I visited every Missouri state park in 11 days

Posted on 28 March 2017 by Ian Schrauth

My last big trip with my mom and sisters

 

By: Missy Arneson
Copy Editor

 

After 11 days and more than 100 hours of riding in a car with my two sisters and mom, I can finally say I’ve seen all 88 of Missouri’s state parks.

The Missouri park program was established in 1917, making 2017 the centennial anniversary of Missouri parks. In celebration, the program offered centennial passports. These passports were little black books with two pages for each park — one with a short description of the history and highlights of the park, the other with a place for a stamp.

Each park has a unique stamp — the Route 66 park stamp has a big road sign emblazoned with 66, the Deutschheim State Historic Site stamp contains a drawing of two people with a big heart in the middle and the Dr. Edmund A. Babler memorial state park stamp has flowers strewn across it.traveling

My mom came up with the idea to visit all the state parks when she heard about the passport program back in September 2016. My siblings and I are all getting older: my oldest brother is studying Mining Engineering at Missouri University of Science & Technology, soon to be joined by my other older brother. I’ve been in college for almost two years and both of my younger sisters are finishing up high school. Pretty soon none of us kids are going to be left at home.

So my mom decided that the best way to squeeze in one last big memorable event was to visit 88 parks in 11 days.

Most of our trips took two days. My mom would pick me up from class on Friday at 11 a.m., we would drive until 8 or 9 p.m., get to our hotel and collapse into bed, then start again at 7 a.m. the next morning. Usually these trips had us visiting 11 parks before we got home Saturday night. Of course, the best trip was much longer.

We spent four days in the car over Christmas break, driving for about 12 hours each day. I think we visited 30 parks that week, though I’ve forgotten the exact number. We had a lot of adventures: from driving down roads that would make serial killers feel at home to trusting a GPS to find us dinner — it took us to a Wendy’s that was still under construction — there was never a dull moment.

As with all things, there were high points and there were lows. One of the parks we visited early on, Grand Gulf State Park, was beautiful. It’s a cave system where the roof of all the caves collapsed, leaving a gorgeous valley that looks straight out of “Lord of the Rings.” Others weren’t so great: Big Lake State Park is literally just a large lake that’s surrounded by little stores and other commercial buildings, and since it wasn’t even the biggest lake we had seen that day none of us were terribly impressed.

My favorite park was Pomme de Terre State Park. Its main feature is a massive lake that I couldn’t look away from. Plus “pomme de terre” is French for potato, and the words “potato state park” turn me into a giggly mess.

Despite the feeling of my brain leaking out of my ear after several consecutive days of driving for 10 or more hours, I’m really glad I went. After growing up in a house full of seven people, I know it’s going to be quiet once we all leave. I’m glad I got this chance to make memories with my sisters and mom — I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

 

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