It’s no secret that the Midwest, like so much of the rest of the country, has endured some crazy cold weather this winter. As I mentioned to a friend today, I think this is going to be the winter that kids right now will look back on and tell their own kids about. “You call this cold?? Let me tell you about the winter of the Polar Vortex…the year we had 10 snow days!”
Those snow days have been a huge hassle for working parents (and probably just as much for stay-at-home parents), but they’ve been a delightful treat for me. The only people who like snow days better than students are teachers.
One particularly nice feature of this year’s snow days is that so many of them have lengthened holidays (Christmas vacation grew by a week) and long weekends (the three-day Martin Luther King weekend became a four-day break). In addition, while Jeff typically works (outside) in all conditions, the airport job he’s been on has been a little more weather-sensitive. Thanks to this, I was able to follow my three-day bike binge with a really fun family day before we all went back to work and school.
A few years ago, during another terribly cold spell when schools closed due to the dangerously cold temperatures, Nathan, Jacob, and I traveled down to Ste. Genevieve, MO, to see a frozen waterfall I’d read about in the newspaper. We had a great time despite the cold; in the years since we’ve talked about going back, but we’ve had such mild winters that there probably wasn’t much freezing going on. Even this winter has been such a patchy one, bitter cold alternating with brief interludes in the 40-50* range, that I wasn’t sure the waterfall would be very impressive. Still, when schools cancelled for the day after Martin Luther King day, I talked Jeff and Jacob into making a day trip.
|Jacob and Jeff|
While Jacob was all about the hike, it was a pretty big deal for Jeff to go. Since he’s worked outside all winter, when he’s not working he doesn’t want to be outside freezing for “fun”. I was really happy when he agreed to go along with us.
|Including this picture just because it makes me look slim.|
|Sitting in a little shelter cave with Jacob|
The waterfall is located in a box canyon in Hickory Canyons Natural Area, so once we got into the canyon area there were rock outcroppings and overhangs everywhere.
|Rows of icicles everywhere|
The icicles lining the sides of the canyon would have been amazing on a bright, sunny day, but they were beautiful even on our overcast afternoon.
|The waterfall…not quite as impressive as last time, but still cool|
Maybe because of the previous weekend’s unseasonable warmth (I rode in shorts on Sunday) the waterfall had less ice than when we’d been there before. That didn’t seem to bother Jacob.
|Obligatory couple picture…see? My husband DOES exist!|
We checked out the area around the waterfall for a while, repeatedly reminding Jacob to be careful of the thin ice. Luckily it was strong enough to hold his weight, but it started to crack when I walked on it. Then we struck out along the edges of the canyon to see what else we could see.
|He only slid down this about 15 times.|
|The guys walking along the side.|
As we came to the big icicles in the picture below, Jeff suggested that I go stand closer to Jacob so he could get our picture. What you can’t really tell because of the snow is that a creek runs below that overhang…a creek covered with ice strong enough to hold a ten year old boy but not me. And that’s how I found out that my new winter boots are, as advertised, waterproof.
|Checking out some big icicles|
We did a little more exploring in Hickory Canyon and then made the short drive to Pickle Springs Natural Area, a gem of a trail we’d heard about one year while staying at nearby Hawn State Park for our anniversary. There are some really cool rock formations there, and I knew Jacob would love it.
We hiked the trail counterclockwise.
|Cool slot formation you hike through.|
|“Look at me…I’m a walrus!”|
Though we’ve hiked Pickle Springs several times, we’ve never been there with snow on the ground. We had a little trouble finding the trail once we hiked through the slot. I actually pointed us in the right direction (total lucky guess), but Jeff disagreed and we tried going a different way. After some looking around, we eventually found our way.
The area around the Double Arch had several cool rock formations, including the one below.
|I’m up, but I’m not so sure about getting back down.|
Exploring around the rocks ate up a lot of our time. Jacob could have stayed and climbed around forever, but with only another hour or so of light, we had to move on. It was obvious that we weren’t going to be able to hike the entire loop before nightfall, and the 14* temps were starting to sink in at our hiking pace. We moved on…
|Because pretending to poop in a hollow tree trunk never gets old…|
We hiked down to the bridge over Pickle Creek. The Three Billy Goats Gruff was Jacob’s favorite book when he was little, and as long as I can remember we’ve had to re-enact the story every time we walk/ride bikes over a bridge.
|“It is I, the littlest billy goat Gruff…” You can see Jacob the troll on the right side of the bridge.|
|Now I’m the biggest billy goat knocking the troll off the bridge.|
Even though there was still hiking left to do, we headed back after playing around the bridge a little more and getting a few more pictures. Definitely wasn’t enough time, but we’ll be back.
We made it back to the car just as dusk was falling, and the sky gave us a beautiful sendoff.
It was definitely a chilly day to play outside, but we had a great time. Looking forward to the next family adventure, whatever it is!