Category Archives: Road trip

Father’s Day at Smithville Lake

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.

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Easter weekend hike

So much can happen from day to day, especially in the spring. On March 30 we headed south to Bella Vista, Ark., to spend Easter weekend with family. That evening we visited Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville too look at the newest displays there. The next day, with temperatures near 70 degrees, we decided to visit Tanyard Creek Nature Trail to see how much water was coming from Lake Windsor over the falls of Tanyard Creek.

Northwest Arkansas and Southwest Missouri had been inundated with rain so the creeks, rivers, and lakes there were higher than usual. That, combined with the pleasant weekend weather, made Tanyard Creek Trail a popular place to visit. The 2.2 mile, easy trail is dog friendly and has several features other than the falls. There are identifying markers throughout, such as at an Indian bluff shelter and another at an old homestead, as well those identifying native plants and trees along the trail. There are also a static bridge and a swinging bridge over the creek as well as plenty of rock to rock crossings for the more daring.

The mayapples were coming up and the redbuds were in bloom when we were there but we found no morels. We did, however, find icy roads and about a dozen traffic accidents as we headed north through Kansas City to our home some 300 miles away. Remember: Spring if fickle, especially when you live in Missouri.

Christmas Eve Hike

 

Yes, we’re going to have a white Christmas this year. So, with a bit of snow on the ground and shining sun, we decided to take a little Christmas Eve hike, let the dogs run, and get in a bit of exercise before hitting the eggnog. Surprisingly, we were the first and maybe even the only ones to visit Elam Bend Conservation Area.

 

Our youngest got to try her hand at driving on snow for the first time, we saw four young  bald eagles feeding on a road-kill coyote, and the dogs spooked a deer ahead of us on the trail. Now the dogs are tired, the Christmas cookies are baking, and we’re patiently awaiting Santa’s arrival. Merry Christmas.

Thanksgiving Geocaching

When November weather nears 70 degrees you have no excuse to stay inside, not even with a belly full of turkey, dressing, and cranberry relish. And if the weather is that nice the day before Thanksgiving, you definitely need to get outdoors for a hike to earn the next day’s dinner.

Thanksgiving took us to my in-laws in Bella Vista, Ark., so when the afternoon before Thanksgiving turned more than pleasant I told my two youngest daughters we’d better take advantage of it. We decided to hit a couple nearby trails for some easy hiking and a bit of geocaching, both of which are plentiful in Northwest Arkansas.

We found several geocaches. We also found waterfalls, caves, old homesites, and much more. We barely scratched the surface in the number of geocaches and trails to visit and will explore more next time we visit, just as we did when our daughters were toddlers when we lived in nearby Gravette, Ark., and Rogers, Ark., where the youngest was born.

 

Crowder State Park

The first Saturday in November, temperatures near 70 degrees and a wearisome presidential election nearing its end meant it was time to enjoy autumn before the weather and Election Day turned worse. With that in mind we stopped at the courthouse, cast our ballots early and headed out of town to Crowder State Park about 50 miles east of here.

Even with the constant crunch of leaves underfoot there was still plenty of fall colors. With more than 15 miles of hiking trails to choose from, we parked at Crowder Lake, walked across the dam and headed off on Tall Oaks Trail. The three-mile trail takes hikers along the lake through the old woods up a ridge through an old field and back down to the trailhead along river bottoms.

We had hiked another trail, River Forks, a few years earlier. Our plan — as soon as we get a few days free — is to set up the tent at the campsite and explore the eight-and-a-half mile Thompson River Trail, get in some fishing and relax in between. The 1,912-acre park includes basic, family and electric camping, an equestrian trail, canoe rentals, Red Bud Trail for those wishing a shorter hike and a quiet setting near Trenton, Mo.

Butterflies and Ticks

A bit of cooler August weather had us revisiting Emmett and Leah Seat Memorial Conservation Area today. Pollinators, mainly butterflies, were as busy as, well, bees on the wildflowers. They were common along our walk along a wooded access road but we discovered hundreds of them flittering around a south facing mudbank when we crossed a small stream.

One small butterfly even hitched a ride on my leg for several yards before getting its fill of sweat. After our little hike, we drove a few miles west to Denver, Mo., to visit Sowards Ford Access, a primitive camping area on the East Fork of the Grand River. Denver itself is worth a trip if you enjoy visiting old small towns. The name F.C. Grace remains prominent in Denver even though his sale of furniture there have long been gone but the old Denver Schoolhouse has undergone a restoration.

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We picked up a few things along the Grand River at Sowards Ford. Part of an old Coca Cola bottle and a few more modern pieces of trash that had either been left there or had washed down the river. While we did a small part in cleaning up the river, we also brought a few other things home we wish we hadn’t. Seed ticks, dozens of them, discovered during our hike at Seat so here’s a tip for anyone planning a summer hike in Missouri: Don’t forget the DEET as we did.

Thousand Hills State Park

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.