The time has come! Time to make the final push to knock out the west half of the state in the MO Centennial Passport Challenge!
Saturday March 11th, 2017
The day started with me putting the rest of my gear for the week into my truck preparing to roll out by 8 to have enough time to make all necessary stops along the way! The one minor problem? It was snowing. Yes, snowing. I knew ahead of time it was coming. That just meant I needed to bring my snow recovery equipment in case I ended up skidding off the road somewhere remote and had to self rescue or something. That would not be necessary though as this truck is quite prepared for anything that can be thrown at it these days!
The first stop on the trek out west would be Confederate Memorial State Historic Site! It is at this location a Civil War veterans hospital and homes once stood. These homes and hospital were dedicated specifically to the confederate veterans of the American Civil War as, 24 years after the end of the Civil War, the state finally decided to offer assistance to those veterans who fought for separation from the Union. Although it did take nearly a quarter century, it is nice to know the state did offer assistance to its own people despite that they were fighting on the opposing side.
Just a short drive north of the Confederate Memorial SHS would be the second stop at Battle of Lexington State Historic Site. This location found the location of a Civil War battle where Confederate General Sterling Price found his most and only decisive victory. Using wet hemp bails that were rolled along ahead of confederate troops, the confederate soldiers were able to move in on Union troops who were unable to hit the Confederate soldiers hidden behind them.
Pointed west once more, it was time to accomplish part 4B to the MO National Park Passport Challenge! The stop was at Harry S Truman National Historic Site featuring the home of the only United States president to come from the state of Missouri! Unlike many other prominent Missouri figures, Harry S Truman was well known through history classes most notably as the president who dropped the bombs on Japan to end World War II. Who knows, maybe someday in the future we'll have another president from Missouri and maybe known for something a lot less horrific than making use of atomic weapons during a time of war.
Next on the list was Thomas Hart Benton Home and Studio State Historic Site which is both the home and studio of a prominent artist, sculptor, and writer. Sadly, Thomas Hart Benton was lost in history to most Missourians making this a great stop to learn about another famous Missourian!
From Thomas Hart Benton's home and studio, the next stop would be Weston Bend State Park which offers fantastic views of the Missouri River! This park was of particular interest because I've only ever seen the end of the Missouri River on the east side of the state. It was quite satisfying to see the point at which the river enters the west end of the state for which it is named!
Moving on, the next stop would be Lewis and Clark State Park and the first camping location on this week long trip. Here, the park offers insight into the last views of Missouri before the famed explorers, Lewis and Clark, left the known and headed further west into the unknown! The park features an oxbow lake that still stands today as it did in 1804 when the Corp of Discovery passed through. It's particularly awe inspiring to me knowing that what I see before me is what famed explorers saw hundreds of years ago as well. Almost makes you feel as if you were there, doesn't it?
Not content to stop here, I pushed on north to Big Lake State Park where I found myself very near the state line between Nebraska and Missouri! After exploring the park, wishing it were closer so I could get my kayak out on the lake more easily, I turned south and headed back for camp at Lewis and Clark SP.
The snow had ceased earlier in the day and it didn't even appear to have snowed at all this far north. Camp was dry but the cold had set in. The next morning found plenty of evidence of the cold temperatures!
