A Christmas hike has become a bit of a tradition around our house. After turkey it’s either a nap or a walk, and in the last few years, we’ve opted for the exercise. Of course it helps that in the last few years (with a couple of notable exceptions) the snow cover has not been a significant factor.
We decided to hike the “Discovery Corps Trail” at Ponca State Park, a trail that follows along the Missouri for a few hundred yards, and then turns up a “holler” (as my Arkansas relatives would say) to the top of the bluff.
On this trip we saw a hawk, juncos, and sparrows. We heard crows, blue jays, and chickadees. And of course, squirrels were dashing through the leaves chasing each other. The big find was three mergansers on the Missouri River. They’re a fairly rare visitor to the area, so it was fun to watch them through the binoculars.
As we walked through what used to be the riverside camp ground, the light was such that the height of this summer’s flood waters was very clear on the cottonwood trees. As you can see, based on the people in the picture, there was seven or more feet of water over the campground this summer.
The last time we walked through this “campground” it was still filled with flood debris. They have at least gotten rid of that along with a foot or so of silt. Now it’s a matter of restoring the electrical lines and boxes, the water, and bringing back the picnic tables and biffies. That’s a lot of work! I wonder if it will be ready for use by this summer. I doubt it. Of course the park has a lot of other camp sites, so they’re still doing a brisk business. In fact, it looked like all the winterized cabins were full for Christmas. It seems a little odd to spend Christmas at a state park where the sledding hill, cross country ski course, and snow mobile trails are slightly less than groomed (see first picture above). That doesn’t leave a lot to do. But on the other hand, we drove all the way out there just to take a hike.