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Posts Tagged ‘Missouri State Park’

Did I start a fire without matches on television in only 30 seconds? Gotta watch the video to find out!

I hope you enjoy my KHQA Morning Show appearance. Huge thanks to host Kristen Aguirre and cameraman Mark Schneider! Also huge thanks to my husband who was kind enough to camp on a Tuesday night and get up at 4 am so I could be “TV ready!”

Note to self: I should do video blogs more often! It’s so much less typing!!

 

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Thanks to the nice people who took our photo even though we scared off their fish!!

Let me tell you readers, it’s not for lack of stories that I haven’t been posting quite as often, it’s for lack of time to write!  In the past couple of weeks I’ve had a couple of adventures that I have yet to tell you guys about… today’s slightly late recap is:

Kayaking with Jess

Adventure Feet

My friend Jess’s father-in-law owns a couple of sit-on-top kayaks, and for a long time we had been saying, “Someday we ought to take those over to Wyconda and paddle.”  Well, someday was taking too long so I sent her a message on Facebook asking if “someday” could be “Sunday.”  She actually replied no at first but quickly reversed and said, yeah- let’s do it.

We headed across the river with the boats in the back of my dad’s truck to Wakonda State Park in La Grange, MO.  Our destination was not the busy and crowded main lake, but rather neighboring Agate Lake.

Wyconda State Park Map (Click to view larger)

I learned via the park’s website that Agate Lake was one of six man-made lakes in Northern Missouri created by the excavation of ice-age deposited gravel pits.  The horse-shoe shaped lake is deceptively large, and Jess and I had a great time paddling, exploring, and chasing geese around the small island in the middle of the lake.  My primary paddling experience has been in ocean kayaks (covered), and this was a great chance to try the sit-on-top variety.  Clearly, this kind of kayak isn’t built for speed or tight maneuverability, but it’s really comfortable, steady and perfect for a relaxing day on a local lake.

Some of the Wyconda Trail Heads near Agate Lake

Because I’m silly and couldn’t resist, I had to see how far I could push the kayak onto its side before it would tip. The answer: pretty darned far.  The things are designed to be super-stable and forgiving.  When I finally did tip the thing, I easily flipped it back to the right side by myself, and since it wasn’t full of water the way an ocean rig would have been, I just kicked my feet a little, hauled myself back up on deck, flipped over to sit back in the seat and we were back on our way.

Jess and I had a really nice afternoon on the lake, and I enjoyed being able to catch up with what was going on in her life and tell her about what had been going on in mine.  Really, the most important part of getting out to follow your Adventure Foot is being able to share the experience with a friend.   Kayaking on a small lake is so quiet and relaxing that it lends itself especially well to great conversation.

Jess had no problem with the choppy water 🙂

If you’re looking for a great little park nearby, I’d highly recommend Wakonda.  In addition to Agate Lake where we paddled, there is also Wakonda Lake and its beach and swimming area, there are RV hookups and campsites, several small trails, and a concessions building with small boats to rent.  If you’ve got kayaks there are plenty of opportunities to do short portages to the other lakes in the area- Quartz and Jasper- and I’m told that if you head the right direction, you can portage a few times and be right back in the Mississippi.   The lakes are also stocked with fish and are a great place to take a family for a fishing trip.  The park is smartly laid out with a central parking lot, so you’re at the center of the lakes, the ranger station, the playground, the swim area, the campsites and the boat launches.  It’s only a 15 minute drive from downtown Quincy, which makes it very convenient, even on a whim.

For more on Wakonda State Park, visit their website here!

Peace out. 🙂

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Jeremy Grootens and Laura at the trailhead to Big Sugar Creek Trail.

Everything about Cuivre (pronounced “quiver”) River State Park in Troy, Mo., is wild. There are wild flowers, wild animals and wildly-fun trails, lakes and campgrounds. All in all, the park makes for a great adventure.

