October 29, 2014
Granite outcroppings beautifully impede Pickle Creek’s flow through Hawn State Park along the Pickle Creek Trail. The trail was my first leg of a short hike last Friday morning that took me up the creek, past the shut-ins, across to the other side, and then back to the trailhead via a bluff trail through Whispering Pines Wild Area. Oh what a morning it was! The colors were popping, the creek was flowing, and I had the entire loop all to myself for several hours. In this week’s edition I’ll share the solemn experience with a photo essay.
I departed Union while the rest of the world slept and arrived at Hawn State Park about an hour before daylight. I could hardly contain my excitement when my headlights lit up the park entrance sign so I had to get out and snap a photo. Once I was in the park, I had to wait for about 45 minutes for the electric gate to open. Okay, I was a little early. That’s what Sirius XM is for so I didn’t mind.
Once the gate opened, I rushed down to the parking lot, obeying the park speed limit of course, and started gathering my gear. I decided to wear my muck boots for the hike because I knew I would want to get in the water for some nice shots. I later determined that I had made a good decision on footwear because I spent much of the morning shooting from the middle of the stream. As I started my walk up Pickle Creek Trail, which runs adjacent to the tea-colored creek, I immediately noticed the little stream’s beauty but found it rather docile in the lower reaches below the shut-ins.
As I continued up the trail, it wasn’t long before the going got rough and I was spending more time jump-hiking the boulders of the creek instead of walking on the trail. I could tell from the sound of the water that I was nearing the shut-ins and a few minutes later I captured the featured image and the image below. At one point, I had just steadied my tripod on some rocks when I lost my balance and fell backward into the creek. Fortunately, I had just removed my backpack full of lenses and other gear for the first time that morning. I slowly pulled myself out of the water, checked for damage, to my body that is, and cussed myself a little for the slip that would leave me soaked for the rest of the morning, on the backside at least!
By the time I made it to the end of the Pickle Creek Trail I was already pretty satisfied with the morning as I had some nice images in the bag. At that point, I crossed the creek and started climbing upward on the Whispering Pines Trail connector that would lead me back to the parking lot, this time high on the bluff through an oak/pine forest. The image below gives you and idea of terrain, which is very rough but not bad at all if you stay on the trail.
The next image shows the landscape along the Whispering Pines Trail. I found several places where a person could stop for a snack or just sit and contemplate Missouri’s natural beauty for a while.
As I approached the end of the Whispering Pines Trail, I traversed an area through some pine trees that reminded me of some of the trails out west in our national parks. It was at this point that I saw the first humans of my entire morning adventure. Sweet!
The last feature of the trail was a handsome bridge that would take me back across the creek to the parking lot. It looked so nice in the morning light that I had to grab a shot.
As I loaded my gear back into the 4Runner, I was still pretty soaked from my fall but none the worse for wear. I looked around one last time and began thinking about the last time I had hiked Pickle Creek Trail. Joyce and I had been married for only a few months and we camped in the pine trees after finishing the hike. I can still remember how those pine trees “whispered” all night long over our tent which was situated right along the bank of Pickle Creek.
When I finally made it back to Union, I shared a preview image of last Friday’s adventure on my FaceBook page. Soon, I realized that I wasn’t the only one with a special place in my heart for Hawn State Park. Several friends related their own experiences in the park, explaining why it was such a special place to them as well. I loved hearing their stories and took secret pleasure in knowing that I had a part in evoking their pleasant memories.
Thanks for looking,
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