July 4th-ish in Hannibal

I’m still catching up on posting some stuff from the past few weeks because this summer has kinda gotten away from me!

As usual, we spent the July 4th weekend in Hannibal watching some mud volleyball and running in the Hannibal Cannibal. Brooke was able to get off work for the afternoon, so we made it there around 7:30, in time to watch Rachel and Jimmy play a round. The weather was actually surprisingly decent, for once, as the temp was a bit cooler than usual for July.

Another thing that wasn’t particularly “usual” is that Mark and Diana were gone to Alaska this year, so we had the house and swimming pool to ourselves. It made the logistics a little more complicated, in that we tried to be there for more games because they weren’t available to cheer for their daughters and son-in-law, but we navigated them as best we could. It really wasn’t that big a deal: we just coordinated who would bring which food items so we could have things like pulled pork or sloppy joes ready whenever folks would show up at the house. Win-win.

Overall, the mud volleyball aspect of the trip went well. Mallory was on one team while Rachel and Jimmy were on another. There wasn’t much overlap between them, so we got to see both teams play at separate times. They never ended up playing against each other, though that would have been fun to see!

In other news, I got a medal! Second place for my age group in the 10K race this year. I have run the 5K, 10K and 15K in the previous three years and found the most success in the 10K, likely because there’s more competition in the other distances. Still, I was pretty happy with my performance! Calvin did the fun run this year – Meg wasn’t particularly interested. He did well, too, in that he didn’t trip (other kids did)…

We also met up with Brooke’s friend from high school and her family for that Saturday afternoon. They set up a sweet zip line in an old machine shed, so we got to go back and forth multiple times. It got a little scary when the swing hit the end of the line, causing you to bump slightly into the wall, but it seemed relatively safe (so long as you wore a bike helmet). Calvin also had fun driving around on a “Power Wheels”-style Gator.

And last, but not least, we still took care of some fireworks. We got to see some big ones on the actual 4th of July holiday, but the kids didn’t get to do smoke bombs or sparklers, so we grabbed some of those and a few small fountains so they could shoot them off after a dip in the pool.

It was a fun weekend, as usual! Part of me wishes it was a little warmer for swimming, but the trade-off of sitting in ridiculous heat while watching mud volleyball isn’t particularly appealing… Next year, I suppose!

A Trip to Table Rock Lake

My parents celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary earlier this year, though the timing of it fell right before we went to Puerto Rico, and in the window after my sister had her second child. I guess they should have thought of that 40 years ago when they scheduled the wedding (“May used to be such a nice month!”).

My sister and I wanted to do something for them, and we proposed a few ideas, but the one they settled on was a weekend with the family together much like we did at Branson a few years ago. We poked around for some Airbnb options around Missouri on one of our various large lakes and ended up finding something on Table Rock Lake that fit the bill. It was further than we’d like to drive, as it took us 5 hrs to get there, but it was reasonably close to my sister’s family that included a newborn, so it was better for them.

By the way, this was back in late June and I’m catching up…sue me.

The house had a nice back porch and a really big yard that was right on the lake. It was pretty hot that weekend, so we didn’t spend a ton of time on the porch, but it was nice to have it in the morning, and to store all our outdoor stuff.

We originally thought about fishing, but the lake water level was up about 7 ft over where it was supposed to be (lots of flooding this year), so the water was up onto the shore…sans fish…

We did take the kayak along, and also bought an inflatable one so we could all head out together. Mom and Dad didn’t go, but Dad got quite a few pictures from shore, so I suspect that was good enough (also, Mom got to hold the baby, so I think she was satisfied!).

The kayak we got was missing some pieces, unfortunately. Two seats were supposed to be included and weren’t, as well as a piece on the bottom that was to help the kayak go in a straight line. As such, steering was rather difficult, and it was also hard to propel myself forward with additional weight. I guess I didn’t get a run in that day anyway, so may as well get the extra exercise…

A lot of the afternoon was spent just hanging out, then. We tossed baseballs, threw frisbees, floated in the lake, and generally relaxed. Some folks got naps in, which is always welcome! Honestly, it was just a nice, calm weekend where the kids could play and we could just hang out with no real agenda. There weren’t any attractions nearby, nor restaurants, so we didn’t have anything else to distract us! We had steaks the first night, then fajitas the next night, both of which turned out really nice!

