If you are one of those people who appreciate Missouri’s diverse natural areas, odds are a visit to Don Robinson State Park is on your to-do list.

However, if you are unable to find a parking spot on the weekend, I recommend that you drive about 12 minutes north to LaBarque Creek Conservation Area.

LaBarque sits between Dittmer to the south and Pacific to the north. It’s about an hour west of downtown St. Louis and seems worlds away. 

My experiences with LaBarque go back to 2014. On a whim, I decided to check it out after leaving St. Louis on a Sunday. I felt the urge to get out of the noise and into the woods.

Once I crossed the footbridge, I was hooked. Instead of a quick visit, I realized I was in it for the long haul. At the time, hiking the three-mile trail seemed like a good idea.

When I hit the two-mile marker, I realized it was getting dark and the light drizzle that started at the one-mile marker was picking up. Fortunately, I tend to overpack. I had my emergency whistle, pepper spray, compass, mini-flashlight, cell phone, hoodie, water bottle, napkins, wet wipes, and more in my camera bag.

That mini-flashlight came in handy for the first time EVER and it hasn’t worked the same since. What I could see of the last mile was stunning. I knew then I had to go back when I had more time and light than what my mini-flashlight provided. 

Fast forward to 2017. I was more than ready for LaBarque Creek Conservation Area again. This time around, I made sure there was no rain in the forecast, that I packed hiking poles, and there was plenty of sunlight left in the day.

I also had a hiking buddy. My daughter, Karlene, came along.

As soon as we started, I noticed a change in the trail. Steps had been installed and a reroute of the trail takes hikers away from the area I nearly slid down in 2014.

Karlene and I visited with a man who cares for the trail. He confirmed that the first part of the trail had been re-routed and steps were added in January. The recent addition was a welcome one for people who had difficulty on the slick rocks leading up to the loop portion of the trail.

I informed Karlene we were going to take a right and not do the entire loop. We hiked in reverse and saw the “last mile” that led to an area where people can off-trail to see seasonal waterfalls, rock outcroppings, and an area that my GPS told me was Sand Creek, not LaBarque Creek.

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