25 of 40: loess bluff national wildlife refuge

our final 2017 hike
18 degrees ~ christmas eve ~ approx. 4 inches of snow
although we didn't reach 40 hikes for my 40th year - 25 hikes is quite a number
and the point is that we enjoyed ourselves and had this time together as a family

after the first loop the kids are still smiling - a good sign! - this was just after a snowball fight

We were able to take a hike on Christmas Eve at the Loess Bluff National Wildlife Refuge in Forest City, MO an 1 1/2 hour drive north of KC.  We received about an inch at home that morning and  assumed the accumulation to be greater to the north and it was at about 3-4 inches. These conditions coupled with frigid temperatures (18 degrees!) made for slow going; I was consoled by the memory of our first hike of 2017 in the snow at 13 degrees and the pictures show us smiling so we must have enjoyed ourselves. I was so cold when we began! But I didn't stay cold because all that movement warmed me up and the sun was shining which helped once we were on top of the bluffs out of the woods.

All three trails behind the visitor center are connected and we hiked them by creating two loops and Jesse recorded about 2 1/2 miles. The trails are rated strenuous because of the steep inclines up to the bluffs. Once at the top you have quite the view (seeing as far as Nebraska and Kansas) and get an glimpse of the 10-mile Wild Goose Auto Tour loop (which we drove after hiking) located across from the refuge.

I've mentioned before that hiking in the winter is one of my favorites and adding snow makes it extra special. Roone especially loved purposely falling and sliding on the snow, and Ella contributed to the fun with throwing snowballs. We saw deer as well as many birds and even had a bald eagle circling overhead when climbing the bluffs. It probably goes without mentioning that there wasn't a crowd to content with. We were the only ones on the trail, the only car in the parking lot. Yes, it was quite peaceful.

bald eagles


 immature eagle - photo credit: jesse via binoculars

immature eagle - photo credit: jesse via binoculars

After hiking we warmed ourselves in the car with hot tea and lunch then drove through the Wild Goose Auto Tour loop. We probably saw five other cars on the loop and since it's nice to go at a slow pace and stop frequently to view the birds it was great not to be rushed by crowds.

We drove the loop a number of years ago when the refuge hosted an eagle days event. My memories are of having young children, Roone getting ill, and the loop being quite congested and not seeing many birds. Our experience this year was the exact opposite, thankfully.

Our pictures don't do our experience justice, but we saw hundreds, maybe thousands of birds. We saw many bald eagles, geese, swans, hawks. This experience was great for Jesse because he is the most keen bird watcher of all of us. It's really mostly his thing, but he has taught the me and kids well and we also know how to identify quite a few feathered friends. Driving slowly we covered only 4 miles in the first hour because there were so many birds to view. We sped up for the last 6 miles because it seemed the largest crowds of birds were near the loop's beginning, however near the exit Jesse did see an owl, the only one of the day.

I'm so glad we made the effort to have this adventure. Knowing of the snow and low temperatures I was second guessing our idea the morning of the hike, but then thought that it would be silly not to go when we had the time on our hands, and it became a stunning, peaceful way to enjoy our last opportunity to hike this year.


Susanna said…
25 hikes in one year is still very impressive! And how lovely that you did this on Christmas Eve!