May 22 was the last Art/ Nature Field Trip of the year. Four times a year, the librarian and art teacher from North lead a group of about 20 kids to scenic natural areas around Missouri. Past destinations have been Hawn State Park, Klondike, Pickle Springs, Citygarden, Rocheport and many other spots. Last weekend, we headed south to Taum Sauk Mountain and Elepant Rocks State Parks. First, we spent an hour scrambling around the warm, pink granite boulders of Elephant Rocks. Then, we drove to Taum Sauk and ate lunch on the highest point in Missouri. After lunch, we hiked the three mile loop to Mina Sauk Falls. The glade views were awesome as usual and the waterfall was really flowing with all the recent rain.
Clifty Falls State Park is one of southern Indiana's scenic gems. The main natural feature of the park is the 300 foot deep canyon that Clifty Creek has carved out over millions of years. The canyon has four big waterfalls in it; Clifty Falls, Little Clifty Falls, Tunnel Falls, and Hoffman Falls. Clifty Falls and Little Clfity Falls are both 60 feet high, Tunnel Falls is 83 feet high, and Hoffman Falls is 78 feet high. Yesterday, my mom and I hiked a four mile loop at the park. We entered the park from the northern entrance off of Indiana 62. First, we stopped at the Clifty Shelter. After we parked the Prius, we walked 100 yards to the Clifty Falls overlook. Clifty Falls is actually two waterfalls. There is a smaller cascade first before the creek plunges 60 feet over the main falls. Just down a couple of stairways and on a side creek, Little Clifty Falls pours off another 60 ft. high cliff. Unlike Clifty Falls, you don't get a really good view of the waterfall. On the way to the Little Clifty Falls overlook, we walked right by Cake Rock. Just like its name sounds, Cake Rock looks like a gigantic slice of cake perched on the edge of a cliff. We hiked back up the stairs to our car and drove down to the Tunnel Falls Trailhead. Just down several flights of wooden and stone steps, the Tunnel Falls Overlook was on the edge of another side canyon. We got a pretty good view of the upper part of Tunnel Falls from here.
For our hike, we started at the Oak Grove Shelter and followed a spur off of Trail 5 into the canyon. The trail dropped down through several steep switchbacks before reaching the creek and Trail 2. We hiked up the rocky bed of Clifty Creek for a couple hundred yards. There isn't really a trail through here; you just walk up on the rocks next to the creek. One of the neat things about hiking in the creek is that we were right there next to lots of the little waterfalls in the creek. With the recent rain, some of the big cliffs to the west of the river had little waterfalls flowing off of them. Soon, we reached a point where a metal cable crossed the creek. There was a little Trail 5 sign hanging on the cable. We used this cable as a handline as we crossed the slippery rocks to the other side. Soon after this crossing, the trail went up to the rim of the canyon on a steep dirt trail. The forest along this strech was covered in bright green Lily of the Valley plants. We were too early to see the flowers, but the bright green was still pretty. After climbing up about 300 ft, we reached Trail 8 on the rim of the canyon. For the next two miles, we rolled up and down on the rim of the canyon. There were many great views down into the canyon and of smaller waterfalls flowing into the canyon. After about two miles, Trail 8 began a long descent back into the canyon. About half a mile later, we were back at the banks of Clifty Creek. We made another big creek crossing here and picked up Trail 2 again. We followed the creek bed up for about half a mile. Another really neat thing about hiking in the creek bed was all the fossils. The rocks of Clifty Falls State Park were just loaded with all kinds of small fossils like the kinds found at the Falls of the Ohio. When we reached Trail 4, we hiked up the switchbacks and up a side canyon to Hoffman Falls. Just like Little Clifty Falls, the view was limited, but it was still neat. After Hoffman Falls, we hiked back on the road for 10 minutes to close the loop. We hiked the four mile loop in about two hours. On the way out of the park, we hiked Trail 1 down to the Ohio River Lookout Tower. The view was pretty nice, but was ruined by the massive power plant on the banks of the Ohio River. Overall, Clifty Falls State Park is an awesome natural gem with some great scenery and waterfalls.
