Day Hike St Joe State Park Nov 26, '16

My work travel schedule has just been ridiculous and having done Thanksgiving dinner a week early when all the family was available I was feeling both under the weather and also not really knowing what to do this Holiday weekend. Fortunately Corey was participating the in "Opt Out" tradition of not participating in Black Friday shopping and getting out instead to the woods.
He invited me to join him for a hike in St.Joe State Park. I have actually never been to St.Joe State Park, so I was happy to join  him on the Pine Ridge Trail at 13.5 miles loop.

The loop is primarily an equestrian trail so it was muddy and torn up in spots, but a new trail to try none the less 
I arrived at 8 am. Corey had spent the night in the park in his hammock as he had hiked a trail in the St. Francios State Park about 15 miles away the day before. The temperature when I arrived was 25 degrees (-4 C)

The trail having been made for horses was a bit of a boulevard in spots

It crossed a few small creeks 

It had one big down then up. 

 The trail didn't have any views and in the end it was just a good walk in the woods. 13.5 miles in a little under 5 hours. it remained foggy and cool for most of the day until the very end. But this again the sun always shines on Guiness and a great way to celebrate the end of a morning of hiking.

 Afterward it was just 4 miles from the park to Spokes Pub and Grille in Farmington, Missouri for giant burgers and a few craft beers to reward ourselves for a good mornings walk 

Thanks Cory for inviting me along

RV Weekend Meramec State Park Nov 11-13 '16

Late season camping is often times the best with very little crowds and the parks all to ourselves. Our friends the Brant's have recently upgraded their pop up camper to a rather luxurious RV that they can all use quite comfortably. They were nice enough to invite us along to a weekend at Meramec State Park for a weekend of relaxing and sight seeing in the park.
My parents were in town for the Thanksgiving Holiday and have expressed a desire to come out in our RV and is turned out Core'y mother and step-dad were also coming so it seemed like the perfect set up for the weekend.

Late in the season the animals that live in the park are less afraid to make an appearance and we had many deer coming and going during the weekend.
It was also the start of the deer hunting season in Missouri and I think they know they are safe in the Park, as there is no hunting in the State Parks

We arrived on Saturday afternoon and got eveything set up and just relaxed and chatted
This was the weekend before the "Super" moon so we watched it rise each evening getting closer and closer toward full.

 The evening sunsets were bright with many colors

The fires were always very warm and conversation continued into the evening.
Corey brought enough firewood to keep us going the whole weekend

the whole weekend had great weather and each sunrise was exceptional 

Out campsites were right next to the Meramec River. flowing well and looked pretty in the early sunlight, but much to cold to swim!

Missouri is known as the cave state and we have thousands. the limestone along the rivers make for excellent cave formations and there are several that you can explore in the park. 

Missouri's Black Bear population continues to rise (good thing) but this means bear encounters might become more frequent and everyone should be more Bear Aware in the campgrounds.  A feed bear is a dead bear!

Corey and his family were kind enough to cook big meals for everyone Friday and Saturday night. both meals were fantastic, but with any kind of food smells comes the "tiny bears" the real theives of the campgrounds- the Racoon and Possums. This guy was bold and obviously used to where he could find food.

While their was some activity, this weekend revolved around just relaxing and for Corey and I comparing various craft beers. 

 My parents coming from Florida for the Holidays are not used to change in temperature, and while it was a delightful weekend, they were freezing, but we had enough to keep them nice and warm.

As I mentioned the campground was pretty empty, but I was surprised at how many tenting campers there were in the park. 

 By the time we left on Sunday we were some of the last people in the Park.

Special thanks to the Brant's that made this a wonderfully relaxing weekend.

Hammock Overnight Hawn State Park 11.5.16

One of our usual group arranged a night out at Hawn State Park and invited anyone that might like to join us. This turned out to be a good weekend to meet new people with about a dozen people showing up for the night out in the woods.

It turned out to be a beautiful weekend. Hawn is probably the most beautiful park in Missouri. It shows a bit of every geologic feature available in Missouri Parks. 
 A bit of Prairie view as you enter the park
I had actually never seen this many people in the park before. Both parking lots were completely full and people were even parking on the grass. 

I was going to meet a few of the participants at the trail head, but as usual I was early so I decided to do a bit of a warm up by walking up and back the Pickle Creek Trail. It is just 1.5 miles round trip but follows the creek 

The water flows down and along granite boulders, creating great shapes and patterns

 It was time to meet everyone to walk into the campsite that we hoped would be available given how many people were on the trail. Most were day hiking, but there were a couple of groups of boy scouts that looked like they were going to be out for a month, given the size of their packs!

Whispering Pines is the main trail system in the park consisting of two loops in a figure 8 configuration. One loop 6 miles, the other 4 

 The fall colors were just starting to turn up in the park

Starting off
 We were just walking in about 2 miles and fortunately no one was in our camp spot. The idea was to set up camp and then anyone could hike more today or even get up and hike the loops in the morning.

Hammock spot chosen

Hammock set up 
water secured from the creek 

Lots of interesting items in the ground cover
Corey relaxing in his hammock

 Gathering around the fire ring

Getting the fire started 

Lovely way to spend the evening

Wide shot of camp before dark 

Morning fire to take the chill off 

 The morning was cold. temps got down to 32 degrees (0 C) but the sun came up to reveal a beautiful day.

 Thanks to everyone that attended and Joe for organizing. Special thanks for everyone that spent time to gather and cut firewood.

Support Our National Parks - Preserve - Protect - Enjoy