need to check in for work or just to let their friends and family know they are still alive. But I digress.

We finished up our gelato at a delightful shop that DID have wi-fi and then drove up to Arches. We needed to stop by the visitor’s center to pick up tickets for a ranger led tour we were doing the following day, and whoa, the center was packed! It was a definite change from Canyonlands and Colorado National Monument. We knew Arches was more popular (I guess the beauty is more obvious and you can see more within 10 feet of your car?) but it was still a bit of culture shock.

We had a reservation at Devil’s Garden campground, which was at the very back of the park, about a 20 mile drive, so our plan was to slowly head there while stopping and seeing what interested us. We had the whole day in the park the following day so we knew we’d get to do most of things we wanted.

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Since blogging about this trip has, more than ever, become entirely ridiculous and overwhelming YET I know that I will want this all down in writing to look back at in the future…I’m going to do a lot of photo sharing!

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Many of the rock formations are named. This was called the Three Gossips.

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We took a short walk to get closer to Balanced Rock. The mountains in the background are spectacular. Another thing that really struck us both was how different Arches looked than Canyonlands and Dead Horse even though they are relatively close to each other. What a crazy planet we live on!

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The advent of digital cameras makes this sort of ridiculousness easier. Louie, holding up Balanced Rock.IMG_5739

Seriously, what is this madness??

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Various arches. After checking into the campground we set up the tent and then went on a hike that left from the end of the campground. Oh, we’d hoped to buy firewood to have a fire since we hadn’t been able to for a few days, but they were out! The camp hosts were really great though and told us we could stop by their site and have a few pieces, so we did that. We also found out the campground had had lots of flash flooding the night before, just like at Dead Horse and we were warned to be aware of where we set up our tent. Apparently this was “monsoon season” and flash floods were somewhat common, though the night before had been much more than usual, and some campsites were washed away. We made sure to stake our tent carefully.

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Every arch had a name, but I am bad with names. I think this was Broken Arch though. We also might have seen Tapestry Arch. The hike was a little hard to figure out at first, because it was lots of cairn following, but we managed! We almost got lost at more than one point, but did I mention that it was a lovely cool day in the desert so we probably wouldn’t have died. Just kidding, we only weren’t sure which turn to take and were never too far off from being correct.IMG_5756

This is the view of our campground. Devil’s Garden Campground is one of the most beautiful National Park Campgrounds that I’ve ever seen. Our site (Site 018) was gorgeous too, even though we had trouble finding a flat spot to set up the tent.

Anyway, we finished the hike and then went to relax at our campsite and make dinner.

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We had a lovely fire and relaxed. At one point a small fox (we found out it was a kit fox) came through our campsite, just like one had at Dead Horse! This time we were sort of ready, and Louie took a short video. It was dark though, and you can’t see much. We made a lot of jokes about how the fox didn’t say anything.

We decided to try to wake up to watch the sunrise. We had an amazing view from the tent, and figured this was the time!

Even though I hadn’t slept great because the tent was more slanted than we’d realized and I kept sliding off the pad (oops) I was happy to be awake to get this picture! We also saw several deer who walked non-chalantly through the campsite. It was a beautiful site, but unfortunately we had to move to a different one for the next night (same campground) so after watching the sunrise and breakfast, it was time to pack up. As usual…

Next up: Fiery Furnace, Delicate Arch and more storms!

Nights camping: 7

Miles hiked (estimate): 37

Lone Elk Park

I can’t believe it’s Tuesday already. This summer is flying by! This week I am helping out at the Community Music School’s String Camp. I’ve done this for a few years (I think this is my third year) and it continues to be a fun activity. Each day I give a 45 minute sectional to each of the three different orchestras. I try to make it enjoyable for the students as well as informative! (A sectional is when the orchestra divides into parts, so I teach either the 1st and 2nd violins together, or just one of those sections.)

I’ve done a few interesting things since we last spoke. Thursday night I went to see Opera Theatre St Louis perform Ariadne. Louie and I got a good deal on tickets to two shows as part of the “Young Friends” subscription. For those “young” people under 45, you get dinner, drinks, and a show all for about $40. We had to commit to two shows, so we have another coming up that I’m really looking forward to. The dinner was a buffet style dinner outside under a tent, and we chatted with another couple beforehand. It was open seating at dinner and we tried to be friendly, but we were joined at a table for 8 by 4 other people who knew each other already and didn’t even say hello to us, which is frankly kind of rude at an event. Especially when two of those people were wearing badges saying that they were “hosts” of the event! But, we had a good time nonetheless, and the opera was fun. The first act was stronger than the second act, plot wise, and I would have preferred to hear it sung in German, but otherwise it was a wonderful performance. Maybe someday Winter Opera will have the same budget!

