Missouri

Glassberg Conservation Area

Hiking during the quarantine can be a challenge because nobody has anything else to do, so everybody is out. If we see a full lot, we usually move on because we want to social distance responsibly while hiking. We were dropping off things at Kareem’s mom’s house and picking things up at my parents’ house, so we were looking for something in the area. And so was everyone else! Sunday was a super nice day, so parking lots everywhere were full. My first two ideas for a place to go not far from my parents’ were both a bust. So we went to Myron and Sonya Glassberg Family Conservation Area, not far from my first two ideas.

This has been on my list for a while, but never really topped it because there wasn’t anything too compelling for me about it. But boy was I wrong! It was absolutely gorgeous.

Glassberg Family CA Quick Facts:

  • located in very northern Jefferson County, about four miles from the 109/FF junction
  • open from 4 am- 10 pm
  • LaBarque creek runs through it and offers overlooks of the Meramec
  • No bathrooms, picnic tables, or other amenities- hunting is allowed
  • Hiking opportunities: 3 mile loop trail

There is just one hiking trail in the area. It is a 3 mile loop. We got about 3.5 miles in total on our visit, with the spurs and exploring the creek and service road. The trail is a mix of surfaces- gravel road, old blacktop, dirt, and grass. The elevation gain is about 350 ft. It is pretty much all uphill for like the first mile. There is some up and down for the rest of the hike though as well. It goes through woods for most of it, but includes the three acre lake, overlook on the bluffs, and there is a manmade glade for the power lines to go through the hills- you go through this area a couple of times.

I should never have written this conservation area off for later or maybe next time- it was worth it! My word for this hike was “pretty.” The woods were very pretty. The beginning of the trail has a lovely memorial to the Glassberg family, and it starts as a gravel road. You’ll come to a small waterfall (if it has recently rained, it will be making more noise) on the right very shortly into the trail.

It continues uphill forever according to Kareem, although it’s actually about a mile. The gravel gives way to broken old blacktop and it varies from gravel to old blacktop for a while. On your journey uphill, there’s a spur off to the left to access the three acre lake. At the top of the hill, there’s a spur off to the right that is marked to get to the scenic overlook with a viewing platform for a lovely look at the Meramec from the top of the bluffs.

You then go along a dirt trail into the forest. You’ll come out for a little bit into a “glade” which is actually the clearing for the electric wires. Then back into the forest. You cross the glade again and go downhill for a while, which Kareem was excited about.

The dirt then gives way to grassy trail then back to gravel road. There’s another rock ledge with waterfall that I imagine is completely dry if it hasn’t recently rained.

I’m really glad we checked it out! It was much less crowded than Young or LaBarque Creek, so it’s the perfect quarantine hike.

Kareem’s Hot Take: I really liked this one. It was a challenging hike- lots of ups and downs. It was a good workout because it felt there was a lot of incline, but really it was just pretty. Well-maintained. The paths were very clear. It wasn’t rocky underfoot. It was really pretty- you get a little bit of everything. You get a lake, woods, a stream, waterfalls. Awesome views.

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!

Nature Classroom @ Towne Park

I hurt myself last week, and wasn’t quite feeling up to a hike. But I would never deprive my children of some quality outdoor exploration! So we headed to Towne Park, a St. Charles County Park in the Wentzville area.

The park is listed as in “Foristell,” so it took me a while to actually visit because in my mind, it was really far away. It really isn’t far, and it doesn’t *feel* like Foristell- it’s right off 61, about six miles north of the 40/70 intersection. My cousin recommended it to me, knowing that we would love it, and she was right! It features a playground, pavillions, several paved and natural surface trails, and a fishing pond, but its most attractive amenity in my opinion is the Nature Explore Classroom!

This is not just a few benches in the woods, which is what I always think of when I imagine an outdoor classroom. This is a Nature Explore certified classroom. Nature Explore is a national nonprofit program of Dimensions Educational Research Foundation, which works collaboratively with a network of organizations throughout the nation. Their goal is to help nature become an integral, joyful part of children’s daily learning.  Nature Explore provides research-based workshops, design consultations and resources created to support programs as they continue to connect children and families to the wonders of nature. What I love about this is that the goals of this program completely align with my family values, and the research and intention behind the design and programming totally align with the educator in me. There are not many in Missouri, and only a few in public spaces. Most are in private schools. We are lucky to have two nearby- MoBot Gardens @ Shaw Nature Reserve and Towne Park! I love having them in the public space, accessible to everybody so that all children can benefit from it.

When we first entered the area, the kids were thrilled! We hit the music section first, where there were many instruments to try out, small and large, made of natural materials.

Then my kids spent a lot of time in the construction area. The entire classroom area has gravel trails around and through it, with plentiful seating in the form of wood benches. We hung back and let the kids figure it out in the construction area. It was slightly Lord of the Flies-esque, but it was so exciting and rewarding to watch them negotiate, compromise, and help each other as they worked on building a little city, shelter, and bridge. There are logs and sticks for them to build with, as well as stools and tunnels to climb and play in.

There was a water feature area. Powered by a bike and series of chains/gears, you pump water into a gutter that flows down onto some rocks. The kids really were enthused about this, though it was tougher for the youngest ones, and for Nick who is always challenged by bikes. He was very motivated though, and I was proud watching him try and try again to pump the water! Eventually, Kareem got on the bike and Nicky got soaked, but we had a great time.

There were climbing structures, a huge tire swing, a balance area, and a sand area among other things. This kept them engaged for a very long time. We then crossed the pond via pier and went to the more traditional playground, which had something for everybody as well.

We spent a few hours here. I’ll definitely want to bring a picnic and make a day of it next time- so fun!

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!