Read part 1 here
Read part 2 here
Waving goodbye to the granite circus elephants we motored down the highway to Pilot Knob. We made a slight detour to check out Fort Davidson, and decided that it wasn’t worth waking up Frugal Boy and getting out of the car for.
Continuing down the highway we eventually saw our turnoff for our next destination. The road went up and up, climbing steeply and winding back and forth. As we neared the top of the mountain, the road transitioned from asphalt to gravel. We were nearly at the tallest point in all of Missouri!
This whole area would be gorgeous in its autumn colors. We got back in the car and finished up the drive to the summit parking lot. Taum Sauk mountain has a plateau top, meaning that there is no discernible summit. There is a short 1/4 mile paved wheelchair accessible trail that leads from the parking lot to the surveyed “summit”. After our ‘arduous’ trek, we reached the top of the mountain and stood a whopping 1772 feet above sea level. I guess you could say we had more potential than anyone else in Missouri at that time. (hehehehe, it’s a physics joke)
A 3 mile roundtrip rugged trail would let us see Mina Falls, the tallest waterfall in Missouri, and since we felt cheated of climbing a mountain we decided to do that as well. A kindly gentleman saw us starting out on the trail as he was finishing it and warned us that it was difficult. I think he was worried because we had Frugal Boy with us, but we were well prepared for a hike with proper footwear, snacks, and water.
The trail was quite rocky and did descend down the side of the mountain. We saw several groups of teenagers/college kiddies hiking by in flip flops and no water bottles. Silly kids.
The sound of running water tipped us off before we saw anything. The trail dumps you out at the top of the waterfall and it is a bit of a climb to get to the bottom and take a proper picture of it (something that we didn’t do). Here you can see me on the other side of the stream looking down at the falls.
There were a number of smaller waterfalls upstream and some slow moving areas that were populated with fish. This one made a good place to eat a snack and rest.
The hike back up was uneventful and we made better time than going down. I think climbing up is easier (especially on the joints). Frugal Boy was exhausted from all of the hiking and was passed out for much of the journey.
On the drive in we noticed a turnoff for a fire tower so we decided to stop by on our way out.
Again, the ideal time to visit would most likely be during Autumn.
All tuckered out from hiking we drove down the mountain and continued on our adventure to the final destination for the day.
Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park is perhaps one of the most popular swimmin’ holes in Missouri. Shut-In is a term that describes a narrowing of the river, usually because hard rock that has withstood the eroding force of water. The Black River that runs through the park has a number of these shut-ins that help form a natural water park of sorts. In 2006 the dam upstream of the park burst and everything in the park with the exception of one pit toilet was washed away in a catastrophic flood. Today, the park has been rebuilt and the swimming area has been cleaned of all debris.
The parking lot for swimming is much smaller than the demand for the park, so in order to park you must wait at a gate until someone else leaves. I do not know if the limited parking is for flood safety or just poor design. Either way, Frugal Boy passed the time performing some sort of colonoscopy on his toy monkey.
After a brief wait at the gate and another one for one of the three changing rooms (I’m starting to think it was all just poor design) we were on the boardwalk overlooking the Black River.
Here are the shut-ins.
It was fascinating to watch all of the different ways you could play in them. Some people knew where the deep bowls where and jumped from the top of the rocks into them, other people slid down the smooth waterways like giant slides, while others still lounged in ‘jacuzzi’ style pools that water jetted through. We ended up taking a tamer approach and waded in the calm waters upstream.
All three of us slept very well that night. The next day, Sunday, we left Farmington and drove home. On the way we stopped to visit with an old friend that I had not seen in many years. A great part of road trips is making little detours to say hi to somebody. It is never too late to reconnect with someone!
We did run into some snarled up traffic near the very end of our trip. A motorcyclist had crashed his bike and both him and his passenger died. Besides that sadness it was a great trip and we made tons of wonderful memories. Now we have to start thinking about where we want to go for our next trip!