Our most recent trip was a Father-Daughter backpacking overnighter to Hawn State Park near Ste. Genevieve, MO. Taylor and I hiked a portion of the Whispering Pines Trail and the Pickle Creek Trail. It is regarded as the most beautiful trail in the state, and I tend to agree. Beautiful overlooks, rocky terrain, quaint waterfalls, and piney woods adorn this trail. This area has so much to offer. We started off from the Whispering Pines trailhead at about 11:00am on Saturday. The trail has some nice, scenic overlooks and rocky outcrops within the first mile or so.
There was a technical section of rocks to climb over, but once we got through that we saw a trail to the right that led to an area where we heard several people, including kids playing, so we decided to check it out. It was a steep hill, but careful steps led us safely to a beautiful spot in the creek that I can best describe as a mini Johnson’s Shut-Ins. Water runs over rock glades and between boulders creating pools and waterfalls where kids (and adults) can play. Tay and I decided to stop here for lunch. We took our shoes off and waded through the water to the other side of the creek where we found a nice rock to sit on. We unpacked our peanut butter sandwiches and apples and enjoyed our food while we watched the creek flow by.
After we finished eating, it was time to continue on our hike. We stopped several times to admire the beautiful Pickle Creek along the way. There are so many beautiful spots to stop and see. We hiked a couple more miles through various surface types ranging from rock to gravel, to sand. We even had to cross the creek once by walking over a log. We finally got into the Piney area where we started to see some clearings where we could set up camp. Once we found a nice spot, we decided to stop for the day.
The site was carpeted with pine needles and mostly clear of underbrush. It was off the trail about 100 yards and only about 200 yards from a great spot at the creek to get water. We unpacked our gear and began setting up our hammocks. We found three trees that were the appropriate distance apart so we could hang our hammocks side-by-side in a “V” formation. This also allowed us to use just the one large Hennessy Hex tarp. Taylor rocked the Hennessy Scout with the whoopie sling conversion she did herself, and I was using my War Bonnet Blackbird, also with whoopie slings.
We spent some time getting our hammocks hung and our insulation all set up, then decided to get our sandals on and go check out the creek near camp. A small path just off the trail led to a really neat, secluded spot on the creek with a fairly large pool and a huge rock overhang. Tay and I enjoyed climbing around on the rocks and playing in the water. We saw some crawdads and a lot of tadpoles in the water.
It was nearing dinner time, so we decided to load up on water and head back to the camp. We filtered some water from the creek to use for cooking. Our camp kitchen consisted of an MSR pocket rocket and the MSR Dualist set. We jokingly bragged that we had a gas stove and granite counters (a rock we found in camp). We had all the comforts of a gourmet chef’s kitchen. This chef was preparing Mountain House Spaghetti with Meat Sauce tonight! We both enjoyed the meal, and decided to do a little cleanup in the creek and check out that nice spot one more time before it got dark. As we walked toward the creek, we heard a huge splash as a big bullfrog jumped in the water. We played a bit more in the water, then headed back to camp just before dark.
After cleaning up camp and getting things ready for the morning, we played some cards. ‘War’ and ‘Go Fish’ were the games of choice. We then decided to get into our hammocks to avoid the mosquitoes. We chatted a while, and as dark set in, we drifted off to sleep. It was a warm night, so the underquilts were really all we needed. She had a top quilt and I had a fleece liner just in case, but we both stayed warm all night. At some point in the night, about 2am, I awoke to something paying a visit to our camp. It sounded like a raccoon or a skunk was sniffing around. I didn’t shine my light on it for fear that it was the latter and I might startle it. After a few minutes, it wandered off. I guess we did a good job of cleaning our food up. Other than that, we slept peacefully all night to the sounds of the bullfrogs and tree frogs and crickets.
We awoke about 7am to a bright sunny day and birds chirping. Breakfast came in the form of a Luna Bar and Orange drink for Taylor, and a Cliff bar and coffee for me. We took our time, readying ourselves for the hike out. Once we finished breakfast, we packed up all our gear and hit the trail. We decided to take the Pickle Creek trail the rest of the way back from where it intersects with the Whispering Pines Trail so we could check it out also. We stopped along the way to explore some of the pretty areas of the creek, taking advantage of the perfect photo ops. We made it back to the parking lot and the Jeep. Hi-fives and congratulations were in order. Taylor had completed her first overnight backpacking trip, and succeeded like a pro!
We both had a great time and both think that we will be coming back to this trail soon with Jen and Riley. It is certainly one of the most beautiful trails in the state. Taylor and I highly recommend a visit!