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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Kirksville's Best Hikes

Nature areas around Kirksville provide some of the best hiking opportunities  in Northeast Missouri. Here are some of my favorites:

1. Thousand Hills State Park is the chief attraction in the area, and for good reason. The park has a network of hiking trails by the main entrance, and there is a five-mile loop on the Big Creek Conservation Area side of the park. The best, however, is a nine-mile trail that goes through a surprisingly scenic forested area on the back side of the lake that even includes a primitive camp ground. The problem with this longer hike, however, is that the trail ends up far from where you started, which typically requires a access to a kind soul to pick you up and take you back to your vehicle.

2. Sugar Creek Conservation Area is the only other nature area around Kirksville of which I am aware that includes a foot-only nature trail. The 2-mile Ironwood loop trail provides a quick and scenic hike. Sugar Creek also has about 15 miles of bridle trails that are also marked as bike and foot trails. At first I did not think that walking along a horse trail would be very appealing, but in reality the trails are quite nice. An added advantage is that the trails are wide and mowed which can keep the problem of picking up ticks to more of a minimum.

3. I'm not sure now if Hidden Hollow Conservation Area is nicer than Sugar Creek, or if it just appears so to me because I only recently discovered it, and therefore it strikes me as new and different. The DNR map of the trails in this area have only a vague resemblance to the actual trails, and it took me a while to gain my bearings. The main trail can be done as a 5-6 mile loop.

4. Montgomery Woods Conservation Area has a 1.5 mile trail along a ridge that can be hiked as a 3-mile in/out. Perhaps as or even more interesting than the hike is taking the back roads to the conservation area through a very scenic part of rural Missouri.

There are numerous other conservation areas in Northeast Missouri (Union Ridge, for example, is particularly nice), but these are the only ones I know of with formal trails (if anyone knows of other trails worth hiking, please let me know). With the exception of horses at Sugar Creek, I assume that these trails are provided primarily for hunters. Nevertheless, the hiking is quite nice, and the seasonal variations in the nature areas provide an additional layer of interest.

Thursday, July 04, 2013

108 ticks

I picked up 108 ticks on my morning walk this morning--97 wood ticks and 11 deer ticks. The wood ticks are not that big of a deal because I can see them and pull them off, hopefully before they bite me (because it is the bites that itch so badly). The deer ticks are trickier because they are so small and look just like moles on my skin so they are harder to spot, and sometimes I don't find them until they have already lodged in my skin and created a big welt (and maybe even transmitted lyme disease).

This wasn't a particularly bad morning for ticks. I was guessing I was pulling about 50 ticks a day off of my body, but this was the first time I counted and the number surprised me. I wish the DNR would mow the bridle trails, because that would really help cut down on the number of ticks I pick up.

So, do I give up my morning walks, or just deal with the ticks?

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