Day Trippers - Tennessee and Missouri
Missouri and Tennessee are spectacular neighbors not crowing much about themselves. For outdoor lovers, the two states offer nearly every adventure imaginable, from heart-pounding whitewater to soul-calming hikes through ancient woods. You can rock climb high and spelunk your way down low, expand your perspective with views that stretch for hundreds of miles, and shift your focus to a small stretch of water and the fly you’re sailing over it, all within a few hours’ drive in the Volunteer State and the Show Me State.
GoApe has a home in each. Our Missouri Treetop Adventure Course in Creve Coeur Park, is an oasis of wilderness just minutes from downtown Saint Louis, while our Swope Park location is a quick trip from Kansas City. Our Shelby Farms Park Treetop Adventure course in Tennessee is situated in an urban forest larger than New York’s Central Park.
But the adventures we offer are far from the only ones worth having here. With 48 hours to spend in Missouri and Tennessee, here’s what we would do.
Day One Morning
Hike Through Some of the Last Old-Growth Forest
We’d start our adventure with some soul-stirring perspective.
As much as we love the abundant forest of the Eastern United States, we also know that it’s not the ancient wonder it can feel like. Nineteenth century logging cleared much of the primeval North American hardwood forest. Massive depression-era replanting efforts gave it back to us.
Old-growth forest still exists, however, in some sacred spaces. They feel different than the newer wild places you’re used to. There is greater variety in the trees when they’ve been allowed to grow and die naturally, with huge examples over 300 years old and smaller replacements that have filled in spots where time and storms felled the giants. Tennessee may be the best place to find old growth.
We’re fond of Oak Ridge National Environmental Research Park. There, you’ll find hemlocks towering over 150 feet tall, rare black walnut trees, and thick shagbark hickories older than the nation that claims them today.
Day One Afternoon
For the evening of our first day, we’d head underground.
There are more than 9,600 charted caves in Tennessee, and state wildlife resources officers believe there are some yet unmapped.
The natural geology of the Volunteer State is the thing to thank. The central Cumberland Plateau sees a layer of sandstone on top of limestone. Water erodes the two differently, creating magnificent underground caverns.
They make a spectacular place to spend the night.
It’s essential that you plan your campout with the help of an experienced local hand, as some caves flood unpredictably while others are safer. Cumberland Caverns, River and Earth Adventures and other Tennessee companies can set you up with a safe cavern overnight.
Day Two Morning
Try Whitewater Paddling
For our second day, we’ll make our way into Missouri, land of rivers.
Paddling is such a part of the life of Missourians that they are the only state to host their own annual whitewater championship. The state offers thousands of miles of paddling, some gentle flatwater, some intense rapid, and everything in-between.
You’ll want to contact the Missouri Whitewater Association, which offers lessons and clinics for kayakers and canoers, and can point you to local rental shops that will get you to the kind of experience you’re looking for.
Given just half a day, we’d head to the St. Francis. The Millstream Gardens Conservation Area offers an easy put-in, and the U.S. Forest Service’s Silver Mines Recreation Area, located on a nice patch of slow water, offers picnic grounds and camping areas, a perfect place to pull out and meet your ride.
Day Two Afternoon
Stay in a Tree House Cabin, and Fly Fish on the North Fork River
For our final hours in this pair of states, we’d spend the night in a tree house, and commune with the river in silence.
Missourians are old hands at one of the most soulful, gentle of outdoor experiences – fly fishing. So popular is the sport that state wildlife officials restock four “trout parks” with fish regularly, and use sirens to announce the end of the fishing day.
But the North Fork River remains a quiet place where you can fly fish for trout year-round, away from the crowds. But the trout parks get crowded. So crowded, there are sirens that go off to open and close the fishing each day.
Treehouse Cabins rents tree houses on the North Fork. You’ll need to make your reservations well ahead of time, as they fill up quickly and there are (thankfully) only a few.
But casting a fly over the water in the late afternoon, and spending the evening reading on the porch of a treehouse above the water, is the ideal way to end our weekend here.
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