Overall, it was a good trip! We’ll need to do it again sometime! Seeing each other for Thanksgiving and Christmas is nice, but getting the chance to do it more often is always welcome.

Puerto Rico Vacation – Assorted Musings

That’s a dude on a horse. This was not the only horse we saw in the middle of the road…

Brooke and I have noticed some trends while we’ve been here and figured we should record them for posterity. These aren’t necessarily things that seem relevant to a particular day of the trip, so we thought that putting them in their own post would make most sense.

Here goes:

  • First of all, Brooke found this link on, like, Day Seven of our trip and it would have been helpful on Day One. It totally explained much of what we’d already experienced.
  • There are tons of Hyundais and Mitsubishis here on the island. It’s kinda unreal, relative to the distribution of car brands we normally see. We see lots of Toyotas, but not quite as many as those other two. Also, we’ve seen relatively few VWs. Pretty sure we saw more Scion xAs today than we’ve seen VWs total this whole trip…
  • It seems like all of the houses out here in the more rural parts of the island have dogs as their security system. It makes it hard to go for a run…
  • People don’t speak as much English as we expected! Sure, there’s frequently at least one person around that speaks enough to get the job done, but I guess we thought more people would know English. We’ve run into multiple situations where it’s very clear the person we’re speaking with has no idea what we’re saying.
  • The tourist information we’ve looked for online largely focuses on San Juan and not the rest of the island, making it kinda hard to find specifics and ideas for things to do in other regions.
  • It has rained literally every day we’ve been here, mostly in the mid-to-late afternoons. It’s been plenty warm in the mornings (mid-80s) for beaches and other things, so it isn’t a big deal: it’s just worth the time to think about things to do in the event of rain.
  • Seriously, why are there so many pizza places in Puerto Rico???
  • For this trip, cooking meals for dinner made life so much easier and probably maintained our sanity for most of the trip. We could go out to eat for lunch easily, but this way, we had a grocery store nearby to stock up and we could leisurely schedule meals for dinners and eat leftovers, saving some cash for other more fun things. Plus, the dinner options in Quebradillas were available, but realistically, we would have driven 20-30 minutes to get to places we wanted to have dinner. Ultimately, it was a good call.

Puerto Rico Vacation – Part VI

Our last full day in Puerto Rico was mostly made up of a car ride, in all honesty. The drive from La Parguera to El Yunque rainforest was a little under 4 hours, so we hit the road relatively early after our donuts. We had the Switch and tablets along, so the kids were entertained well enough. We left soon enough that we made it to El Yunque close enough to lunchtime, so we didn’t have to stop.

A note on El Yunque: it’s the only rainforest under the US National Forest Service’s purview, so it presented a unique opportunity for us to check out a different environment than we’ve seen elsewhere in the country. We hit the visitor center first, which is in a temporary building outside of the forest because the old building still needs repairs after Hurricane Maria came through. Benicio del Toro narrated the 18 minute video we watched. It was glorious.

Stepping back a minute, we drove in through the western part of the park and stopped at a few waterfalls, all of which were right along the road and frankly weren’t all that impressive relative to what we’d seen elsewhere on the island. We found a small grocery store on the way in and picked up Lunchables, so the kids were plenty satisfied.

After we visited the aforementioned visitor center, we drove into the eastern part of the park where all the other tourists were. First, we stopped at a waterfall that had tons of people at it, so we didn’t stay all that long. Second, we climbed up a watchtower that was built in the 1960s, so while it wasn’t particularly old compared with other things we’d seen, it was still cool to look out over the island.