Photos from my trips to the park: 1. Woodland Swallowtail Butterfly 2. Red-Throated Woodpecker 3. Wildflowers 4. Frog 5. Cardinal 6. Water Snake 7. Wildflower 8. Icicles along the bluff 9. Wildflowers 10. Squirel 11. Forest Plant 12. Eastern Fence Lizard 13. Rat Snake eating a Corn Snake 14. Dogwood Tree 15. Titmouse.

Cuivre River is only an hour and a half from Quincy, and is one of the loveliest state parks in Missouri. I suggest starting your visit with a stop in the park’s Visitor’s Center. The park staff is very friendly and will give you great tips on finding just the right activities for your group. They know the local wildlife and trails inside and out, so ask them how to get the most out of your visit.

Even though the park is close to home, the variety of trails, habitats, and terrains make the park seem like a real vacation.  The 11 trails at the park are well-marked and easy to follow, and they vary in length and difficulty.  Some trail highlights include:

Lakeside Trail (3.5 miles) This trail leads right along the perimeter of Lincoln Lake. My husband and I hiked this trail just last weekend, and saw frogs, snakes, butterflies, beavers, lizards and more.

Big Sugar Creek Trail (3.75 miles) I hiked this trail with friends in January, and it was simply breathtaking. The creek and bluffs were heavy with icicles in the winter, and in the warmer months, the bubbling stream and chirping birds are a symphony.

Lone Spring Trail (4.75 miles) The Lone Spring Trail has both a north and a south loop, which gives you the option of only doing 2.3 miles if you prefer a shorter walk.  In addition to its namesake natural spring, this trail traverses an open woodland area. This area is currently being restored via controlled burns, and it’s amazing to watch the processes of the forest right before your eyes.

Prairie Trail (.3 mile) and Turkey Hollow Trail (.8 mile) are great options if you’ve got kids along.  They each are short, well-marked trails that give you views of prairies and woodlands, respectively.

There are far too many activities at this park to list, but I’d suggest checking out the Ranger Talks on Saturday nights or Sunday mornings between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Topics are seasonal and have featured subjects like owls, bats, wildflowers, birds-of-prey, prairies, conservation, wetlands and much more.  Call the park office at 800-334-6946 or visit their website  http://mostateparks.com/park/cuivre-river-state-park

Also, don’t miss the lake, the beach, the campgrounds, the fishing, the swimming, just don’t miss this park.

*Note: There is also a cave at Cuivre River State Park. It is closed at this time, as are most Missouri, Illinois, and Iowa caves, to control the spread of White Nosed Bat Disease. I will be talking about the cave closures in an upcoming blog, however, the closures may be lifted later this summer. Check the Department of Natural Resources for the most up-to-date information.

Original Post April 15, 2011

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Eastern Fence Lizards can be found in Sand Ridge State Forest.

It’s Memorial Day Weekend and I don’t yet have a plan. I know, I’m getting to it a little late, but here’s the thing: there are so many great options.  The weather is finally going to cooperate and give us some sunshine, and I’m ready to hit the trail for some hiking, but where to go? Here are the four ideas I’m tossing around — Maybe you can help pick:

Siloam Springs State Park

It’s the closest park to Quincy and has hiking trails that are just lovely.  The boat house opens this weekend, so we could rent canoes or a john boat and enjoy Crabapple Lake.  I know there are lots of nesting birds around the edges of the lake too, so maybe I’d get a chance to see some fuzzy baby geese or something!  Siloam is always a good choice for a near by adventure.

Argyle Lake State Park

Justin Sievert at Argyle Lake State Park in both the winter and the spring.

This state park is also quite close to Quincy.  It’s just outside of Colchester, IL, and is one of the area’s best-kept secrets.  The park features nice amenities including nice spots to camp and the hiking trails make different loops around and near the lake.  There have been several improvements to the park lately, including the addition of stairs on parts of the trail that were in areas that are steep and can wash out in the rain.  There is also a self-guided interpretative trail near the lake with info-graphics that describe the lake ecosystem. I love a good info-graphic!  This park is also one of the few in the area with designated mountain biking trails for the intrepid weekend warrior!

