Sunday, January 15, 2017

Elephant Rocks

    We woke in our sweet camp site at Johnson's Shut-Ins to a cool, cloudy day.  The peak of Taum Sauk Mountain was shrouded in clouds and we thought we should try a few non-river activities until it warmed up.  Luckily, one of the neatest natural wonders in the state is thirteen miles away.
     Elephant Rocks is an outcropping of the famous Missouri red granite that resembles a string of pink circus elephants.  You can run, climb, pose and ponder these fantastic formations in Belleview, MO.  Dogs are welcome, but observe the social contract and clean up after them!  

The stamp for Elephant Rocks is at The Battle of Pilot Knob (new name, same great civil war battlefield), so make sure you grab the code and travel the 12 miles into town.

The whole low down on why these granite shapes are here is explained very well here.  The state park website is here.  If you're within an hour, go see this.  Luckily, you can go to Johnson Shut-Ins, Taum Sauk and Battle of Pilot Knob as well as the vast awesomeness of Mark Twain National Forest are all nearby.

Johnson's Shut-Out

     This was our first trip after we decided to go to all of the Missouri state parks systematically.  Cat and I had both been to Johnson's Shut-Ins in our youths, but it had been 20 plus years and we were ready for a return.  We loaded up the micro-van/maxi-wagon and headed southeast.  
     Johnson's Shut-Ins is located on the East Fork of the Black River in Reynolds County, Missouri.  A shut-in is an area where the breadth of the river is defined by erosion resistant rock.  The river moves through these nooks, crannies, slides, and chutes in a sort of natural water park.  It's a ton of fun for all people who love water, and is something all Missourians should see.  If you're waiting for me to geek out on the geology, save us both the trouble and read the wiki
     The Upper Taum Sauk reservoir burst and flooded the park, essentially destroying all facilities on 12/14/05, and AmerenUE had to pay handsomely to rebuild it. So, the visitor center, campground, and trail system are all brand new in the last 5 years.  
     Seriously nice campground where they've preserved the scrub woods between campsites so it feels like a much more established campground and lends more privacy to each site.  Showers are in individual rooms, so no gym class nightmares.  Shady spots are connected with a gravel trail in the outer loops which turns to concrete near the check station and runs two miles to the visitor center (Black River Center).  The trail is easy going, but worth noting that you may want to drive it as you'll have an additional two mile hike from the visitor center to the actual Shut-Ins.  
     As a point of order, you cannot take your dog (or any other pet) to the shut-ins themselves.  This was unfortunate as we were tent camping and had our beloved black lab, Cash, with us.  So, we're going to have to go back!  We'll update this when we do.  
     The visitor center itself is gorgeous.  They've got drawers full of fun stuff for your kids to play with, kid-height buttons that play bird songs, and other interactive exhibits.  
     The visitor center is the passport stamp location for Taum Sauk as well as the Shut-Ins, though somewhat counterintuitively is NOT for Elephant Rocks.  You'll have to head to the state historic site formerly known as Ft. Davidson (Battle of Pilot Knob) for that one.

The fact we couldn't take Cash to the Shut-ins is actually what set us off on our 87 park adventure.  Since we couldn't swim.... we went everywhere.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Land of 1000 petroglyphs

Thousand Hills state park outside Kirksville is a lake with a trail. Decent campsites with established trees and some concealment, marina and restaurant. Swim beach with frolicking co-ends from nearby Truman State with aggressive-damn-it-we-mean-business chain-link fence to close the beach at dark.

There are some incredibly old petroglyphs carved in rocks.  They built a house around it because some idiot named Lee added his petroglyph to the extant ones. Way to go, Lee.

The ten mile trail is not a loop, but does have what it describes as a backpacking camp 4 miles in.  If we're up this way for a graduation, we'll probably try that out.

I think this is another boat park, with a touch of hiking, not unlike both Table Rock and, to some extent, Lake of the Ozarks.

Not so long

Long branch state park, just west of Macon, looks like a ton of fun. If you have a boat.  If not, you can swim, or hike the < 2 mile trail through the sun-blasted Savannah.  As far as I can tell, that's it.  Apparently there was a fire.

Lots of locusts, short on honey

The nice lady at John j perishings boyhood home told us that locust creek had shifted again and removed access to the bridge.  She acted like my reasonably extensive compass training and hiking boots were not going to get me there and stamped us.  Someday, maybe!

Achievement Hunters

2016-17 marks the 100th anniversary of the Missouri State Parks system.  As part of the celebration, they've rolled out a passport with a space for a stamp for each of the 88 state parks and historic sites.  The first 1000 people to complete get a backpack, and everyone who finishes my 10/31/2017 gets entered in a drawing for an unspecified prize package.

These awesome little books are $5 at any staffed park or site, and they have a $5 Bass Pro coupon (on an expenditure of $50 or more) so you can make your money back pretty quick.  Even if you're more REI than BP, it's worth the $5.  We bought ours before we realized we couldn't take the dog to the shut-ins, and when we got the bad news... We may have overreacted.  We took off, trying to hit as many sites in two days as possible.  It's not really about the backpack, it's about seeing these places and meeting the other crazy people who've decided to play what we like to think of as ultimate pokemon go.  Or, as our antipokemon if you will.

This is a pretty big departure from our initial premise, so I apologize if you came here looking for one thing and got another.  Many, many of these parks do fit the One Tank Ethic, but in our desire to reach all 88... we've had to refill the tank a few times.

The other consequence of this is we've been so busy bagging parks that we barely have time to write about them.  We'll get some words out as soon as possible, but the weather is too awesome to sit inside right now.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

An Idea

The Background and Premise

I grew up going to Missouri State Parks... and I always wanted to go to all of them.  My lovely wife had been to several of them herself, and together we went to more.  Then, Tiny Camper arrived in our life and we decided to try something different.  Every state park in Missouri that has camping, fun reviews and adorable pictures of our kid.  This blog is how we're keeping track.

Why One Tank Ethic?

Our central location and reasonably fuel effecient vehicle make the vast majority of the state accessible to us on one tank of gas (there and back.)  Thus, One Tank Ethic.  We'll probably go ahead and get the corners, but the idea is to spend time together as a family and see the great state of Missouri, all while providing you with helpful reviews and adorbs toddler pics.