Weekend outdoors

Today it almost 70 degrees, and even though it was extremely windy I couldn't let another good day go to waste. Took a 4.5 mile walk at Queeny Park, doing the main trail again as usual except this time I went counter-clockwise to change things up a bit. The park was crowded with children and families and dogs and people flying kites, but it was really nice. The park is really appealing even in winter, and it felt really good to just get out and walk.

Also am about a third through my newest Appalachian Trail memoir, "In Beauty May She Walk: Hiking the Appalachian Trail at 60" by Leslie Mass.

Castlewood State Park Revisited

Today was overcast and chilly, though still warm enough to wear a couple layers and be comfortable, eventually having to shed hats, gloves, and top layers as we warmed up from the hike. My Dad joined me again today, and we were looking for a shorter hike nearby in case it started to rain. The last time I was at Castlewood State Park was in October of 2009, one of the first hikes I blogged about when I started this. We decided to do the 3 miles River Scene Trail even though that was the trail I did last time too, and the only trail at Castlewood I've actually done since I was a kid.

    The trail markings seemed to have improved a bit since my last trip, with more tags nailed to trees to make the trail a bit easier to follow, something I remember really fussing about last time. It was a very pretty hike, though not as stunning as it was in October with all the leaves. The river looked greenish and the sky was gray, and everything was very muddy, but standing on the top of the cliff looking out over the Meramec River and the railroad below is still really cool no matter what time of year. Terrible colors and time of day to take pictures in though, so I only snapped a few and instead enjoyed the hike and talked on and off with my Dad. These hikes have been a chance to really talk with him in a way we don't often have time to do otherwise, and I really enjoy him as a hiking companion.

The trail was still pretty busy despite the chill in the air and the mud, with families and people walking dogs and bike riders. Highlights still include the cliff overlooks, the tunnel under the railroad tracks, the eerie concrete shells of buildings and old steps left over from when the area was a big resort area, and walking next to the river to see how fast it is actually running. It is also a good hike because even though it is only a 3 mile trail, there are plenty of ascents and descents to keep your heart beating, at least at the beginning. Walking up the hill to the top of the cliffs was hard work and got me breathing pretty hard, and I was pleased with the challenge of the first half of the trail. Once you descend down the wooden steps to the railroad tracks at the riverbank, the rest of the trail is a flat and pleasant walk through the woods. It was really fun revisiting this park, and I need to return there and try out the other trails.

Pickle Springs (Revisited) and Hickory Canyon

For February, we are having some wonderful weather in St. Louis! As I was expecting a high in the high 50s, my father and I headed out for a hike at Pickle Springs Natural Area and Hickory Canyons near Ste. Genevieve County and Farmington, Missouri. I had hiked Pickle Springs last January and ever since my father had been asking to see the ice there. It was as beautiful as I remembered.

My father and I accidentally went the wrong way on the trail, which caused some confusion around the Keyhole where we backtracked on ourselves without realizing it for a few minutes. Some of the trail was clear, most of it was very muddy, and some of the trail still had snow and ice on it which made traversing some of the steeper sections very tricky. My father and I shared the hiking poles I received for Christmas, each taking one to help us keep our balance and stop from falling on the ice and snow-- this made what I remember being a fairly easy hike a bit more challenging. The ice from the overhangs were impressive, and all around us I could hear the dripping of the melting icicles. The streams and creeks were also running so we often had to pick our way across stones, which was enjoyable and tested my hiking boots for waterproofness. As we climbed between the rocks around us, you could feel the temperature change noticeably. We only saw a couple people on the trail, which was really nice, and we took our time admiring the views. A red fox darting across our path about halfway through the trail was a highlight for me!

I had never visited Hickory Canyons before, but because it was all of 5 miles away from Pickle Springs, it seemed silly to pass it up. There are two trails, a short out and back trail and a longer loop trail. We did the loop trail and immediately the trail begins to descend down into the canyon with the rocks raising up on either side of you. The trail had become a stream of water running downhill, mostly runoff from the melting snow. It was extremely muddy and a bit slippery, but beautiful nonetheless. It actually reminded me a bit of the Little Grand Cayon hike I did back in November, with a steep descent and then a trek through the flat land below. It was beautiful and mildly challenging because of the mud and snow, and my father and I really enjoyed ourselves! We only did about half of the short out and back trail because it was crowded by a family looking for lost dogs and it was only another .25 miles anyhow.


This weekend is looking great for some possible hiking, with Saturday in the 40s and Sunday maybe even hitting 50 degrees! My father expressed interest in hiking Pickle Springs ever since I hiked it a year ago and I figure as long as we are there, we might want to hike Hickory Canyons as well, which is nearby and only about a mile and a half long. I even picked up a copy of the 3rd edition of Steve Henry's 60 Hikes within 60 Miles of St. Louis that I've been wanting to take a look at to see how much one edition change really matters, so maybe I'll go Saturday too (though I have an allergy appointment in the morning, so I don't know how likely that is).

In the meantime, been devouring books about the Appalachian Trail. I already finished There Are Mountains To Climb by Jean Deeds, which was really interesting to hear from a female's perspective. I also finished reading As Far as the Eye Can See by David Brill, and began reading On the Beaten Path by Robert Alden Rubin. The only thing I wish is that more of these books had pictures from the author's hike. So far only the first book had any photographs from the Appalachian Trail.

(photos from Goodreads.com)

Winter Weather hiatus (or, how I am too lame and cold to go outside)

I haven't been doing ANY hiking recently, due to a number of reasons. I became an Aunt in early December when my nephew was born. The holidays came quickly after that, along with running around trying to see all my friends who have moved away from St. Louis and were home for the holidays. Then this January, we've been bombarded with bad weather. First a winter storm that dumped over 8 inches, and just the last few days a huge ice storm (we were also supposed to get nearly a foot of snow, but it missed us and we got mostly ice and a bit of snow). I would actually LIKE to start some winter hiking, but a combination of a lack of proper winter clothing, pure laziness, and a fear of not being able to stay on a trail kept me in. I'm pretty ashamed of this actually. I HAVE been trying to go to the gym here and there though. It's not part of my routine yet, but I'm getting better. I'm hoping that while I'm not hiking, at least getting to the gym a couple times a week will keep me in some kind of shape. Unfortunately I'm not always making it once or twice a week... I have a lot of work to do!

Hiking has never been far from my mind in these last few months. I got my very own set of hiking poles for Christmas from my parents and a cute hiking kit from my aunt and uncle for Hanukkah including hand warmers, a Shenandoah National Park water bottle and an Appalachian Trail bumper sticker. I attended an REI class on winter weather hiking, where I learned a bit about proper winter clothing and winter hiking safety measures (I also bought a wicking layer of silk there, because the smart wool underclothes were WAY out of my price range). I am signed up for another class at REI about preparing to hike the Appalachian Trail-- even though I'm not actually planning on hiking it any time soon, I think this class will get me in the mindset and give me a chance to meet and talk to interesting people preparing to take on this feat.

currently reading: There Are Mountains to Climb: An Inspirational Journey by Jean Deeds

                                                          photo source: http://www.goodreads.com/
The holiday hiking themed haul:
(be reminded that I am not being paid to show the brands in the pictures below, nor have I even tried any of my holiday haul yet, so cannot endorse one brand over another)