Other than that, we didn’t do all that much in the park. There were more hiking trails to visit, but as it was our last day on the island, we weren’t in the mood for a 1.5 hr hike up a mountain. It was cool, but we figure we probably would have done more in the rainforest had we visited it sooner. Next time, maybe!

We drove another 30 minutes or so to our last Airbnb of the trip, dropped off our stuff, then headed off to a nice seafood restaurant within walking distance. The night was beautiful, we were seated next to the ocean, and we got to watch the sunset from the boardwalk. You couldn’t ask for a better evening!

The next day, we picked up pancakes a mile or so away from where we needed to drop off the rental car, took the shuttle to the airport, and waited for the plane to get there! We had 6 hrs of flights that day that the kids handled as well as they did the first day. Returning to St. Louis, we found ourselves in a hailstorm, so that was fun…

It was a great vacation! We’d definitely go back, but will probably wait a few years to check a few more boxes off the vacation list!

Puerto Rico Vacation – Part V

After I went to two places labeled “car wash” in Google (the first was defunct…), I vacuumed out the sand castle Calvin had tracked along into the car, after which we finished packing up from our Quebradillas Airbnb and headed off toward La Pargueras on the southwestern tip of the island.

The trip itself was only supposed to take maybe an hour and 40 minutes, but we took a detour into Cabo Rojo for lunch at Papa’s Pizza (it’s amazing how many pizza places there are in Puerto Rico…), which killed about an hour of the day.

After the pizza place, we went to the Cabo Rojo Lighthouse, which was a part of a protected wetland named Playa Sucia (named because it was quite dirty…not as in “trash,” but as in “plant matter”). Apparently, sea turtles and manatees call this area “home,” but we didn’t see any. Saw plenty of hermit crabs, though!

Aside from the lighthouse (which was cool, but as you couldn’t go inside it, we could only take in the view from the cliffside and watch the ocean a bit), we also visited some sea salt fields where we learned a bit about “Puerto Rico’s First Industry.” It looked like a sizeable operation, though we didn’t see anyone actually working at the site (aside from those in the interpretive center). It was a nice little unplanned diversion on our trip to La Parguera.

A brief aside: the southwestern part of Puerto Rico is really reminiscent of the American mainland south west. Seriously, we were there last summer and the plant life was more desolate and dry, there were few trees (and those that were present were far shorter), and we saw cows and horses all over. It was really interesting!

The reason we were heading to La Parguera was that we had reservations for the bioluminescent bay for 6:30 that night. Brooke found another Airbnb in the town (that was decidedly less impressive than our previous one…) so that we wouldn’t have to drive all the way back to Quebradillas for another night. We also figured this would give us an opportunity to check out the southern end of the island more than we’d initially planned, so win-win.

La Parguera itself was interesting. It felt like a place I’d go for a bachelor party, in that it had lots of restaurants and bars in close proximity and…that’s most of what there was to do there. It was loud, sounded like a party was happening much of the time, and it wasn’t the cleanest place we’d been. Still, you could get a pi√Īa colada and walk around the streets with it, so good times.

Regardless, we hit the boat for our 6:30 appointment and headed off to an island in the bay to wait for the sun to go down.

Lemme tell you about this trip. It was about $180 for the four of us to do it, lasted 2 hours, had complementary chicken empanadas, and a cooler of water, soda and beer. Oh yeah, and you got to swim with dinoflagellates that glow when you disturb them. It was really cool. Calvin only got in for a bit, but Meg, Brooke and I swam for about a half hour in ~10 ft deep water. It was difficult to take pictures of, so there’s not much I can put here, but the best I can describe is that it’s like seeing the waves generated from your arms when you swim, but strangely you can see them even when it’s mostly pitch black out (because of the obvious “glowing” part). It was most definitely worth it – can’t recommend it enough.

Now, that night was probably the worst night of sleep we got. The Airbnb we stayed at was…okay…but less than ideal… There were two bedrooms, but one of them was a futon with a TV that didn’t get cable and didn’t have a way to run Netflix on it (though, thankfully, we brought the Chromecast along).

