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Daughter, father complete adventure visiting state parks

Posted on Monday, June 16, 2014 at 9:54 am


A daughter and father completed a journey throughout Missouri, visiting over 42 Missouri state parks. During a stopover at the Cuivre River State Park, they shared what they have found about Missouri’s ‘hidden treasures’ on the over 1,400 mile adventure. They camped and participated in many of the parks’ features and events. While at Cuivre River, their activities included a nature hike with a Saturday morning group, attending an outdoor interpretative meeting in the amphitheater and, time permitting, a visit to the caves within the park and kayaking on Lincoln Lake.

Rachel and David Ruhlen began their trip in Columbia, and this is where it also ended. Her profession is in research, and her father is a retired social worker living in Lawrence, Kansas.

“We wanted to experience each park, not just a place where we slept over and got back on the road the next morning,” she said.

In 2009, Rachel biked a virtually solo round trip from Columbia to Omaha, Neb., a distance of over 700 miles. “I did this in 10 days, and I tried too many miles each day and ended up hurting myself,” she said.

When she stated her interest in this state-park trip, her father wanted to get involved. A knee injury had forced him to cut back on exercise and his weight rose to almost 250 pounds. He started biking in 2011. He has lost weight and feels so much stronger.

The duo had hoped to average 40 miles per day. She has maintained a blog along the way sharing their experiences. David said a certain ‘déjà vu’ experience occurred when they camped in Washington State Park. “Almost immediately when we set up for the evening, everything felt so familiar,” he said. “It turned out to be the same site our family had stayed at many years ago.”

“My family and I went on a trip to Costa Rica, and while that is beautiful, the state of Missouri is also fortunate to have a diversity right here in our back yard,” she said. “A lot of the state parks are so close together, they are easily accessible.”

They have experienced a variety of weather since beginning the trip, which included near freezing at the outset but now have dropped their winter gear. They carry their sleeping gear and essentials on their bikes, resulting in added weight. Rachel’s husband and daughters visited them on her 40th birthday while they experienced a stop at Johnson Shut-Ins.

“We have gained a better appreciation of what Missouri state parks offer, as well as the professional staff and superintendents for their hospitality and professionalism,” Rachel said. “Each park is unique and the people we encountered have been wonderful. We call them ‘trail angels’ for their interest and special efforts on our behalf in.”

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