My husband and I love to travel. We’ve been to a lot of amazing places to experience the outdoors — our 10/10/10 climb of Mount St. Helen’s stands out as one of our best adventures of the last year. It’s not tough to find adventure in a place like the Cascade Mountains. Going across the country to climb an active volcano was big, exciting, and new. It takes much more creativity to find adventure in more common places, and that’s why I submit to you, for your adventure seeking consideration: Palmyra, Mo.
What?!? You mean that little town you pass by on Highway 61 when you’re heading to Hannibal or St. Louis?
Yeah, that one.
The game that originally drew me off of the highway and into Palmyra was Geocaching. (You might remember my February blog about Geocaching: The adventure GPS scavenger hunt game where a cache is hidden, marked with GPS coordinates, and then waits to be found by anyone with a GPS enabled device.) I was surprised and delighted to find at least 3 Geocaches are hidden in the Palmyra area. 2 of these were hidden back in Dr. JW Well Nature Park.
The JW Well Nature Park sits behind the fairgrounds and Flower City Park in Palmyra. The two parks combine to offer several trails. Some are paved or have gravel, and others are normal forest trails. There is a map of the trails on a sign next to the tennis courts, so you can pick the one that sounds the best to you.
The Nature Trail begins at the entrance to JW Well Park, and is a 1-mile loop through a small part of the 200+ acre park. This was the gateway to our adventure. We hiked the loop then left the trail to search for owls. (It is my summer goal to photograph a Great Horned Owl. You’ll be the first readers to know when I’ve done it…)
We followed the whoooo whooooing of owls up a dry creek bed. There we explored our balance on fallen trees, checked out the formations the water had carved out of the stone in the creek bed, and basically poked around for all the fun we could find. My husband climbed up forest litter like scaffolding while I examined some sun-bleached animal remains for clues to their origin, and our friend Mary took pictures of some beautiful wildflowers. We moved on and found two of the biggest trees I’ve ever seen in our area. They both turned out to be dead and hollow, and I stuck my head inside a hole in one to get a glimpse of the cave-like interior. We emerged from the woods several hours later (having failed to locate the owl that had been making so much noise) next to a lovely pond replete with ducks and geese.
So there you have it: a day in the forest, close to home, with adventure ready and waiting. While you’re in Flower City Park, be sure to check out the tennis courts, swimming pool, fair grounds, shelter houses with grills, and Frisbee golf course. Adventure is everywhere, you’ve just got to Get Out and find it!
For directions and more information: http://www.showmepalmyra.com/parksrec.html
I’m addicted to a game on my iPhone. It’s not Angry Birds.
Okay, it’s not only Angry Birds.
It’s called Geocaching, and it’s a great example of technology and adventure working hand in hand. A standard “Geocache” consists of a box or container that has been hidden somewhere in the world. That container holds a log book where the people who find it can write their names and share their thoughts. Some caches hold small items that are meant to be taken and then passed on to the next location. Proper Geocaching etiquette says that when you take an item, you should leave something of equal or greater value in place of anything removed from the cache.
You find a Geocache by going to one of several websites (eg: www.geocaching.com) that list the location of a cache via its latitude and longitude, and you plug that information into a portable GPS device. Or you just download the App. I first got the free “Intro” App for my iPhone, but quickly moved up to the paid version (also available for Droid). It’s really simple to use. You hit the search button and a list will populate with caches near you. Then you hit “Navigate” and a GPS map will pop up, and you follow the map until you reach your destination. Piece of cake, right? Well, kind of.
Caches can be incredibly tricky. Some are in desolate locations. They can be out in the woods, in National Parks, or on top of 14,000 foot tall mountains. They can also be in the parking lot at the mall or stuck to a flagpole at a local bar. To reach some caches, you have to go on a long hike over difficult terrain, but others are handicap accessible. The caches can be as big as five gallon buckets with lots of items in them, while others are the size of marbles with just a tiny strip of paper inside. Many are very well camouflaged and right under your nose every day.
My friends Jessica and Mary and I went out looking for caches for the first time recently, and it was quite an adventure. Following the maps and deciphering the clues makes you feel like a modern day pirate searching for buried treasure. Then combining forces to find the cache itself takes some outside-the-box thinking. One of the caches we found was cleverly designed to look like an electrical outlet. If Jessica hadn’t noticed that the paint color was slightly different than the color on the pole, we would have given up on finding the cache all together.
The most amazing part of Geocaching though, is the sense of being connected to people through the outdoors. My friends and I had a great day finding caches in Quincy and Keokuk. We later logged our finds on the Geocaching.com website and looked at the broader community. There are millions of caches hidden in dozens of countries, and each person who has hidden one wants to show you something about the great outdoors that has importance to them.
My favorite cache of the day was one in Keokuk named, “While the Chief Isn’t Looking.” The cache was a small container hidden in the vicinity of the statue of Chief Keokuk in Rand Park. The cache was simple; just a tube with a log book and a pencil, but the view from the top of the bluff looking out over the Mighty Mississippi was simply breathtaking. Looking out over this inspiring view, and sharing the outdoors with my good friends was a sublime moment, and I can’t wait for our next Geocaching adventure.