The worst part was that we lost power for 1.5 hrs when “the party” was happening elsewhere (including music…all the music…), and when you don’t have an air conditioner running and have to have windows open to let any ventilation in, you…hear…everything. So yeah, the power came back on and things got better, but it wasn’t ideal…

Anyway, the next morning, we got some donuts down the street and they were awesome. Then we headed off to the other side of the island!

Puerto Rico Vacation – Part IV

The next day was Brooke’s birthday!! We got up a bit more slowly than we had the previous few days, giving me a little more time for another run on Monday morning (went better than the previous day, but still not as good as I’m used to) before we headed out to Rincon for the morning. Rincon is a “surf town,” so mostly we were just going to check it out, as it was likely to have a different “feel” than we’d experienced in other communities.

The town itself reminded me more of “old” Lake of the Ozarks, though Brooke didn’t agree so much. It was obvious more people travel through the region, as there was more traffic, more folks on the public beaches, and definitely more trash in various parts of the community. At the same time, they also had more souvenir shops and cafes available to accommodate the tourists coming through. The main public beach looked really nice, though we didn’t stay long enough to play. After checking out the beach, we hit a souvenir shop to get bracelets for the kids and a sticker for the car-top carrier we couldn’t bring with us on the plane.

After stopping in Rincon proper, we hit the lighthouse, Faro de Punta Higuero. Honestly, there isn’t much to see there, but the passionfruit mojito Brooke got was worth it, so everyone was happy. We also got to observe some surfing from that vantage point, so everybody won!

By this point, it was after 12:30 pm and we were all hungry (and the rain was coming in), so we headed off to Guayabo’s Sea Breeze seafood restaurant for a nice birthday lunch for Brooke. The only seafood we got was shrimp, but we got a sampler full of fried pork, chicken, cheese, corn sticks, and plantains…all of which were excellent.

After the restaurant, we came back to finally actually watch Pirates of the Caribbean, but were interrupted by a poor internet connection, so we took a break in the hot tub again for a bit before returning to the movie along with some popcorn and other snacks. It was a nice, relaxing evening!

The next two days were “beach days,” of sorts. The weather was consistently “no rain in the morning, then rain starting around 12:00 or 1:00 and going into the late-afternoon.” Thus, on Tuesday, we went to Mar Chiquita Beach, about an hour away from Quebradillas. The beach itself was really cool in that it was something of a cove off the northern edge of the island, where a calm, blue pool formed off the ocean.

Sadly, the water was crazy choppy that day, so getting in the water was a definite no-go. Still, watching the waves crash against the rocks was really cool, and the kids still had plenty of fun playing in the sand, continually moving their sand “stadium” up the hill to keep it safe from the crashing waves.

The rain came in as we expected, though it hit a bit faster than we planned, so we got the interior of the car a bit more “sandy” than we’d intended. Brooke gave the kids some more snacks for the back of the car and we took off in the rain. That afternoon, we got back to the Airbnb and got in the hot tub again between rain showers. Like ya do.

The next morning, we went to Crash Boat Beach, which was about an hour in the other direction from Mar Chiquita. This one was probably my personal favorite because you could go out relatively far into the water, the water was much calmer than Mar Chiquita was, it was easy to see in the water, and there were a lot more people there to enjoy it with us. The kids played in the sand some, but because the water was so much better, we spent a decent amount of time out in the water with me holding Calvin while Meg would jump up as each wave came in toward the coastline.

And like clockwork, just after 12:00, more rain came in. This time, we were a bit more prepared and started on lunch before it rained too hard (we could watch the dark clouds set in), so we were in generally better spirits on the drive home. Again, like the previous day, we got back and the kids got in the hot tub for another 45 minutes or so while Brooke and I slowly go to packing up the house.

Our last night there was spent doing laundry, eating some chicken and bowtie noodles, and killing off the ends of various snack bags and lingering drink cans we had lying around. We bought a cheap styrofoam cooler on Day One, so we could bring our milk and such with us on the next leg of the adventure!

