Stephy suggested I do a hike or something for fathers day. So I took the opportunity to get in some “training” for an upcoming backpacking trip. After tossing around several ideas, I finally set out for Prairie State Park, armed with my 17-40mm wide angle lens and a backpack full of unnecessary baggage, just to help get me into shape!
I have been wanting to visit this park during the summer when wildflowers are in bloom, but the prairie is notoriously lacking in shade. Since I don’t particularly like being stranded in the sun on a hot day, I usually visit this state park only in fall or winter. But today was relatively cool (for June) so I thought it might be a good opportunity for a summer prairie hike!
I selected the Sandstone Trail, most of which I had never hiked before. It starts high on a ridge and gradually descends across the prairie towards a small stream. My first impression was how many birds call the prairie home. I didn’t actually see many of these birds because they were hiding out in the tall grass, but I could sure hear them! The sound of all the birds and the wind made for quite a peaceful experience. Various areas seemed to have different assortments of plants. I particularly liked these coneflowers.
The trail gets it’s name from the rocky sandstone areas found along the trail, particularly along the stream. Sandstone is not particularly common in Missouri, so I found the geology here interesting. Most of the prairie is rolling, but this spot has some small rock outcroppings and steeper slopes overlooking Drywood Creek, as well as some small groves of trees. It was a little more difficult to explore this spot in summer than it was in winter because of the tall grass and plants. But I still climbed around on some of the rocks.
Another bonus of hiking this time of year is the free treats. After crossing back through the stream and beginning the return loop towards the truck, the trail started to wind through a wooded/thicket area where I discovered lots and lots of blackberries just off the trail. Even though I wasn’t hungry I felt obligated to pick a handful, getting my arms torn to shreds in the process, and munching them as I walked. Blackberries are such a cruel fruit!
By the time I finished the 4.5 mile loop I had seen an owl, a turkey, lots of tadpoles, several quail, and numerous other birds that I could not identify. If you have never encountered quail, it is kind of a startling experience. Especially if it’s quiet and you are alone on the prairie!
Given my obsession with trees, some might find it unusual that I frequent this state park, known for it’s lack of trees. But there are times where the open space and sound of the wind is exactly what I need!