Sand Ridge State Forest

At 7,200 acres Sand Ridge is the largest state park in Illinois. It’s in Forrest City, Illinois, which is in the general vicinity of Peoria.  This park is wholly unique to Illinois.  It is a backpacker’s dream with over 26 miles of trails and 120 miles of fire lanes that can all be explored. There are registered campgrounds as well as rustic backcountry sites that can make this park a real outdoors experience.  The ecosystem of the park is unlike the rest of the state.  Thanks to the receding glaciers of the last ice age dumping millions of tons of sand on the area, as well as a prehistoric dry period in the state’s history, the forest is actually considered temperate desert or “Sand Prairie.”  The unusual make-up of the soil supports plants and animals unseen anywhere else in the state.  There are badgers, pocket gophers, fence lizards, prickly pear cactus, bur oak, and many more unusual species.  The area is also known for its bird life and includes semi-tropical migratory birds like indigo buntings, verry, ovenbirds, and scarlet tanager, along with Illinois game birds like quail, dove and pheasant.

Cuivre River State Park

Question Mark Butterfly at Argyle Lake State Park.

I blogged about this Troy, Missouri park just a few weeks ago, but I just can’t say enough about it.  The trails are great, and the wildlife is even better.  The campsites are nice and flat and all have fire pits and grill covers, and maybe best of all, there are shower facilities that are included when you pay the $12 fee to camp.  Now that it’s warm, the lake and beach will be open.  That means swimming and lounging around to soak up some rays!  The park rents paddleboats and canoes, so there are plenty of ways to beat the heat.  As if all of those things weren’t enough, Ranger Talks start this weekend, and you can listen to the experts tell you more about the wildlife of the park.  Who knows, I may even bring my bike if we go to this park, because the roads through the park also make a lovely ride.

So there you have it.  It’s a good list of options, and now all I need to do is make a choice.  I said this on my first blog, but it’s worth saying again: we live in amazing part of the country.  All that’s asked of us is to “Get Out” and explore it. Have a great weekend everyone!

Links and directions:

Siloam Springs State Park http://tinyurl.com/siloamsprings

Argyle Lake State Park http://tinyurl.com/argylelake

Sand Ridge State Forest: http://tinyurl.com/sandridgeil

Laura Sievert

Cuivre River State Park http://mostateparks.com/park/cuivre-river-state-park

Original Post May 27, 2011

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Katy Trail Trailhead in St. Charles, Mo.

It was one hot weekend, but that didn’t stop the Green Machine (that’s my bike) from hitting the trail for a serious cycling adventure! My husband and I left Quincy in the predawn hours of Saturday morning and headed south to catch the Katy Trail in St. Charles, Mo.

The Katy Trail is a Missouri Rails-to-Trails project. The Rails-to-Trails program converts defunct railroad right-of-ways into multi-purpose recreational trails for public use. In this case, more than 240 miles of the former Missouri-Kansas-Texas (MKT, or Katy for short) Railroad line have been redeveloped with wide hard-packed limestone trails that are primarily used for cyclists, hikers and runners. The current trail runs from Machens, Mo., (North of St. Charles) and follows the Missouri River west across the state through towns like Augusta, Herman, Jefferson City,  and Columbia, and ends in Clinton, Mo. This trail is already the longest Rails-to-Trails project in the nation, but plans are in progress to extend the trail through to Kansas City and beyond.

We picked up the trail at the St. Charles riverfront early in the morning on Saturday. The St. Charles trailhead to Katy is very endearing. The city has refurbished its train station and even has an old engine and caboose sitting near the start of the trail. I couldn’t help but make choo-choo noises as we set off toward Augusta.

