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.
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.
It wasn’t the most colorful time of year to visit but I felt the need Sunday to get outside for a while so with a backpack, a water bottle, and a camera, I hiked a few miles around the Missouri Department of Conservations’s Pawnee Prairie not far from where I live.
What I found was little more than the wind, the sound of a few killdeer, the leftovers of coyote meals, and a single startled whitetail. Not far from the Nature Conservancy’s Dunn Ranch Preserve, the 400 or so acres of tallgrass prairie is best visited in the summer or fall when you can better appreciate the bluestem, Indian grass, side-oats grama grasses, pale purple coneflower, and finger coreopsis wildflowers. Better yet visit the Pawnee Prairie, call the Dunn Ranch to find out when to view greater prairie chickens and bison, and experience grassland similar to what Lewis and Clark discovered.
Less than a mile north of town three turkeys crossed the highway ahead of us. With snow melting on a free Sunday afternoon, getting outside seemed like a good idea and the turkey running down into the ditch seemed like a good sign we had made the right decision.
Emmett and Leah Seat Memorial Conservation Area is a good place to explore, especially on a warm winter day with snow melting all around. The youngest had hoped to find a new hill to sled down but I warned her we weren’t likely to find such a spot. Sledding was short but creating a mermaid out of snow on a frozen lake was worthwhile.
We found several spots where ice fishermen had recently been, as well as a well used deer crossing on the lake. We also visited the archery range and Walker Cemetery while there. Seat Memorial Conservation Area covers more than 3,400 acres with more than a dozen ponds and is managed for bobwhite quail. It’s also home to trophy sized whitetails, a healthy wild turkey population, and plenty of rabbits and doves. And the fishing’s not bad either, winter, spring, summer or fall.