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.
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.