New Experiences At Grayson Highlands State Park

New Experiences At Grayson Highlands State Park

As I mentioned in my last post, I was fortunate enough to spend a week at my families cabin in the mountains of Virginia. Grayson Highlands State Park is less than 20 minuets away from the cabin, so you best believe that I visited it! My Dad's family actually used to own a portion of the land that became the park. You can still find a family graveyard in it's boundaries.

Over the week I was there I made multiple trips to the state park. On each trip I made sure to push my boundaries, and try some new things photographically. Despite my reservations I found that I really enjoyed everything I attempted, and now I have a few new skills!

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Getting My Feet Wet at the Devil’s Icebox

Getting My Feet Wet at the Devil’s Icebox

As I have been learning, Missouri is more than farmland and forests. From the rocky mountains of the Ozark Plateau to the rolling fields of the north, every section has a unique and interesting landscape. For my second State park visit of the year, I picked a region I haven't spent much time in: Central Missouri.

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Lake Wappapello State Park

Lake Wappapello State Park

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.

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Lake of the Ozarks State Park

Lake of the Ozarks State Park

As I work my way through the State Park System, I find myself having to travel further from home to visit new areas. It is hard to make day trips to some of the parks when I have to drive three plus hours. The best part of the day is spent driving, and I have a hard time enjoying the experience because how long it will take to drive home is always in the back of my mind. 

One of the parks that falls within this category is the Lake of the Ozarks State Park. You may be familiar with the area if you have watched Netflix’s show *Ozark*. I can’t comment on the accuracy of the show, but I can state for a fact that it is an incredible area. 

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Trail of Tears State Park

Trail of Tears State Park

With only enough time left to visit a handful of parks this year, I wanted to visit areas that were unlike the parks I have been to up until now. While researching parks that would be interesting to visit I stumbled across the Trail of Tears State Park. It is a 3,415 acre preserve with some of the most rugged land along the Mississippi River, featuring steep ravines and towering bluffs. As it’s name indicates, The park is a memorial site along the Trail of Tears. One of the parks that falls within this category is the Lake of the Ozarks State Park. You may be familiar with the area if you have watched Netflix’s show *Ozark*. I can’t comment on the accuracy of the show, but I can state for a fact that it is an incredible area. 

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Washington State Park

Washington State Park

Generally I prefer to hike in the morning; the light is nice, I’m not rushing to finish before the sun sets, and there is something special about enjoying the silence of morning in nature. That being said, my trip to Washington State Park was not like my normal trips.

Washington SP was one of the last four parks I planed to visit this year. I chose it because my wife and I camped there last year and we didn’t get the chance to hike any of the trails. It seemed like a cool park, and it is only an hour away from Saint Louis, so I wanted to go back.

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Wakonda State Park

Wakonda State Park

Sometimes you visit a place for the first time, and it feels like you have been there before. That’s how my visit to Wakonda State Park was. The park is a couple hours north of Saint Louis, and is the furthest north I have traveled in Missouri. It is a cool park that was created through a combination of natural processes and human involvement.

Ancient glaciers carved the land, and deposited large amounts of gravelly rock as they receded. These deposits ran very deep, and were mined as a source of road surfacing material throughout the 1900s. As the deposits became exhausted the land was given to the Missouri State Park Board. The six gravel excavation sites turned into lakes, and the Sand that was moved early on in the mining became a natural habitat for many plants that are rare in Missouri today.

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Dr. Edmund A. Babler Memorial State Park

Dr. Edmund A. Babler Memorial State Park

It was a Thursday morning, and I had plans to hike. I knew I needed to make it count because it was the only free day I had that week. The problem was, when I woke up I did not want to go. 

The sky that morning was cloudy, which is exactly how I felt. I had no motivation to be creative. I wrestled with the idea of just not going, but the knowledge that I wouldn’t have another chance to go for a week gave me the push I needed. Optimistic that I would feel better when I got started I grabbed some coffee and drove to Dr. Edmund A. Babler Memorial State Park. 

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Sam A. Baker State Park

Sam A. Baker State Park

The St. Francis Mountains are an ancient range rising from the Ozark plateau. Millions of years of erosion carved away at the volcanic rock creating the many valleys, bluffs, and shut-ins that can be found there today. The land is a beautiful rugged wilderness: hiking through these mountains can feel like you are going back to a time before humans. Sam A. Baker State Park perfectly captures the essence of this area.

At the heart of the park is Mudlick Mountain, one of the significant domes within the St. Francis Mountains. The mountain is surrounded by the largest wilderness preserve in the Missouri state park system. The park features an extensive network of trails that allow visitors to experience the untouched beauty of the Precambrian mountains. There are also many options for backcountry camping, including three shelters built in 1930 by the Civilian Conservation Corps.

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Robertsville State Park

Robertsville State Park

Over the last year I have been working on a project in celebration of the centennial anniversary of Missouri’s State Parks. For this series I have been traveling to parks around the state, hiking their trails, and photographing the beauty and surprises they contain.

I frequently try to go deep into the Ozark Mountains because the rocky landscape lends to many amazing features like shut-ins and waterfalls. However there are many State parks closer to Saint Louis that I have yet to explore, such as Robertsville State Park.

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