Sunday March 12th, 2017
Waking up to find a rather chilly morning, not at all unexpected, it was time to get packing and get pointed towards the next stop! From Lewis and Clark SP, the next stop was east to Wallace State Park. Wallace SP is a beautiful park not far from the Kansas City metropolis providing an easily accessible nature escape! The park offers camping, hiking, fishing on a lake, and more! Next time I find myself out this way, I'll be sure to stay the night here! Moving on, the next stop was a double feature! Both Watkins Mill State Park and Watkins Woolen Mill State Historic Site! Watkins Mill is one of Missouri's surviving mills like Dillard Mill and Bollinger Mill but this site also features the Watkins family home in addition to the mill that provided for them. It's interesting to see how people made a living back then compared to how we do things now. By comparison, you typically found yourself in a role providing essentials whereas nowadays you can find yourself doing anything, even trivial jobs. From here, it was on to Knob Noster State Park where I would set up my next camp. Knob Noster, like Wallace, is a park with much to offer and not far from the Kansas City area (though further south). Adjoining the park to the east is Whiteman Air Force base which was a bit of a surprise as I had entered the park from the west. Worth visiting next time I'm in the area! After setting up camp, it was time to track down the next park which was the Rock Island Spur of Katy Trail State Park. The Katy Trail is a cross state hiking and biking trail that will soon completely cross the state and one day, before I'm too old to make it, I will take the Katy Trail from west back home to the east! I finally have a bike that fits me well so next up is to practice packing for a bike trip of this magnitude! From there, I traveled on to Harry S Truman State Park which is a park along the banks of Truman Lake. This is a fantastic getaway location for the summer as you are right on the water! The spillway of the dam provides great fishing in the evening and the local mountain bike park is worth a visit as well. All of this I learned in my visit of 2015. After Harry S Truman SP, it was back to camp for the night and preparations for the next day! Monday March 13th, 2017
Another cold morning to start the day, it was time to pack up camp at Knob Noster and hit the road to the next stop! Next on the list was Battle Of Island Mound State Historic Site. It was here that, for the first time in the American Civil War, African American troops from Kansas were brought into combat against the Confederate soldiers and Missouri State Guard. A short video of the Battle Of Island Mound can be viewed below!
After a hike around the area, it was time to hit the road to the next destination, Osage Village State Historic Site. It was here that a village of Osage Native Americans once dwelled. Numbering between 2,000 and 3,000, the village stood between 1700 and 1775 until the inhabitants moved on.
After Osage Village SHS, the next stop was to Pomme de Terre State Park where I would setup my next camp. On my way into this park, I saw something I never thought I would see. I found a barred owl in broad daylight sitting on a fence post watching me go by! Unfortunately, my camera battery was dead at the time I needed it most. Too skittish to allow me close enough to use my phone camera, I had to watch it fly off...
Still having daylight left after setting up camp, I continued pushing on to the next park, Ha Ha Tonka State Park! The land of this park once belonged to a Kansas City businessman who built a castle along the bluffs of the Lake of the Ozarks. Although only the ruins of the castle are all that remains, mostly the outer walls, the park has much to offer from hiking and nature studies to lake access and boating!
A short drive further down the road and I made it to my final stop, Lake of the Ozarks State Park! Unlike many of the other lakes of Missouri, Lake of the Ozarks has been developed with many beach and lake houses lining the shores of the lake. It tends to be severely overcrowded during the summer as a result and ever summer there always seems to be a handful of boating accidents.... some leading to fatalities. Because of the overcrowding and likelihood of accidents, I tend to stay clear of this lake favoring the less crowded and non-developed lakes of the state. After the stop at Lake of the Ozarks, it was back to camp for the night! The picture above is my beautiful view from camp! Tuesday March 14th, 2017
The coldest the overnight low temperature ever got was 19°F. That's colder than any low temperature I faced in Rocky Mountain National Park six months ago in September 2016! Fortunately, I know how to keep warm! Still, it doesn't make it easy to get out of the tent in the morning... Regardless, it was time once again to pack up and get back on the road! Leaving Pomme de Terre SP, I set my sights on yet another of Missouri's Lakes, Stockton State Park, which is also where I chose to setup my next camp. Stockton Lake, unlike Lake of the Ozarks, remains undeveloped which is, in my opinion, much better! Much to my surprise, the owl I had spotted the day before was hanging out in the area still! This time I knew what I had to do to get my picture! Unfortunately, not the greatest but the owl is clearly visible! I'll say it again, I never would have expected to see an owl, in the wild, in broad daylight like this! Especially not the same owl, presumably, twice in as many days. This was quite a treat for sure! Once camp was setup, it was time to roll on to the next stop which was Nathan and Olive Boone Homestead State Historic Site! Unfortunately the homestead was closed for the off season so this was a short trip. Nathan Boone, however, is the youngest son of Daniel Boone who is a well known outdoorsman with a home of his own back east. Continuing on, the next stop on the trek was Battle of Carthage State Historic Site which is the site of the very first full scale battle of the American Civil War (beating the Battle of Bull Run by 11 days). This battle holds greater significance however as it largely decided Missouri's course through the Civil War. Missouri would largely fight for the Confederate south, unfortunately. The next stop would be for the MO National Parks Passport Challenge. Just a bit further south of the Battle of Carthage SHS, I found myself at George Washington Carver National Monument. Built on the site of George Washington Carver's birthplace, the monument stands not only as a memorial to George Washington Carver himself and his accomplishments but to testify to all that, despite all that may befall you, you can always achieve more. Born a slave, later set free, and still facing much adversity, George Washington Carver would strive for an education and a way to build a better life for himself and his family. With much perseverance in the face of adversity, he succeeded and went on to develop many common goods we enjoy today! Like peanut butter made from peanuts! The next stop on the route would take me back north to Harry S Truman Birthplace State Historic Site where I would get to see the house the only United States president to come from Missouri was born. The house itself is tiny as are all the rooms within. By today's standard, this house would be unlivable to many families yet, the Truman family lived here raising several children in addition to future president Harry! Hard to image given how we live today. A very modest house compared to houses of this day and age.
