While it was tough making myself get up so early on a Sunday morning when I could have slept in, it was definitely worth it. I always feel so GOOD after a morning hike. I love the quiet time, the isolation, the nature, being alone (Though I do love hiking with a friend/my dad equally well). I even love the drive there and back. I need to actually make this happen more often, and not slack off in the winter-- winter hiking, if dressed properly, could probably be wonderful! We'll see though. Also I can pretend to be Lewis & Clark or Aragorn as I explore the wilderness. Except they didn't have trails and probably didn't care if they walked into a hundred spider webs, which make me all icky.
Got up about 5:45 and left the house a little after six, reached the trail a little after seven (this is taking in getting a bit lost and stopping for a bottle of water at McDonalds and a bathroom at a gas station-- it is probably an hour away, possibly slightly less). I started out easy since I had afternoon plans and didn't want to be gone too long, so the trail I picked was about 2 miles long. I went to the Englemann Woods Natural Area trail, about an hour away (less if googlemaps hadn't given me shitty directions and if my GPS actually had known what trail I was talking about). Hutchison Rd. is actually only marked as Route 109, and I think it might just be easier to take Manchester/100 the whole way instead of getting off at Clarkson Rd. and Clayton and Hutchison and so on and so forth. The parking lot is TIIINY and I drove past it three times because it's not so much a parking lot as an empty space right in front of the trail, could probably hold 3 or 4 cars. The entire time I was on the trail, I was the only visitor there, which is a HUUUUGE plus.
The trail itself was lovely. The first bit was a little noisy for my taste, meaning that you could occassionally still hear cars on the roads in the distance, but my ipod fixed that up. I didn't need it long, as I decended deeper into the valley, it got absolutely and brilliantly silent. I found the trail a little hard to understand at first because I started going in one direction thinking Iwould take the trail counter-clockwise as recommended in the book, but there was a lack of signs and a lot of fallen trees, and I Started getting nervous that I actually wasn't on the right trail at all. So I backtracked and followed the signs this time (a good idea always), and it was absolutely lovely! The trail is marked as "easy" in my book, but there were definitely some steep descents at some points, along with some rocks that were a bit slippery after the rain two days ago. The path is mostly dirt and rocks, and some of it is kind of getting overgrown with plant life on the side, but nothing too drastic. The most confusing part is at the very bottom of the valley you get to the riverbed (which seems like it is always dry) and it looks like the trail ends, but you just have to cross it and pick up the trail pretty easily again. It was very shady and cool, not a lot of spots to look out over the landscape though (the book said to "Climb the hill on the right and see a nice vista if you have the energy" but I was not sure what hill he was talking about and I'm not about to go too far off the trail and climb a muddy hill on a whim). It was super peaceful and quiet and very beautiful, also protects the old-growth forests that used to cover this part of Missouri. So extra cool. Overall really nice, not too long (took me about an hour, hour and a half to complete, with frequent stops to enjoy the silence). Would go there again, maybe simply because it was so out of the way that nobody was there. The area is also really pretty to drive through, and I wouldn't mind exploring the little rich golfing community of Saint Alban, which looked like it had a cute general store in town as well as a lovely lake to walk around and lots of hawks, not to mention a few Lewis & Clark plaques.
Some photographs after the jump!