The eighth trip of the year would take me back to my favorite area of the whole state of Missouri at the best time to visit! For me, that would be the Arcadia Valley during fall! The colors and landscape combine in a way not found in many other places around me.
Arguably, the Arcadia Valley has a higher density of state parks then anywhere else and for good reason! The place is beautiful year round but especially so in fall! In the area, there is the new, but not yet opened, Jay Nixon State Park named for our state's 55th governor and strong proponent of our state parks, Taum Sauk Mountain State Park featuring the highest point in the whole state, Battle of Pilot Knob State Historic Site featuring the site of a fierce Civil War battle against the Union Fort Davidson, and of course two of my favorite parks of all times, Elephant Rocks State Park and Johnson's Shut-ins State Park, two of the greatest natural playgrounds ever made!
On this weekend trip, I would be enjoying a hike at Elephant Rocks on Saturday and camping overnight at Johnson's Shut-ins before returning the next day. A quick, single night campout would be perfect for experiencing the beautiful fall colors while escaping repeated cold nights that would surely bring more harm than good.
After missing the fall colors last year to the Zion National Park trip, it was great to get a chance to see the Missouri fall colors at their peak in the greatest area around! And this weekend did not disappoint!
After the short hike around Elephant Rocks and a stop for lunch among the boulders, it was time for another quick hike at the nearby Buford Mountain Conservation Area featuring the third tallest peak in Missouri! Here there was a much greater display of fall colors than at Elephant Rocks. This is understandable as the biggest draw of Elephant Rocks is the granite boulders and trees don't grow well on top of boulders! After the second hike, it was off to Johnson's Shut-ins to setup camp for the night! One special note of the trip is that it was the last weekend before Halloween which meant campers were out "trick or treating" while the park also hosted a pumpkin carving contest, costume contest, and more!
This was pretty neat as I had not experienced this even after camping on Halloween just a few years before (or maybe I don't remember this taking place... That's probably most likely!)
As it was a cold night, down into the 30s, it was on my equipment list to bring a heater on this trip and it served very well! No one cold, no one unhappy, and when morning came on Sunday, it was more beautiful than thought possible! The sun peeking over the nearby ridge viewed from inside the nice warm tent was a sight to behold! And to the other side of the sky, a morning rainbow (without the rain!) graced us with it's presence! The only thing to make it better, and it definitely happened, was breakfast in bed (in tent)!
Since we could take our time in packing up and leaving due to the relatively short drive back from the Arcadia Valley, we stopped off for another short hike out to Johnson's Shut-ins to take in another Missouri natural wonder and the accompanying fall colors! This was the perfect camp to a stellar weekend! Now I'm left yearning for more over the coming year! Until next year, fall colors!
Span of 2 days; Approximately 5 hours and 38 minutes of cumulative driving; Approximately 280.5 miles; Approximately 18.73 gallons of gas used; Approximate average MPG 15.0 facing stiff winds on the return trip; Approximately $44.18 spent on gas; Average fuel consumption rate 3.325 gallons per hour.