Next up is a personal favorite of mine. The last time I was at Prairie State Park was 2015 when I decided to try to do every state park in Missouri on my own without the passport challenge. Little did I know at the time, the passport challenge would start again in 2016. Bad timing I suppose but it gave me a reason to go back sooner! This time the bison were up close and camera friendly! Had to make an extended stay here as the bison surrounded the visitor center and the parking lot! Not wanting to startle the bison into a stampede, I left the truck shut off until the herd moved away far enough I could start the beast without causing property damage. What made this the best trip to Prairie SP I have or will ever have? It was flurrying which completed my goal to make it out here while it was snowing. Even one of the bison had light piles of snow on its back! Haven't seen that since Yellowstone National Park in June 2002!
Fortunately for me, Prairie was the last stop of the day so staying as long as I did didn't put me off schedule. I was able to return to Stockton for bed and the coldest night of the week! Sunset beforehand was a nice treat though!
Wednesday March 15th, 2017
Waking up on the 15th, I knocked the ice off my tent, gazed at the morning sunrise, a sight I never saw through the preceding days of this trip, and began breaking down camp once more. Today was the day I would complete the MO State Parks Passport Challenge!
I set off for the next destination, Big Sugar Creek State Park, which would take me close to the border of Missouri with Arkansas and Oklahoma. Big Sugar Creek SP is not a big or outstanding place though it does have Big Sugar Creek which looked like a really great place to take a float trip if it wasn't on the complete opposite side of the state from me. Still it was nice to know what was out here in case I ever do find a way to get here again!
Next up and third to last stop was Roaring River State Park! Roaring River is one of three trout fishing state parks accompanying Montauk State Park, which I hit in October last year, and Bennett Springs State Park which I would hit later this day. Since I still had Bennett Springs SP on my list of places to visit, I opted not to do any fishing here though I had all my equipment with me.
Moving on to the east along the border highway of MO 86, the next stop was Table Rock State Park which is the last of Missouri's Lakes I would visit on this challenge! Table Rock SP offers many of the usual features from camping and hiking to fishing and boating but, unlike the other lakes, Table Rock offers scuba diving excursions as well as mountain biking on trails around the lake! It is also in very close proximity to Branson, Missouri, which is our famous show town. I could tell at this point I was getting closer to civilization as traffic began to be a problem. Being out in the rural areas without much traffic at all, I was spoiled and somehow forgot what a pain it was to deal with other drivers....
It was now time for the final stop! On March 15th, 2017 at approximately 3:30 PM, I got my last stamp in the 2016-2017 MO State Park Passport Challenge and Bennett Spring State Park! Although this completed the challenge for me, this is not where it would end as several places I visited I was unable to obtain the actual stamp. I would apply for these through the mail so I could complete my book as soon as possible without having to revisit any places that could be a considerable distance from home. My digital passport however was very much up to date and it was completed at this time! For me, this moment truly was bitter sweet. I finally got to complete this challenge which I have attempted with my family twice before and unable to complete it either time. I also didn't want to see this challenge end as this was a great summer plan for me! Since the start of the challenge, Missouri has added several new parks which I intend to visit over the summer as a way to keep the challenge drive alive until the next one when these new parks would be mandatory stops!
