Hiking Pickle Springs

Last year, we went to Pickle Springs three times- once by myself and twice with the kids. This is one of my favorite trails, along with the rest of the world. However! There are still people who have not explored or discovered this trail, so I wanted to share.

Pickle Springs is a National Natural Landmark a little bit over an hour from St. Louis. It’s full of unique and impressive geological features that will amaze including waterfalls, sandstone arches, rocky glades, and box canyons. The diversity along the trail is stunning. I’d say it’s so many things I love about this part of the state in one hike.

Last year, we went in winter, spring, and fall and it was delightful every time. In the winter, we got to see the waterfalls flowing. Fall was my favorite hike though, with the kids climbing and exploring the rocks- we had a blast! It was still very hot in September, and the leaves hadn’t begun changing. So really, it felt and looked like summer. It looked like a fairy forest- green and lush and with giant rocks and waterfalls, we could play all day.

They found it very meditative and contemplative as well. 🙂

The trail is a loop about two miles long with elevation gain of a little over 300 feet. It’s well-marked in my opinion (though some online say they have gotten turned around) and there’s a map at the beginning of the loop which names some of the geologic features- the ten year old really enjoyed using the map to identify some of the features we saw along the way.

On my February trip, we saw no one else. It was also very foggy, eerie, and otherworldly. Really a special time to be there. On my solo trip in the springtime, I saw two men- military guys who were training with packs on their backs. On our late summer trip, we saw a few other families, but it wasn’t crazy. I know I have heard that it can get crowded, though. There is a fair sized gravel parking lot, and street parking sometimes has to be an option I have heard, though I’ve never experienced it at that capacity.

For us, it was great for all ages. We took four kids ages 2 to 10. It’s rated moderate, and I would agree with that rating. When it was hot, it was not the easiest hike for the kids. But we took our time and explored everything- this helps. For me, solo, I went at a good pace and it was a moderate hike for me too.

Pickle Springs is very popular for a reason- do yourself a favor and get down there if you haven’t in a while or if you haven’t ever. I’ll go with!

“Hike” 20 @ and around Pere Marquette

Despite being a super popular regional place for outdoor recreation, the kids have never actually been to Pere Marquette! I saw an Eagle Festival event on Facebook at the Lodge at Pere Marquette a while back. I had been hoping to attend the Alton Eagle Festival, but I didn’t have the kids that weekend. So I settled on the Pere Marquette one. It was awesome!

Pere Marquette is an Illinois State Park. It’s super popular for fall foliage viewing and for eagle watching. The hike up McAdams Peak is the most popular, but there are 12+ miles of trails at Pere Marquette.

We spent our time hiking by the river looking for eagles. My oldest son loves eagles and has for a while. He was even an eagle for Halloween! He was thrilled to see some eagles in person. We even got to see an eagle flying over the water. It was so thrilling!

We did not hike up McAdams Peak at this time as we had originally planned because everyone was super hungry. I was afraid we would run out of time before our scheduled bird show. We arrived at the Lodge to eat and the kids were very impressed. You can stay there, of course, and they also have cabins. There is an expansive back lawn type of area that leads down across the road to the river. It was beautiful and my kids enjoyed frolicking out there in the sun.

At the lodge, there is a restaurant on site as well. They have homemade fried chicken which was what two of my kids and I ate. It was delicious! Everything was great. But what was best was the atmosphere and aesthetic. It was very lodge-like in decor, but it was slightly upscale in furnishings, making my kids feel quite fancy!

Afterward, we attended the bird show. It was put on by the World Bird Sanctuary in Eureka, MO which is one of our very favorite places- highly recommend! The kids were in awe of each of the majestic birds, especially the eagle.

It was a very pretty day for January especially, so we spend more time on the grounds and the park. Scenic Drive was closed due to snow and ice, but we will need to return! After we left the park, we headed down into the town of Grafton and explored a little more.

This was less of a hike and more of a river walk, but we still counted it. I will let you know when we return to conquer McAdams Peak! Have you ever hiked at Pere Marquette??

Stop Doing List

I’m all about the lists- I have a big ole planner and it’s full of lists. Every morning, I journal a list of things I’m grateful for and at work, I make lists to prioritize things. Most of us who make lists are making lists of things to do. But the most game changing list I ever made was a stop doing list.

A few years ago, at some meeting or something, somebody was speaking and said just that- what if instead of a to do list we made a stop doing list? I really hadn’t been paying much attention on the whole, but that really resonated with me. I felt so much pressure at that time of my life to do and be everything. I’d find myself adding and adding things to my list.

So I went home that day and I literally sat down and looked at my vision board and then I looked at my planner and thought, what on these is incongruent? What is on my daily to do lists that really doesn’t align with the life I want to live?

This was one of the greatest moments. I started writing down all the extra things in my life. Things that seemed like they needed to be there but which didn’t really align with who or what I wanted my life to be. Of course, we all have responsibilities and obligations. But how many of those are actually necessary when you stop to think about it? When I started to weed things out, everything got better. I stopped agreeing to do things that I really didn’t want to do or couldn’t do. I stopped dreading things. I stopped feeling as guilty and stressed- this has a huge impact on one’s health and well-being.

Then I started feeling really, really stressed in November. Everything was coming to a head. I realized that I had let things get out of control again. I was adding way more to my to do list than my stop doing list. I have to keep those in balance. I don’t have infinite time, wisdom, patience, etc as much as I’d like to believe that I do. Something’s gotta give, go, get, whatever I have to do to keep things in check! So I revisited my stop doing list. Stuff had crept back into my life. And so, I intentionally moved into this holiday season, with the help of my boyfriend, saying, if it’s not already on the calendar, it’s not going to be added.

