Hiking in the Ozarks is a much different experience than Illinois. While there are some neat hikes in that northern state (Mathieson State Park, for example!), nothing beats the hills of Missouri. I ventured out to Roaring River State Park, just outside Cassville, Missouri, for my first "official" hiking adventure since the move.
I originally planned to hike the Devil's Kitchen trail, but ended up hiking a different one! A must-see at the park is the picturesque trout stream -- stocked full of trout from the hatchery -- and Roaring River Spring.
I wanted to get an aerial view of the spring and hatchery, so I climbed up Deer Leap trail (just .2 miles long). On the way up there, I saw the trail sign for Fire Tower trail (a more appealing 3.75 miles), so I detoured up the steep trail to see what was up there. I was rewarded with some great views of the changing fall colors and a mostly deserted trail. (I didn't take a lot of photos on this hike -- for a change!)
I felt adventurous, and there weren't any signs warning people not to climb the fire tower, so I went up. My brain kept saying NO, but I made it to the top. Built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps, the tower didn't offer much of a view; it must have offered a spectacular view before the trees overtook its height.
I also had a reminder that you're never truly alone when out in nature. Even if you don't see them, there are tons of animals around. This big guy caught my eye as I wandered down the trail. I stood and watched him for a while as he worked his way up the tree and out of sight. I grew up with a big fear of snakes, but I've apparently gotten a bit braver now that I'm older.
I'm going to try to fit in one more hike before I take off on my next adventure. Stay tuned!