“Let’s go on an adventure!” I say to the kids. One of them, we’ll call her “Lulu”, is always up for an adventure, and starts gathering her cap, pocketknife, first aid kit, and other essentials in her backpack. She doesn’t know yet what our adventure will be, but she is, and we used to sing in school, “alive, alert, awake, enthusiastic”. My other kiddo, who shall remain anonymous, is less than thrilled. If our adventure is going to the batting cages or to a park to play catch, that’s another story. Sometimes our adventures do include sports—snowboarding, anyone?—but this kid is onto me. Go ahead and bring your ballglove, but I yearn to be surrounded and energized by nature and go exploring in a place we’ve never been, where rare Missouri wildflowers abound and incredible sandstone rock formations blow our minds at every turn. And it’s only an hour or so away. As we’re in the driveway, Finn convinces me to run back in the house and pack a quick overnight bag for all of us, swimsuits included, so we can spend the night in a hotel and swim in the pool after our hike. Adventuretime is beginning to sound more appealing to the little guy.
We pop in a mixtape and off we go to Pickle Springs Natural Area, near the historic town of Ste. Genevieve. Our carride singalong of “Mockingbird” rivals the gusto of the Griswolds in National Lampoon’s Vacation.
I’m not going to ask you to sit here and endure hundreds of my vacation slides, but I want to share a glimpse of what happens when you throw your kids in the car and go poke around outside, examining the world a little more closely. Of course, I geek out on all the plants, but even my little skeptic had fun spotting wild-growing native Azaleas after a while. This is after he got to thrash around with sticks, climb over gigantic sandstone boulders (which are called hoodoos), attempt to catch tadpoles, and keep his balance on a fallen tree limb while crossing a babbling brook.
I didn’t even have to lay on my belly to get this plantalicious shot of the understory. It was all growing on the rock formations created millions of years ago. On the signage at the beginning of our hike, the vegetation was described as “slices of time preserved in the sandstone walls.” (I love that!!) Ferns were everywhere. So many different varieties and shades of verdant green—all serving to inspire me to the nines. The kids took note of tree bark, pinecones, rocks, but were especially excited when they got to climb rocks.
Oh, yes, there was lots of climbing. And lots of Mommy reminders of “BE CAREFUL!!!!”
We didn’t dare attempt to scale these superhigh sandstone cliffs, but coming upon them during our hike was absolutely breathtaking. Nearby we found wild jack-in-the-pulpit, and I tried to do a selfie with one, but it didn’t turn out.
Ferns! More ferns!
Lulu was our leader for most of the trip. I so appreciate her calm demeanor and up-for-anything attitude. Thank you, Lulu!
What’s not to like about lichen? I probably shot about 20 different images of various lichen on our walk, so I’m sparing you by limiting it to one. But this is such a good one. Check out that natural ombré effect!
The kids found a few nets previous visitors had left on the rocks, and searched for creatures in Pickle Creek for quite a spell. (And, again with the ferns!)
It became a game to see who could spot the wild Azaleas growing throughout the airy woods. In various shades of pink and white, we would smell their sweet fragrance first, and then the hunt was on to be the first spotter of the natural jewels. What an awesome thing to experience, I didn’t even realize they grew wild! Boy howdy, do they!
We had lunch in Ste. Genevieve, drove another hour south to spend the night in a hotel, kids dove for dimes in the indoor pool, I’m sure some Minecraft was played, and we all passed out. WHEW!!! I can’t wait to come up with my next Adventuretime surprise attack. Like maybe, this weekend...