Hiking Overnight St Francois State Park July 24-25 2021

Sometimes you just have to get out on the trail. But Craig, I hear you say,  you have said yourself that there is no hiking between Memorial Day and Labor Day because it is too hot, too buggy and most importantly too much poison ivy in Missouri in the Summer. Well you would be right and you would also be right in knowing I never listen to my own advice. If I had, I certainly would not have planned to go out on what was the hottest weekend of the year so far. We all know I am not that bright! 

I was guaranteed to have no one on the trail but me and that was true. The forecast was for mid 90's with the same humidity for the weekend and good chance of thunderstorms as this is usually the case, the air can only hold so much moisture and when it gets this hot and humid the big thunderstorms usually come eventually. There was a window of low possibility of storms on Saturday and I took that chance.

If I had ever hiked in St Francois State Park, it would have been so long ago I don't remember it, so I decided to do all the trail miles in the park on an overnight. There are three trails totaling 22 miles. Typical to Missouri the trails go up and onto a ridge and then back down into a creek bed, over and over again. I was pleasantly surprised these trails did stay up on the ridge lines much longer and a good portion that were along the creek beds were very nice and the water was still flowing well (We have had a lot of rain this year) 

The park is only about 85 miles from my house so it doesn't take long to get there. As I thought, I would be the only one at the trail head. It was about 9:30 on Saturday and it was already about 85 degrees

The main trail in the park is the Pike Run trail. It is about 12 miles with two loops a south loop (6.4) and a north loop (4.2 miles), plus connectors 

Right away some unusual and really nice flowers. I would see quite a bit of flowers this weekend.

This trail is open to Hike, Bike and Equestrian. 0.2 miles in you can see the damage caused by horses using the trail when it is very wet. The damage that can be done can be so severe, as it is here that it will never recover without assistance. 

It is hard not to want to ride your horse on nice trails, but there is a time not too and part of being a responsible trail user is knowing when. As hikers we have different responsibilities but the same when it comes to making sure the trail stays in good shape 

Lots of fungus along the trail of all different colors and shapes

Always a great bonus, wild blackberries. Not many bushes but these were ripe and ready to eat so I enjoyed what few were there, leaving just a few and the sour red ones that were not quite ready just yet.

The park has really clever way of helping anyone needing assistance on the trail, about every half mile there is an Emergency locator post with a letter of the alphabet. There is cell signal around almost the entire trail and this would be a good way to identify where you are for authorities if you needed assistance. 

Quiz question: what sound does an annoyed turkey make when you happen to walk right under her roost and not see her until she starts?

Answer: They hiss at you, just like a cat only a more guttural hiss.

I had to zoom in from a good distance as she was really annoyed, so I was walking past as fast as I could.  As soon as I passed she actually went down into the hollow dead tree she was perched on. 

More yummy blackberries 

All the creeks on the western side of the south loop were flowing really well and every time you dipped into a hollow, it had a creek.

This side of the south loop goes up and down and up and down about 3 times till you reach the connector to the north loop

I chose the western side of the North Loop as well so I could cut over to the Mooner's Hollow Trail. About a mile and a half you drop down into a hollow and you can see a faint connector leading down to a really nice creek bed

It had a really nice flow over moss covered rocks

I got some water here and cooled off a bit in the water as the temps were reaching the 90's by 11 am.

From here I could see on my map that the Mooner's trail was just a short cut away through the trees. It was nothing to find it in just a 100 yards or so. 

As a bonus I did come out just beyond the official turn around point at the end of the official Mooner's trail loop. It was still a good trail so I followed it just a bit looking for a place to cross to connect with the trail on the other side and I found this waterfall cascade. I was really tempted to strip down and just sit in the water for awhile. 

Mooner's trail heads up to a ridge with a few glens where you can see through the trees 

Every place the sun could get too had wild flowers

2 miles and I made it to the parking area for the trail. There was a lot of activity as families were picnicking and playing in the creek with small children. It was hot and just past lunch at around 12:45. A good place for food and a rest 

I found a picnic table and had a bit of food and a lie down with shoes off 

I stayed for about an hour and then got everything packed up and off again on the other side of the creek loop back to where I would pick up the Pike Run trail again at the same creek.

This side of the trail stays closer to the creek bed 

Trail right next to the creek 

Lot of nice rock features just above the creek 

Look closely, can you see Mr. Green Snake. I startled him on the trail and I had real trouble finding him in the grass when he was still.

I made it back my connector and it was a steep uphill after joining the Pike Run Trail again. I only had about 1 mile until reaching the place I wanted to stop for the day, however it was now around 3 pm and it was 95 degrees on my watch and humidity to match. I needed to have a sit and rest even if it was right on the trail 

Made it to the point of the north loop and the high point on this side, found two nice trees for the hammock and proceeded to rest in shade for a few hours until making some dinner.

I rested in the hammock and shade until around 6:30 before having some dinner. I hung with no bug net and no shirt all afternoon. Not one mosquito and maybe I heard 3 flies, but none ever bugged me. It is purely unscientific but I would say something over the year of lockdown has done something to flying insects in Missouri. Usually at this time in mid to late July if you were outside and sweaty in the woods you would be swarmed with insects! 

This turned out to not be such a great spot for camping after all, because when the sun went down every cicada within miles suddenly started to sing. The sound was deafening. On top of that I could hear the highway over the valley and every motorcycle and 18 wheeler was heard clearly until about 1 am. 

I was up at my usual time around 6 am and out of camp by 6:30. There was a very steep downhill and then an equally steep uphill to get up to around 1050 feet but then it was smooth ridge walking for most of the rest of this northern loop. 

What does the early bird get? Answer: the spider webs. There were so many this early in the morning and they were all at mouth height (why is that?) I had to put on my mosquito netting. 

North loop done and now just two miles back to the parking lot.

On the south loop this is where I was going to branch off to do the 4 mile Swimming Deer Trail, but the storm clouds that where suppose to hold off until tonight here, were moving in, so I decided to save that small trail for when we bring the RV here sometime. 

Another little savannah opening on the trail and it was full of wildflowers as well 

Made it back to the parking lot and decided to make a trail coffee before heading home.

And it did pour on the way home!

Here is what the loops look like. yellow was Saturday and blue was Sunday morning with distances and times.

Lost 5 pounds on a overnight... no more hiking until after Labor Day! That is why we have an RV for goodness sakes! 

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