Photos taken January 2, 2018
My first hike of 2018 was one of the coldest I have ever done. During the two and a half hour drive to Lake Wappapello State Park the temperature fluctuated between -4° and 3° F, finally settling at 5° by the time I arrived. It warmed up a little while I was there, but not by much.
Before going to the State Park I planned out my trip using the park map and Google Earth. While considering the longest trail at the park, I found that it travels near a spot called Chaonia (shaw-nee) Landing. It looked interesting so I decided to make it my first stop on the trip. The landing is actually a resort with cabins, camp sites, and a small marina you can rent boats from. While doing some research for this post I discovered that there was once a town named Chaonia in the area that was flooded during the creation of the lake. You can find a little more history about the city here.
At one point the land around Lake Wappapello was inhabited by a number of Native American tribes. Eventually the first pioneer arrived to the area in 1802. The town of Wappapello was established; local lengend says that the town was actually named after a friendly Shawnee Chief who lived at the time. As the town continued to grow, it eventually became a stop along the ever expanding railway system. After the civil war much of the land was owned by the Allison family. You can still visit their family cemetery in the park.
Eventually a dam was created to help mitigate flooding along the St. Francois River. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers finished construction in 1941, thus creating Lake Wappapello.
The State park is popular with fishermen, and other fans of water recreation. Visitors can rent boats if they don't have their own, or use the sandy beach area. The park also offers ample opportunity for camping and hiking.
In lieu of following the longest trail (14+ miles) I hiked two of the shorter ones. The first was Lakeview Trail, which is less than a mile long. It starts near a picnic area, and follows a ridge down to the lakeshore. From there I diverted from the trail a bit. I ended up spending lots of time by the lake before finally making my way back to the starting point.
I don’t know if it was because of the cold, or if frozen lakes do this in general, but the lake was making some strange noises. When I first heard the sound it startled me. It was so loud, and I had no idea what was causing it. I got used to it, but there where still a few time it cause me to jump.
The second trail I took was the Allison Cemetery Trail. It gets its name from the aforementioned cemetery at the loops far end. It traversed more forested land, but because it was so cold I pretty much only photographed by the lake. I was carrying my camera inside my backpack to try and keep it warm, and having to take my bag off to get it out all the time got old quick.
My camera wasn’t the only thing I had to worry about the cold affecting. Despite my best efforts, the tube to my water reservoir froze! Thankfully the trail was short and I was able to manage without water.
As I got to the final stretch, the trail became rather hard to follow. There was driftwood and debris scattered all over the hill sides, possibly from previous flooding, and the blaze marks became less frequent. I was able to make my way back eventually though. The trail ended in the same place as the first, so I got to see a different view of the same features I saw earlier.
This was a very fun hike, but the cold was brutal. I got a pretty bad wind burn on my face despite using my scarf for protection. I am so glad I went though, as it was a unique experience: the frozen waterscape was gorgeous, and the noises echoing across the land were hauntingly beautiful. It was definitely worth braving the freezing temperatures!