Puerto Rico Vacation – Part III

Day Two in PR kicked off with a trip to the interior of the island, where we found Gozolandia Falls. We didn’t know what to expect, as the description of the place almost made it sound like some dude had waterfalls on his land and started charging people parking to leave their car in a field so they could go swimming. Thankfully, it was much better than that.

For $5 a car, you could walk down to two different waterfalls on a concrete sidewalk and stay as long as you wanted. Honestly, if it was just the one waterfall, it was more than worth it, but having two to go explore was even better. The water wasn’t particularly warm, but the lower fall was shallow enough for wading, so the kids mostly focused on that area rather than the falls themselves. I finally dipped in for the second waterfall after walking around enough and getting kinda hot. Still, it was definitely worth the visit and we’d recommend it!

After that, we drove another hour to Sandra Farms Coffee to check out a coffee plantation. Getting to this place was a bit more sketchy, as the mountain roads weren’t particularly safe and the oncoming traffic wasn’t all that patient with the idea of “staying on one side of the road.” We eventually got there and initially struggled to find where exactly we were supposed to go (small operation…), but after calling the number on the sign, we could hear the voice on the other end speaking up at the house on the nearby hill, so we trekked up there.

The gentleman we spoke with, Israel, reminded us a lot of Heinrich from Heinrichshaus in St. James, MO: an old school dude who’s been doing this for years, knows what works for their product, and is happy to talk your ear off about just about anything. A group of relief workers also showed up for the $15 tour, so we headed down the hill toward their operation to see some of the machinery as a storm came in, keeping us in a relatively small building talking about everything from coffee to Puerto Rican statehood. It was scheduled as a 2 hr tour and, based on what we saw, it probably didn’t need to be that long, but with how much Israel talks about…everything…it’s understandable! We learned a lot and had a great time! Unfortunately, they didn’t have any coffee for sale because Hurricane Maria decimated enough trees that they don’t have anything ready and likely won’t until October. Still, the coffee he made us at the end of the tour was probably the smoothest we’ve ever had, so we’ll definitely be buying whatever we can once it’s available. They’ve also been putting some of their coffee in some chocolate candies, so we bought some of those to bring back home (the kids were big fans of that stuff).

Speaking of which, the kids did such a good job during this day that we took them by a grocery store in Quebradillas to pick out a treat to have later that evening. By the time we got back to the house, there wasn’t much time for leisure, so we watched some TV, got dinner going, and hung out for the rest of the night!

When we decided to come to Puerto Rico for our vacation, especially giving us as much time as we have available to us, I made a push for us to visit the Arecibo Observatory. It’s more centrally-located on the island and isn’t trivial to get to, so it isn’t exactly “on the way” to all that many other sights in Puerto Rico, but the sheer scale of the thing made me think it would be worth it. Also, they appeared to have a museum, of sorts, with some kid-centric activities that would hopefully hold the kids’ attention.

Ultimately, we weren’t disappointed! It cost a bit more than the previous day did, but we got to watch a brief video on the history of the radio telescope, as well go on the VIP tour that took us down to the control room where real live scientists were studying solar flares. It’s obvious they’ve made some upgrades over the decades, but for the most part, they’re still using a lot of the same equipment that has been on-site since the 1960s. Definitely some impressive engineering!

After that, we went to a restaurant in Arecibo called El Buen Mofongo to try some more local-ish cuisine. Mofongo is, I guess you’d say, “mashed plaintain,” so it has the consistency of mashed potatoes (kinda…), but a distinct flavor. I had mine with a flank steak while Brooke had hers with fried pork. It was very good, though the service could have been a bit better! It seemed like the wait staff needed more than just two people attending all of the tables in the place. Still, we were glad we went!

By the time we got home, it was 2:00-ish and we were ready to chill, so we went down to the beach that’s about an 8 minute walk from our house to kill some time. I came back up the hill and tried running (in short, there are a ridiculous number of hills up here, as well as loose dogs…no bueno…). After another stint in the hot tub, it was time for dinner and another relaxing evening!

