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MDC Areas Offer Scenic Trails for Winter Hikes
Missouri Ag Connection - 02/13/2018

Winter is a curious hiker's friend. Sights and sounds are different along a trail. Only the red cedar trees are green by February and early March. Leaves have fallen and been compressed by the snow or even washed downhill by rains. What stands out to the eye are tree trunks and limbs reaching skyward, blackish at dusk or dawn. Unless it's the white and tan of sycamore bark gleaming in winter's low sun angle with a blue-sky backdrop. And the creeks, rocky outcrops, and roll of the hills are clearly visible.

Snow, of course, changes the scene and the sounds. Snow blankets create a profound stillness when insects are absent, tree frogs are hibernating, winds go calm and no leaves are rustling. Snow softens even songbird chirps as they forage for food. Nature, however, is always on the move somewhere, even in winter. Squirrel and rabbit tracks in the snow are proof.

Wildlife is often easier to see in winter. Wild turkeys are somewhat used to people at the trails near the Missouri Department of Conservation's (MDC) Burr Oak Woods Nature Center in Blue Springs. They will move away from your presence, but not too fast. The turkeys also are visitors to the center's outdoor bird feeding stations, so on the coldest day you can be warm and watch from the indoor viewing room.

White-tailed deer frequent the forest, woodland, and restored grasslands at Burr Oak Woods. In winter, they sometimes linger longer to feed in the early morning or late afternoon hours. But they too are cautious, be quick with the camera.

Burr Oak Woods has several trails that lead near creeks, through wildlife-friendly habitats, and past limestone outcrops. The Bethany Falls Trail is especially noted for its pathways past and through limestone bluffs. Winter gives a clear view of the layered stone and the trees that sink roots in the soil around them.

MDC's conservation areas and nature centers offer a variety of winter hikes. The Anita B. Gorman Discovery Center at 4750 Troost Ave. in the heart of Kansas City has short trails in the outdoor garden for a quick walk, and a play area for children with logs and boulders. The Platte Falls Conservation Area in the Northland or the James A. Reed Memorial Wildlife Area in Lee's Summit are examples of places that offer a chance to use trails or service roads to hike through forests and fields. Or, at a conservation area you can cut through the woods and set your own path in a season when the ticks and chiggers are inactive and the terrain ahead is open to view.

For information about Burr Oak Woods, visit http://mdc.mo.gov/burroakwoods. MDC offers possible winter hiking destinations at conservation areas throughout the Kansas City metro area and Missouri. To find a conservation area near you, visit https://nature.mdc.mo.gov/discover-nature/places.

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