The Wilderness Trail is a fine, long hike, only an hour from South St. Louis County. It's close enough to home to be a reason to drive past closer, but less interesting spots.

At first glance, Meremec State Park does not seem like a landscape of great variety. It sits on the edge of a limestone plateau, which has been moderately dissected by the Meremec River and its smaller tributaries. The park doesn't offer the expansive vistas and sunny openings found in the St. Francois Mountains, and its forest doesn't seem to measure up to the big, mature timber found at Hawn State Park.

Part of the reason is that the trail spends a lot of time in the hollows carved by tertiary drainages. They're brushy, closed in places:

But, as soon as the trail climbs out of the hollows and onto the ridges, the forest opens up. There's a fine native pine-oak stand along the trail:

There are other beauties to be found on the Wilderness Trail. Smalls springs and a few caves, for example. And a surprising patch of non-native pine as well (see thumbnail). This made the third stand of mature, non-native pine I've seen this year. All three (one at Young CA, and one a Meremec CA) featured big, mature trees, but showed no sign of reproduction. All three were in the Meremec River drainage. I've hike more around the Meremec this year than in years past, which may explain why I'm seeing so much non-native pine. Forestry experiments of limited success, not repeated elsewhere? Maybe . . .