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Posts Tagged ‘Winter Hiking’

Justin Sievert hikes on Crabapple Trail.

Siloam Springs State Park used to be like the jean jacket in the back of my closet. I always knew it was there, I just didn’t think I had much use for it.  But in the last year, I’ve dusted off the jean jacket and headed out to Quincy’s closest state park for some of the most accessible, most affordable fun a person can have in the Quincy area.

The beautiful 3,323-acre park is an ideal spot for anyone who enjoys the outdoors. The park is perfectly suited to hunting, fishing, camping, boating, picnicking, bird watching, playing on the playground with the kids, or for a great hike.  There are no fees, save for hunters or boat rental.

Female Red Headed Woodpecker.

Hiking is my preferred activity at state parks, and Siloam Springs has got everything I need. The trails are all easy to moderate for most hikers, with only a few that present noticeable inclines, and none that risk much in the way of hazards.  There is a wide variety of trails, that range from the just under a mile long Old Village Trail to the 4 mile long Red Oak Backpack trail.  My most traveled route is a combination of the Deer Run trail (which starts right at the parking lot of the ranger station), to the Hoot Owl Trail (which features the park’s steepest incline, but rewards you with beautiful views over the ridges), and then back up the Old Village trail.  This 4 mile loop offers a variety of views, different trees and habitat, a nice spot along the creek to eat a lunch or fossil hunt in the creek bed, and it crosses one of the main park and shelter house areas if you feel like playing on the swing set for a few minutes.

You might think that trail hiking is an activity best saved for warm summer months, but let me give you a few good reasons to get out to the park sooner than later!  First: No bugs yet. No bug spray, no mandatory tick check when you get home, no flies or mosquitoes, and fewer spider webs to stick on your hat. Second: Quiet. You’re not going to run into a bunch of other hikers. Third: Wildlife! Jays, cardinals, deer, hawks and the occasional owl are the winter inhabitants of the park, and the lack of foliage make the viewing that much easier. The red tail hawk calls in the area rang out like bells, and deer moving through the trees are easy to hear and easy to spot.

My day-pack for hiking at Siloam includes a couple bottles of water, a camera, gloves and maybe a sack lunch. In the winter and spring, waterproof shoes are pretty critical, as portions of the trail will be soggy, particularly after snow melt.  I also recommend bringing an extra layer of clothes even if the day is nice. Weather can change fast this time of year, and once the sun starts to go down, so will the temperature.

Check the Department of Natural Resource’s website for more information and for directions to the park.http://dnr.state.il.us/lands/landmgt/parks/r4/siloamsp.htm

Stay tuned for my follow up article on why morel mushroom hunting at Siloam Springs is the best part of Spring, but don’t expect to find out where my top-secret-awesome mushroom spot is at the park, because I’m not telling!

Original Post March 14, 2011

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