Wildflower Hikes: Trail Among the Trees

A nearby and old favorite- Trail Among the Trees at Rockwood Reservation!

This trail is at Rockwood Reservations. This is a conservation area, one of the oldest in Missouri. I have strong and fond memories of attending day camps and outdoor activities here as a kid, and I love this area. There are several great trails out here, and it is a super popular place to hike, bike, picnic, and birdwatch. Click here for a link to a map of the area.

Trail Among the Trees is my favorite. There’s variety and it’s beautiful. It’s listed on the map as 1.5 miles long, but All Trails has it just under two miles long The end of the trail does not completely loop to the trail head, so you will have to walk between them. There is also a connection to the Lime Kiln Trail, and doing these together makes an absolutely delightful hike. The trail is a mix of natural and paved surface.

It truly is a trail among the trees, as it climbs up a ridge and back down again. The elevation gain is about 250 feet. You begin on a paved trail that switches up the slope. This is a gorgeous run. You get up to natural surface and rocky surface and you emerge on the edge of a ridge with a gorgeous view of the tree tops. And there’s a bench. 🙂

You then continue to rise up the ridge and then walk along the ridge among the treetops for a while. This is paved again. Then you switch back down the ridge and there are a couple of bridges and you follow above the creek, then descend down to a creek crossing. You then follow a natural surface trail next to a creek and a bluff for a while until you come out on the road. There used to be a staircase, but the trail is rerouted at this time.

This is one of my favorite trails, and it is often what I choose on my birthday becauase of all the wildflowers! There is something magical about walking among the treetops when the dogwoods and redbuds are blooming, along with the bright spring green leaves appearing. It makes you feel things.

Happy Spring-o!

Happy spring! My favorite season. (I say this tongue in cheek- Kareem says I treat them like they’re all my favorites. Probably because they are!)

I made us a spring bingo board. I don’t love the idea of bucket lists, but I love the idea of choice. So I let the members of my family make their boards. I did put lists of ideas and links to resources for other ideas… and of course, I’m open to their ideas!

Anyway, it was such a hit, I thought I’d share with you! Feel free to make a copy and make it your own.

https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1w_BwFPtJFA1wdjFXJAIKvks-F1IEyOBgRnZNSMyasI8/edit?usp=sharing

Enjoy and happy spring!

Solo Hiking: My little tips and tricks

I post lots of pictures of my hikes, and people often say I’m “brave” because I am often alone, or it is just me and my kids. I would say upwards of 50% of my hiking is done alone, much to my mother’s dismay. It’s really a matter of circumstance more than choice, and it just kind of is what it is. (Though if anybody ever wants to hike together, I’m pretty much always down!)

Hiking solo can be a very rewarding experience. I have come to really enjoy my solitutde. It also helped me become more comfortable with selfies- ha! But I haven’t always been comofrtable doing this, and this past winter, I had a few weird experiences that, once again, were good reminders of how to increase safety on a solo adventure. I’ve also maybe seen one too many episodes of Unsolved Mysteries for comfort.

But seriously, I haven’t always been comfortable doing this! But as my experiences became more frequent, my confidence increased. Being prepared is my super secret to doing it, and I wanted to share my own experiences and tips with anybody who is considering it themselves. I’m not an expert, but I do it often.

Being prepared means a lot of things, and I think all of these tips kind of roll into “be prepared.” Specifically, these are some ways to prepare

Choose the right trail for you.

If you are going to be alone, it is very important to choose a trail that is a) well-maintainted, b) well-traveled, and c) well within your abilities.

It’s very important to know your limits. You don’t want to get yourself into a situation where you are isolated or where you are able to hike in but unable to hike out due to exhaustion or something.

I made this huge mistake once. I chose a trail while I was solo hiking in Wales. It ended up to be beyond my capacity, not so much in ability length or difficulty wise, but beyond my agrophobic tendencies. So I ended up in quite a pickle! Now I always check topographic maps as part of my research and look at reviews to understand what the drop offs and heights are like so I can compare to my own ability to handle it.