I'm on spring break now, so we came to Indiana to visit my grandparents. Usually when we come, we stop by Falls of the Ohio State Park. The Falls of the Ohio are a two mile long strech of the Ohio River with lots of exposed Limestone. The Limestone is about 387 million years old. Three hundred million years ago, the area was covered by a shallow sea. As thousands of tiny shellfish and other sea animals died, they sank to the bottom of the ocean. Year after year after year, a thick layer formed. Eventually, the weight of the dead animals compressed the lower layers into rock. Between then and now, the sea drained away and the upper layers eroded away. Now, the Falls are one of the largest, natural fossil beds in the world. In the summer, you can spend hours wandering the exposed rock finding all kinds of neat fossils. When we went yesterday, the Ohio River was near flood stage and 95% of the fossil beds were underwater. We still went down and explored the area though. The beds that were above water had lots of cool fossils in them. At one point, I was walking on some rocks next to the river and I almost stepped on a beaver. The beaver was bigger than I thought beavers were and had a big, flat, black tail and a reddish brown fur. It jumped into the muddy water and swam away. About five minutes later, we saw the beaver again. That was the first time my mom or I had ever seen a real, live beaver. Soon after we saw the beaver, we hiked back up to the parking lot. We then tried to hike the 3/4 of a mile Woodland Loop Trail. The trail was a great, easy hike through the forest until we got to the bottomland. The recent floods had piled up tons of huge logs that totally blocked the trail. We turned around and hiked back the way we came. On the way back to my grandparent's house, we stopped at Dairy Queen and I got a delicous Mint Oreo Blizzard.
This weekend, Troop 21 had a backpacking/ advancement weekend at Taum Sauk Mountain State Park. At first, I was planning on going down Friday night and going backpacking. However, I got a cold on Wednesday and decided not to go on Thursday night. My dad still went down with the Troop on Friday at 5:30. Around eight on Friday night, I was feeling good enough to go down Saturday morning. My mom and I packed up for the backpacking trip on Friday and decided to wake up at 5:30 on Saturday to drive down there. We woke up and left St. Louis around 6:40. About two hours later, we got down to the park. Soon after our arrival, we had some adults staying in the main campground drive us 5 miles away and drop us off at the Claybaugh Creek Trailhead. From here, we hiked 5.5 miles back up to Taum Sauk Mountain. This pretty section of the Ozark Trail climbed 500 ft. through glades, pine trees, large rocks, small waterfalls, deep valleys, and pretty streams. When we arrived back at the main campsite, we ate lunch. On the hike in the morning, I started to feel bad again, and after lunch, I decided not to go backpacking. We hiked to Mina Sauk Falls with the backpackers. Then they headed down towards Devils Tollgate to camp,and we hiked back on the Mina Sauk Falls loop. The trail to Mina Sauk Falls was beautiful, passing through huge glades with great views of the valleys and mountains. With all our recent rain, the waterfall was really flowing nicely. We got back to our car around 5. We had hiked a total of about 9 miles. I didn't go to the St. Joe mountain bike race today because I wasn't feeling any better than I did yesterday. That just means the Lost Valley Luau on the 28th will be my first race of 2010.
Me at Mina Sauk Falls
Today, my Mom and I drove down to Meramec State Park to bushwhack to Green's Cave. My Dad and I tried to hike to the cave last year by the Sleepy Hollow route and we got kind of lost. Then, it was getting dark and we had to turn around before we got to the cave. We started our hike around 9:45 at the Hamilton Hollow Trailhead. A short distance from the trailhead, we came to an informational pavilion about the old Hamilton Hollow Iron Works. It was built in the early 1870's and only lasted three years before it went of of business. Right after the pavilion, we made the first of our 14 major creek crossings of Hamilton Creek. We followed old roads down the Hamilton Creek Valley for two miles. The valley used to be farm fields and pasture. Now, there are only brushy meadows in their place. About a mile after the trailhead, we crossed the creek and visited Hamilton Cave. Just before the cave, there was an old stone wall built on the hillside. The cave had a big opening with icicles dangling from the nearby cliffs. It was a really cool cave, but there is a big gate on it to protect the endangered Indiana bats that live inside. The stream flowing out of the