Category Archives: Hiking

What The Heck is a Hoodoo

Road Trip 2016 continued!

Previous posts:

And so it begins…to Aspen

Bear Necessities

Leaving Aspen…Good Riddance

Moving Along

No Such Thing as a Dead Horse

Feeling at home in Arches National Park

Entering the Fiery Furnace

A Night Off the Ground

The Only Good Forest is a Petrified Forest

It wasn’t too far to Bryce Canyon from Escalante State Park, and as usual, it was a beautiful drive. Seriously, there’s just no way to understand how gorgeous and amazing the land out there was if you haven’t been. Go!

So as we got closer to Bryce Canyon, I realized since we were arriving around 10 am, we should park outside the park and take the shuttle in. This was easy enough. We made lunch, packed our backpacks, filled our water, and took the shuttle. We hadn’t decided what to do yet (I tell you, it is hard to preplan for an entire 3 week trip, and I just ran out) but we quickly skimmed the newsletter (called “The Hoodoo”, which, if you aren’t sure what that is, I’ll show you in a minute) and saw a hike described as “one ultimate hike!” and knew it was the one. It was listed under strenuous and was called “The Figure 8 Combination. You combine the Queens Garden, Peekaboo Loop and Navajo Loop for a 6.4 mile hike.

Remember, it’s a canyon. Coming out is always harder! But this wasn’t like the Grand Canyon, and after hiking to the Colorado River and back, everything else seems like child’s play.

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Bryce. It’s really unbelievable. All those bits poking up are the hoodoos, and it’s what is left as the parts around them have been eroded away. (I think.) We took the shuttle to Sunrise Point and then hiked through the Queen’s Garden. This part of the trail was super crowded, but for good reason. It was absolutely beautiful and amazing, and while I know I’ve said that before I’m sitting here typing, nearly a year later, and I can remember exactly how I felt, looking around. Terrified, yes, because it was a pretty steep downhill with lots of drop offs, but amazed at the crazy pointy bits and the natural wonders that were simply unlike anything else we’d seen, and yet, here they were. What an amazing world we live in!

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Hoodoos up close!

The trail, as usual, thinned out a bit the further we got, though it was always pretty well traveled. There were lots of ups and downs, and it was certainly no picnic of a hike, but around each corner there were more breathtaking wonders. I can’t recommend this hike enough.IMG_6014

There were quite a few archways! Being a St Louisian now, I do love arches.

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The trees just add another element. You don’t see so many trees in other parts of Utah. Bryce is a higher elevation-8000 to 9000 feet, so the flora and fawna are different than other parts of Utah that we had seen. It was also cooler, which was a relief.

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At one point we sat and had a nice lunch break. There were also a few points where there were vault toilets to use, which is always a little funny—you are miles into a hike, and then you wait in line for a potentially really stinky bathroom Smile

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You can see there are some switchbacks in the hike.

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The hike took us into the early afternoon. Getting out of the canyon was a little terrifying for me, as it was a lot of not looking down and just forging ahead, and the switchbacks getting out were really crowded! But we made it without too much trouble, somehow, and then got on a shuttle bus to go back to the car.

We found an ice cream shop near the car and had a treat before we headed out to our campsite. I couldn’t reserve us a site at Bryce so I got one at Kodachrome State Park, which was about 30 minutes away.  As busy as Bryce was, there was hardly anyone at Kodachrome, and we found our tent-only loop easily enough. The only thing was there were a lot of gravel roads, and there was NOBODY else there, which was a little scary at first! But we settled in, we found the showers at a nearby electric loop, realized there WERE other people there, and then a few more parties joined our campground. All the time we could hear cows mooing, particularly the next morning, which was kind of funny.

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Image may contain: tree, sky, outdoor and nature

I wish we could have relaxed more but the next morning we were up and out of there, and went back to Bryce. It would have been great to explore Kodachrome further, but our crazy schedule didn’t allow it. We hadn’t seen all of the park, so we got there early to drive to the end of it and come back. Another way to avoid crowds is to get up early, and we did that.

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We took a nice little hike called the Bristlecone Loop and saw more of the hoodoos and the canyon, and then stopped at a few more viewpoints and the visitors center, but it was getting crowded by that point, and we were eager to get to Zion, so we headed out.

On our way to Zion, we got hungry and didn’t feel like eating out of the car, so when we saw a German Bakery/Restaurant called Forscher Bakery, it seemed just the ticket. Oh, and for some reason we ordered a pizza. It was odd, but excellent. To be continued!

Nights Camping: 10

Miles Hiked (estimate): 64

Hawn State Park and the Whispering Pines Trail

Since summers can get so busy for me (weddings and other fun work events) I decided to set aside a couple of times in order to have normal fun summer activities. This past weekend I planned a short getaway to Hawn State Park near St. Genevieve, Missouri.

