Before we take off for our year-long National Park tour in August 2015, we thought it’d be fun to share a few of our favorite adventures closer to home.
After all, adventure is everywhere. And that includes the great Show-Me state of Missouri.
Growing up in the St. Louis area, Cole and I explored many of the same Missouri outdoor attractions during our childhood: Elephant Rocks, Johnson Shut-Ins, the Katy Trail, float trips, Meremac Caverns, and plenty of state parks.
Now that we are married, we have been exploring even more of the beautiful places Missouri has to offer.
Last weekend, Cole and I were traveling to Columbia for an event on Sunday, so we decided to make it a weekend and explore the nearby Finger Lakes State Park. We had both visited once or twice while we studied at Mizzou, but hadn’t seen nearly everything the park has to offer.
Adventure at Finger Lakes State Park
Wanting to hit both of the main trails at the park — the water trail and Kelley Branch Mountain Bike/Hike Trail — we got started right away when we arrived at Finger Lakes around 4 p.m. After registering for a campsite for the night ($13 for a basic site), we inflated our kayak and pushed off onto the lake.
The water trail is a total of 4.5 miles round-trip. The north blue section is 2.2 miles round-trip and the south red section is 2.3 miles round-trip. There is also a short white connector trail that cuts down the mileage a bit. The park estimates a 2.5-hour kayaking paddle time, but it took Cole and I less than 2 hours to finish.
We took off on the south trail, giving ourselves the option of stopping early if we wanted. We ended up going out-and-back on the south trail, then taking the connector to the north section, and completing that section as well.
After less than two hours, our shoulders were sore and our toes were freezing (it was also raining!) and we quickly headed back to the campground showers to warm up.
The campground at Finger Lakes is great: all sites included a picnic table and fire pits. And the bathrooms are some of the best campground bathrooms I’ve seen. Hot water and lots of light made the experience much better.
For dinner, we tried out our new camp cooking set and prepared a potatoes, summer sausage, and bell pepper stir-fry. A cheap one-pot wonder that I’m sure we’ll hit up over and over next year.
The next morning, after a quick egg & summer sausage scramble on the stove, we headed over to the 2.75-mile Kelley Branch Mountain Biking Trail parking area. We didn’t bring our bikes because we knew it was going to be really squishy & muddy. Not our idea of a good mountain biking time, but just fine for hiking!
Since we were in a hurry, we were hustling a bit, but we finished the loop trail in almost exactly an hour. The trail was well-maintained and twisted through the lush woods surrounding the state park. Along the trail, there was an “overlook” — basically an opening where you could see a couple of treetops — and a nice waterfall.
Overall, both trails we experienced at Finger Lakes State Park were great — well-marked and well-maintained — and we will definitely want to come back to enjoy the mountain bike trail for its original purpose.
We love that we have access to parks like this here in Missouri. Sure, there is adventure out there — and trust me, we’ll find it this year — but in the meantime, we’re happy to explore the adventure in our own backyard.