Updated: 2022-04-06

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Sometime between Tax Day and Mother’s Day, find time to enjoy this enchanting “hike” that travels downhill into a cool hollow and backwards through geologic time.  Your target is a field of bluebells, juxtaposed against miniature train tracks…

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Tracks

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Tune into to the charming creek that meanders along the trail, and delight in the little blue wildflowers, which mix with the brilliant new green of spring to produce a shimmering, ethereal effect.  Perk up your ears as you travel through the IBA,  (“Important Bird Area” per the Audubon Society) and listen to the birdsong that fills the air.  Go around Tax Time to see the bluebells, or go around Mother’s Day when songbirds are migrating. Peek inside the bluebells to see if you can find some woodland fairies…

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Hand Close Up

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The Rock Hollow Trail is an asphalt trail, with no restroom facilities; wear good tennis shoes and bring water, plus a snack.  It’s 1.5 miles to the turn-around spot; expect to be gone for about two hours, and don’t under-estimate the uphill return.  Athletes, large dogs and teenagers will have no problem with this hike, but children, small dogs, and stroller families might find the return trip a bit difficult.  As you proceed, keep calculating your endurance for the return uphill trek.  Cell service is not dependable. Consider bringing the macro lens for your camera, or perhaps a bird book or Missouri wildflower book.

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Birds of Missouri

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Start at Ridge Meadows Elementary and park on the permeable pavement.  The Rock Hollow Trail begins around the corner and descends quickly downhill; it’s 2.3 miles to the river.  Start listening for songbirds at the first meadow, and notice the many creeks joining Hamilton Creek.  See if you can spy the hidden tree fort, or the hawk’s nest through the trees.  Below is a typical map you will find, which is why I made the special magical map for you, above. Photos and maps don’t begin to capture the spirit of this magical place, and they don’t tell you when to go…

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Rock Hollow Signage

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There’s an old nature saying that says “Rocks Make the Place,” and the sedimentary rock you’re looking at is Dolomite Limestone layered with sandstone.  Enjoy the “five finger” maidenhair ferns and the “walking ferns” which grow directly on the rocks.  The first upright flower you are likely to see is Rose Verbena.  As you travel further, crossing several wooden bridges, little blue flowers called Blue Eyed Mary will appear.  These native flowers are uncommon, native to the area, and are on the “do not touch” list.  Their presence indicate that the area has never been disturbed.

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Blue-eyed Mary

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Look for mile markers on each bridge and stop to read the interpretive signs.  As you reach mile marker D, you are approaching the IBA and will hear the loud symphony of bird song.  Massive magical bluebell fields and miniature train track begin to appear around mile marker G.  This would be a good turn-around spot from either starting place. It’s a bit of a hike all the way down to the bluebells!

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Mile Marker

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Watch out for mountain bikes as bike trails begin to crisscross the path in this area; check out GORCTrails.com for the best mountain biking maps.  If you want to walk your dog, there is a charming creek walk at Rockwoods Reservation near the nature center, which might be a better place due to the many, many bikes…

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Signage with Lucy

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Come back another day for a family biking trip. Start at the bottom of the trail at the Al Foster Trailhead near the miniature railroad, knowing about the extra mile along the Meramec River.  You will park at the railroad and travel past a wetlands and dry cactus glade before turning gently uphill to find the bluebell fields making for a 4 or 5 mile trip total.  This makes for a nice first family bike ride, as the trail is fairly open and flat, and your trip back to the car is all downhill.  Send me a photo of your family bike ride and I’ll publish it on this blog!

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Railroad Crossing

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Of course if you have preschool kids, you must do the Wabash Frisco and Pacific miniature railroad first!  It operates on Sundays only and costs $4.  Many others have written about that!!