And then on Sunday Louie and I were going to do a long hike, but the weather was super hot and I didn’t sleep well and we wanted to take it easy and leave Mackenzie (the dog) at home—she gets hot easily and has been having more hair issues too. So we decided to go to Lone Elk Park. Lone Elk Park (listed in the 60 hikes book!) is a place that doesn’t allow pets, EVEN in the car, because there is wildlife and BISON. BISON! HERE IN ST LOUIS.

I only learned this last year after our trip, which made me super excited, but I hadn’t had a good opportunity to visit. First we did a 3.5 mile hike on the White Basin Trail, The hike was very nice and had a variety of terrain. It was really hot but the trail was mostly shaded, and easy to follow. There were a few trees to climb over. We passed two other hikers who told us they’d seen a bunch of elk, so we kept our eyes open, but didn’t see any on our hike, only lots of squirrels and chipmunks.

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After finishing the hike, we got in the car, turned on the a/c, had some snacks, and went to drive all around the park. First we did see a whole bunch of elk!

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There were quite a few females or young elk, hanging out by the road. It seemed like their fur was shedding. They didn’t seem to pay us much attention.

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And then we drove through the bison area. Louie and I are old hat at looking for wildlife while driving slowly, and we were in luck. Oh, right before we turned to the bison road we saw a male elk from a distance as well! Too far for a picture without a good zoom lens though. So the bison seem to be kept in a certain area, and the signs warn you not to get out of your car at all.

We weren’t disappointed. It only took a few minutes until we saw them. Maybe 5-6 of them up a hill in a shady area, pretty far away, but one closer, that we stopped and watched for a few minutes.

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He got closer too, and we were ready to drive away if needed, but he also seemed more concerned with eating grass than anything, so we just enjoyed watching the strange creature. I could be wrong but they seemed smaller than the ones at Yellowstone?

In any case, it was a delightful afternoon, and so unique. I want to go back! Oh, and we saw a couple of friendly raccoons, who came up to the car. I assume people feed them, but we didn’t.

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Look at that guy with his weird toes!

I definitely recommend you check out Lone Elk Park if you like animals! It was a really neat experience. The hike wasn’t super exciting, but it was pleasant, and NOT difficult—the signs at the parking lot say “difficult”. I’d say “intermediate” in that there are some up and downs, but in the sense that “easy” would be a flat paved walk.

This week: teaching, practicing, getting ready for Leslie and Athena to visit next week (!!!!), another Opera, and, weather permitting, Shakespeare. Plus a few dinners with friends. I’m tired just thinking about it Winking smile

Bell Mountain and Toughness is just a word

I sound tough sometimes, on this here blog, but I never feel very tough. (Do I sound tough here sometimes?)

Right now, I feel exhausted. April and I ran a 5k yesterday morning, and then today Louie, April, and two friends named Amanda joined me for a mud run called the Crusher in Eureka, Missouri.

I say, I’m not tough, because both Amandas seemed to think that hiking in and out of the Grand Canyon and running a 5K the day before meant I was tough and all kinds of athletic and would do well. I’m not. I get scared easily and I fall a bunch. I lack upper body strength and I run very slow.

I’m going to process today a bit more, and also hope that the races will put pictures up to share. But a mud run was an experience I hadn’t had today. Are they supposed to be mostly waiting in line to do the obstacles? We did wait an awful lot, probably as long as we were running and actually trying to complete the obstacles.

I digress.

Last weekend after our float trip got canceled, Louie and I decided it would be best to do an epic hike in the area. We chose to go up and around Bell Mountain, which made a 12 mile hike. It was about a 2 hour drive.

We probably underestimated the difficulty, and it was muddy, I actually ran out of water, I wished I’d brought my hiking sticks, and most of the folks we saw were backpackers, but we had a memorable day, probably pushed the dog too much even though she seemed to have fun, and definitely made a great memory!

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The trail to the top of Bell Mountain starts on the Ozark Trail. We didn’t hike far on the OT though, before going off on the Bell Mountain loop. If you want to take the loop, the author of 60 Hikes within 60 Miles recommended going counterclockwise so you save the views for the later portion. It was muddy from the get go but once you get used to that, and just accept that you’re going to get a little wet, it was pretty nice.

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Not sure what’s going on with me in this picture, but there were lots of rocky parts. This hike was similar in ways to our hike last fall in Taum Sauk State Park.