cave had bright green, mossy rocks in it. Right after Hamilton Cave, the trail crossed the creek again. About 3/4 of a mile later, we crossed the creek again to visit Homestead Spring. There is a farmer's old cooling house standing in the middle of the spring. Bright, green watercress decorated the stream. Some rusty, old strands of barbed wire were strung in between trees. The old roads kind of faded out after Homestead Spring. We made another creek crossing and followed deer trails through a cedar grove. Soon, we hit an old road and followed that to the Meramec. The road disappeared and we found a narrow, rocky pathway leading to the cave. The pathway followed a scenic hillside above the Meramec River and right below towering bluffs. Before we could see the cave, we could hear the roaring stream coming out of it. We rounded a corner and came upon one of the coolest places in Missouri. Green's Cave was simply huge. The opening of the cave was massive. I read somewhere that it is the biggest cave opening west of the Mississippi River. I don't know if that's true, but it was really impressive. I didn't bring my headlight, but we hiked up into the cave quite a ways. The noise from the creek got louder and louder. Soon, we came to a spot where we couldn't hike father without getting wet. Right beyond this place, there was a three foot high waterfall. After turning around here, we followed the rugged trail up a steep, rocky gully to the bluff above the cave. This bluff has lots of pretty cedars and looked out over some farms on the other side of the river. On the way out of St. Louis, we stopped at the St. Louis Bread Company, and got bagels and bear claws. We each ate our bear claws on this bluff with a great view. After enjoying this scenic overlook, we turned around and hike out the way we hiked in. One the way back, I waded across the creek to see Pratt Spring, the spring flowed out of a small cave. It then went towards the creek, but a couple of beavers have dammed it. There is a small lake now. Right before the trailhead, we walked over to the old iron blast furnace. The big furnace was built with huge stone blocks. The inner furnace had gotten so hot, the that there is a thin layer of iron on the rocks. The hike down Hamilton Creek is really a walk through history passing the old iron works, old stone walls, spring houses, barbed wire, and overgrown farm fields reminding you of the past.
The spring house at Homestead Spring
The narrow path right below the bluffs
The mouth of Green's Cave
The waterfall in Green's Cave
The view from the bluff
Me standing on the bluff
Troop 21 takes a trip to Skyway Farms for our annual cabin "campout" every December. Skyway Farms is a house run by Lindenwood University. We've been going there for the past 10 years or so. Personally, I find it pretty boring, so this year I proposed to lead a backpacking trip in Cuiver River State Park. Our Scoutmaster, Tom Coscia, said I could do that if I got two adults and two scouts. Luke and I counted as the two Scouts, and Mr. Harrison and Luke's Dad counted as the adults. On our Tuesday night meeting last week, Tom asked if anyone else wanted to go backpacking, but as usual, no one else wanted too. So, anyway, it ended up just being the four of us. Luke, Mr. Harrison, and I drove out with the rest of Troop 21 on Friday evening. Mr. Harrison and I decided to sleep outside in the cold. I brought my REI Zenith Zero Degree sleeping bag for Friday. This was going to be my coldest test of that bag yet. I slept fine through the night and I was pretty warm. The only part of me that was cold was my face, but other than that, my sleeping bag was great. When I got up, it was about 15 degrees outside and it was cold and windy. After I packed away my sleeping pad and bag, I pulled up the stakes and just carried my tent into the cabin. Once I was in the warm cabin, then I took the tent down. We ate blueberry pancakes and sausage for breakfast. We drove down to the Cuiver River State Park to start our hike. We met Mr. Sloan and Cody at the visitor center. Cody is the Sloan's awesome Australian Shepard. Then, we drove up to the Big Sugar Creek Trailhead; this is where we started our trip.
We hiked south on the Big Sugar Creek Trail. After traveling on a ridge for a short distance, the trail dropped steeply into a a small valley. The trail crossed back and forth over a small, rocky-bottomed stream. At one point, there was a small cliff that was covered in a cool little sheet of icicles.
Soon after the icicles, we passed Connector D and climbed up onto a hillside. We went throuh a small meadow and traversed on a hillside. There were several drainage crossings. One of them had a cool little overhang with some icicles dangling off of it.
