I often get a negative response from people when I share that I spent two years in the Midwest, specifically living in Saint Robert, Missouri, from 2013-2015. The negativity is generally because they know how much I love the Pacific Northwest and have trouble imagining how I could ever be happy in such a strange place. They usually say “I’m so sorry” or “how did you survive?” I try to explain that it isn’t what they think and I did enjoy a lot about my time there.
While those two years had some major ups and downs, I approached my time there with a positive outlook. I knew it would be temporary; I was only there because my then-husband, Justin, was military and had an assignment at Fort Leonard Wood. When we moved out, we knew we wouldn’t be there forever and I decided to make the most of it. So, even as we packed up for the long drive, I ordered a few books for the road on Missouri hiking, whitewater, and a plant/animal identification guide. This northwest gal was prepared! Or so I thought… I was physically ill our first two days there as I struggled to unload the moving truck in the Midwest’s summer heat and humidity. Not my climate at all!
The summer weather was brutal for me and I spent a while doing more indoor activities once we got settled in. However, it wasn’t long until I was itching to get out and explore. As it grew colder, walks around the neighborhood turned into brief hikes down the hill into the woods, then looking around the area for small parks to check out. Once Harley came into our lives in October 2013, I had even more incentive to get out and explore.
When I atteneded training in Jefferson City for several weeks in 2014, I began seeking out places to stretch my legs after long days in the classroom. I found my way to places like Binder State Park and down along the Missouri River, but the place I fell in love with was the Runge Conservation and Nature Center. I would never have found it if there wasn’t a small sign on the road I drove past going to dinner in the evening, but I’m glad I did. 97 acres with ponds, trails, wildlife, and even a replica fire tower–in the midst of a faraway city, it became my safe haven and I clocked miles wandering the looping trails during my time there.
Sadly I didn’t end up with any of my own photos from Runge CNC, but here is one from Jefferson City (Missouri’s capitol)…
There is a lot of explore if you take the time to look. Missouri may be flatter than Washington but the rolling Ozark Mountains added some changes to the terrain, and the area is well known for the dozens, maybe hundreds, of caves. I began setting out more to explore, from guided tours of local caverns to finding a random hiking trail on a map and spending a day there. See for yourself in the photos below. I think it was beautiful, and someday I hope to go back and hit a few of the trails I meant to do but never made it to. In the spring when the hills are covered in Dogwoods, or in late summer when the days are long and there are fireflies everywhere in the evening, it’s absolutely enchanting.
Clifty Creek Natural Area
Ha Ha Tonka State Park (and a Castle!)
Bennett Spring Natural Tunnel Trail