Glades are marvellous places, and Victoria and Valley View Glades are good places to see them. Even though they occur in a variety of places in Missouri, they always feel unique, a departure from the usually timbered Ozark landscape. They invite a kind of slow progress, a constant stopping and turning to look, since glades often reveal a vista that is not possible in thick woods.

I've seen two kinds of glades, the sort underlaid by sedimentary rock like at Victoria and Valley View Glades, and the kind that occur amid granite and rhyolite outcroppings in the St. Francois Mountains. I've heard of other sorts, of chert glades and sandstone glades, but I have yet to see any of them.

Glades occur where the ground is extremely rocky and the soil very thin, and often on slopes where water runs off quickly. They seem to feature the same sort of vegetation: lichens on the rocks, grasses wherever a little soil has accumulated, cedars often in clumps, and the whole surrounded by a border of stunted hardwoods, themselves frequently covered in lichen.

And yet they're all subtly different from each other. Some have more exposed rocks, some less. Some have a lot of cedar, some have not much at all. When there's not much rock, there's not much lichen. In other places, lichen occurs in a bewildering variety of forms.

Sometimes glades are large--tens of acres--and their openness reveals expansive views. Other times they're small--the size of suburban yard--and their surrounding belt of trees creates the feel of a hidden room, or of a secluded garden. I always feel the surprise of discovery when I happen upon such a place, especially if it feels like it is rarely visited.

Victoria and Valley View Glades' openings are large--tens of acres, running along the hillsides, with hardwoods in the creek bottoms and hardwoods on the hilltops, fringed around with cedars. When I was there, in early January, the oaks and hickories were bare, and the cedars had taken on a reddish-brown color. The grass in the glades had gone a sere tan, and wasn't much more than ankle high. It was easy walking up through the glade, the ground smoothly sloping, free of large rocks and outcrops.

Near the top of glade, within ten yards of the hardwoods crowning the hill, I happened across a deer's day bed, an area of flattened grass about four feet square, connected to faint trail leading back to the woods. It was fine spot for a deer to rest during the day, looking down toward where people would come from. Deer seem to like spots like this, places where they can lie down out of the wind, and yet still see trouble before it gets to them.

I often end up at deer day beds. When I backpack, I sometimes find myself camping by them. Perhaps I like the same things the deer do, the combination of shelter and openness. Still, I'm always surprised when a deer walks up to my camp, almost as surprised as it is.