About 2.5 miles after we started, we reached the crossing of Big Sugar Creek. This was a lot bigger creek than we thought it was going to be. Where the trail crossed, the creek was easily about 30 ft. wide. The trail was a horse trail, so the crossing was about eight inches deep. While that isn't hard for equestrian users, that is impossible for hikers to do with out getting their feet soaked. Since I had mid cut boots on, I waded across a shallow area, but the other three hiked downstream to find an easier spot. About 100 yds away, we found a narrow channel. There was a main channel that was about 8 inches deep and five ft. wide and another smaller area of water. I tossed my trekking poles over and Luke jumped across without his pack. Then, Mr. Sloan tossed Luke's pack to me. While Luke was getting across, Mr. Harrison found a rock and put that in. Finally Mr. Harrison and Mr. Sloan made it across.
Before I continue, let me preface this with something. I have hiked on trails in Greensfelder and Rockwoods Range that have been severly damaged and eroded by equestrian use, but all of those trails were nothing compared to the devastation that I encountered at Cuivre River State Park. This was quite simply the most damaged trail that I have ever seen. There was at least three fourths of a mile of trail that is hopelessly destroyed by equestrian traffic. It was a ten foot wide path that was indented with thousands of hoof prints that are eight inches deep. Each of these hoof prints was full of icy mud. The entire trails for this distance was covered from edge to edge with these hoof prints. This section of trail has been damaged beyond repair by certain irresponsible equestrian riders who used the trail when they were wet and muddy, and now this trail is destroyed. Near the end of this section, there appeared to be some work being done to repair the trail.
After we passed the section that was destroyed by horse usage, we took the Hamilton Hollow Trail to the Frenchmen's Bluff Trail. We followed the Frenchmen's Bluff Trail up to the bluff.
We ate lunch at the overlook pictured above. After lunch, we traveled on the bluff for the next two miles. This section was the prettiest part of the whole trip. The views extended far out over the Cuivre River Valley. After about two miles on the bluff, the trail curved away and headed back towards Big Sugar Creek. About a mile after the bluff, we crossed the gravel road and followed it 100 yds. North to Connector E. Our original plan was to follow the Cuivre River Trail back to Big Sugar Creek, cross the creek, and hike to the backpacking site, but since it was getting late and we were hiking a slower pace than we planned on, we took the shorter route on Connector E.
Below is a picture of the horse destroyed trail on Connector E. The first quarter mile was like this, but it improved after that.
After we reached Big Sugar Creek, we found the place where the trail crossed was impassable to hikers. About 50 yards downstream, we found a channel that was about 10 ft. wide. There were lots of big, flat rocks lying on the banks, so we decided to build ourselves a little crossing. On the other side of the creek, a bluff separated us from the trail. I thought we could follow a sloping ledge next to the creek to get around the bluff, but the ledge was too icy. Instead, we got to climb straight up the really steep hill to the right of the bluff. The climbing was straight up a very steep hillside over roots and rocks. The dirt was still frozen solid, so there wasn't any way to kick footholds in. In some tricky spots, I had to grab small little saplings and pull myself up. After what seemed like an eternity, the steepness relented and we picked up the trail.
Once we were all on the trail, we hiked south for about five minutes. Then, we hit the spur trail to the backpacking site. About 100 yds up this faint trail, we reached our site. There was a fire ring on the ridge and that was just about it. Our first priority was getting wood for a fire. We spent a good 20 minutes gathering fire wood, then we set up our tents. Once our tents were up, sleeping pads unrolled, and sleeping bags laid out, then we starting to boil our water for dinner. My brother's old MSR Whisperlite turned into a fireball twice, but other than that boiling the water was uneventful. Mr. Harrison had Black Beans and Rice, Luke had Mexican Chicken and Rice, Mr. Sloan ate an Asian Curry Dish, and I had Beef Teriyaki with Rice. After that meal, I had my new favorite freeze-dried food. Neither lasagna or beef stroganoff could compare to the delicious Beef Teriyaki. After we had finsihed eating, we started up our fire with the fire starter Mr. Sloan brought from St. Louis. For the next four hours, we sat around our warm fire. The stars were really beautiful on that cold, clear night. Orion, the Big Dipper, and the Moon were all very bright and visible. Luke and I went to bed around 9:00. My sleeping bag was warm enough, but I still didn't get a good night's sleep. I didn't want my camera or Camelbak to freeze overnight, so I kept those inside my sleeping bag. Neither of them froze, but they were both very uncomfortable lumps in my sleeping bag.
