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The Beauty across the Glades. Valley View Glades Natural Area 11/8/2014

November 11, 2014

2014-11-08 10.03.16It was a Saturday morning, and my son and I needed a place to get out to so that we could get some exercise, walking through the woods with the dog. The place I wanted to go is a trail that I hadn’t been to in a couple years, so I figured it was time to go visit it again. Two and a half miles through some rolling hills and wide open glades near Hillsboro, MO just north of Desoto. Winter is on its way, and the trees had shed most of their depth of color, but it is never a good day to NOT spend some time in the woods. We grabbed some water bottles and headed south to the Valley View Glades Natural Area.

2014-11-08 10.01.30How to get there:

From 270 and Tesson Ferry/Highway 21 in south St. Louis County, take 21 south for about 25 miles to Route B. Make a right on B, and take B for about 4 miles. The parking lot is on the right, just off of the road. The trail heads down the hill, right into one of the biggest glades you will ever see, and forks into a loop. We went to the right, and it continues down the hill, across a wet weather gully, and up through the glade on the other side. The trail then heads into the woods and makes a wide meandering curve around the edge of the Natural Area, ducking in and out of glades and forest, down into gullies and up over hills, and follows a creek for a little bit before it meets up back at the beginning of the loop. Then it is back up the hill to the parking lot.

2014-11-08 10.04.32What I like about this area:

Personally, I had never seen glades as big as these, before I had hiked here. Now a “glade” is defined as just an open space in the forest. Not so notable, not so exciting. But here in Missouri, our glades are pretty remarkable “open space in the forest”, and there is a lot more going on than what one could discern from a dictionary. It is an area that has a lack of tree canopy, with exposed rock, and a noticeable lack of soil in a lot of areas. Imagine a spot on a hillside where maybe some trees died, over time the weather washed a lot of the dirt and biological materials down into the creek at the bottom, and now it gets a lot of exposure to the elements. What happens then, is it becomes a micro-ecosystem of sorts. It becomes an environment where particular plants and animals can thrive in, which don’t do so well in any other places in the forest. It becomes home to lizards, snakes, insects, rodents, native grasses, and quite a few flowers. Life that lives better in the warmer, sun exposed, rock littered hillsides of glades. And it allows us an opportunity to observe how the natural world works in harsher conditions, contained in these isolated dry islands of the forest. Pretty cool, especially if you were once the sort of kid that liked to look under rocks. (Note: Please do not relocate rocks in glades. The animals that live there need their neighborhood to stay intact so that they can survive. Glades are one place that NO ONE should stack or remove rocks.)

2014-11-08 11.37.36The views from across the glades are kind of spectacular. The forest in this area does a good job of hiding these open panoramas, and it can be a feeling of immediate expansiveness when you crest a ridge and walk out of the forest to the edge and see across the whole place. It is sort of a miniature version of just about any observation deck in Missouri that looks out across the rolling green mountains of some ozark scene. Make a plan to visit this trail in late Spring, when the wildflowers are blooming and the green of the plant life has taken over the area.

2014-11-08 11.22.19I think this would be a cool area to visit after it has rained. With all the gullies and elevation changes, I bet it would be a lively place to witness the splashing of recently shed clouds trickling down the hills and into the creek that traverses the lowest spots of the trail through the place.


2014-11-08 10.05.46What you need to know:

This can be a rocky and muddy trail here and there. There are some steeper parts, and it can get a little rugged. Prepare for that, and in those sections of it, just take your time and watch your step.

This Natural Area is surrounded by private property, and the trail skirts around it pretty close to the edge. Respect that fact, and if you do some exploring off trail, head in the direction of the center so that you don’t end up trudging through the woods off of public land and into someone’s yard.

2014-11-08 11.04.44This time of year causes me to point out that while on conservation land, there are other people in the woods enjoying another hobby. Be aware of hunting seasons. If there had been cars in the parking lot, I would have found another place to hike that day. We all go to the woods for our own reasons, and we need to respect and accommodate each other’s hobbies and pastimes. It would be rude to disrupt the peace of the forest as a hunter in a stand is waiting for deer to come past on his one day to be out there. Pay attention to when the hunting seasons are in the areas you might be hiking through, so that we can all get the most out of the different methods of recreation that we practice, while we enjoy being out in the forest.

2014-11-08 11.07.17If there is one trail that I hike where I can envision a little country house being that I would live in, it has consistently been this one. There is a section where you emerge from the woods out into a glade, and there is a spot against the treeline on the opposing hill that I have always imagined a little house standing. A house that in some far off fantasy might be where I reside, in this beautiful place, raising a family and living off of the land and the forest.

One Comment
  1. This was a great post! We just recently discovered the glades and I came across your post to do some research for my video series. I totally agree with you “I’d like to build a house here” sentiment.

    Here’s our blog post about our hike!

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