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There were several creek crossings. By now creek crossings were old hat for us. I guess I’m becoming a more experienced hiker, even though I keep making mistakes like not bringing enough snacks and thinking that a 12 mile hike will be easy because it’s in Missouri.

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There wasn’t as much elevation change as in the Grand Canyon, but there were some steep parts, especially the climb from the creek up to the summit. We were hoping for the expansive views the book author promised us, but we just got a teeny bit. Maybe because of all the trees. As always, no matter the challenge…hiking in Missouri continues to be mostly wandering in the woods. We sometimes daydream about moving somewhere more scenic (sorry Missouri) but then we remember how cheap it is to live here and how we get to travel a lot, and how our jobs and such are here. Sigh.

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But the view was pretty decent from the top. Amazing for this area, honestly. That’s what happens when you see the world. You get spoiled. Smile

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Okay, fine, it’s really beautiful. And we were jealous of all the people backpacking. There were a few ready made camping sites along the trail, one I thought looked really cute near the creek, and then on top of the mountain too.

So we might be back, though summer ends up usually getting pretty hot and buggy here.

A Few days in Phoenix, Less than 24 hours in Sedona

After last summer’s big road trip, I mentioned to my sister Leslie that the annual NPS Louie and I had purchased didn’t expire until the end of this summer. She suggested we come out to Phoenix to visit, and take a few days to see the Grand Canyon. She was very generous to offer us their older car to borrow and a bunch of camping gear.

Louie had never been to the Grand Canyon. I had been but not since I was a small child (11 or so). The Grand Canyon is about 3 1/2 hours from Phoenix, which makes for a short drive though not really a day trip. Leslie, who is evidently a wonderful travel agent/itinerary builder, suggested we spend some time in Sedona on our way north, so ultimately I planned our time to have 1 night in Sedona, 2 nights at the Grand Canyon, and then home.

I like to look at the Trip Advisor Forums for advice on traveling, though Louie and I like to hike more than most members of the forums there. I’d found much of their advice last year to be excellent, with the exception of their great love of the Black Hills (it was fine, but we could have spent one night there and been happy rather than two). However, in the Sedona forums, there is at least one member who insists that you must spend 4-5 nights in Sedona in order to make it worth visiting. To me this is ridiculous. Sure, a week in Paris beats a day in Paris, but both are worth it. Maybe not the day if you fly in and out from the US for one day, but it’s a trip from another fairly nearby location, a little time is better than no time!

(I’m overwhelmed by my good fortune in being able to travel sometime, and right now I’m overwhelmed by all the beauty we saw and want to convey it to you.)

Okay, so…first we spent a few days in Phoenix hanging with my little niece Athena, and my sister and brother-in-law.

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We rode the carousel and the train at McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park in Scottsdale.

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There was a lovely shaded playground.

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We took selfies.

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And we went to the zoo.

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And then on Wednesday of the week, it was time for Louie and I to load up their Honda Civic (with stick shift) and head for Sedona. We piled in our clothes, cooler with food and drinks, tent, sleeping bags, sleeping pads, camp chairs, hiking boots and poles, stove, and more (maybe) and headed to Sedona. The drive was around 2 hours.

One big potential issue for our night in Sedona. The forecast was for rain and storms!

Sedona is known as Red Rocks Country. Once we made the turn off the interstate we started seeing evidence of this. It was so much unlike Missouri!

Our first stop was at the Sedona Visitors Center. We needed the restrooms, water, and lunch. I talked to a really helpful ranger at the desk as well. I hadn’t planned too many particular hikes for Sedona. For whatever reason, I’d found it difficult to get maps or find exact things to do so I’d figured we’d wing it…I love planning things, but as I’ve told you before, Louie enjoys winging them and being more in the moment, so I figured he’d help out with this part Winking smile The ranger asked how long we were there and when we told him, well, this afternoon and tomorrow morning, he didn’t yell at us that we hadn’t allocated enough time (we wanted to be in the Grand Canyon by mid-afternoon the next day) but instead made a few really helpful suggestions.

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We first visited the Bell Rock area, which was just north of the visitor’s center. The sky didn’t look too menacing yet so we took a short hike up and around.

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My mom is probably worried about all the red dirt. Back in South Carolina where I grew up she hates the red dirt that we would track into the house. It stains, and she would shout “Red Dirt Alert!” to make us stop in our tracks and remove our shoes.

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Hiking: fashion? Those wire trash cans filled with rocks were to mark the trail. There were lots of signs warning us to stay on the trail, which was great until we’d get to a place that was only rock and didn’t seem to have any trail markers at all. It was fun to explore though!

