It appears that the key phrase for 2020 will be “social distancing”. While it certainly poses some new hurdles for travel bloggers, it also challenges us to find some new ways to explore our world. This travel season will be filled with some places that allow us to get back to nature. On a recent trip to Weston, Missouri we included a stop at Weston Bend State Park. Located along the bluffs overlooking the Missouri River, this natural sanctuary is the perfect destination for some tranquil solitude.
In earlier times, the native tribes were drawn to the region for its rich soil. Lewis and Clark stopped nearby on July 2, 1804. It was near this area that their keelboat ran aground on a sandbar. Upstream they discovered “Bear Medicine” Island, where they stopped to repair their mast. The pair made note of the wooded hills that stood watch over the fast-moving river. During their brief visit, they noticed an abandoned Kanza Indian village on the opposite shoreline.
The fertile lands of the Missouri River Valley were found to be a great fit for tobacco farming. This was especially true in the Weston area. Nearby Fort Leavenworth was established in 1827, and the town of Weston would follow 10 years later. This made it the most western settlement in the United States until Texas was admitted to the Union in 1845. The town became a natural harbor for the fort that laid on the opposite banks. The addition of the river port added to the success of tobacco farmers. With this natural water “highway” they were able to transport their crops to downstream markets.
Taking to the Trails
Weston Bend Park is home to over 10 miles of trails. With a little over 3 miles of roadways serving the park, it leaves plenty of green space for exploring. Since our day was being split between the town and the park, we chose to get back to nature on one of the shorter trails. Each trail-head has an information panel detailing the length and estimated hiking time. The trails are color-coded, which makes it easy to stay on track when traipsing through heavily wooded areas.
The trail we selected had the benefit of being part of the Great Missouri Birding Trail. This statewide trail system is divided into six specific regions. Signage details in which birds are common to the area during specific seasons. The panels include information pertaining to migratory patterns, as well as photos to help in identification.
During our hike, we spent the majority of our time taking in the footpath. Recent rains had created a few muddy spots, so we focused on watching for those. We could still hear the sounds of the birds all through our walk. Songbirds cried out with their melodic tunes. In the distance, we could hear the rat-a-tat-tat of a woodpecker looking for food. It is amazing how quickly your senses adapt to listening for the quieter sounds, once you make your way into the stillness of the woods.
As we continued on our hike, we noticed that our trail intersected with another one. This was apparent from the blue tags that now were joined by yellow tags. When we reached a clearing at the base of a long hill, we found ourselves at a crossroads. Right about then, another hiking party happened along. They were experienced with the trail system at Weston Bend and explained our options. We decided to divert from the blue to the yellow, as it had a promising view at the other end. Our new trail led us uphill toward a high ridge, which paralleled the Missouri River. Although we could not see the waterway, we still knew it was nearby.
Back to Nature
Up and up we climbed until we were finally moving along the spine of the ridge. Once in a while, we would note a different trail shooting off at an angle from our route. By now we were determined to find this promised view. Before too long, we passed out of the woods and found that we had been on Harpst Trail. Once out of the woods, there was a clear cut pathway that led toward the riverside of the park. Following this new path, we soon found ourselves at a shady overlook.
Social Distancing Paradise
With an invigorating hike under our belts, we were feeling in tune with our surroundings. Our attempt to get back to nature had been a complete success. As we stood gazing out over the landscape, we were in awe of the natural beauty. Eagles soared above us, rising on hot air plumes. Far below we could see the “Muddy Missouri” flowing along. Even with all of these eye-catching distractions, we could still hear the melodic songs of our feathered friends. This stop was just what we needed to get some real “social distancing”.