Sunday Sunset @ Wildwood Community Park

We had a gorgeous Sunday, so of course, we had to spend it outside. We had a leisurely big family brunch- one of my favorite things to do on the weekend- followed by a hike at Babler and then a visit with my parents, who live near Wildwood.

Wildwood Community Park is located near 109 and 100. It’s kind of hidden off the road just west of 100. It’s on the right if you are coming westbound on 100. It’s fairly new, and it’s really nice. It has a gorgeous Pavillon and nice bathrooms. It’s all accessible too, even the tallest tower and slide. It always warms my heart to see my dad playing with my kids, but it was very special to see my dad be able to access all the places the kids wanted to go.

The playground has a ton of activities for all kids big and small. We had four kids from a newly turned three year old up to a ten year old, and nobody ran short of things to do. The playground is nature themed and it’s surrounded by woods, which I love. A creek runs by it as well, and this is easily accessible- no climbing, sliding, or scrambling necessary to get down there.

The playground has a tall structure with climbing apparatus and two tube slides. There is a ramp to get to the top, so this is accessible for all as well. There is a typical climbing structure with steps also and metal slides on both ends. It has tipi shaped structures connected by a metal bridge. There’s a roller slide, an obstacle course type climbing structure with monkey bars, a few swings, a unique round swing, a merry go round with climbing structure, a web-like rope climbing structure, two climbing walls connected with rope net, some log-type climbing structures, a ball that spins and sways- so much! It’s aesthetically beautiful and very fun and functional.

It is pretty large and so I was glad to have a man-on-man D for our trip. :). There were lots of families there and it was pretty crowded because it was such a nice day. But as dinner time approached and the sun started to get low, it emptied out and eventually, it was just us.

I’ve been here a couple times and we will definitely be back!

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??

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.