Many paths to solving the surplus energy crisis (Mar. 29, 30 and anytime)

March 24, 2008

One of M.’s classmates is a veteran hiker — we’re talking like 3 miles at a time, which is pretty good for a preschooler — because it’s one of the best ways his parents have found for burning off his surplus energy before it accumulates and spills out destructively at home. I love to hike too, and I’m not sure why we haven’t gotten our own kids more into it. So this spring I’ve resolved to take advantage of the many opportunities in the St. Louis region to hit the trails. Here are two that are inspiring me right now:

The St. Louis County Parks Department has instituted a 30/30 Hikes program that’s masterfully simple: 30 trails that take around 30 minutes to complete (a good kid-friendly distance, although if your kids are anything like mine the hike will take longer thanks to all the objects of interest along the way!). Some of the routes may be familiar — like the one through Laumeier Sculpture Park — but others may get you to see places you drive past often from a whole new pedestrian perspective. You can download the routes at the department’s Web site, or go in person to any of the county’s rec centers or the Clayton headquarters and buy a copy for $10. I would say it’s not worth making the special trip, except that you’ll want to pick up a punch card too — each trail has a punch at the trailhead, and if you collect them all, you can redeem the punch card for a 30/30 Hikers patch. And you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing you’ve hiked 55 miles (unless you cheat and just punch the card, which no self-respecting parent would do …). For details, call 314.638.2100.

The second inspiration comes from the Sierra Club, which has a couple of hikes planned this weekend. (Check the Web site for many more). On Saturday (Mar. 29) organizer Bob Herndon (314.961.4811) leads a hike at Pickle Springs Natural Area near Ste. Genevieve, part of the LaMotte sandstone complex (home to the oldest sedimentary rock in Missouri). During the hour-and-a-half hike, participants will see stone formations, bluffs, canyons, springs, and a glade — and they’ll lunch near Dome Rock.

On Sunday (Mar. 30) the site is the Hilda Young Conservation Area south of Eureka, a combination of open grasslands and rocky terrain that makes for an easy outing. (Based on a review at an online trail-rating site, it sounds like early spring is the best time of year to visit this spot.) To sign up, contact Margot Kindley at 636.458.4063.

For ideas on other routes, here are a few good links for local hikers:

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