Monday, May 16, 2016

Hickory Canyons Natural Area

One of the cooler things about the state of Missouri is (are?) the various Natural Areas managed by the Department of Conservation. I've already described one popular area near Farmington, Pickle Spring. On our last Sunday in Farmington, the Younger Daughter and I decided to go for a hike at another area, Hickory Canyons, that is also near Farmington but not quite as popular. Its parking area is a lot smaller and it lacks the one amenity (a single picnic table) Pickle Spring has. When we arrived, there were two other cars there. One was occupied by a family that was just leaving; we never did see the occupants of the other vehicle.
The usual rock with a plaque honoring whoever donated the land for a conservation area
Hickory Canyons has two hiking trails, one on either side of the road. One is fairly short and leads to a waterfall. The other does a loop approximately a mile long. It descends down through one short canyon, parallels a stream for a ways, and then ascends back up to the trailhead through another canyon.
 It was a nice walk. There's a fair amount of variety in what you see -- vegetation, rock formations, whatever -- and in the trail itself that it's not boring. I'd describe the level of difficulty as moderate: there are sections where you're dealing with tree roots, steep slopes, loose rock, etc. There are also a couple of water crossings. Nothing too tricky or hard, but definitely still terrain where you have to pay attention to where you're putting your feet. I was glad I had a hiking staff along to help compensate for the fact my depth perception tends to be erratic.
The website for Hickory Canyons describes it as having an unusually high variety of ferns and mosses packed into a fairly small geographic area. I wouldn't know. I did notice ferns popping up here and there, but to me one fern looks pretty much like another. I'm more inclined to notice wild flowers, shrubs, and trees.
Like in the photo above.The shelf above the cave opening definitely had ferns on it. What variety were they? I have no clue. I can say with some certainty, however, that the pink stuff is a wild azalea bush in bloom.
As usual for any park anywhere, people had ignored the warning signs and wandered off trail. There were several spots where social trails had developed from people deciding they'd rather short cut straight down (or up) a hill instead of sticking to the switchbacks. I've never been able to figure that one out. If you've decided you're going to hike a trail that you know up front is a one-mile loop, why try to make it shorter? What's the point? More proof, I guess, that way too many people are idiots.
Besides the azaleas (and there were a lot of them), the other thing I noticed a fair number of were the jack-in-the-pulpits. I had trouble getting down to their level, though. Once it gets to be Spring in Missouri, I'm not real inclined to lie on the ground with the ticks and chiggers just to ensure having a better angle for photographing wild flowers.
It may not be as busy as Pickle Spring, but the trail is well worn enough that you can tell the area is popular.
 I am kind of wishing we had discovered that some Missouri Department of Conservation Natural Areas had hiking trails a little sooner in our journeys to the state. I'm sure there were others relatively close to where we were that we would have enjoyed, too. If we end up campground hosting anywhere in Missouri again, I'll have to do some research to see what might be available in whatever region we happen to be in.


  1. hiking..what a concept..walking with it..

  2. I had no idea Missouri was so beautiful!


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