Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Trail of Tears State Park - Pee-Wah Trail

Pee-Wah Trail (West and East Loops)
Trail of Tears State Park, Missouri
Trailhead Elevation: 610 ft.
Low Point: 348 ft.
High Point: 623 ft.
Distance: 6.76 mi. (my Forerunner 230)
Elevation Gain: 941 ft. (my GPS)
Start Time: 7:00am
End Time: 8:20am

Trip Report:
I thank the Hiking Project site/app for clueing me in to this wonderful state park and set of trails. I was in Jackson, MO looking for a good morning run and hitting the streets didn't entice me. I spent a little time doing some searching and luckily stumbled upon the Pee-Wah trail loops at Trail of Tears State Park. With 7+ miles of trails available this was an instant hit.

I wanted to get in 7 miles or so today to fit in with my ultra-run training program. I'm in the midst of preparing for the Run Rabbit Run 50 in September and any trail miles, especially with hills, are like striking gold for me. I resolved to hit a trailhead parking lot in the middle of the two loops and then target both loops for my run. I was also on a slight time crunch with only about 90 minutes total to work with so I needed to play my options wisely.

Plenty of good single track here
The parking lot had some good signage and a nice wide trail to start with. It was a little rocky and instantly had some small hills. The downhills were a bit treacherous for running as they had numerous divots from horse travel which were obscured by leaves from the previous fall. I took them carefully not wanting to roll an ankle.

Note the leaf-filled downhill track
The trail was very easy to follow and in relatively good condition. The junctions had small yellow and red arrows to point the way for the loops. There were also the occasional blazes on trees along the way.

I made my into the southwest portion of the eastern loop and took that to the junction with the west loop. I then started into it in clockwise fashion. The early parts of my run were up on ridgelines. The western portion of the west loop heads down into a ravine. When I neared the northwest end of the western loop and began traversing east I ran into a river crossing. Only this was no small stream. It appeared the river was flooded and ahead of me was at least 100 yards of standing water. I could see blazes on two trees out in the midst of the muck. It was a quick decision for me to make a turnaround here to retrace my steps. Who knows what kind of swampy muck was under the water and whether my shoes would have even survived.
Flooded section
Who you want to cross here?
This through a wrench in my timing plans as I would now be taking on more distance than I had planned. And I still really wanted to hit the eastern loop for the money shot views of the Mississippi. I picked up the pace and made my way back out of the western loop to the junction with the east loop. The sun was poking through the trees more and made for some beautiful running with reasonable temps and a fair amount of humidity.

The east loop also dropped into a ravine but thankfully the stream crossings down there were mostly dried up. Just before the trail began its climb up to the bluffs along the river I thought I had hit another impassable flooded. But I found the trail skirted its side for a short bit and then headed for higher ground.
Easy stream crossing on east loop
Flooded area on east loop, trail skirts it
Very quickly on the bluff I was treated to views of the river. Very much worth all the efforts. There was one spot along the bluffs where a very short side trail went out to an overlook with unobstructed views of the river. It was very cliffy and I couldn't tell if the edge was overhanging so I didn't venture too close. As I did through much of the run today I snapped some great photos.
On the bluffs on the east loop
On the bluffs on the east loop
Note the beautiful trail on the right side running the bluff
From the overlook on the east loop
From the overlook on the east loop

Along today's run the wildlife spotting was limited to a handful of box turtles and a plethora of squirrels. I didn't see any big game as I was hoping. The turtles I grabbed a few photos of but they were mostly scared of me and quickly shut up shop.

This turtle didn't want to come out and play
After the overlook on the bluffs the trail began its westward turn back to the trailhead. I made my way back to the end of the east loop and the brief connector out to my starting point. I ended up nearing my 7 mile plan for the day and this made for a wonderful discovery for a trail run.

I was intrigued to find signage and other info suggesting there to be backpacking in this state park. There is apparently a good camp area on a connector trail in the middle of the west loop. This would be something to check out next time with more time.


I have a track and waypoints from the hike all contained in a KML file that you are welcome to download and use (at your own risk).  

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