places

A medium length trail through a varied landscape. The loop hike (6 miles?) at Washington State Park, and the varied terrain it passes through, is certainly worth the drive. It's a good plae to think about the history and development of Missouri's state parks, and the trail offers a number of pleasant surprises.

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A big, complex park, with all of its users concentrated around the Shut-Ins' swimming holes.

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A big area, with miles of old woods roads. The Conservation Department closes most of the trails in the area during hunting season, although it's still possible to get a good, long hike through an area where hunting is off-limits.

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I happened to be in Poplar Bluff for a few days in early April. For a funeral, which seemed unseasonable, since it was about as springtime as I can ever recall it being. This spring--the spring of 2012--is one I'll remember for the rest of my days. In part because it has been so beautiful. And in part because the funeral was for a man who lived a life as beautiful as the spring.

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Wear orange: A forest actively managed for wildlife and hunting.

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The season--late May--was perfect for ferns, and Hickory Canyons was almost the perfect place to see them. Hickory Canyons--a Natural Area administered by the Department of Conservation, is an easy detour on the drive to Hawn State Park, where I went for few days to camp and hike.

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A pleasant walk through 145 acres of pristine woods. The Conservation Department advertizes Englemann Woods as, "a rare remnant of old-growth Missouri River hills forest" (see the entry on their natural areas site).

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Even a familar place can seem new, with a bit of exploring.

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Another fishing destination, but with a long trail to a natural bridge.

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The park has rules. Rules about posting pictures of the sculpture on the Internet, and rules about touching and climbing on the sculpture:

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An hour from home, with trails enough to fill a day.I have fond childhood memories of the park. There's a scout ranch a little farther down 67. When my mother would take my brother and I to summer camp, we'd stop off at St. Francois for a picnic. Fried chicken, usually, not the thickly battered kind, but my mother's floured version, peppery and crisp.

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So gorgeous, and so close.

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The quickest introduction to the St. Francois Mountains in the state. The St. Francois Mountains offer a different experience from what we usually find in Missouri. There's more exposed rock, hard igneous rock instead of the usual limestone. Sometimes there's so much rock that trees have a hard time growing, and the landscape remains open, with views that stretch to the next line of hills.

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Forest 44 is mostly a place for horseback riding, but there's hiking to be had. It appears to be run almost exclusively for riders, and for the horse boarding businesses in the area:

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It's close, 30 minutes from home. Close is good. But is it good enough?

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This biggest hills and the best views in the state, without excepttion.

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Sometimes, the trail fades away to nothing, inviting (or forcing, depending on your point of view) off-trail exploration.

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The nicest park in the state, bar none. I've been visiting the park since I was a child. My grandfather took me by there, a side-trip from day-long drive we took in search of sawmill scraps for the fireplace. Since then, I've camped there, backpacked there, day hiked there. I know the main trail, the Whispering Pines Trail, as well as I know any place. And yet Hawn is the only place where I've ever been truly lost. Twice.

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I go there to fish, but there is a short trail that can be fun. The last few years, I've been going to Montauk for a week around Labor Day. It makes for a very relaxing week. I fish a little, read a little, nap a little. This year, I made a point of just walking around the park. I hiked the official trail, but I also just walked around, usually in the afternoon, when the fishing was slow.

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Is this the prettiest picture I've taken all year?

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A brand new conservation area! So new that I didn't know it was there, until I drove past it on my way somewhere else. It's not an especially big conservation area--about like the others in the same part of Jefferson County--but it's still a nice addition.

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A brilliantly designed and executed trail loops through a small but varied landscape of glades, forest and creek bottoms. Valley View Glades Natural Area is located west of Hillsboro in Jefferson County, about 40 minutes south I-270 down MO 21. MO 21 is four-lane divided highway through Jefferson County to where it ends at route B (paved). Go right on B 4 miles or so to Valley View Glades (parking on left).

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I stopped by on a windy day. The flags were stiff in the wind (nice), and the air was full of dust (not so nice, since the place was a lead smelter).

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Sometimes an uncomplicated long walk is fine.

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A lovely, varied park. Shame about the feral hogs, though.

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