Day 13: Matson to the Page Avenue Bridge
As I said in my previous post, Theresa and I stayed overnight at Klondike Park. This is a GREAT place to stay. The park looks to be brand new, it is lovely and most importantly, it is absolutely clean. I don't have too many requirements when I am doing one of these hikes but, if you have read any of my earlier posts, I do like to have clean "facilities." I will wager that the bathrooms and shower house are cleaner that the bathroom my 17-year-old son uses in the basement. The park has a camp kitchen that looks like it was just installed, the trash barrels are emptied every morning as the bathrooms are being cleaned.
All in all, a very pleasant place to camp.
Theresa and I opted for camping, even though there are cabins available for rent at the park. On the Tuesday night that we stayed there, I think we were the only campers in the park, and I think one or two of the cabins were occupied. We felt like we had the whole place to ourselves.
OK, on to the walk.
This morning I started out from Matson and was headed for the Page Avenue Bridge at mile marker 42.8. As you travel along new parts of the trail, you sort of get an image in your mind what each part is like. My preconceived notions of this section proved to be way off the mark.
From Matson to Weldon Spring is about four miles. You start out walking through the usual cornfields and small sections of woods. I got to Defiance pretty early in the day, so there was not too much activity going on. I have driven through the area on weekends, and it looks like the two bars there really get hopping, though. Looks like a lot of fun.After a few more miles, you come into Weldon Spring. It is heavily wooded and parts really look to be untouched by man. This is far from the truth. During World War II and the Cold War, the Weldon Springs area was intensely used to make munitions for the military, including parts for the atomic bombs. Most of the streams in the area became highly contaminated and much of the waste was dumped into an area quarry. From what I understand, cancer rates and birth defects in the area soared. After a massive cleanup and construction of a pyramid-like bunker to contain the hazardous waste, the area looks great. I was expecting a sterile, plowed-over environment. The area is now a conservation area and looks natural and wild. The trees and wildlife that I saw appear to my very amateur eyes to be normal. Now, I would never want to drink from any of the streams or springs in the area, but it really was quite pretty to travel through.
You depart the Weldon Springs area when you pass under the Highway 40(farty for my STL peeps) overpass. There really is no access by road to this part of the trail until you get into the Greens Bottom area of St. Charles.
This is the part of the trail that I guess I overestimated. When you first enter the Greens Bottom area (at least in July when I did it) it seems very pretty. It is back into the familiar bottom land. The traffic on the trail also begins to increase since you are heading back into a more suburban area. After a few miles, you will run into a construction project on the road adjacent to the trail. It most definitely gets very dusty and loud. All in all, I just wanted to get through this section. Maybe that was because I had spent so much time in the rural areas of the trail.
One other complaint: Trail courtesy really was laking as I got into the St. Charles area. I always try to stay out of the way of the cyclists and joggers while on the trail. I know that me, a 44-year-old walker, am going to be an impediment to their workouts. Everywhere else along the trail, people would say hello, or at least nod as they came the other way. At times, in fact, it could get almost tiresome to constantly be greeting people. In St. Charles, however, I would at best get a dirty look while I trudged down the trail. OK, whatever. But do me a favor and let me know when you are passing me. I had probably a half-dozen cyclists whizz by me with out a single "on your left." You would have thought I was stumbling through the finish line at the Tour de France. I'm sorry, all you Lance Armstrongs, that I am not wearing the latest cool spandex and sitting on a $2,500 Trek bike, but I have as much of a right to be on the trail as you do. Hell, maybe more after this walk. Oh, and before you think I am just some hick from the sticks who doesn't get the way things are in the big city, I am a St. Louis-born native.
End of rant.
As you basically walk through backyards along this part of the trail, you finally will see the Page bridge. It is a nice looking bridge with a switchback trail up to a parking lot. After many miles on the trail, this might have been the biggest challenge of the day. I didn't think I was going to get to the top! However, I did, and caught my ride. Tomorrow is the big finish. I will take a reverse route from Machens into St. Charles to finish off the hike. Stay tuned.