Anyways, back to the story! Arriving at Bennett Spring SP, the final stop, I went to setup camp before walking along the stream to pick a fishing spot for the next morning. Plus, as popular as this park is, I needed to be sure I wasn't headed straight home that night. I was able to secure a spot for the night and so I enjoyed a celebratory dinner at the park restaurant. Fried rainbow trout! This dinner would be well deserved and a delicious way to end an incredible journey!
Thursday March 16th, 2017
Today was indeed a special day! I got up early to hit the trout stream and, after roughly 2 hours, I had nothing to show for it. As I waited for the opening buzzer, I did notice I was within sight of just 2 people. Very different from my October visits to Montauk SP where people line the banks 30 minutes prior to opening buzzer and cram in so close you almost always tangle lines with someone at least once. Before the buzzer, I did have time to watch the beautiful sunrise once again on this trip! Not having luck at the stream, I decided to walk around a bit and found many others who were at the stream this morning were having the same luck. I rolled back to camp and decided on a shower as this would be the first chance since the trip began on Saturday. This proved to be a terrible idea as the water, despite being indoors and having a heater, was just a bit too cold. Unfortunately I had already committed... I would return to the stream at noon when many more people we out trying there luck. After another 30 to 40 minutes, I decided I had had enough and decided to return to camp and pack up. At this point in the trip, having already seen the odometer roll over 231,000 miles, the beast was about to roll over 232,000 miles which was the mileage for the next oil change. I would head home to take care of the oil change, only a few hundred miles overdue, rotate the tires, handle a bit of laundry, repack, and prepare for one more campout in the coming weekend! Tonight though, I would enjoy the evening with my family and sleep in my own bed!
Friday March 17th, 2017 through Sunday March 19th, 2017
This trip would be campout number 6 for the week and would take me to St Francois State Park down south. Since I had completed the MO State Passport Challenge, completed the MO Camper Award, and was sitting comfortably at home to start the day, I took my time to repack and drop off anything I didn't need while topping off water and anything else I would need. The location for this trip would place me within striking distance of the Missouri Whitewater Association 50th anniversary whitewater races! I've witnessed these races before but it had been a while. Now that I have a kayak of my own, I would definitely want to participate at some point. Lacking the necessary gear such as a helmet and cold water survival suit in case I flipped or got stuck in the cold water for too long, I could not join in this time.
On this trip I was joined my members of my family who are still working on completing their own MO State Passport Challenge books as well as just starting their MO Camper Awards. Each of these are now something I have completed this week so I was more than happy to rub it in! We'll have to wait and see whether they complete their passport books as it's quite an undertaking, one that requires commitment to long drives at times and dedicated time on the scale of weeks to reach and complete the furthest places!
To end this highly successful week, I did get to enjoy a campfire for the first time all week. Although I could have had a campfire any day of the week along this trip, I chose not to bring firewood or purchase any along the way simply because it was always going to be a cold night where I didn't feel up to watching and waiting for the fire to die before going to bed and because I was planning to get up and get moving quickly each morning. As I was done with the "get moving quickly" part of my week, it was nice to take it slow for a change! Wednesday March 23rd, 2017 <not included in the figures below> I left work at lunch with the goal to return to Missouri's First State Capitol SHS to turn in my passport book for verification and approval. Having been verified as successfully completing the book, I now wait to see whether I was one of the first thousand to complete the challenge making me eligible for a free backpack! I wasn't out for the backpack but rather the experience and challenge which I would finally complete for the first time!
MO State Parks Centennial Passport Challenge
Completing this trip today added 28 more parks to my list bringing the final total to 88 of 88!
MO National Parks Passport Challenge
Completing this trip today added 2 more parks to my list bringing the running total to 5 of 6!
The mission is accomplished once and for all!
Started April 9th, 2016 at First Missouri State Capitol SHS at approximately 10 AM
Ended March 15th, 2017 at Bennett Spring SP at approximately 3:30 PM
88 state parks in just over 11 months!
Until next time!
Span of 9 days; Approximately 2,048.3 miles; Approximately 163.65 gallons of gas used; Approximate average MPG 12.51 with the highest recorded MPG of 16.8 between March 12-13 and lowest MPG of 9.5 between March 13-14; Approximately $348.25 spent on gas for an average of $2.12 per gallon