St. Francois State Park

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St. Francois State Park is a pleasant park with a surprising variety of landscapes to explore. On our visit, we hiked the shortish Mooner's Hollow Trail (2.75 miles), but still found ourselves transported through Ozark Fens and glades, past a gentle cascade, and even across bridge-less streams. Our son, Harper surprised himself (and us) when he slipped into a creek (!!). The cool water was a relief, however, and he was quickly all smiles.
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St. Francois became a State Park after a public push for its preservation, with the initial funds raised through a grassroots effort. It's not surprising that locals would wish to preserve the area, especially as the land has factored into the history of people there for generations. From the evidence of surface mining, to the namesake of the trail we explored referencing the moonshine production that once was prevalent there, the St. Francois area has lineage. Included in this history, is the story of Civil War era outlaw Sam Hillebrand who owned property in the area and is alleged to have used a cave somewhere within in the Park as a hideout. 
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There is no escaping the legacy of the Civil War, and the atrocities done in its name and before, especially in Missouri where the fighting flared up well ahead of the actual War and languished far longer. Within this history, figures like Mr. Hillebrand, whose legend paints him as begrudgingly joining the Confederacy to avenge the deaths of family members, are often mythologized, and remembered vividly, if not fondly. This can be a mistake, as it not only ignores historical truth (far from being heroes, Missouri's "bushwhackers" were in many ways domestic terrorists whose real legacies include disrupting infrastructure enough to set Missouri's cities permanently behind the industrial aspirations of places like Chicago), but it can also serve to reinforce dangerous world views (in particular, racism). 
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As already noted, the Park is very beautiful, and the differing terrain very accessible. Even in warmer weather, the trail we were on offers a really pleasant degree of difficulty (easy to moderate), while other options in the Park offer a more strenuous route.  You could even combine a hike here with a visit to one of the other nearby Parks or Natural Areas.
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there are some really interested rocks in the Park,
though you should never remove them
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Harper at the Trail Head 
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Equipment Used:
  1. Nikon D7200
  2. Nikon D300
  3. GoPro Hero 4 Session
  4. Nikkor Lenses (35mm f/1.8G DX)