Great outdoor experiences are closer than you think

I am the first to admit that there are many times I do not see what is right in front of me. I had an experience this fall that only reinforced that sentiment.

My daughter, Karlene, and I were itching for a quick camping getaway in early October. Due to our busy schedules, we only had time for one night, a Saturday, and we’d be arriving a little late thanks to a long to-do list. wspview

As we browsed the Missouri State Parks website, we noticed that Washington State Park was just as close to us as other parks we’ve camped at before. However, in all our adventures, we had not made it to this Missouri gem located right on the eastern edge of the Ozarks.

To be perfectly honest, we were not 100% sure we were going to stay at Washington State Park until we faced the choice to make a left or a right while driving in that general direction. One direction would take us down memory lane, while another direction would take us toward the unfamiliar.

Looking back, I am so glad we decided to “go for it” and experience the unfamiliar.

Our all-too-quick visit to Washington State Park was, for lack of a better word, awesome. The campground hosts were welcoming and the camping facilities were top-notch. We were able to get a great night’s sleep and locate a geocache near the campground that was located in some beautiful rock formations.

We also enjoyed seeing some of the buildings that were built by the African-American Civilian Conservation Corps. The stonework is simply breathtaking. It dates back to the early 1930s and has stood the test of time. wspfete2

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However, the sight that topped everything was the park’s petroglyphs. I have been a fan of petroglyphs since my mother and I visited Petroglyph National Monument in New Mexico, but I was not aware that less than an hour from my house is where 75% of the known petroglyphs in Missouri are located. Washington State Park’s petroglyphs date back to 1,000 A.D. and seeing them was a history lesson in itself!

Before we made the trek home, we decided to check out a French festival that a woman in our campground had told us about. The Old Mines Area Historical Society was holding their annual Fete de L’Automne just a short distance from the park exit in Fertile, Mo. wspcccbuildings

As luck would have it, we were able to listen to a few tunes, check out the exhibits, have a snack, and purchase some local honey.

This mini-trip reminded me that I don’t always have to venture hours away from home to have great experiences with my daughter.

Washington State Park is a place we plan to visit again in the future. I hope you will visit it, too!

By Michelle Turner

(Michelle Turner lives in Union, Mo.)

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