Communicate

Tell somewhere your plans- where you plan to go, when, and how long you estimate it may take. And then stick with your plan! Of course, let someone know once you start out and once you return as well. If you are able to register with the park and/or ranger, do so. Many places have a registration box at the trailhead.

There are also apps to map your hike and even communicate with your people. Cairn Hiking App features real-time tracking information for your “safety circle” and will send out texts when you start and when you complete. It also shows you maps of cell reception on and around trails. You can download maps as well. I always map my hikes on All Trails as well. Some of these features are paid features. I use the free versions of each of these apps.

Another good thing to bring and have is a two way satellite communication device. Here’s a good REI article about them. I’ve also seen a ham radio recommended.

Know your surroundings

It’s really important to know the weather forecast before planning your hike. And even after planning, stay updated on the weather expectations for your hike. Always dress appropriately for the weather. It’s also a good idea to have an understanding of the wildlife you may encounter on the trail and bring anything you might need in case of a run-in with one of these wild creatures! Know the terrain and come prepared for what you may meet. I’ve seen people wearing flip flops on very rugged trails- don’t do this!

Maintain awareness

No headphones, or at least not two at a time. I remember hiking Arthur’s Seat in Scotland and I just needed something, so I did listen to some music but on low and with one headphone. That’s as much as I feel is safe, and I don’t even do that much most of the time. Don’t watch tv on your phone or otherwise distract yourself. It’s important to stay aware of your surroundings when you are on a solo hike. Take the opportunity to just be present and mindful of your surroundings on an outing like this, for further enjoyment of course, but also for safety’s sake!

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Be prepared

Bring your pack. Make sure you have the Ten Essentials (click here for an excellent REI article on the Ten Essentials). Make sure you have these things everytime you go out, even if you feel like it’s overkill or you don’t need it for such a short hike. You never know when that short hike may become unexpectedly long! I’ve been there!

I do truly enjoy my solitude in the woods, but again, ti wasn’t always that way. My confidence has grown as I’ve done it more frequently. I also know that feeling prepared has contributed to that feeling as well. These are good tips for hiking anytime with anybody. I hope that while I am not an expert, some of these may have resonated with you in some way. Happy hiking!

Winter Solstice

The longest night of the year! I didn’t always love this night as much as I do now, but now it is one of my favorite times of year. It is a turning point- where we embrace the deep dark rest of winter and welcome the light slowly back.

When I got divorced, I remember feeling like that was a longest, darkest night of my life. But as Tupac said, “If you can make it through the night, there’s a brighter day.” It’s a celebration that even in the darkest, longest night, there is hope. The light always returns. I have definitely learned that as I have faced hardships and adversity in my life.

This year, I do not have my kids for the solstice and I’m bummed. But last year we really rocked it out! Here are a few ideas for celebrating with the kids.

First, a few days or maybe a week before, we made modge podge lanterns out of Mason jars. I didn’t do a step by step how to on this, but you get the idea from this YouTube tutorial. I put water and a little oil on top and used floating wicks for this project and told the story of Hanukah when we made these. It was around the same time, so that was nice to incorporate that holiday as well.

Anyway, so the night of the solstice, we lit the lanterns and ate dinner by candlelight. We talked about what to solstice is and told a couple of stories from around the world about the solstice. Here is a good book to go off of for these stories, but there are some beautiful children’s stories about winter and the solstice as well. We also talked about losing light and gaining light, and each member of the family talked about how other members of the family bring light into their lives. This was so special.

We did a Waldorf-inspired winter spiral, which I have no pictures of which I regret. But it was a very special experience, and we are going to do it after Christmas when we have time with the kids anyway. Click here for a great blog post on it with some additional resources as well.

We did a fire in the backyard and drank hot chocolate and talked about how we have used the dark night and how we will use the longer days.

It was a really special time for all of us, and I look forward to continuing these traditions whether I have the kids on the solstice or I have to wait a little bit or do it early. I’d like to dry some oranges and make some garlands and bird feeders this year!

This year, we have the conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter, a meteor shower, and the solstice all on one night! So there will be lots to look at in the sky.

