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Recapturing Childhood. Trail Among The Trees, Rockwoods Reservation 5/3/2014

May 27, 2014

2014-05-03 11.25.49If there is one place that I have been hiking at for more than half my life, it is Rockwoods Reservation out in Wildwood, MO. My son is thirteen years old, and I was just about his age when I first went there with mom and my sisters. The trail that we probably hiked the most, way back when, was the “Trail Among The Trees”, and on a warm spring Saturday, the kids and I figured it was time to revisit it. So we packed up the dog, filled the water bottles, and headed down the road.

2014-05-03 12.19.18The Trail Among The Trees is a 1.5 mile hike, starting out across from the north end of the main parking lot. It goes straight back into the forest, following a dry creek bed, and then turns to the left and goes up a lengthy set of stairs. At the top of the stairs you can go left to see the entrance to a cave and some tall bluffs above you. Go right, and you continue on the trail deeper into the woods, hiking over a rise, and down into an open, almost glade-like area, between the surrounding hills. The trail turns to the right, passes a massive boulder, and crosses a bridge to begin the ascent to the top of the main hill on this hike. It switches back and forth, and you eventually get to the top, following the ridge toward the south. The trail comes to a fenced overlook, and then curves to the left and makes its way down and around to the road. Cross the road, and follow the trail back to the Visitor’s Center where you parked.

How to get there:

2014-05-03 11.47.30From 44 and 270, head West on 44 about 15 minutes to Eureka, and get off at 109. Make a right (north) on 109 and take that about 4 miles to Woods Rd. You will know you are getting close when you pass LaSalle Springs Middle School on the right. When you see the Smoky the Bear fire danger sign, make a left on Woods Rd, cross the creek bridge, and then turn right on Glencoe Rd and into the park. Take Glencoe way into the park to the Visitor’s Center parking lot. The trailhead is across the road, at the north end.

Why I like this trail:

2014-05-03 12.36.09One of the things that this trail offers which I find to be rare, is that it is an “Interpretive” trail. That means there are things to see and learn about. At the trailhead, the Missouri Department of Conservation supplies an informational pamphlet that lists and describes the points of interest along the way. This whole area was once the site of some pretty intensive quarrying operations, and though nature has taken back the place, there are still remnants here and there of the human influence in the area. Grab one of the pamphlets at the beginning, and as you walk through, make sure to stop and look for all the stuff it points out. Especially if you have kids.

Most of the trail is paved, so if it has been a rainy night you probably won’t encounter any mud to slog through on this one.

2014-05-03 11.33.52The cave near the beginning has been closed off, but I remember being led into it by a park employee in an educational group more than 20 years ago. I don’t know if they still do that, but it was remarkable. Crawling into holes just big enough to wriggle through, to enter a room that the entire group could gather in, to enjoy the experience of momentarily turning off all the flashlights so that we could see the total darkness that happens underground. That image of not being able to see my hand in front of my face is till vivid in my mind. Spooky and exciting. That was also when I learned that caves are perpetually around 58 degrees, so if you are stranded in the wilderness in the heat of the summer or the freezing cold of the winter, a cave can be a fortunate discovery.

What you need to know:

2014-05-03 11.57.41I would consider this trail a little challenging. It has some steep and sustained inclines. Take your time and enjoy the triumph when you finally get to the top!

This is the shortest trail at Rockwoods, other than the ADA accessible Wildlife Habitat Trail. If you are looking for a longer hike, check out the Lime Kiln Trail or the Rock Quarry Trail, two of the six trails in this conservation area.

The trail crosses the road twice, and traffic through there is usually very slow and careful. Just make sure the dog is leashed and the little one isn’t running full steam ahead. Maybe, take this as an opportunity to practice looking both ways?

2014-05-03 12.32.52I think of all the trails in the St. Louis area, this is a great one to hike with kids. They can carry the interpretive pamphlet and lead the pack. It creates a great way for them to establish a connection for themselves with the place, and the people in your group. I saw it happen with my daughter, who still to this day deflates a little bit with a “huff” when I tell her that we are going hiking. She walked along and enjoyed reading aloud the scavenger hunt, and we spent the trail learning together. A trail I have been hiking on since I was young myself.

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