I am a huge fan of hiking. Ever since I was a kid those walks through nature have been perfect for clearing my head when times got tough. The fact that I grew up within a short drive from one of Missouri’s State Parks probably had something to do with that.
As an adult (especially an adult with kids) it’s hard to find time to go hiking. It takes planning, packing, you can’t just grab your water bottle and go, you need to think about snacks, changes of clothes, nap times, the stamina of a toddler, and about a million other things. Parents, you know what I’m talking about. But last month we found a place that not only makes it easy to take the kids hiking, but it’s the perfect place for a desk jockey like myself to get a bit of nature in on my lunch break. The Powder Valley Nature Center.
Powder Valley has been around for a while and I’m told when it was first opened up to the public it was not worth visiting. Very few trails and not very developed the “nature center” was a bit of an overstatement, and you could hear the traffic from I-270 quite clearly making it less than relaxing. While it’s still true that you can hear the traffic, everything else has been greatly improved.
The nature center is full of great programs and activities for kids and also doubles as a clean bathroom (so you Moms out there should enjoy that) and there are several interpretive trails so you can teach your kids all about nature. Being a suburban park, the nature often comes quite close to you.
One of the best things about this park is that the trails are paved. Before you start picking up rocks to stone me with I’ll make the case why paved trails are good here. The biggest struggle with taking kids hiking is that you have to bring so much stuff. Part of this is because the youngest ones (2 and under) often have trouble navigating the rough terrain of your average hike, don’t have shoes that can handle mud, rocks, and puddles, and get tired before you feel like you’ve gotten a hike in. Powder Valley’s paved trails solve all of that. It provides a smooth surface and a mud free walk for those tiny baby steps. Another added benefit is that if you forgot to bring your hiking boots to work you don’t have to worry much.
Since discovering these trails I have gone on 4 lunch time hikes. The longest trail takes me about 25 minutes and unless it is in the triple digits, I hardly break a sweat. But in that 25 minutes, you get your taste of nature, you get your heart pumping a bit, and most importantly you can’t hear your phone ringing. You combine all of that with the fact that this park has some fascinating history and you have what makes a perfect Sunday drive destination.
I would plan on a bit more than 25 minutes when you bring your kids. Pack a picnic, spread out on the lawn, and enjoy some time in nature right in your own back yard.
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