Once you’re children are old enough to drive, Father’s Day changes forever. With a daughter working at the pool and another at Missouri Scholars Academy in Columbia, my wife and I had our pick at what we wanted to do this holiday. Let’s just say that the empty nest is fast approaching and my dream of owning a sailboat again is growing stronger. That’s why we took a road trip to Smithville Lake just north of Kansas City, Mo.
There’s fishing, there’s camping, there’s hiking, there’s swimming beaches but — best of all — there’s sailing. I’m still several months away from sailing my own boat again but I got to keep the dream alive, at least a little bit on this hot, windy Father’s Day.
I have few photos from our recent four-night camping trip to Thousand Hills State Park just west of Kirksville, Mo. You see, our youngest wanted to do an overnight backpacking trip so we loaded up our small tent, sleeping bags, a bit of food and the new Mini Sawyer water filter I bought just for the trip and hit the Thousand Hills Trail early one Friday morning before the day’s heat overtook us.
We backpacked about five miles to our campsite to discover a fire ring, picnic table and a place to hang a lantern, far more than we expected. Of course we also found way more ticks than we cared for, the typical poison ivy and the expected hot and humid days late June brings. One bonus, though, was a cove to cool off in just about a quarter mile from camp.
The trail, along with others, was nice to explore with a cave nearby our campsite. A public swimming beach not far from the campground came in handy on those hot afternoons while we were car camping but we soon discovered past inconsiderate visitors have ruined some of the attractions, mainly some Native American petroglyphs that have been defaced. On an early visit the structure protecting the petroglyphs was open to visitors but its doors are now locked. While the early rock carvings were still visible the awe we experienced when viewing them a few years earlier wasn’t quite the same when peering through glass and seeing the names of contemporary vandals along side the petroglyphs.
Windchill. Whiteout. Wintry.
Anytime a meteorologist uses one of the “W” words it’s time to think of places where weather forecasts include “sunny,” “bright,” and “pleasant.”
And when you hear one of the “W” words too often it’s time to go beyond thinking and actually doing. For us it was an all too short trip to Gulf Shores to spend time at a beach house my wife’s parents rent every winter. Our two teens, my wife, and I joined her brother, his wife, and their two boys for nearly a week with Grandpa and Grandma on the beach. The youngsters got to play in the sand and the adults got to take a break from winter in Missouri.
We tried to avoid the tourist traps all too common along the coast and instead visit places like Fort Pickens State Park on the Gulf Islands National Seashore and the National Naval Aviation Museum. There are plenty of other sites of interest beyond the t-shirt and seashell shops lining the highways. Try Big Lagoon State Park, Naval Live Oaks Reserve, Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge, or ride the ferry to Dauphin Island and spend some time at the Sea Lab there.
February is snowbird season on the Gulf Coast. It’s too cool to swim and warm days on the beach aren’t guaranteed. If it rains, visit someplace like Joe Patti’s Seafood Market or the National Naval Aviation Museum instead of the overabundant souvenir shops. Make seafood, walks on the beach, and sand castles and kites with kids priorities. Then, when you return home, those last few weeks of winter will be a bit more tolerable.