We left on Friday, planning to camp two nights and hike in between and on Sunday morning. We’d wanted to bring Mackenzie (my dog) but it was pretty hot and she just doesn’t do well in the heat (too furry) so we left her at a friend’s house. Louie and I have spent a lot of time thinking about how to streamline our camping experience, and this time we’d stored everything, all the odds and ends at least, in a large plastic bin that fit in his trunk, so it was a matter of taking stuff out of the garage, removing stuff from the bin we definitely wouldn’t need, and trusting the rest was there. (It was! This method worked pretty well.) I also planned out meals for Friday night, Saturday day, and Sunday morning, along with some drinks. It was easy planning for a short trip.

Hawn is about 1 1/2 hours away and we got there by 5 pm. We picked up a bundle of firewood just outside of the park but they sold it there, along with ice, so we wouldn’t have had to. I’d reserved site 29, since I wasn’t sure how popular it would be for Father’s Day weekend. It was pretty full but not completely booked when we arrived, but you know me, I’m a planner.

One thing that struck me was just how GREEN it was there. It was a very nice campground, well maintained, and a beautiful state park.

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We set up the tent and then wandered around a little bit, checking out where the trailhead for the hike the next day was. Then we cooked a nice dinner (chili!), sat around the fire, and relaxed. It wasn’t too hot when you weren’t doing anything much, and after the sun went down it was very pleasant. There wasn’t a huge amount of privacy and some of the neighbors were a little annoying, but that’s campground camping for you. Our site was pretty, except the tent backed up to a large patch of poison ivy! Good to avoid.

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There were large wooden poles to hang up your trash on, but the raccoons can scale them. Or at least the raccoon that visited us could. He (or she) came out just after dark, and I didn’t realize until the next day that he’d stolen a plastic bowl and dropped it in the bushes. The following night after dinner he got into our trash and ate an apple core. In any case, he seemed nice, but we didn’t want to feed him!

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Posing with the tent.

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Louie hard at work chopping firewood into smaller pieces.

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My view from my chair.

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Anyway, we had a nice relaxing night, sitting around the fire chatting. We agreed it was good to get out of the world for a bit, to be disconnected and just relax. It’s refreshing when you know you are out of touch (NO service to speak of, data wise-no news, no worries!).

It rained around 6:00 am Saturday, so we waited to get up until 8 am or so. We’d planned to do earlier just to get hiking before the heat of the day, but oh well. Our neighbors were pretty loud (shockingly so for 7 am) but oh well. The good news is the loud ones left that day Smile

We wanted to hike the Whispering Pines Trail, which is 10 miles if you do the north and south loops. The author of my book, 60 hikes within 60 miles recommended starting with the Pickle Creek Trail, and I’m glad we did!

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I believe this was the Pickle Creek.

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10 miles! I forget how far that is when you are walking.

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Why yes, those are purple hiking shorts. Or eggplant, or something.

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There was almost a view. Maybe in the winter.

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So green!

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Cool water area.

IMG_7641The entire hike was buggy, and it was really hot and humid after an hour or so, and we were pretty worried about ticks (we applied liberal amounts of Deep Woods Off), but the Pickle Creek Trail was the best part! It was a nice day, a challenging hike. We packed our usual pb sandwiches for lunch, had trail mix, lots of water, and a few breaks, and by the end I was suffering, but we made it, and lived to tell the tale.

If I did this again, I don’t think I’d do both loops, and I don’t know that I’d want to hike the south loop in the summer, ever again. But in a different season it might be really nice—it was VERY overgrown and often felt like hiking in the jungle (not that I have, but I’d imagine it’s similar, wading through elbow high weeds?)

Afterwards I was thankful the campground had showers and I only found one tiny tick which had not attached itself.  The campground had very nice facilities overall—nice bathrooms (for a campground, to be clear), and there were also vault toilets, I imagine for during the winter.

We relaxed by the fire again for hours after the hike (we hiked from about 9:30 to 3:30) and then made dinner and went to bed eventually.

We were awoken by thunder around 2:30 am. A huge storm swept through, probably at least 1 hour long, of severe weather. Louie and I sat there together in the tent, worrying. There was torrential rain, loud lightning and thunder, and no way to check the radar to see what was happening. Finally it passed and we were able to get back to sleep. The tent stays pretty dry but has some vents that a little wetness gets in through on the sides near the bottom. I was worried about tornados at the time and Louie said later he was worried about a tree or branch falling on us. I told myself that I just didn’t hear of too many people dying in Missouri State Parks in storms…another lighter storm followed that one but nothing too crazy.

Anyway, when morning finally came, we decided to pack up and leave in case there were more storms coming. We didn’t think any more hiking would be very pleasant since the ground was muddy and wet, so we just headed home. It was a nice weekend getaway!

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My view from the tent: I was packed up sleeping bags and pads while Louie made coffee and oatmeal.

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.