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Sam A. Baker State Park and our First 2021 Camping Trip!

 My husband and I are big fans of Spring in Missouri, and we decided that we wanted to take our first camping trip of the 2021 season in southern Missouri when the redbuds and dogwoods would be in bloom.  It's always a guess, but you can typically see the flowering trees in April.  So plans were made to travel to Sam A. Baker State Park in Patterson, Missouri after Easter.

The Park

Sam A. Baker State Park is bordered by Big Creek and the St. Francis River which means there is plenty of fishing to be had.  In warmer weather, you will see canoes, floats, and swimmers all through the area.  There are also miles and miles of hiking, where you will find bikes, horses, and backpacking.  There are adorable cabins to rent out as well.  The park is named for former Missouri Governor Sam Aaron Baker who was born in the area.  The structure is classic 1930s which adds character to the park setting.

The park is located in one of the oldest mountain regions in North America.  Formed by volcanoes in Precambrian times, the Mudlick Dellenite is some of the oldest exposed rock on the continent.  The St. Francois Mountains also contain a shut-in, hard igneous rocks that for a canyonlike gorge.  Shut-ins can be seen at both Big Creek and Mudlick Hollow.  

While we were there, all kinds of flowering trees were in bloom, including the state tree, the dogwood, and the redbud.  All kinds of wildflowers covered the grounds. The mountains are covered in white oak and black oaks with weird formations caused by lightning.  They lend a spooky air to the place at dusk. While we were there we saw a variety of birds including the red-shouldered hawk and orioles.  

About our stay

We arrived on Friday, April 9, with warnings of a thunderstorm approaching.  We got to our site and found it super far from any restroom, so we requested a move closer to the bathrooms and got it.  We got the teardrop situated and started setting up the tent quickly.  Because of the thunderstorm, we staked the tent all around and used our weighted bags as well.  I ran to the restroom before the storm started and as I came back, I felt a small ball of hail.  I ran back to the site and Bob took off for the restrooms. I got myself into the camper when a deluge of hail hit us.  For fifteen or so minutes, the hailstorm produced golf ball-sized hail.  Inside the trailer, it was so loud! I did end up making a video of the hailstorm.  Bob was stuck at the restrooms but was safe from the storm.  When the storm let up a bit, he came running back to the site.  He got inside the tent to check it out when a massive rainstorm let loose, with 30-40 mph winds.  One side of the tent collapsed and Bob had to hold the tent in place for 50 minutes while it rained and the wind blew.  A few more hailstones fell, and finally, peace.  Bob got out of the tent and together we surveyed the damage.  Nothing seemed to be damaged, so we set the tent back up, but the site was flooded with 8 inches of standing water.  The stakes weren't holding as they were in water-soaked ground, so we used more of the bags to hold the tent.  We made the decision to head to a hotel, as going to the bathroom in a flooded area didn't sound like fun.

On Saturday we returned to the campground to find that the tent and the trailer survived the night.  Our task was to set up the tent, clean it up and then take it down.  Once that was accomplished, we started exploring the park, admiring the water sites, the spring foliage, and all the birds that were out.  Lots of people were exploring, too.  Late in the afternoon, we stopped by the Grill to get ice cream.  We built a big campfire that night and Bob enjoyed his bourbon and cigar, a camp tradition.

Sunday morning we made another big campfire and made breakfast.  We sat around the fire, then began the packing process.  With the tent being packed up the day before, packing up for home was quick work.  We started home around 10:30 in the morning and returned to Saint Charles around 12:30, with a stop for gas and lunch.

Our Food for this trip

Since we were rained out on Friday, our traditional camp charcuterie happened in our hotel room.  Sadly, we did not get photos of it since it was pretty late by the time we got to the hotel.  However, here is what we prepared for Saturday's meals.


Bob cooked up ground beef with our favorite taco seasonings.  In a bowl, we added chopped lettuce, cheddar cheese, tortilla chip strips, red onion, salsa, and cilantro.  We topped this salad with the prepared taco meat and sour cream.  The result was a delicious taco salad that was delicious and filling.  We prepared the salad in advance, so all we had to do was put it in a bowl and add the toppings.


For dinner, Bob cooked a ribeye steak over the campfire in cast iron.  We also grilled some asparagus in butter and seasonings.  He makes sure he gets a bed of coals under the grate, so when he puts on the skillet, it can get very hot.  He adds some salted butter, sears the steak on one side for about three minutes, then on the other for about two minutes.  He pulls the steak, lets it rest, and checks for doneness.  We like ours medium-medium rare.  It was perfectly done.

Overall Success

Other than being flooded out our first night, we considered the trip a success.  Good food, a beautiful campfire, and of course, the outstanding company, was what we look for in a great trip!

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