We woke up around 6:45 the next morning and started to take down our tents. Soon, Mr. Sloan had some hot chocolate ready for us. That little, warm cup of hot chocolate tasted so good on the cold morning. We broke down our camp and were hiking out around 7:30. To save some distance, we bushwhacked off the ridge to the north. We followed a faint trail and soon hit the Big Sugar Creek Trail. We followed the trail down to the creek and took the hikers only loop to the north. The trail led through an eerie little praire before climbing onto a neat little bluff above Big Sugar Creek. After following on the bluff for a ways, the trail curved away from the bluff and up a ravine. At the head of the ravine, we bushwhacked over to Connector E. We followed the Connector E about a mile back to the trailhead.
I've been pretty busy the past week riding my sweet new bike. Last Saurday was the Rockhopper's first trail ride. I rode at Klondike Park. The bike climbed a lot better on the hills, and the shifting was great. However, the 29er's longer wheelbase took a little getting used to on the Strip Mine Trail. The Strip Mine Trail is a short loop, but packs in a ton of rocky technical spots that can be challenging. The long wheelbase made a lot of the sharp turns harder and I was having trouble clipping in and out of my new Crank Brother Candy Pedals.
The next days ride at Castlewood was much better. My mom and I rode about 12 miles. The bike was a lot better today. Castlewood's long climbs were easily devoured by the big wheels and smooth shifting gears of the next bike. The Reba SL fork is amazing. The air fork is a lot smoother than my old coil fork. The fork may look smaller, a little less than my old 80 mm fork, but it eats up all the rocks, roots, and waterbars just fine. The wheels just kept rolling on the Rollercoaster, I felt like I barely needed to pedal. Cardiac Hill was way easier on a 29er, but it way still plenty challenging. After Cardiac, you go down a pretty big hill and then climb up to Ries Road. There used to be a little section that I always had to walk, but not anymore. Its right at the bottom of the hill, where there is a big root about 5 inches high right before a steep section with some rocks near the top. I used to not be able to get my rear wheel over the root, let alone go up the rocks near the top. The 29er breezed right up and over the root and the rocks. Below is a map of the route I took, I rode many sections twice.
On Friday, my dad and I wen to Castlewood after school. The trails were great and rode much of last Sunday's ride. The biggest difference is that we did Lone Wolf. The steep hill going up to the bluff wasn't easy, but was easier on my 29er than my old bike. Midway up the hill, a hiker started taking our picture because we were biking up a big hill. The sun was just setting over the distant hills and had illuminated the clouds with some shades of red. After admiring the view for a little while, we continued on Lone Wolf. The switchbacks that I had to walk earlier this year, I could easily ride down. Here is the map of our route.
Yesterday, my mom and I went to Creve Couer Park to check out the new trail that had recently been built there. We parked by the baseball diamond and biked down the spur trail to access the trail. We rode to the south end first, and rode the loop down by the road. We turned around and rode the whole trail up to the new section. Right after crossing the road the first time, we met Glen, a nice guy from GORC and we talked about my Eagle Project. I am supposed to be one of the very prepared Eagle Scouts who actually did a project. After chatting for a while, we rode off to check out the newest section. This section was a really nice part up on the hillside. Through the trees, the view of Creve Couer Lake was pretty impressive. After riding all the section, we rode all the way back on the trail and did the loop at the south end one more time before returning to the car. The total ride was about seven miles of tight, twisty singletrack fun.
Recently, I got into mountain bike racing. It all started about a month ago. My mom and I went to Greensfelder Park for a Specialized Bikes Demo. We got to ride $8,000 full suspension, carbon fiber mountain bikes. After our ride, Adrienne Murphy, the owner of Mesa Cycles, came up to me and talked to me about joining the Mesa Junior Racing Team. I decided to try out mountain bike racing.
On September 12, I had my first race, a race at Castlewood State Park. The course was a 5.5 mile loop on the Stinging Nettle and Cedar Bluff Trails. The race was part of the Midwest Fat Tire Series. They race in a format where beginners have to race around the course as many times as they can in an hour. There is a mass start for the Beginners 19 and under. There were about seven people in my class. I was the youngest. The trail started out as a wide gravel path before quickly narrowing down to twisty, bottom land single track. About half a mile after the start, the trail made a steep, rooty plunge into the lower bottom lands. The course made a hard left onto the Cedar Bluff Trail and dipped in and out a a dry creek bed. The course went under the railroad track in a dark, wet, narrow tunnel from 1927. After emerging on the other side of the tracks, the trail climbed slightly before making a steep dip into a gully. The trail swooped downwards, but soon climbed into an old farm field. The trail made a steep switchback climbing to the left. The trail rolled gently on the side of a hill before climb up a very steep, rocky switchback up to the right. Just before the switchback, I passed Auggie, another Mesa Junior Racer. When I was riding up this switchback, I passed another racer who was in my class.