Puerto Rico Vacation – Part II

The Airbnb rental was exactly what we needed for this trip! It had 3 bedrooms (one king, one full, one with twin bunk beds), an open living space with a small kitchen, washer/dryer, hammocks, hot tub, and plenty of deck space.

Oh yeah. And it had a great view!

The house is kinda off the beaten path, so we had to drive to get to beaches, but no more than 10 minutes. First thing’s first, though: Walmart trip.

There were a few Walmarts close to the house, but the nearest one was about 20 minutes away in Isabela. That place was packed, and not just with people. There was also just a ton of stuff packed into a Walmart that wasn’t really large enough to handle it. We were able to find most of the stuff we needed and spent less than we thought we would (though, in retrospect, we should have grabbed more snacks…). The kids were difficult to deal with, mostly because they’d been cooped up in a car and were tired of shuttling from place to place, so there was a challenge to lock them down. After we got back to the house, we had to tell them to stay in their rooms for a bit and leave us alone……..

Brooke picked up a rotisserie chicken and some rice for dinner that night and it was really good (though we were so hungry, it probably didn’t matter what we ate…).

After dinner, we hopped in the hot tub for awhile as it rained lightly. Overall, it was a really lovely evening!

The next day, we got up and headed to Playa Hermanita, a beach rumored to have harbored pirates centuries ago. It was a relatively small beach, but we were the only ones there, so it was nice to just chill and let the kids play in the sand. Meg has been to a beach before in Mississippi, but that was before we had Calvin, so it’s been a long time. The closest Calvin has been to a beach was on Madeline Island, and the water temperature on Lake Superior just isn’t quite the same as the Caribbean…

After spending the morning at the beach, we knew rain was coming for the afternoon, so we went back to the house to rinse off and otherwise chill for the afternoon. Brooke took a drive to a nearby Walgreens for a few other incidentals (read: snacks) before coming back to make spaghetti for dinner.

And because we visited a pirate beach and kept making “the rum’s gone” references, we had to rent Pirates of the Caribbean so the kids could see it for the first time. ūüôā

Puerto Rico Vacation – Part I

I think it’s safe to say that Brooke has something of an obsession with Lin-Manuel Miranda, so after he (and many others) implored people to visit Puerto Rico (as tourism is one of their major economic drivers) to help support the island’s constant hurricane recovery, we seriously considered it. Late last year, we started watching for cheap plane tickets and looked at Airbnb options for the island, and things sorta fell into place. We were looking at late-May as it would avoid hurricane season and the kids and I would be out of school, so we bought tickets and made reservations for May 22nd through June 1st.

At the time, little did we know that Winter was going to hit Marshall particularly hard, leading to the kids’ school year to be pushed back a week! So technically, they missed their last week of school, but most pre-K and 3rd graders aren’t doing all that much at the end of their year. Missing a few field trips, I suppose. Oh well.

We stayed at Mallory’s house in St. Louis Tuesday night and took a Lyft to the airport Wednesday morning to catch our 7:51 am flight to Charlotte. It was the kids’ very first ride on an airplane, so they were pretty excited! Then, they got bored when they realized that flying on a plane isn’t really all that fun… Still, we brought plenty of entertainment (read: tablets and the Switch…), some snacks, and had just enough time at the Charlotte airport to grab a few more provisions before boarding the plane to San Juan. The second flight was over 3 hrs long, so the boredom really set in, at least for Meg. For both flights, we were in rows back to back, with Brooke next to Meg and Calvin next to me.

Brooke rented a car when she booked the flights so we’d have a means to get around the island, so our first task was finding the rental agency. Little did we know that the agency wasn’t actually located at the airport, so we found some other “mainlanders” who told us that there was a shuttle coming by to pick us all up and take us to where we’d get the car(s). After a relatively lengthy paperwork process, we had our blue Hyundai Accent and we were off to find our hotel in Old San Juan!