Outdoor Days for 2021

I’m kind of dorky, and I love “celebrating” these national holidays! 🙂 I like to plan activities for my family to recognize and celebrate the outdoors and all it offers to us. It increases my mindfulness around these things and helps me be intentional about teaching my kids- plus it’s just fun! 🙂 I’m a paper planner kind of gal, so I pencil these in each year. Here are some for your convenience!

January 1- First Day Hikes. Missouri State Parks often put on First Day Hikes, as well as other conservation and wildlife areas. Check them out here.

January 5- National Bird Day. Lucy is a big bird lover, so we love this day! Here are some fun bird activities from A Day in Our Shoes.

March 3- World Wildlife Day. Even as an adult, it is so thrilling to see wildlife in their natural habitat! Here are some ideas for how to celebrate World Wildlife Day from See What Grows.

March 5-6- National Day of Unplugging. Unplugging can mean lots of different things to different people. There are many ways to observe this. I try to do this weekly with a No Social Sunday (no social media on Sunday) or Technology Free Tuesday/Thursday… Here is the official site with lots of resources and ideas.

March 12- National Girl Scout Day. We love scouts at our house, so I had to include this one! 🙂

March 22- World Water Day. This is a really cool day to discuss the importance of water, water access, climate change, all kinds of things! A cool day to visit a hydroelectricity plant, a reservoir, or a dam, or even do a water service project! Here is some info from the UN on the significance and history of this day.

April 17-25- National Parks Week. Guys, I LOVE National Parks! My boy is going to be in fourth grade next year, so I’m trying to plan some trips to some National Parks and Monuments! (Here is more info on their Fourth Grade Pass program.) The National Parks Service has some cool ways to observe, celebrate, explore, and help here.

April 22- Earth Day. There are TONS of resources and ways to observe Earth Day with your family and in your community. This is one of my favorite days- and it’s right around my birthday!

April 30- Arbor Day. Another personal fave. Here are some resources to celebrate from the Arbor Day Foundation.

May 21- Endangered Species Day. This is a great one! My son loves the bald eagle and his fascination came in part from this day. Often zoos have events for this day. The US Fish and Wildlife Service held an endangered species art contest this past year, and the deadline was in March, so keep your eyes open for this! Here is their site.

June 5- National Trails Day. This is a day for a good stewardship/service hike! This day is sponsored by the American Hiking Society and there are usually events set up all over to help you find your trail. Check out their site here.

June 8- World Oceans Day. This day is to take action around ocean conservation (official site here). We do not live near an ocean, but my kids LOVE the ocean, so they are very interested in all the creatures that live there and how we can help them.

June 12- National Get Outdoors Day. This day is meant motivate Americans to get outside for a “healthy, fun day of outdoor adventure”. While the original website has since been taken down, the day itself has taken off. Parks across the nation continue to celebrate each year. You can usually find events put on by your state parks or DNR.

August 4- Great American Outdoors Day. This is a brand new one! President Trump signed the Great American Outdoors Act in 2020, providing funding for National Parks and Public Lands, among other things. At this time, August 4 was designated Great American Outdoors Day. Read more about it here.

September 25- National Hunting and Fishing Day. This is another day that local entities often set up events for, including free kids fishing days! Check out your local state parks and DNR sites, or check the national site here. It’s a great discussion starter with kids about the purpose of hunting and fishing as it relates to conservation.

November 17- National Take a Hike Day. My favorite, of course! I usually arrange a hike for this day, but so do many of your local hiking clubs and parks. Use a website like All Trails or the Hiking Project to find a new trail to hike on this day!

November 26- #OptOutside. This is Black Friday. REI put this movement together, and it is actually the movement that really kicked off my hiking habit. It is also my personal go day for my yearly hiking goals. I love all the resources REI has put together on their site here.

December 11- International Mountain Day. The mountains are calling and I must go.” is basically the outdoors version of the cliche “live laugh love” but that’s because it’s so true! The mountains are so compelling! And they house a huge amount of Earth’s biodiversity and are a source of freshwater for us. It’s a great day to educate our kids and do beautiful mountain activities and projects. Here’s a quick mountain watercolor tutorial by Let’s Make Art.