The next quarter mile was a long, but gradual ascent. The climb ended at a bench constructed as an Eagle Project. A short descent on a ridge led to another bench. Right after this bench, the biggest descent on the trail started. It was a steep, rocky downhill with some big roots to ride over. After the steep part ended, the trail wound through some ruts and re-entered the farm field. The trail made a beautiful, fast descent thorough the field before dipping into the creek again. The next quater mile was a slow ascent though some ruts with tight trees and large roots in some spots. The trail climbed up though two switchbacks and began its final descent. The last half mile of Cedar Bluff was a fast, rocky downhill on a wide trail. Right before the railroad tunnel, there was a mandatory dismount for some large rocks. We went through a another tunnel and followed the Stinging Nettle half a mile to the area with the big dips. The race course went across one of the dips and followed close to the Meramec River. The trail meandered away from the river for a mile before come back near the river. About two miles from the dips, the course turned away from the Stinging Nettle and followed the Rockaway Connector back to the starting area.
I went around on my first lap in about 36 minutes. I went out for a second lap and did that one in about 37 minutes. In the end, I finished fifth out of my age group. I was pleased with the race and I really liked mountain bike racing.
Today, was the fourth annual Greensfelder Challenge. This is a mountain bike race on the Dogwood Trail at Greensfelder. The course laps would be about 4 miles this time. Since it had rained the night before, the trail was muddy in spots and the roots and rocks were slippery. Because this race course was all single track, we started about a quarter mile from the registration area. The race started on the gravel road to the Roundhouse. After about 200 yds. on the road, the trail dove into the woods and passed the registration area. Right after the Muckerman Shelter, the trail went back into the woods and went down a narrow rocky connector to the Dogwood. The race course went counter clockwise on the Dogwood Trail. The Dogwood Trail is my favorite trail at Greensfelder. The first two miles of the Dogwood are rocky, and flowy. The trail is gradually descending. There are three gradual switchbacks on the Dogwood. The first is about a mile in between where we first got on to the Dogwood. The first mile is a rocky, flowy trail with one small tree to ride over. There are several fun little plunges into small drainage's. The first switchback is a long, smooth, dirt turn that was really fun. On this downhill, some of the faster marathoners passed me. The trail is still the same but has some challenging rocky sections before making another switchback. This switchback was challenging because of the mud on it. After the switchback the trail crosses a challenging drainage. This drainage has a large, white rock placed on the climb out. With all the mud today, the rock was pretty slippery. The trail dropped off a small ledge and made its final switchback down to the left. The trail made a lot of steep dips into drainages and climbed out steeply on the other side. During this section, I passed several riders who had passed me on the downhills earlier. After dropping off a small root and crossing a small creek, the trail made its one long climb out of the valley. The hill was steep at first, but leveled off soon. After climbing thorough a tight switchback, the course rejoined the gravel road and returned to the Muckerman Shelter. I did the four mile laps in about 25 minutes. Today, I got to do three laps. I finished the race about an 1 hour and ten minutes after I started.
I placed fifth again with about seven people in my age group again. Greensfelder was a much harder course than Castlewood. Castlewood had two miles of more technical riding, the rest was easy bottom land single track. Greensfelder was a rocky technical trail the whole way. The mud and slippery trail only made it a little more difficult. Though the races were different, I like mountain bike racing.
Here is a picture from the Rockaway Cut Trail at Castlewood.
Here I am racing on the Dogwood today.