The room at the Casablanca Hotel was very nice, including a king-size bed and a futon the kids could sleep on (Calvin ended up joining us in the bed because Meg rolled around enough in her sleep and effectively took over the bed). We went to a pizza place called Pirilo just down from the hotel and that was awesome. The sauce was a bit sweeter than we expected, but the kids didn’t notice, so oh well. After dinner, we headed back to the hotel and were crashing around 9:00 after a long day of traveling.

The next day, we ate breakfast at Cafeteria Mallorca, where we were hoping to get donuts. Apparently they only have mallorcas, which aren’t exactly donuts. They were a flaky pastry of sorts that you could just eat with powdered sugar and butter, or get sliced in half with ham and cheese in it, among other things. They were quite good, though the kids were unimpressed.

Brooke and I also had some coffee before we got started on our long walk to El Castillo de San Cristobal, which has been there for about 500 years and has changed hands from multiple countries in that time period.

The kids very much loved going through the dungeon, but other than that, we took the opportunity to see the city from a higher vantage point and see some old architecture. We also walked to another fort, Castillo San Felipe del Morro, passing lots of folks flying kites in the ocean breeze. It was a beautiful day!

After finishing up at San Felipe, we quickly walked back to our hotel to check out, then struggled to find our car in the parking structure (seriously, it took 30 minutes to find…dunno what to tell you….) before heading out of town toward Quebradillas, where our Airbnb was. The drive took about 1.5 hrs, the majority of which was divided highway driving, so it was a pretty uneventful trip. Eventually, we left the highway and took a few narrow, paved roads to our final destination.

More on that next time!

State Park #7: Prairie State Park

This post is part of an ongoing series summarizing each State Park in Missouri that our family has attended. We hope to visit each of 54 State Parks before the kids graduate from high school.

Prairie for as far as the eye can see.
Prairie for as far as the eye can see.

We returned from Pittsburg, KS from Taylore’s wedding back in August of 2016 and, at Brooke’s suggestion, we looked for a Missouri State Park near that region that we otherwise wouldn’t visit for a very, very long time. ¬†She ran across Prairie State Park, which happened to be just over the Kansas/Missouri border.

In all honesty, it doesn’t seem like there’s all that much to do there. ¬†They’ve got multiple hiking trails, including one we went on that, literally, involved walking through a field. ¬†There are some backpacking trails that are a bit longer and further out, but again, given the terrain, I’m not sure that it would be all that “hilly” or otherwise difficult to make good time on a long trail. ¬†Shade was certainly at a premium out there…

...the boy was very slow...
…the boy was very slow…

The “claim to fame,” at least so far as we could tell in our limited time there, was that this open field we were hiking through also contains bison and elk. ¬†When we first drove in, the sign informed us that there were free roaming elk and bison moving through the area and, while we didn’t see any, unfortunately, we did see signs of them…

Ew...
Ew…

…but with multiple buffalo patties around, it was clear that large animals move through the area frequently. ¬†They were easily identified by their similarity to their other bovine brethren (and the fact that we saw tons of the elk variety in Colorado and it looks nothing like this).

A nest for something...big...
A nest for something…big…

We also saw multiple spots in the grass that clearly used to bed some kind of large animal. ¬†It wasn’t obvious to us whether we were seeing elk or buffalo “beds,” but they must have been recent, as the grass looked like it would pop back up given enough time.

"You may experience bison/elk"...is that a combination organism?!
“You may experience bison/elk”…is that a hybrid organism?!

Overall, it was a nice, brief little stop. ¬†They’ve got camping, but we didn’t see much of a shower house available: only a single in-ground outhouse near the picnic area. ¬†It looked like mostly primitive camp sites and, although they actually looked pretty nice and spacious, only one was reserved for the coming days. ¬†I suppose August isn’t exactly prime camping season.

We want to go back and see some bison up close, though!  Perhaps another time, when we happen to be down in southwestern Missouri!