It was hot, but not yet unbearable, and as we left the St. Charles Station, there were many bikers, hikers and runners using the trail. It wasn’t more than a few miles down the road that the crowds thinned out and we had left the city behind. The country roads are charming. In places, the trail would be bordered on either side by tall wildflowers and wooden fences. There were more birds than I can even recall, but the ones that stood out the most were the Indigo Buntings. The dazzling turquoise birds against the sunny black-eyed susans were as pretty as a picture.

The biking itself started out very easy.  After all, trains can’t run up very steep grade, so the Katy Trail is virtually flat. The 240 miles of flat trail seems like a cyclist’s dream, until you realize what flat trail really means. You may not ever be going up a hill, but you are also never going down one. Our speed was almost constant at 13 mph, and we were always pedaling. It was more exhausting than I expected! The surface adds some resistance as well. Though the limestone “pug” is hard-packed, it’s still gravel, and the feeling for my tires was a bit like riding through shallow sand.

Only seven miles from St. Charles, we pulled into the first stop along the trail at Green’s Bottom, Mo.  Each of the 30-odd towns on the Katy feature small roofed “stations” with informative dioramas about the sections of trail immediately adjacent to the station. Much of the trail is built along the Lewis and Clark exploration route, and many of the graphics explained the historical significance of their journey. The gravesites of frontiersman Daniel Boone and his wife Rebecca lay along the trail, as do several Native American points of interest. The effort the Missouri Parks have put into making this trail both fun and educational cannot be overstated. There is even a guided cell phone audio tour at some stops. To hear the recording about the Katy Trail in St. Charles yourself, call (877)767-0603 and then press 10#.

Further down the trail there was so much to explore. It seemed like there was a new vista around every corner. The Missouri River was running high and fast on our left for many miles. The bluffs on our right were imposing and beautiful, at one point, they formed a natural shelter wall that was at least 150 yards long and 120 feet tall. When the trail steered us away from the river, some of the backwaters of the Missouri backed up into primordial looking wetlands, complete with bullfrog symphonies. The wildlife of the trail included several large turtles, lots of frogs and fence lizards, hawks, turkey buzzards, deer, herons and much more. There is even a small chance of spotting a black bear along the Katy, though it would be rare.

Another highlight of riding on the Katy Trail is the chance to explore the small towns of Missouri. Many of the stops had wineries, antique shops, bed and breakfast cottages and more. I especially liked that there were almost always “hitchin-posts” meant for horses but repurposed to chain up bikes. At our destination, Augusta, there was a brewery with craft beers and house-smoked meat sandwiches for lunch. If a micro-brewed IPA and smoked brisket aren’t reason enough to bike 28 miles, then I don’t know what is.

After over-indulging in Augusta, my husband hopped on his bike (The Blue Meanie), and we headed back to St. Charles. The same trail we had just ridden took on an entirely different character as the late afternoon descended. The golden colors of the fading light made the cornfields look graceful and the rock walls come alive. The butterflies and other bugs became active as the temperatures finally dipped into the 80s, and it was magical to ride through the clouds of fluttering color.

Our 57-mile round trip on the Katy Trail was supposed to be the beginning of a three-day trip, however, after only seven miles in the heat on Sunday, (Trail temp. was 102 with a heat index of 115+) we decided that the rest of the trail would have to wait. I am very much looking forward to riding the Katy again though, and we are planning to complete the entire 240 miles this autumn. Whether you’re headed down for a short ride or to take in the full length of the Katy Trail, I know that you’ll enjoy your trip. I think next time, I’ll bring one of those wooden train whistles to blow on at each stop…

For more information including mileage charts and attractions along the trail, visit www.bikekatytrail.com For the Missouri Katy Trail State Park information, visitmostateparks.com/park/katy-trail-state-park. To read more about Rails-to-Trails projects nationwide, visitwww.railstotrails.org.

Laura Sievert (Original post 7/14/11)

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