In early June, my mom and I took a 13 day trip out west in a 31 ft. RV with my aunt, uncle, and cousin, and my cousin's grandparents. We left Madison, WI around 4 P.M. on a Friday. We started our 13 hour drive to Badlands National Park. We arrived at Badlands at 3 A.M. We parked at the Big Badlands Overlook for the night, we woke up to and amazing vista of the Badlands and the White River Valley. After exploring the cliffs around Big Badlands, we drove 3 miles to the Notch Trailhead and cooked pancakes. After eating delicouis pancakes with Wisconsin Maple Syrup, we hiked the 1.5 mile Notch Trail. This scenic trail weaved its way around the outcroppings of rock on the Upper Praire before climbing up 60 ft. on a wooden ladder. The trail follow a narrow, muddy, ledge sytem to a beautiful overlook of the White River Valley. After our hike, we drove to the Visitor Center and looked around for a while. Then we left Badlands and drove to Stockade Lake in Custer State Park. Stockade Lake was located deep in the beautiful Black Hills.
The next morning, we climbed Little Devils Tower. This three mile hike led to the 6,971 ft. high summit of Little Devils Tower. This beautiful hike led through grassy meadows along a creek before climbing steeply next to granite spires. The trail ended 100 yds. from the summit. The final strech was fun scrambling over grey granite to the pretty summit. The view to the east included to spectaculer Cathedral Spires. Harney Peak the highest mountain in South Dakota was a mile to the north. We ate lunch on top and then descended.
After climbing Little Devils Tower, we drove to Mt. Rushmore. Mt. Rushmore was very impressive. We hiked the 1/2 mile Presidental Trail around the base of the monument. That night we camped at Sylvan Lake Campground.
The next morning, we drove to Jewel Cave. We took the Scenic Tour. It led us through some of the prettiest room in the cave. I found out that 90 % of Jewel Cave has crystals on the walls.
After our tour of Jewel Cave, we drove two hours to Devils Tower National Monument. Once there, we hiked the 1.5 mile trail around the base of the tower. The neat thing about the Tower Trail is as you hike around the tower, you see all the different sides.
After this short hike, my mom and I hiked down the Red Beds Trail to the South Side Trail. This beautiful hike lead down through a ponderosa pine forest interspersed with scenic meadows. After about a mile of hiking, we reached the Red Beds. They were a red clay bluff above the Belle Fourche River. After standing on top of this pretty bluff, we followed the South Side Trail through the Praire Dog Town to the campground.
The next day, my uncle and I woke up at 5 A.M. to start the nine hour drive to Yellowstone National Park. As we were driving by Keyhole Reservoir, we saw large herds of pronghorn. Pronghorn are an endangered type of antelope that run at speeds up to 70 miles per hour! When we reached Sheridan, WY, the skies were dark and cloudy. An hour later, we were driving high in the Bighorn Mountain and were above the clouds. The views were incredible.
We arrived in Yellowstone around 1 in the afternoon. Soon the road climbed to Sylvan Pass. The other side of the snowy canyon had some beautiful waterfalls. The water from the waterfall in the picture disappeared under the snow.
As we descended the west side of Sylvan Pass, we entered an area that had been burned by a wildfire. The forest was slowly recovering. On the way down, we got our first views of Yellowstone Lake. Soon after we started driving on the lakeshore, we saw our first fumaroles. Fumaroles are one of four types of thermal features. Fumaroles are vents that spew steam and gases. Geysers erupt with boiling water. Hot Spring are springs that have water in them that is often over boiling temperatures. Mudpots are little depressions filled with bubbling mud.
Grizzly Fumarole becomes a series of mudpots during the spring and early summer meltoff, but later in the summer starts to spew steam and gases. When we went in early June, Grizzly Fumarole was still a collection of little mudpots.
We spent the night at Canyon. When we woke up the niext morning, the was six inches of snow blanketing the forest outside. We were snowed in at our campground until 2 P.M. when the roads were plowed.
Our first stop after leaving Canyon was the North Rim of the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. We stopped at the Upper Falls of the Yellowstone Overlook. The Upper Falls was an impressive 109 ft. high waterfall.
We then drove 3 miles down the bumpy road to Artist Point. Thomas Moran, a famous painter, gave Artist Point its name when he painted The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. This was one of his most famous paintings. The view was great. You could even see some fumaroles down near the bottom of the canyon.
Our next destination was Old Faithful. On the way, we stopped at Gibbon Falls and Firehole Falls. Gibbon Falls was an 80 ft. high waterfall in the middle of Gibbon Canyon. Firehole Falls was a 30 ft. high cascade on the Firehole River.
