Saturday, February 6, 2016

Mark Twain National Forest Hike

Last weekend, we were desperate to get outdoors. Even though we had hiked the weekend before, that had only acted as a teaser and made us want to get out more. We were all in the mood to hike and the boys have never done better. Since the time they have walked, we have had the boys on trails with us. We have had them on steep terrain, in creek beds, grasslands, and wooded trails. But we have always kept the hikes short or at least allowed for some significant break time (aka swimming in the creek) before finishing the hike.

But this past week, our boys proved that they are ready for real hiking. After a good mile, the boys insisted that we keep going because they were dying to try out a trail head that broke off the main trail. We ended up going more than 2 miles, including plucking through mud, jumping over creeks, climbing trees (that part was optional, but the boys insisted), and up a steep climb to the top of a bluff. The payoff was amazing. You'll see in a minute. The boys did incredible. Not one single complaint.

We've hiked the Mark Twain Forest once before while we were camping nearby, but we didn't go far. This time, we entered from a different part for a completely different view.

It all starts from this rickety foot bridge. There's a little swimming hole right underneath that we spotted when we scouted this place out last summer. The bridge itself is somewhat scary looking, but the steal beams offer some reassurance. The boards are all uneven and loose, but we managed to get across without incident. Since there isn't much keeping you from falling off, I didn't let the boys out of reach.

See the little sandy beach down there?

And the remnants of ice in the distance? That was a surprise since it hasn't even been that cold.

This was how the first part of the trail went - hip hopping back and forth over thick mud. We managed to get through the first section without being covered in mud, so that was a bonus. Eli did almost fall in at one point, but that's all par for the course, I guess.

I want this to be my backyard.

The first trail we went on looked like this, nice and wide. At first, it was so rocky that I wondered if it had once been a creek bed, but towards the top, it actually looked like it was maybe used as a service road. Either way, there was plenty of space for running.

Here's a little trail that veered off from the main trail. We checked it out but decided to go on up the main trail and come back to this one later. 

Posing for mommy.

What the "dead of winter" looks like.

Eli trying to "pick up the tree."

Eli settling for "climbing the tree."

Our family selfie. Close your mouth, Eli.

Almost to the top of the trail. I should mention that at this point, we had only gone up hill. I love these kinds of trails, because you know that at some point you will get to go back down. I much prefer the uphill climb to be the first thing you do. A lot of our hikes involve going down to the river first, then having to climb back up after you've spent all your energy.

This was the official end of that trail. We ended up in a little gravel parking lot, and a gravel road from the north. Nothing much to see here. We turned around and headed back down. At this point, we had probably gone about half a mile. And all of us were still really in the mood to hike. Eli was the one who suggested that we take the other trail that we had seen, so we decided to make a go of it.

Back down the trail. The trail that veered off was a much more narrow trail, but so beautiful.

I love this picture, above.  So typical of him to run up ahead.

See that view between the trees? We hoped for a good clearing so that we could get a really good shot of it.

We had to cross over a dry creek bed.

Which looked like a fun place to explore, but we kept heading up and up and up.

And were rewarded with this amazing view at the top of a bluff. I couldn't believe we found such an amazing place. It's this kind of discovery that makes us love hiking so much. You explore and explore, and then this happens. It's like we found this little treasure. Unfortunately, it's not a completely secret treasure. There was another group of people up there with a professional looking camera set up. There were also several fire pit areas that made it look like people probably come up here quite a bit. Fortunately for us, the people packed up to leave about as soon as we got up there, so we had the place to ourselves for a bit.

Another shot. This is to the west.

And this is to the south. Let me tell you, I was panicked a little bit to have the boys up here. About 5 feet in front of Jeremy is the edge of the bluff. In other words, a straight drop down hundreds of feet. We did not let go of the boys even for a second.

Our last picture of the day. Look at those muddy shoes. A sign of a great hike. We did venture a little further down the trail on the edge of the bluff, but unfortunately, my phone died right after I took these pictures. The photographic documentation of this trail will have to wait until we do this one again - hopefully soon!

It's the beginning of February and we have already scored 2 amazing hikes. I am loving this weather!

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