Castlewood

Meramec River at Castlewood State Park

It is November now and the high temperature today was 82 ºF. We took advantage of the warm weather to get out for a hike. This month and in the months to come we are planning a couple of trips that will involve us getting out there and being active in nature. We are active walkers, but our walking mostly involves the use of pavement. We wanted to do some rougher trail work today in preparation for the type of walking that we expect to be doing on these trips. One of our future trips will be a road trip, but the other one involves flying. With this second trip in mind, we purchased two pairs of hiking poles that folds up compactly and fit nicely into a roller bag. After some fusing about, we figured out how to assemble these new poles and we were off to the races.

We drove out to West County and Castlewood State Park. We choose the River Scene Trail, which we had heard about just this week on one of our regular pavement walks. From the parking lot, we headed uphill to the top of the limestone bluffs that overlook the Meramec River that splits the park in two. The first half included lots of up-and-downs, over leaf covered, gravel and root strewn trail, which allowed us to make good use of our new poles. Unfortunately, I lost one of the rubber tips from my new poles in the first fifty yards. We looked for it, but this part of the trail was covered with fallen leaves that had covered and hid the mud that sucked the tip off the pole. We soon abandoned this futile search. We removed the remaining three rubber tips, making our new poles perfect for leaf skewering.

In this first part of the hike, we walked along the edge of a limestone bluffs that afforded us many great viewpoints of the river below. Quite a few of these viewpoints were equipped with a park bench. There were two types of benches. The new ones that were mounted on a slab of concrete were of normal height and easy to sit on. The old benches were mounted on two steel piers that had been planted into the ground. Unfortunately, time and erosion made these old benches now so high off the ground that they were unusable. I tried to sit on each one of these benches, but to no avail. This dichotomy soon devolved into us calling them either low benchmarks or high benchmarks.

At the end of the limestone cliffs section of the trail, a wooden staircase allowed us to get down to the floodplain. With 200 steps, it is roughly twice the height as the staircase at Tahquamenon. Passing other hikers who were headed uphill, I was glad that we were headed down. The portion of the trail that is on the floodplain was smooth enough that we folded up our poles. We took a shortcut to get back to the car and was glad to use it.

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