By Don Corrigan
State parks remain a good bet for safe fun in the midst of a COVID-19 pandemic. EE Editor Don Corrigan recently took a jaunt to Hawn and Pickle Springs state parks – with a reprieve from the hiking and climbing at the local wineries located west of St. Genevieve.
The number of hikers was limited in quantity on a warm, autumn weekday. Visitors observed social distancing warnings in the parks as they all wound down trails in their hiking boots and climbed rocks, outcroppings and bluffs.
Hawn State Park boasts miles of looping trails and is a backpackers’ paradise. The short, but rewarding, two-mile loop combination of Pickle Creek Trail and Whispering Pine Trail, is perfect for anyone looking to allow time to do several park excursions in one day in this wooded area between Farmington and St. Genevieve.
Hawn State Park offers hills of tall pine and oak trees in sandstone canyons and creeks. Hawn is a park of almost 5,000 acres about one half hour west of I-55 on Route 32. The number of exposed rocks is a geology student’s dream and the variety of birds flocking to the park make it an Audubon Society favorite.
After some happy time at Hawn, get back on Route 32 west and head for some more happy hiking time at Pickle Springs. It’s less than one-half hour away from Hawn and it delivers even more geologic wonders and oddities than the sprawling Hawn State Park.
Some of the sandstone formations at Pickle Springs date from 500 million years ago. The 180-acre site delivers a walk through the eons. It also offers an amazing number of rock formations for climbing in, up, and around.
Along the main trail, hikers will encounter geologic features with names such as “The Slot,” “Keyhole,” “Owl’s Den Bluff,” “Spirit Canyon,” and “Dome Rock Overlook.” A notable “hoodoo” in the making is the “Double Arches” formation which is just one gem of the “eye rock candy” at Pickle Springs.
I have hiked Pickle Springs a half dozen times and never been disappointed. Of course, I have always taken time afterward to head to local wineries after the explorations for a glass of Huguenot Red or a craft beer. Likewise, I’ve never been disappointed.
After feeling the chill of canyons and the warmth of an autumn sun on the trails, it’s wonderful to kick back with a glass of vino and watch the night sky grow dark, yet accented by a swirl of stars. These assorted twinklers provide a spectacle that you will never see in urban areas like St. Louis.
Added attractions, as you drain a glass, are Mars and Venus. A sliver of silver moon adds to the night sky rewards that a hiker so richly deserves after a long day of huffing and puffing on the trails of Hawn and Pickle Springs.
(Author Corrigan offers more detailed descriptions of Hawn and Pickle Springs state parks in his book, “Show Me … Natural Wonders,” with illustrations by artist Ed Thias).