An Outside Christmas

NWACC - Trail Tech

Christmas is a special time for us. We are not really into a lot of traditions (this year we didn’t even do a tree or lights). I wonder what the neighbors think sometimes when we get all extravagant for Halloween and don’t do anything for Christmas? Actually we usually do lights and a tree, this year we opted for a family trip instead.

We got back from our little trip to the Magic Kingdom a couple of days before Christmas. The little one wanted to go to her Grandmothers for a more traditional Christmas morning so we decided to stick with our one tradition: get outside for Christmas. In years past we have usually hiked Pinnacle Mountain on Christmas morning to enjoy one of our favorite parks. This year we did a different hike in another favorite state park.

Natural Bridge

One of my favorite trails in the state is the Seven Hollows trail at Petit Jean State Park. It is very diverse and beautiful year-round. Lisa had not hiked this trail so I figured we would pack a lunch and cameras and go do the 4.5-mile trail.

We got to the trailhead around 11:00 and decided to hike the loop trail clockwise heading for the Natural Bridge and Turtle rocks first. Starting on the trail we first went through the burn area where a fire several years ago threatened the entire park. We could see the vegetation coming back in this area. I know in the past that park interpreters have done programs here on forest reemergence. Soon the trail drops into the first hollow (just so you know, the trail actually only goes through four of the seven hollows). This is a wonderful trail starting out with a kind of sandy surface and then getting rocky as it begins making several stream crossings. Eventually, we came to the Natural Bridge.

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The Grotto

The Natural Bridge is pretty cool but can be missed when traveling in this direction on the trail. As we walked along we came to what looked like a chimney rock. It is not until you pass it and look back that you see the “hole” in the rock. This is a really neat area. If you scramble up the rocks just east of the bridge you will see the turtle rocks. These formations appear in other areas of Petit Jean State Park but this is the best and really looks like turtle shells packed together. We laid out on the rocks for a while and enjoyed the sun on our faces.

After scrambling down from turtle rocks we started back down the trail eventually crossing into another hollow until we saw the sign for the spur trail to the Grotto. This is a really cool spot with a small waterfall coming into an overhang area. This was the spot for our little picnic so we enjoyed some sandwiches and chips imagining ancient families living here and wondering how loud it was when a rock now laying in the creek fell from the top of the overhang. We met another couple at the Grotto who didn’t stay long and we would pass them on the trail later.

Shift Frequent Shifters Club

After our little lunch, we got back on the trail. As the trail comes out of the last hollow we hiked between cliffs and under overhangs. This is one of my favorite parts of the trail. They could have filmed a travel scene from Lord of the Rings here. I would love to camp here, but it is not allowed. Eventually, we came out of the hollows and back into the burn area. A few hundred yards and we were at the car. Of course, this was not enough for us so we headed over to Mather Lodge to take the Cedar Falls trail down into the valley behind the lodge.

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The Cedar Falls trail is quite steep at first but then levels out for the hike up the valley to the falls. The water was running well so we hoped that this 2-mile round trip hike would get us some good views of the waterfall. We were not disappointed. The water was running great so we got a few photos and headed back out and up the final climb. A nice way to end the workout and a great way to spend Christmas day.

Have a Happy New Year and go play outside!
The Community Bicyclist

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