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  • Writer's pictureTrail Guide Joe

MO State Parks Centennial Passport Challenge (part 5)!

Updated: Sep 30, 2021

After a very long break, time to get back down to business!

July 8th, after the Glacier National Park trip, I made a quick one stop trip to Route 66 State Park, dedicated to the most famous stretch of highway in all of America, and did a bit of hiking through what was Times Beach... Times Beach was meant to be a residential community along the banks of the Meramec River just outside the city of St Louis where people could take a quick getaway from it all. The community was thriving for many years until a mistake was made allowing the streets to be paved with dioxin, a carcinogenic chemical that was meant to be disposed of properly, not mixed into the streets laid all through the town. As the town's people developed conditions related to the chemical, it was the beginning of the end for Times Beach. The land has since been cleaned up and all old housing razed. Nature is slowly reclaiming the town creating a beautiful natural area!


Completing this trip today added 1 more park to my list bringing the running total to 37 of 88!


No stats collected on this trip.


 

July 23rd, like old times, I was up at 5 AM in preparation to knock out another batch of passport locations! On the road by 6, the first stop was St Francois State Park. Having been here before, and a lot to accomplish today, I didn't spend much time on my visit. I did tour the park to see what may have changed since my last visit and made notes of what to try on the next visit! Now having a kayak, taking a trip along the Big River might be in order!

Next on the trek was St Joe State Park. Arriving around 7:30 AM, I had a bit of time to look around again. St Joe is not new to me. In fact, it's one of the parks I have frequented more than any other! St Joe, like Finger Lakes SP, features an off-road vehicle area out in the middle of an old mine tailings area. It is this attraction that brings me around every so often! I have taken my truck out on the mine tailings area and had my fun many times and it never gets old! Things have changed quite a bit since the last time I was off-roading at St Joe. Today, there was no off-roading to be done. Maybe next time! From there it was off to the next destinations before the heat of the day set in.

The next destination, Elephant Rocks State Park is one of my all time favorites! It's a natural playground for anyone of any age with nerves of steel or half a brain! Giant red granite boulders, elephant size and larger, have pushed their way to the surface where you can climb and jump all over them! The geology of the Earth has never been more enjoyable!

Next stop on the trip was Taum Sauk Mountain State Park, a very significant location as it is the highest elevation in all the state at 1,772 feet above sea level! Not a very tall mountain but there are no others this tall in all the state! Before rolling out to the next destination, I took the time to stop in at the close by fire tower to get a bird's eye view of everything. Although it's a bit unnerving climbing such a structure, it is worth it for the view!


From Taum Sauk, I set my sights on Sam A Baker State Park which is another park I have visited many times! Things have changed quite a bit since my last visit as there is now an emphasis on float trip activities on the St Francis River! Another note to self, bring kayak next time!

From Sam A Baker, I trekked down to Lake Wappapello State Park. This would be the furthest south I would go this trip and to a location I have been to before as well! Last time I was here, the lake had swollen from recent heavy rains that allowed the dam overflow to be topped which took out the main road just down stream. The area has recovered quite well but the scour marks still remain from the flow of water carrying away dirt, rock, and anything else in the way! Turning back to the north, I sent myself back to the area of Elephant Rocks and Taum Sauk to hit Johnson's Shut-Ins State Park which was beyond crowded! The shut-ins are always a popular attraction especially in the summer heat!

From there it was a quick hop over to Battle of Pilot Knob State Historic Site to see what's left of the Union Civil War fort, Fort Davidson. Here the Union troops held off a barrage from Confederate forces until the Union troops found it advantageous to slip away to the north after setting Fort Davidson to explode with the remaining powder and ammunition. This, too, is a place I have visited many times before and in the past I have even caught the Civil War reenactors putting on a show! It, like Battle of Athens SHS, is a great historic site worth a visit!

I again departed, heading north again, back towards St Joe to make my final stop of a total 9 at Missouri Mines State Historic Site. Missouri Mines is the front side to St Joe SP and the mine tailings area now used for off-roading! At this stop you learn of the history of mining in Missouri, mostly lead, and how things were done in the mines! For instance, if something broke or if you needed a specialty tool, you had to fix it or make it yourself with whatever you had available! It's interesting to see the creations that came about to make mining easier in the tight confines of the tunnels and what the part had come from in a previous life. Unfortunately, the museum is all you can safely visit aside from hiking trails that take you to nearby St Joe. The mining structures still stand today but age, wear, and tear have taken a toll and it's not as safe as it use to be to tour these structures.

 
 

Having completed my objectives for the day, 9 passport destinations completed, I have now surpassed the halfway point (and still to the amazement of many park officials)! This brings my running total to 46 of 88! With Rocky Mountain National Park looming less than 50 days away, it won't be long before this challenge takes the backseat once more. Span of 1 day; Approximately 415 miles; Approximately 25.94 gallons of gas (the pumps were acting up and the first fuel stop gave me 19 gallons when I still had ¼ of a 26 gallon tank, a mathematical impossibility... I believe I was cheated here in more ways than one); Approximate average MPG 16 (according to the math of miles driven divided by gallons used though the onboard computer was registering much higher; further proof I was cheated as this computer has been tested many times now and has never been more than 2-3 tenths off at the most)


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