Making Missouri Beautiful

By Anna Thorne

The truth is, many of us are stuck in the hills while we yearn for high peaks. After a taste of western living, the landscapes at home can sometimes loose their sheen when compared to scenic vistas and shiny blue water. We want to go camp, hike, or paddle but the views pale in comparison to the dramatic photo albums we reminisce over at night, drooling on our keyboards. Whether it’s due to a fantastic job, love for family, or college degree, the outdoor adventurer can grow unsatisfied and unmotivated to enjoy the land right outside our door. How do these hills become beautiful again?

There is excitement and beauty to be discovered in nature wherever you are! Here are a few tried and true motivators to get out and enjoy those rolling bumps we like to call “Missourah.”

Take Bacon. If there’s anything I’ve learned from camping over the years, it’s to bring good food. If there’s anything I’ve learned about assembling a good meal, it’s to always include bacon. I don’t know about you, but the best breakfasts I’ve ever had have been in the backcountry. There’s something about that blazing heat and open flame that cook up the crispiest, yet perfectly chewy bacon.

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Actually, Just Always Take Real Food. Period. There’s something about eating an omelet in the backcountry that automatically earns said omelet a five star rating. Does it actually taste better? Probably, but who cares! You’re in the woods, that’s what counts! The same goes for pancakes, french toast, biscuits, and about any other food you’re willing to pack in. Pancake mix is one of the easiest foods to bring on a backpacking trip and always serves as a crowd pleaser. Combine with hot water, pour out of the corner of your plastic baggie, flip in a backpacking skillet like this one from GSI, do a little dance, and you’re feasting on one of the best breakfast foods ever created. Oh, and don’t forget the instant mashed potatoes. Those are real food too, right?  Cold weather backpacking is one of the best times of the year for meal planning because nature becomes your refrigerator. All of a sudden you find yourself bringing perfectly chilled items that you would never consider in the hotter summer months.

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Utilize Your State Parks and National Forests. Camping in a National Forest that offers dispersed camping is almost always free. In some areas you may be required to pay a small fee to park your car in more frequently populated areas, but most are absolutely costless. State Parks are also a great option if you are looking for structured camping with a fire pit and tables. State Parks collect a small fee per night and the cost varies by location. Take a look at a few of my favorite resources below for discovering adventures:

  • Missouri State Parks – Find a Park – This site is my all time favorite for exploring Missouri. They have interactive features that allow you to check out the camping regulations and activities available at each location.
  • Most other states have similar websites and features.
  • National Forest Service – This locator map through the National Forest Service is a gem. Any time I’m traveling in a new area and need to find a place to stay for the night, I pull up this locator and look around my location for green areas. You can click on different camping options, where some offer permanent spots or dispersed camping around them. Advisories and regulations for the area are also shown.
  • The Outbound Collective – This website is fantastic for finding both urban and backcountry adventures. Favorite features include: the ability to share your own adventures through a post function, a “save adventure” feature, and pictures and details of each area highlighted so you know what to expect.

Missouri, and any other state for that matter, can be just as beautiful as our favorite alpine getaway. With the proper know-how, planning, and follow-through, you can be enjoying the trees right outside your door and growing a new appreciation for the incredible variation all states have to offer. Make it happen, get outside, and take some bacon. You won’t be disappointed.

ABOUT Anna: Anna is a firm believer in the majesty of unplanned and sporadic road trips, her favorite color is pine green, her main food group is coffee, and she loves to spread smiles. On any given day you might see Anna pulling cardboard out of people’s trashcans and annoying them to recycle. With a heart for the mountains, she spends her summers in the New Mexican Rockies.