Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Tour of Missouri: Ha Ha Tonka State Park

It took forever but I believe that spring has finally sprung in my part of the world.
Warmer weather means we finally get to crawl out of our cocoons and start exploring once again.

My family and I have set out to explore parts of our great state that we never have visited before. We are turning to our own state parks and other natural resources for entertainment. It is our summer goal to earn a Missouri Camper Award, bike The Katy Trail, and complete the 100 Missouri Miles campaign.

To be eligible for the Missouri Camper Award you have to camp at five different state parks in one year. We currently have four of the five trips lined up. The Katy Trail is a 237.7 mile path from Clinton, Missouri to St. Charles, Missouri. It is a former railroad trail that has since been converted to biking/hiking path. From what I gather, it has amazing views that are only visible from the path. Finally, the 100 Missouri Miles campaign just started it's second year.  Missouri was the winner of the 2013 Best Trails State Award by American Trails. To celebrate the Governor challenged us all to log 100 Missouri Miles. I blogged about it here.

Our first stop on our tour of Missouri was Ha Ha Tonka State Park located in Camdenton, Missouri. There is no camping at Ha Ha Tonka but it is a wonderful place to hike and explore. Nineteen caves have been recorded so far in Ha Ha Tonka State Park. We also experienced sinkholes, caves, underground streams, large springs, and natural bridges. There is also the remains of an abandoned castle in the state park.

We hiked about 5 miles this day. I had to carry The Short Chic on my back for a large portion of those. Why must children learn the hard way? She insisted on wearing new high top shoes with low profile socks. The end results: blisters. {But, you already knew that,didn't you?}

The girls are standing in a sink hole. The sink hole formed a natural bridge, which you can walk under and over.

Robert Snyder began building a massive home in the Ozarks in the early 1900. Before he could complete his home, he died in one of Missouri's first automobile fatalities. His sons finished the home but it was destroyed by fire in 1946.

This building was the water house. It pumped water from the natural spring below to the mansion. It burned in 1976 by vandals. It's roof has been replaced but it now barred off from entry hopefully deterring any future vandalism to the property.

Snyder's former property sits high above the Lake of the Ozarks on a bluff. It is truly a beautiful site during any Missouri seasons.

The Short Chic and her BFF explore the stone skeleton remains of Synder's castle. The Short Chic and I spied our first sign of spring on our hike to the castle. We found crocus flowers in bloom. After a long persistent winter, we were most excited to see the little bright flowers!

After viewing the remains and a picnic lunch we took off to explore the island.  We found a large number of turtles in the lake as we crossed over to the island.   We hiked around the island and found a cave and the balanced rock. I have visited Ha Ha Tonka several times via boat and lake in the summer and with the dense green leaves, I have never seen either the castle remains or the island with balanced rock.

Below is one entrance to one of the caves at Ha Ha Tonka State Park. The entrance is sealed off from human visitors. However, bats still use the cave on a regular basis. I am thankful we were visiting in broad daylight and not at dusk. I do not want to face any of the thousand of bats that call this cave home!

 From prior visits to Ha Ha Tonka via boat, I know the water around this area is very cold. It feels rather refreshing on a hot summer day. The cold water is supplied by a natural underground spring. This is the very spring that the Snyder's used the water tower to pump water up to the mansion.

The water travels from the spring down a waterfall and ends up joining the Lake of the Ozarks. I let The Short Chic climb down to the water's edge to see how cold the water was. And guess what, she nearly fell in! {You knew that too, huh!}

The good news, by the time we reached the car-van after this portion of our hike, my Fitbit was vibrating as I had reached my 10,000 steps for the day!

Impression: This was a wonderful park to visit. The staff at the visitor center were super nice and we enjoyed visiting with them. The trails were mostly well worn foot paths or boardwalks. The trails on the island were not so level and were a bit tricky for a couple of six year olds. There are a lot of steps at this state park. You could have a very intense workout if you wanted to. However, if you were not up for all the step climbing, don't worry, you can also drive your car around to the next parking lot and skip most of the steps! Everything was pretty accessible with a short walk.

Number of Missouri Miles Completed: 5

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