This has absolutely changed my holiday season! We have lots of have to do’s- how often are we looking at the get to do’s? I am enjoying the holiday season so much more now, that all of those to do’s feel like get to do’s this year!

Are there things in your life that don’t align with the life you’re dreaming of? I would encourage everybody to pause, consider how much of your time you’re just “getting through,” and eliminate anything that’s getting in the way of living your life on your terms.

52 Hike Challenge: Recap

I decided to take on the 52 Hike Challenge last year at Thanksgiving. I had been hiking for a while- it is something I have always enjoyed. I didn’t make much time for it thought. But when I became a single mom of three young children, everything changed. I started hiking more and more often, with my children and alone. I found myself going hiking at least once a week. I challenged myself to hiking mountains. And as someone who loves a good goal or challenge, I stumbled upon the 52 Hike Challenge last Thanksgiving when I was looking up #OptOutside information. I decided since I was already hiking on at least a weekly basis, the challenge would motivate me to continue.

Fast forward to this Thanksgiving….

61 hikes later…

1,535 photos later…

Nearly 200 miles later…

I reflect on the past year’s hiking challenge. I remember when I first became a single mom. I was so scared for so many reasons. Fear ruled my life. I fought it, because that’s so not me. It was tough. Outdoor time is really important to me, and it is a priority for me to encourage in my children. They hiked with me. It was something we could do that was free, fun, and unique- different every time. It was an activity that helped me cope with the transition of not having my kids at home sometimes.

These hikes became my therapy. Changing my life, one step at a time. Heading onward and upward with each mile. I discovered so much out there. I re-discovered myself. I overcame so many of my fears. I learned that I was way stronger than I ever gave myself credit for- physically, mentally, emotionally, and then some.

I learned about my kids! I got to know them on a new, deeper level. Their interests, their questions- it all just thrilled me. I love letting them explore. I have the patience to be out there for hours, going at their pace, letting them lead me. It is just my favorite thing. It’s so special to us.

I started taking my boyfriend with me. He was completely new to hiking. He has pushed himself beyond what he ever imagined, and I am so very proud of what we’ve accomplished together. We learned a lot about each other, our relationship, and ourselves.

I am so grateful for this journey. I am already excited about this coming year. Something I would do differently is track/log every hike and keep a journal, so that’s what I’ve started doing. I’ve done two hikes this past week since Thanksgiving. I’m excited to see what’s to come.

Why Cold Weather Hiking is the Best Hiking

Welcome, October. While it was a balmy 94 degrees today, the promise of cooler temperatures is right around the corner. It has me dreaming of firey colored leaves, cozy evenings, and spooky nights. But what’s really exciting for me, as someone who hikes at least every weekend- is cold weather hiking!

Klondike Park, St. Charles County, MO

Here are my top three reasons- among many- why I love hiking in the fall and winter:

Less bugs, less bug spray.

My kids are not fans of getting sprayed down with smelly bug spray. I’m not a huge fan of spraying them with anything containing DEET and of course, the DEET-free options are more expensive. But I always dutifully do so, and you can always find bug spray in my car. In the fall and winter and cold early spring, you can worry less about all those bug bites.

My kids also happen to be tick magnets. And one of my children has anxiety around bug bites, but he worries much less when bugs are not milling about constantly.

The views are spectacular.

Castlewood State Park, MO

When you hike in fall, obviously, the fall foliage is a huge draw. However, even after the leaves fall, there are perks to hiking this time of year. Without all the leaves, you can often see geological features you may have missed and the scenic overlooks are often more visible.

Unique quiet.

As a lady who hikes the majority of the time with four kids and/or a forty year old man, quiet solitude may be a surprising item to find on my list. But when the weather turns, you find many fewer people sharing your trail. And when we get out, we love to sit in the stillness and listen- to nature, water, our breath, whatever. While we love meeting new families and friends out on the trails, we experience a different quiet when we are not meeting many people out there. It is really a beautiful experience. And when I do get my alone hikes in, it is especially spectacular.

St. Charles County, MO

Some tips: Be prepared.

Of course, hiking at any time of year requires preparation and precaution. Plan ahead. Let someone know where you’re going and when. I often record my hikes on the All Trails app so there is a record. Always take your basic supplies for first aid and safety, a map, headlamp, and water and food. Stay on the trail and check the weather beforehand. If you’re somewhere super remote, a weather radio and/or a satellite phone are good emergency gear to bring, as cell phones don’t work everywhere.

An additional precaution I recommend in these colder months is to head out early. Being aware of time is critical in these colder months with shorter days. The sun goes down much earlier, and if you’re like me, it can be easy to get caught up in the beauty and the experience. Staying aware is important. And lastly, when in doubt, turn around. It is not worth it to overextend yourself in any regard and turn what could have been a lovely adventure into a catastrophe, disaster, or emergency.

Hiking is a wonderful hobby that has significantly enhanced my life, and I hope it will continue to enhance my children’s lives. My hope is to leave with them some sense of wonder and adventure, an appreciation for the simple beauty that our world offers. So we can’t let a little cold weather stop us! There’s no such thing as bad weather- just bad clothes and bad attitudes. With the right preparation, you can have an even greater adventure in the cold!