Our June 2011 Trip To Piedmont, Missouri
Copyright 2011 by Bob Soetebier
Our trip southward from the St. Louis metro area to Piedmont, MO, was to be the prelude to our attendance at the 2-day “1st Annual UFO Revival” conference in Patterson, MO. The conference, which was sponsored by the Cultural Arts Alliance, Wayne Ozark Region, Inc. (CAAW) was to “commemorate the 1973 UFO Flap” that began in Piedmont and continued throughout the southeast Missouri region for the bulk of the 1970s. Patterson is approximately 10 miles east of Piedmont in Wayne County.
This beautiful area is long-time favorite destination of ours, as we have -- on numerous occasions -- ridden our bicycles to camp there, and then hike to the top of Mudlick Mtn. (which is an ancient volcano) at Sam A. Baker State Park -- which is just 5 miles north of Patterson -- and to swim in Big Creek and the St. Francis River.
On our way south from St. Louis County on Hwy. 21 we took a brief side trip and turned west on Hwy. 104 into Washington State Park on the Big River in Jefferson County. At our first stop in the park we walked the short, paved path to the open-air covered shelter to check out the many ancient Indian petroglyphs there. One of their main common themes was the “Thunderbird.” (Considering the purpose of our trip, the obviously UFO-related symbolism of the “Thunderbird” was significantly apropos.) While viewing the petroglyphs, we were amazed to see the largest dragonfly we have ever encountered in our lives: it was literally longer than my entire outstretched hand, with an even wider wingspan!
Farther downhill along Hwy. 104 we noted the low cliff face right along the edge of the road. It is actually an exposed earthquake fault. Many years ago there used to be a sign on the cliff noting the significance of the earthquake fault zone here. However, the sign was long ago wisely removed…apparently to prevent rear-enders around a blind, downhill curve as tourist stopped in wonderment to read the sign.
After parking near the campground along the bank of the Big River in the heart of the park, we walked out along its wide gravel beach. We were immediately surrounded by numerous medium-sized butterflies in a variety of colors. While gazing across the river we noticed some very artistically done 3-D mud sculptures that were carved just a couple of feet above the water line into the river bank. These life-sized sculptures depicted a human face, a wild boar and a fox.
Our next stop off Hwy. 21 was at Buford Mtn. in the beautiful Arcadia Valley near Belleview, MO, in the northern end of Iron County. We turned eastward onto Hwy. U and drove the 2 miles east to the Buford Mtn. trail parking lot. We had hoped to hike to the top of the mountain for a great view. (At a height of 1,740 feet, Buford Mtn. is only 32 feet lower than nearby Taum Sauk Mtn., which is the highest point in Missouri.) However, the sudden threat of thunderstorms diverted us to nearby Elephant Rocks State Park. There we hiked -- as we have done on literally dozens of previous trips -- the 1-mile paved-loop path in, around, and atop its huge granite boulders…some of which are bigger than a house.
With the continuing threat of storms, we considered a visit to the interesting Fort Davidson Civil War Museum State Historic fort site at Pilot Knob, MO, just a ¼-mile off Hwy. 21 via Hwy. 221. (Note: This happens to be the junction of two major cross-country, on-road bicycles routes: the Bikecentennial east-west Trans-America Route, and the north-south Bikecentennial Great Rivers Route.) Alternately, we considered visitng the Arcadia, MO, Iron County Museum, right along Hwy. 21. However, since we had previously visited both, we decided to travel on in hopes of getting to climb to the top of the Taum Sauk Mtn. State Park fire tower, and possibly the 3-mile-long loop Mina Sauk Falls Trail…both of which we have done numerous times in the past.
Unfortunately, we lost that gamble. Although, while neither the thunderstorms nor the rain actually caught up with us, by the time we reached the turn off for the 3-mile side trip road to the top of Taum Sauk, we could see a column of rain shrouding its peak.
Instead of the diversion to the top of Taum Sauk Mtn., we continued driving south on Hwy. 21 (along the Bikecentennial Great Rivers Route) through scenic Royal Gorge and shortly joined with Hwy. 49. After the jog on Hwy. 49 briefly eastward at Annapolis, MO, we continued southward through the Big Creek valley by Des Arc and Gads Hill, which was the site of the (Jesse) James gang’s first railroad robbery on January 31, 1874.
Just a couple miles farther south on Hwy. 49 brought us to Hwy. 34 and Piedmont. We checked into the Stone Crest Motel right across the street from deep and wide McKenzie Creek. The motel had apparently been recently renovated and was a good place to stay with the smoke-free Zephyr Café conveniently located right next door. Additionally, an excellent place for Mexican food, Tequilas restaurant, is just east of Hwy. 49 on Hwy. 34 in Piedmont, too.
An additional bonus was that the nearby 8/10-mile paved walking greenway trail along McKenzie Creek led to the historically preserved Aunt Beck’s cabin in Piedmont Park, right along Hwy. 34 east. Also, directly across Hwy. 34 from Piedmont park is Golf Course/Canyon Rd. It is only a 1/2-mile drive on Canyon Rd. to the parking lot for Lon Sanders Canyon.
While it’s not a long hike -- maybe a half-mile round-trip -- to/from the shut-ins in Lon Sanders Canyon, you do get a fairly good work out climbing up and down the rough-hewn rock stairs into and out of the canyon. You can also do, as we did, some granite rock hopping among the boulders in the canyon stream for some more reflexive calf-and-thigh rebounding, too. If you’re in the area, the beauty of the LSC shut-ins is a definite must-see.
Another point of interest in the area is the Civil War site of Fort Benton which just happens to be near the Patterson, Missouri, Community Center (site of the “UFO Revival” conf.) The Patterson Community Center also has a historical museum; but, unfortunately it was not open the weekend we were there.