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Louie was smart and wore an orange shirt in order to blend in.IMG_5243

Here you can see the bad weather is starting to move in. We knew we weren’t terribly far from shelter though.

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I took this of Louie when he went up a big higher than I felt comfortable doing so. Some of the rock climbing made me fear of heights kick in. Or perhaps my fear of rock climbing.

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When we got back to the car, it started raining, and storming, and kept up for a bit. We decided to go to the store to pick up a few things we’d remembered that we’d forgotten (ha, good writing there!). The storms had blown threw by the time we were done (Sedona is full of shops and restaurants and places to stay, not remote at all) and we went to drive around something called Red Rocks Loop, that the ranger had recommended. It was definitely still a little rainy but not bad. We didn’t really feel like hiking though…we are tough, sure Winking smile but rain hiking is more work. The loop wasn’t that exciting, so we finished and then went to our campground.

I’d booked a night in a campground north of town called Manzanita Campground, run by the Forest Service.

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Our first time by the campground we missed the turn entirely, but found it the second time. There’s a steep one lane driveway down to the campground and the sites are along Oak Creek. Other than the rain and the fact that the only facilities are vault toilets, I loved it.

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We set out for a short hike before dinner-I’d seen there was a trailhead right across from the campground and we though we’d check it out, just for a few minutes. The rain had stopped, but it was still really wet.

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The hike went through an area that had had a fire recently. Later Peter was telling us about it, but now I can’t remember. It was recent, and it luckily didn’t spread too much further than the small area.

(This article I found seems to be about it. We were camping in the Oak Creek Canyon area.)

I wanted to get back to camp before it was too dark, so we only hiked for about 45 minutes. It was neat and we were sorry we couldn’t go further.

It was a cold night. I believe it ended up being close to 40 degrees overnight, hard to believe it was May and Arizona! (Not everywhere in Arizona is hot like Phoenix, but that’s easy to forget). In any case, we made Trader Joe’s Vegetarian Chili with some sides and enjoyed a beer by the campfire. Sort of. The fire was hard to start due to the dampness (we managed, we are used to rain here in Missouri, despite the camp host almost refusing to sell us wood) but the real problem was that the firepits were about 3 feet tall and blocked all the heat. Oh well.

I didn’t sleep that well-first night camping, cold…it was a bad combination. We got up and loaded up the car and headed further north. We decided to hike the West Fork of Oak Creek Canyon.

The ranger had recommended this hike, yes, that’s how we roll (also Leslie and Peter did, but they recommended several hikes that we didn’t get to do either). He’d said he loved it because it was unlike anything else in Sedona. At first that sounded appealing, but then we started to worry, what if it was like Missouri instead? It was lush and green, but luckily it wasn’t really like Missouri.

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The trail goes along the Oak Creek the whole way. It crosses the creek 13 times along the way (and then again on the way back). The creek crossings were quite a lot of fun!

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It seemed they meant you’d have to walk down the creek for 2 3/4 miles! Maybe in some seasons it would be lower, but that just didn’t sound terribly fun to me.

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After finishing the hike we had a quick picnic lunch before heading north (again) towards the Grand Canyon National Park. And that’s where I’ll end today’s blog post, with the two of us in a car, drinking sparkling water, and driving north, looking forward to the next portion of our adventure.

Rainy Day

Be sure to check out my giveaway post! You can win a free 5K race entry.

The weekend went by. I’m starting to feel less congested (fingers crossed) and I’m hopeful that by vacation time I’ll be feeling 100 percent. (Totally have no idea, but power of positive thinking?)

We bailed on our long hike plans yesterday but decided to hit up Castlewood State Park instead. We ended up hiking the River Scene Trail, and it was a lovely day for it. I found the hike challenging due to not feeling great, and the uphills were definitely hard. The views were pretty, and there were tons of people out enjoying the day.

The first part of the hike is lots of uphills, beautiful river views off the bluff, and is quite rocky. Then it’s down a huge set of wooden stairs (you can see old rock stairs off to the side where people used to get up the hill from the train station to various clubs and cabins), under the train tracks, and then it’s a lovely walk in the woods along the river. Louie and I constantly joke that hiking in Missouri is just walking in the woods, and I think we get tired of it sometimes! The River Scene Trail is a good one though, and will get your lungs pumping. Heart pumping? Lungs working?

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Too many trees! (Is there such a thing?)

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Beautiful view of the Meramec River

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Louie and his brother Julian.

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Look out!!