Just as we arrived at Old Faithful, the geyser had just finished erupting. We went inside the Visitor Center and found out the the geyser wouldn't be erupting for an hour and a half. We decided to hike the 1.3 mile Geyser Hill Trail.
The Geyser Hill Trail was mostly a boardwalk built of a geyser basin above the Firehole River. The boardwalk led past many geysers, fumaroles, and hot springs.
The Geyser above is Sponge Geyser. The geyser would fill with water and start boiling, and then the water would sink down six inches and stop boiling. The geyser kept filling with water and then draining. There where many other geysers on the adaptly named Geyser Hill. There was Beehive Geyser, that was shaped like a beehive; Lion Geysers, which were four littler geysers clustered together; and Anemone Geyser which erupts every 15 minutes.
Whale's Mouth Spring is a hot spring that looks similar to a wide mouth going down into the Earth. Behind the spring, you can see the Lion Group of geysers.
Anemone Geyser, above, erupts every 15 minutes. Usually, the geyser looks like a little hole in the ground. Soon steam will rise from the hole. Next, the hole fills with water and starts boiling. Then, the geyser erupts 2-3 ft. in the air. The eruption lasts for about 15 seconds. Finally, the water drains back into the hole with a gurgle.
Cedar Bluff Ride
On Monday, my mom was off school and we headed out to Castlewood for some evening mountain biking. We headed to Sherman Beach and biked on the Stinging Nettle Trail. We didn't like all the sand, so we rode a connector to the Al Foster Trail. We followed the wide gravel trail to its end and the Cedar Bluff Junction. We walked our bikes under the railroad tracks and started the rugged 2.6 mile loop. We had to dismount and carry our bikes our large fallen trees and up several steep climbs. After curving up high on a hill, the rain started. This was just about the worst spot for it to rain. Not on were we 200 ft. above the river, but we had to bike 3 muddy and slick miles back to the Prius. We decided to turn around and return the way we had come. The dirt trail got worse by the minute. Soon we were walking thorught the tunnel. After the tunnel, we biked faster on the Al Foster Trail. Soon we were back at the Prius in the soaking, cold rain. We took almost an hour to go 4 miles and only 13 minutes to come back.
Lost Valley Rides
My mom and I finished the whole Lost Valley Loop on Sunday the 15th. The first three miles by Little Femme Osage Creek were easy and mostly level. We saw several remnants of old homesteads in the valley. The trail leaves the old two track and climbs up a new section of single track constructed by GORC. Then after winding through a small cedar grove the trail curved down some twisty and fast single track. At a sharp bend in the trail, I saw a sign in the woods. We got off our bikes and found an old cemetery. There were graves from 1825. The sign said this was the Dunlap Cemetery. After some more twisty trail we passed above a small spring that bubbled out of the hill down to our right. The became rockier for a while before entering some grassy meadows. We soon came to the cut-off trail, but continued on the long loop. The next 1.5 miles were along a Department of Conservation Gravel Road. The road dropped steeply to a large creek valley. We parrelled a powerline on a grassy trail with 1 creek crossing in the next mile. After dropping off a ledge, the trail made a large creek crossing and climbed up onto a ridge. This climb was smooth dirt singletrack recently constructed by GORC. The trail began to descnd and crossed a small creek above a waterfall. I walked this steep crossing. A short ride later we rejoined the spur trail.
My name is Ben. I love to read, hike, backpack, mountain bike, rock climb, and mountain bike race. Since there are so many great hikes in Missouri, I decided to make a website to describe them.
The Mountain Bike
I ride a 2010 Specialized Rockhopper Expert 29er. I've upgraded all the original parts, went 1x9 and dropped 5lbs from the stock bike.
My Road Bike
I have Willier Izoard for road riding and racing.
My CX Bike
I ride a 2010 Specialized Tricross
2010 Race Results
River Trails Mountain Bike Challenge (Kansas)
1st Junior 15-18
Tilles Park Crit
5th Juniors 10-18
5th Juniors 15-18
1st Juniors 15-18
2nd Juniors 15-18
2009 Mtb. Race Results
ICCC Castlewood Race
5th Beginner 19 and under
5th Beginner 19 and under
Burning at the Bluff
3rd in Burnin Virgins Category