Sick of being stuck at home where the only excitement today was when your cat coughed up a hairball? Tired of the constant political bickering about the pandemic on Facebook?
Going outside for a mental health break is fine as long as you practice that social distancing we've heard so much about.
Here are some ideas for outdoor places to visit that are close to Cape Girardeau, but are also well off the beaten path.
Now you might be wondering whether it is a good idea to publicize these places. Not to worry: I seriously doubt that my regular readers (both of you) will cause any overcrowding issues.
(Note: These places are open at the time of posting this, but with developments moving so quickly, that could change.)
Seventy-Six Conservation Area, Perry County, MO
This conservation area features the Wilkinson Trail, a moderate 3-mile loop trail that passes an old limestone quarry before climbing to a hilltop overlooking the Mississippi River valley. This is an excellent place to find spring wildflowers.
Directions: From Cape Girardeau, take I-55 to the Fruitland exit. Then take US 61 north through Fruitland to the turnoff for Route C. Turn right and follow Route C as it snakes through Pocahontas, New Wells, Altenburg, Frohna, and Brazeau. At Brazeau, turn right on Route D (look for the Seventy-Six Conservation Area sign). Follow Route D to where the pavement ends and continue straight ahead on Perry County Road 437 to enter the conservation area. The parking lot for the Wilkinson Trail is on the left just past the low-water bridge.
More details: https://www.semissourian.com/blogs/pavementends/entry/33475
Update March 28, 2020: I visited today and found that the low-water bridge is impassible because of high water from the Mississippi River. You can still reach the Wilkinson Trail but you'll have to park short of the bridge, walk upstream, and tip-toe across the creek to reach the trail on the other side.
Maintz Wildlife Preserve, Cape Girardeau County, MO
I've written before about the sunflower fields planted at Maintz Wildlife Preserve that provide spectacular photo opportunities in the summer. Spring is a fine time to visit, as well, with wildflowers in bloom.
This conservation area is a fun place to explore randomly along old farm roads and creeks (just be mindful of the private property boundaries). See if you can find the old Maintz family cemetery at the GPS coordinates 37.48121, -89.79082.
Directions: From Cape Girardeau, take Highway 72 through Jackson toward Millersville. Just before reaching Millersville, turn right on Route B. After two miles, turn left on Route BB near the water tower. Go one mile and look for County Road 471 on the right. Follow CR 471, a gravel road, north for 1.3 miles and look for the second parking area on the left. This lot is signed as Parking Lot #4 and provides the best access to the conservation area.
Map and brochure: https://nature.mdc.mo.gov/discover-nature/places/maintz-wildlife-preserve
Horse Creek Trail, Alexander County, IL
This challenging five-mile hike only requires a 12-mile drive from Cape Girardeau. It's located within a sector of the Shawnee National Forest that is usually overlooked.
Directions: From Cape Girardeau, cross the Emerson Bridge into Illinois and turn left at Highway 3. At the school in McClure, turn right on Grapevine Trail. Go 4.7 miles and turn right on Oxford Road. This turnoff is a bit hard to see in advance -- it comes immediately after the left turn for County Line Road. Climb to the top of the hill on Oxford Road and bear right at the intersection to stay on the main road. Continue up the road and look for the trailhead on the left.
More details: https://www.semissourian.com/blogs/pavementends/entry/38670
Hamburg Hill, Union County, IL
This historic site features a well preserved segment of the Trail of Tears route. The Forest Service recently made improvements to the trailhead, constructing a parking lot and installing interpretive signage.
From Cape Girardeau, cross the Emerson Bridge and turn left (north) at Highway 3. At Ware, turn right on Highway 146 and go east 4 miles. Just past the roadside park and historic marker, turn right on Berryville Road. After crossing the wooden bridge, bear right to remain on Berryville Road and continue 1 mile. Make a right on Water Plant Lane. Drive past the water plant, drive across the low-water bridge, and follow the road (which turns to gravel at this point) up the hill.
More details: https://www.semissourian.com/blogs/pavementends/entry/34811
Bald Knob Wilderness, Union County, IL
Sure, you could easily drive up to Bald Knob Cross. Or you could try visiting the hard way, by ascending to the summit on foot. A pair of Forest Service trails (201 and 201A) climb from an elevation of 400 feet to the summit at 1,034 feet. Although the trails are fairly boring hikes through the woods, they will get your heart pumping.
Directions: From Cape Girardeau, cross the bridge into Illinois and follow Highway 146 east through McClure and Ware. Turn left on Highway 127. After 4.4 miles, turn left on Brown Section Road while ignoring the sign stating that Bald Knob Cross is straight ahead. Go 1.6 miles to a T-junction with Rhine Road and turn left. The parking area and trailhead is located on the right, 1.3 miles down the road.
More details: https://www.semissourian.com/blogs/pavementends/entry/37515