Green’s Cave Bushwhack – Hamilton Hollow Route (Meramec State Park)

Entrance to Green’s Cave in Meramec State Park

My buddy, Danny McClendon, met me at my house this morning at 6:30 A.M. for a hike in the Hamilton Hollow Area of Meramec State Park. Our plan was to do an out and back bushwhack to Green’s Cave with a few side trips to springs and other caves (six-miles total). First on the agenda was to stop at Lewis Cafe to stoke our heaters for the next five or six hours of experiencing Missouri’s natural beauty.

Breakfast was relatively light, including the likes of biscuits and gravy, pancakes, bone-in ham, bacon, eggs, and a few other items. Okay, maybe breakfast was moderate but six miles at age 60 requires some energy! We arrived at the park about an hour after sunrise and began our bushwhack to Green’s Cave. I say “bushwhack” because there really isn’t a trail but Danny had learned from a guidebook, “60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: St. Louis,” by Steve Henry, that if you stay close to Hamilton Creek, it is hard to get lost along the way. Also, unlike me, Danny is somewhat of a hardcore eagle-scout type who wouldn’t likely get lost in any hiking or hunting situation.

Our first stop was Hamilton Cave, which came up pretty quickly at about a half-mile down the trail after two stream crossings. The crossings weren’t bad after we found some shallow water with a few rocks to hopscotch across. I was wearing my hiking chukkas and Danny had it a bit easier with rubber knee boots.

The entrance to Hamilton Cave, featuring a gate to protect bats from the spread of White Nose Syndrome via spelunking adventurers.

As we approached the entrance to Hamilton Cave, we appreciated the warm air emanating from the entrance because it was downright cold in Hamilton Hollow at the start of the hike. We were both dressed lightly because we knew it would be warming up into the 50s later that morning. We walked around the entrance for a while and shared spelunking stories from our childhoods before we moved on down the trail which had several more features to behold. Everything was new to us because neither of us had hiked in Hamilton Hollow before.

Our next stop was Pratt Spring, which reminded me of a tiny version of the Greer Spring outfall in Oregon County. Everything was coated with frost, and the spring run was verdant with watercress in an otherwise monotone landscape. We found a little beaver pond further down toward Hamilton Creek. It seemed like we were both gushing at the stark winter beauty all around us.

Pratt Spring on a frosty winter morning.

After leaving Pratt Spring we crossed Hamilton Creek two more times to access Homestead Spring, the site of an old homestead along a spring run. The main feature remaining at Homestead Spring was a spring house where the occupants kept things cool, the primitive version of a refrigerator.

The remains of a spring house at Homestead Spring.

All morning we discussed how settlers back in the 1800s survived from day to day with little socialization outside their families in this remote area. The daily hardship of staying warm in winter and keeping food on the table reminded us of how easy our lives have become.

It was hard to leave Homestead Spring as we walked around the site sharing ideas about the functions of the different man-made remnants we were observing. In some cases, we simply didn’t have a clue!

Homestead Spring was our last stop before our ultimate destination: Green’s Cave along the Meramec River. Green’s Cave features one of the largest cave entrances in the region so I couldn’t wait to see it for the first time.

It wasn’t long before we made it to the confluence of Hamilton Creek and the Meramec so we knew we were near Green’s Cave. There was a wide slough between our location and the cave entrance so we took a chance on crossing a beaver dam to avoid a half-mile or more to the upper end of the slough, across, and then back down along the bluff line to the cave. Danny was first to try out the shortcut and he made it across with no problem.

Danny tries out a shortcut to Green’s Cave via a beaver dam at the bottom of a wide slough. You can see the massive entrance to the cave behind him.

After photographing Danny’s crossing, I proceeded down the bank and across the beaver dam myself. It wasn’t long before we were at the grand entrance of Green’s Cave. Yes!

The two Dannys at the grand entrance of Green’s Cave.

A little closer.

After taking a few pictures, we shared an orange and a bag of peanuts at the mouth of Green’s Cave. We would have loved to explore inside, but we were happy to abide by state park directions to stay out of the cave to avoid disturbing hibernating bats and to minimize the spread of White-Nose Syndrome among the fragile little critters.

My last image of the morning — a couple of inhabitants of the mouth of Green’s Cave. The colors!

After a brief lunch break, we started back the way we came but with a few bushwhacking shortcuts. We made it to the parking lot by 2:00 P.M. and we both felt quite refreshed after our six-mile jaunt which consisted of mostly flat topography. By the time we got back to my house we were ready for some hot coffee and a slice of Joyce’s bourbon-soaked fruit cake. At the table, we shared stories with Joyce about our adventure. It was a Tuesday well-spent and who knows what the rest of the week might reveal. I can’t wait to find out.

Thanks for looking,

DB

Email:  Natureframes@Rocketmail.Com

Gallery:  https://dannybrown.smugmug.com

America is beautiful. I vote to keep it that way.

 

 

 

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